Category Archives: Language

Fantasticalism and the Future of a Dying Planet

As a tender of youth – 16 to 21 year olds, as my clients are in foster care, held by the state or some other guardian, or on their own, but still labeled as foster youth – I find the topics of our time more magnified by the presence of the ever-vaunting capitalist mindset about time, work, energy, technology, digital supremacy, patriotism, consumerism, punishment, surveillance, worthiness.

I also find that as a 60-year-old, many of my colleagues look to me sort of like a revolutionary looks at a Molotov or stick of dynamite, or, shoot, a pipe bomb. My anti-authority jostling and over the top presence and de facto contribution to their own contexts and perspectives (fearful, individualistic, tied to obedience and compliance) add something in their lives they have never had, or only read about.

Revolutionary comes in many forms, and there’s no use sorting out the forms I have taken over the years in a monkey wrenching sort of milieu, but what I see is few have the presence of mind and historical knowledge behind the mind and the years traveling to other spiritual climates than just the United States of Israel-Disney that I have.

Power to Persuade and Organize Lost in a Sea of White Noise

Daily, from my youth or some state official’s mouth, I am admonished for not being in a higher more powerful place in the hierarchy of things. “You should be running this non-profit . . . . You should be Portland’s Mayor . . . You should be getting millions in grants to do the amazing things you have outlined for young people to not only survive this onslaught of stupidity, but to thrive.” Many variations on a theme.

What I found is most people do not know how to dream and to hold in head space the very concepts of systems thinking, holistic engagement and universal social justice. Most people can’t break out of bad eating and bad cultural diets, let alone break the chains of polluted media and necrotic education and gangrenous capitalism/consumerism.

The dreams I talk about are tied to restorative justice – restoring ecosystems, managing urban centers, repairing agricultural lands, stitching back together the fractured lands left for mega species, replanting jungles, feeding the poor, opening up the concept of “it takes a village to raise a child and steward the old, sick, infirm, and less fortunate.”

Dreams about pushing cars back into the junk heap of humanity, creating bicycle cities, reinventing community public transportation.

Dreams about universal health, health clinics of robust stature in each neighborhood. Schools that teach the healing arts and visual arts and food arts.

You know, walkable cities, organic food, retaking the commons from the private toxin producers, driving the current capitalist model of government into the mud and reshaping humanity as a collective society of people who do not have to toil at three jobs just to pay the money changers-renters-financial thieves-pimps/prostitutes/whores of debt.

What is the Current Change of Life on Earth, and Who is Really Surviving?

This situation on planet earth is dire and needs real thinkers, and people by the billions signed up. Forget the billionaires and the point one percent who control more than half the wealth in communities, and who own (sic) the power to change and transform into something more than a “Call of Duty XIII” of man against woman, child against man, woman against woman dystopian world largely magnified by the perversions of Hollywood-Fox News-The Judiciary-Senate-Executive Branches-Titans of War/Industry/Consumption.

These people get the ink, digital time, so to speak, and the TED-X views and billions thrown at them for being caviar eaters and jet setters. These are collapsing times – war, more war, economic war, emotional war, medical war, industrial war. Wars against free press-speech-commerce-travel. War against coral reefs, fisheries, tides. War against lakes, ponds, rivers, the water cycle. War against intelligence, time, reading, knowledge. War against humanity, international law, universal rights of humanity and nature.

Yes, this is the big picture time for young people to be exploring and contemplating, even if all these problems and all these daily perversions coming into their news feeds cause them to feel sad, lonely, alone, overwhelmed, used/abused/discarded.

The child in Gaza is the elderly in LA, both digging crumbs from the garbage bins. The bombed out school in Yemen is the lead-laced water of Detroit. The murdered black men (mostly) in America by the fascist cops are the raped/tortured/murdered environmental leaders in Honduras, Mexico, India, All of Africa.

Knowledge with Ethics with Universal Rights with Rights of Nature

I invoke the basis of knowledge and bearing witness to my youth because they have been wrapped in a cellophane of ignorance three generations back before their conception. To know is not to watch and to think is not to forget.

So, when this creepy infantilism that costs us dearly rises – we are going to move to Mars, fly to Mars, colonize Mars, remake Earth on Mars, market Mars, dream of Mars, immigrate to Mars – the mere positing of this racist, elitist Brave New World bullshit eats at our collective soul, from the child wanting to go into science, to the NASA superstar, to the billionaires, to the celebrities and politicians, to the media, to the consumer of Hollywood crap.

Serious times – schools are now almost completely turned into zombie zones, houses of compliance and coding. Cities have infrastructure degradation that makes Bulgaria look like a 22nd Century country. We have a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico as big as a continent. We have oceans rising, glaciers receding faster than Donald Trump’s frontal cortex. We have a celebrity culture that is entertaining (sic) each new generation into a death spiral. Autism and on the spectrum births will hit 20 to 30 percent of all births in the US of Israel by 2040. We have a billion guts messed up. Anxiety on the rise. Malnutrition in the billions of people, either not enough or too much.

We have people living under blue Walmart tarps in Haiti seven years after the 7.0 earthquake. We have Palestinians murdered by economic and structural violence from a society flying the flag of a genocidal religion (that is, remade in a new Zionist economic fundamentalism).

We have Google and YouTube censoring site after site. We have the thought police and PC brigades and knee-jerkians inhabiting both sides of the false dichotomy of democrat (liberal) and republican (conservative).

The Sixth Mass Extinction, future pandemics because of rampant viruses created by industrial meat production. Children born with no brains because of chemicals, pesticides, fumigants, pharmaceuticals.

Yet, we have to see daily on TV/Netflix/News these grotesque ideas of leaving the planet Earth to save humanity before it’s too late.

The Martian Chronicles Are Dead Sea Scrolls

That’s what Stephen Hawking said recently, and while many look to the eggheads and mathematical loners and scientific geniuses as leaders of humanity (not), these schemes of colonizing the Moon, Mars and Alpha Centauri are racist, elitist, defeatist, dangerous, malarkey – but the problem is these ideas take funds away from solutions here on earth. The very concept of millionaire actors and celebrities weighing in and then these billionaires looking to rocket profits into space, these conceptualizations are the pure definition of insanity and inhumanity.

Even with earth’s total melt of ice, even with the oceans warming, the cool currents might still rise, and humanity might get smart and plan, fix, retrench, simplify, live close to nature, and receed. We have terra-reformed the planet by these inventions – all run through the calculus of fossil fuel burning – from mining rare earth metals for batteries and solar panels and nuclear plants, to the ores and ancient fuel sources for our supersonic war machines, everything we consume, all the plastics and polymers of a modern world, mined and cooked and plied and titrated from a fossil fuel universe.

Those Martian billionaires who purport to know how humanity can save itself are the gas guzzlers of humanity, their ecological footprints the Sasquatch of our times. These jet setting great thinkers, looking for “alternative energy sources” are in it for the pure PROFIT. And these are cut from the same cloth as industrialists making money off gas chambers, wars, droughts, the casino capitalists funding the disaster opportunist, or what is called disaster capitalism/shock doctrine.

Every single letter and comma and thought typed out, uploaded, cloud stored, spoken over Verizon-AT&T, every bank account, retail transaction, driver’s license ordered, every visit to the doctor, every book checked out or purchased via Bezos Amazon, every moment on the road or in a mall, all of it recorded, stored, parsed and analyzed, through the tools of the Brave New World. We are talking about Peter Thiel (Trump’s gay Jewish man working on tracking all undocumented Americans’ lives) of Pay Pal (which other companies exist for on-line buying??), or Zuckerberg of Facebook (Mengeles bio-metrics a la white Jewish billionaire!), every search through Larry Page or Sergey Brin (the Orwellian liberal self-identified Jewish info channelers), every order through Jeff Bezos (self-invoked citizen of Israel)  . . . . BlackRock Capital’s Larry Fink (dual citizenry stitched into investment kingdom, USA/Israel) controls more assets — $4.6 trillion in investor funds — than the annual US federal budget, and five times the assets of Goldman Sachs.

Think hard how a trip to Mars is going to reverse the inhumanity and Mafioso Madness of Capitalism run through a handful of elites in the world? Not one scientist or billionaire infant sees humanity’s major problems on earth solvable or worth a pittance of energy!

Celebrity Eugenicists, Dachau Developers, Zombie Makers 

Here, just to make sure we know where these people stand, from Richard Branson, Kris Jenner, Susan Sarandon, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Obama, Trump and the other mindless musketeers:

A. “Obviously, you are going to want scientists initially,” Branson said.

“You’re going to want physicians, you’re going to want comedians, you’re going to want fun people, beautiful people, ugly people — a good cross-section of what happens on Earth — on Mars.”

B. Basically, as Christian Davenport wrote, Bezos wanted to run a series of deliveries to a crater near the moon’s south pole — cargo for future human habitats.

“I’m excited about this and am ready to invest my own money alongside NASA to make it happen,” Bezos wrote to space officials, though he also urged NASA to provide “incentives to the private sector” to help make his lunar cargo delivery dream come true.

C. Lucy Lawless was a no. But Kris Jenner of Kardashians fame said: “Absolutely — adventure, seeing the solar system, great episode for the family, opportunity to share Zestra with life on other planets.”

The entrepreneur (Musk) pitched an “incredibly ambitious timeline,”

Davenport wrote, with the first launch in 2018, and many more for decades to come, until the city is up and running.

D. Musk showed the crowd a video of a rocket with 100 people taking off from Florida, fueling up in orbit and plopping them down on the Red Planet. Imagine those on the regular.

E. Zuckerberg wants to explore a whole different star system, Alpha Centauri, which is so far away it takes light — the fastest thing in the universe — more than four years to get there.

F. He’s teamed up with Stephen Hawking and Russian celebrity Yuri Milner, the Atlantic reported, who announced from the top of a skyscraper a $100 million research program they’ve dubbed “Starshot.”

G. Let me explain. The key challenges for a successful Mars colony involve generating energy, food, water, and shelter on a hyper-sustainable and cost-effective basis. But these are also the key challenges for the rest of us on Earth between now and in 2035.

So I want to send Bill Gates or, at least, his thinking about energy technology, to Mars.

H. When Trump became president, he decided Obama’s plan to land on Mars before 2040 was way too slow.

So he signed a bill in March that funded NASA with nearly $20 billion. The next month, he called the International Space Station from the Oval Office and said, verbatim: “Who’s ready to go to Mars?

An astronaut, in space at the time, told Trump they’d be ready in the 2030s. Trump replied: “We want to try to do it during my first term, or at worst during my second term, so we’ll have to speed that up a little bit, okay?”

I. Kids may be the only ones who are as optimistic about these missions as NASA administrators are. They know we’ll get “boots on the ground” on Mars within their lifetimes. Some of them might even be the astronauts who make it there.

The rest of the general public is another story. Importantly for NASA, they’re the ones who need convincing to drive that final push to get us there, said Tony Antonelli, who’s now the chief technologist of exploration systems for Lockheed Martin’s civil line of space systems.

“We will not go until the American people and the international community are ready and decide that it is a priority,” he told Tech Insider. “I really think what we’re missing is a sense of urgency, a sense of purpose, and just pushing out and doing it.”

Little kids know it will happen. NASA and its partners are ready to go. Now the public has to get on board to convince their representatives in Washington, too.

“We have nearly enough information to be able to support humans going to Mars,” NASA’s Planetary Science Director Jim Green said at the festival. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.”

Here, the sources for this fantasy, the infantilism:1

So, Bezos is a propagandist who owns the Washington Post and Amazon dot Steal, hiding billions offshore, and as is the routine, he is the vanguard for American ideas and culture.

Obama has done what for wedding parties and brown people in the Middle East and what’s his science creed and great big brain on climate change going to do? How much is $400,000 a speech going to do to help humanity?

But the former president’s departure from office was also marked by the mother of all parties: a celebrity-filled White House romp two weeks before Inauguration Day that went past 4 a.m. and included guests like Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.

Mr. Obama’s first few months after leaving the White House were spent kitesurfing with Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, and soaking up the French Polynesian sun with Oprah Winfrey, Bruce Springsteen and Mr. Hanks on a yacht owned by David Geffen, a billionaire and Hollywood mogul.

Mr. Obama and his family now live in an 8,200-square-foot, nine-bedroom home in Washington valued at $6 million. The house, which rents for an estimated $22,000 a month, is in one of Washington’s richest neighborhoods, surrounded by ambassadors, executives and other members of the political elite.

And Trump and his anti-education agenda, what power he has to ignite scientists and media moguls?  How did Trump rise so quickly to political fame, and is there a Star Chamber really tied to billionaires getting away with not following the law, ethics, human scale empathy, and illegal wars? Here, David Cay Johnston who has written the incredible book on Donald Trump — La Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, more! PT Barnum, Trump.

Democracy Now:

Juan Gonzalez: David, I wanted to ask you about this issue which we discussed previously with Wayne Barrett, as well, on the issue of Donald Trump’s relationship to the mob and his connections over the years to mobsters. And you’ve also looked into that, as well.

David Cay Johnston:  Yes, and it’s not just the traditional Mafia families in New York. First of all, Donald Trump’s father had a business partner who was a mob guy. I’m sure Wayne talked about that. But Donald has done business with people with the Russian mob. He’s done business with con artists. The guy who supplied his helicopters and managed his personal helicopter, called the Ivana, from his first wife back then, was a major cocaine trafficker, who actually handled the drugs. And after he went to prison, Donald wrote a letter pleading for mercy for him, so he got 18 months as the head of the ring. The little fish who delivered the drugs, they got 20 years. Donald continued to do business with him after he was indicted. Donald has done business all his life with mobsters and criminals, because it’s a way to make money.

Yet, who rises to the top and controls the narrative, the money, the future? Inside Job, highly recommended if you have not already viewed the documentary:

Anyone who has ever lived or worked in a corrupt dictatorship knows what happens. When the system is rigged, when ordinary citizens are powerless, and when whistle-blowers are pariahs at best, three things happen. First, the worst people rise to the top. They behave appallingly, and they wreak havoc. Second, people who could make productive contributions to society are incented to become destructive, because corruption is far more lucrative than honest work. And third, everyone else pays, both economically and emotionally; people become cynical, selfish, and fatalistic. Often they go along with the system, but they hate themselves for it. They play the game to survive and feed their families, but both they and society suffer.  ― Charles H. Ferguson, Inside Job: The Rogues Who Pulled Off the Heist of the Century

Things Always Go Haywire When Contemplating the Obscene Rich — Robots

Image result for robots eating peopleImage result for robots eating people images

It — writing this essay, that is — started as a look at a Counterpunch article recently, pushing robotics as some sort of great next big thing to push humanity into a great land of leisure and Marxist socialistic world.

The Rise of the Robots and the End of Capitalism?” by Dan Corjescu talks about significant (sic) advances (sic) in the tools of grinding and burning earth, moving goods, shipping arms and bombs via air, generating uranium-derived electricity, tooling around in fast cars, harvesting oceans and forests more mechanically. . . all . . . as advances . . . for humanity! Dan purports the next new wave of helping man (woman, child) from working so hard will be robots. How capitalism will fall with the rise of robots, because all we 7.5 billion (or 10 billion by 2050) will have time to knit hats, sew ideas, and develop great big epic dramas in our air conditioned amphitheaters.

Recently, there has been much speculation concerning automation and its anticipated effects on human life. This philosophical essay seeks to broaden, as much as possible, the ongoing surge of supposition. It will seek to contextualize the impending “rise of the robots” within a broader framework that includes potential future advances in genetics, industry, space, and science in general. Furthermore, it will seek to understand these trends with reference to some philosophical ideas that have been provided to us by Marx and, to a lesser extent, Hegel.

To begin with: let us ask two rhetorical questions. Did the car, airplane, nuclear power, the internet, and the computer end work as such or did it transform it? Secondly, can we consider these technological breakthroughs to have been in the profoundest sense of the word “revolutionary”? I think, without much undo reflection, that the answer to both these questions should be in the affirmative. Yes, in the Twentieth century, the nature of work was qualitatively transformed.

It is without question that these machines/processes dramatically increased the productive powers of the human race. They helped to significantly contribute to a dramatic rise in the standard of living of millions of people throughout the world, although certainly not all of them. And they did this within the social, political, economic system known as liberal-world capitalism.

Look, I enjoy thought experiments, ALL the time, but this article is as so many times in modern thought experimenting, without an inch of real ground-truthing, and is so off the unholy mark, that it is a reverse thesis — capitalism is the underpinning of any revolution in robotics.

He talks about how advanced we are in genetically re-engineering Homo Sapiens Sapiens with all this great scientific breakthrough.

He states how we are on the precipice of bringing down energy prices and finding new sources of clean energy.

Next, astroid mining and space tourism (hearkens back to the Mars shit above here, no?).

I don’t know where guys like Corjescu live, but not on the streets, in the urban decay, in the fields of toxic harvest, the bellies of women giving birth to mutants, in the jungles (what’s left of them), or under the rubble of coal fields from mountain tops removed. Is he in Gaza, India, Appalachia, Houston, Haiti, South America?

Is this just more white man’s mumbo-jumbo of pretending the 1/3 of world is not living (sic) on $2 a day, that the earth’s atmosphere and glaciers and tillable lands and clean water sources are not collapsing?

This is the cock-eyed nature of a world where expressing futuristic orgasms and dreams of a new White Hope, the Digital and Artificial Intelligent libertarian  leeches, makes it thus.

How could anyone think the robotics people (pure capitalists, manipulators, mind controllers, Brave New World lovers, people eaters, Soylent Green is People lovers) have any agenda other than profits, gating in their worlds with 24/7 surveillance a la Blackwater mercenaries while corralling in our worlds, and knowing there will be no Blade Runner out there ready for a Bruce Willis door kick in.

Thus, the “rise of the robots” is a false specter haunting the contemporary imagination. Robotization, not any more than genetic engineering, or fusion energy, or asteroid mining or even quantum computers will not do away with work per se; quite the contrary it will, as it has always done, radically revolutionize its nature. New types of work will be created to meet new material conditions. To be sure, the new work will require more education and more skills but that is a good thing. Dull work, “meaningless” work, dehumanizing work will more rapidly than gradually become a thing of the past. In fact, we can view this transformation as revealing a fundamental trend inherent in capitalism and the general scientific organization and basis of society. An ever more complex society requiring ever more skilled and informed workers. A world where instead of working as it were on the outside of things we are working more from within their centers.

Dan does it again — oh, those jobs not yet imagined, just waiting for us to retool our cultures, our capitalist democracies. No more rich and poor, but just us and robots! Bull-shit! See how robots solve the problems (NOT): Robots and fisheries. Robots and poverty. Robots and food. Robots and culture. Again, man without any understanding of sustainability and eco-socialism and the Age of Dumb, well, a writer can say anything, propose all sorts of thought experiments, that have as little relevance to the world — people want food and clean water. That is, the majority of the world wants a place to call home — no drones, no bankers, no World Bank or White Man’s Burden. They want disease to be abated, a broken bone set, light to read by, and animals for husbandry and land for food.

Maybe exploring this writer’s very unique pedigree is the place to begin my thought experiment about thought experimenters but that’s another article . . . one I could parse and discuss maybe around where his ideas of a Brave New I-Robot World comes from — Dan Corjescu has a PhD in Philosophy from Sofia University Bulgaria. He teaches at Neu Ulm Hochschule in Bavaria Germany.

Another view, here, to end this piece — As Moshe Vardi, a computer science at Rice University in Texas, puts it:

We are approaching the time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task. Society needs to confront this question before it is upon us: if machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?

  1. WP; The Conversation; Business Insider; Smithsonian Magazine; NASA News; Former NASA Deputy Administrator

Language Wars

If it is a truism that after a war the victor writes the history, then it could be argued that the victor also chooses the language in which the history will be written. If it is a war of the colonised against the coloniser then the language takes on a special significance as typically the coloniser imposes their language on the colonised.

Paulo Freire described the way in which cultural conquest leads to the cultural inauthenticity of those who are invaded. They then start to take up the outlook of the invader in terms of their values, standards and goals. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire wrote that cultural invasion would only succeed if the invaded believed in their own cultural inferiority. When convinced of their own inferiority they would see the coloniser and his culture as being superior. Over time, as people become more alienated from their own culture they would see only positives in the culture of the invader and desire to become more and more like them, “to walk like them, dress like them, talk like them”.1

However, post-revolutionary, post-colonial situations are complex and reversal of cultural norms a difficult process. The African writer Chinua Achebe wrote about the problems of communication in post-colonial African countries asserting that African writers wrote in English and French because they are “by-products” of the revolutionary processes that led to new nations-states and not just taking advantage of the global French and English language book markets.2

This then leads to a difficult situation with competing groups, some using the native languages for the first time on a state level competing with the remnants of the old order who may only be able to speak the language of the former coloniser. As new nation states, post-revolution, usually have more pressing practical problems that need to be dealt with, and in a language the majority can understand, the cultural aspects tend to be put on the back boiler until some time in the future when they may even be forgotten about entirely.

Yet, the regularity with which language issues crop up around the world today is significant and points to a sharpening of political tensions. As inter-élite competition increases, language becomes a battleground upon which political power is augmented or maintained.  The Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci identified the problem very clearly when he noted that the rise in language issues meant that something more serious was bubbling below the surface. He believed that the makeup and widening of the governing class and their need to have popular support led to a change in the cultural hegemony in society.3 This usually happens when different ethnic or language groups in society become dissatisfied with the services and benefits the state bestows on them and assert a new identity based on language and ethnic history.

In most post-colonial situations language issues centre around struggle over which languages will be taught in schools, the language used in parliament and national media, and even place names and personal names. In a recent article by Aatish Taseer, he writes about the changing politics of India where place names have become sites of contention.  He notes the fact that there are many competing ideas of history and even “names reflect that very basic need of having the world see you as you see yourself.” He believes that a former self-confidence in India has given way to a new oversensitivity and a desire to control India’s image.

Taseer sees the source of this oversensitivity as the strengthening of Hindu nationalism which has undergone changes in recent years. In the past people referred to Varanasi by its multiple names including its Muslim-era name Banaras and its ancient Sanskrit name, Kashi. The rise of Hindu nationalism has politicized culture and, according to Taseer, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has been built on a weaponized idea of history. Ignoring Muslim sensitivities as a minority ethnic group in India, the B.J.P. president, Amit Shah, described the Muslim period as part of a thousand-year history of slavery in Goa last year.

This monolithic view of Muslims and Muslim culture only serves to stereotype and demonise Muslims and imply that a minority group is oppressing a majority rather than the other way around. The maintenance of power by a linguistic and/or political majority by imposition of its beliefs and linguistic norms on a minority has a long history in Ireland since the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922. While initially the conservative nationalist forces which won the civil war after British withdrawal (except for the northern 6 counties) brought in some measures for the protection and promulgation of the Irish language (Gaelic), the project declined and soon became associated with the radical nationalist ideology of the defeated forces instead.

The weakness of the current situation for Gaelic can be illustrated with an example of a conservative backlash which played out in Dingle in 2011, a popular small town in the southwest of Ireland. The difficulties and complexities of name change could be seen in the decision to officially rename the town ‘An Daingean’, its original Gaelic name. As place names in Ireland are in English (Anglicised versions of Gaelic names) and Gaelic, they can become focal points for cultural conflict as Gaelic speakers try to move away from historical colonial influence. The local people fought back and after six years the President at the time, Mary McAleese, reinstated the town’s name back to the Anglicised version ‘Dingle’. Many of the local people saw the Anglicised name as a tourism brand and feared a loss of business through tourist confusion with its Gaelic name.

Similar preference for the language of the colonizer can be seen in a recent article on Algeria in The Economist. In the article the competing school languages of French and Arabic were joined by Berber, made even more complicated by the lack of decision on which of its six dialects to teach. Berber is spoken by around 25% of Algerians and was only recognized last year despite independence from France in 1962. The writer notes that “Algeria’s French-speaking élite prefer their old masters’ lingo.” One adviser to the education minister, Nouria Benghebrit, stated that Arabisation was a mistake and that Algerians “shouldn’t confuse the savage, barbaric colonialism of France with the French language, which is a universal vehicle of science and culture.”

These negative overtones towards Arabic and Berber have parallels in Ireland that Gaelic speakers will recognise from Irish history. In the late nineteenth century, the increased support for Gaelic provoked reaction from various quarters particularly in the academic field. T. W. Rolleston, speaking at the Press Club in 1896 described the language as unfit for thought or consideration by educated people. Supporters of Irish and other aspects of Gaelic culture were seen as parochial traditionalists looking backward and trying to hold back the tide of history.

The struggle for the recognition of Irish as a modern language meant suffering the indignity of a challenge from Rolleston to prove that a piece of prose from a scientific journal could be translated into Irish and then back into English by another translator, without loss of meaning. This was duly carried out successfully by Hyde and MacNeill, two leading Irish nationalists, and accepted by Rolleston. (Of course, the strong historical connection between Arabic and science should also be mentioned here.)

The dubbing of Gaelic speakers as ‘parochial traditionalists’ is still used to swipe at people who assert their linguistic rights [Gaelic is the first official language of Ireland alongside English], won through many decades of political and cultural struggle with the state. The association of Gaelic with radical nationalism has always been a thorn in the side of conservative Anglophiles in Ireland.

Linguistic issues around the world are shaped, as in Ireland, by problems such as negative attitudes, the difficulties of learning new, or old, languages, and élite control of the state and the education system. As Gramsci notes, when cultural conflicts arise we can be sure that something more serious is happening entailing a closer look at local ideologies of inter-élite and class struggles. In Ireland, the fortunes of the Gaelic language rose and fell according to the cultural and ideological needs of the ruling class. The language movements were harnessed when considered a political threat and dismissed when weak.

This can be seen globally where the role of language can be positive or negative depending on the politics of the groups involved. Language is not inherently progressive or reactionary but acts as a carrier of culture as well as a means of communication. Openness towards diverse and different languages and cultures in society implies openness and tolerance towards different groups and a guard against monolithic simplification and racist provocation. When language issues arise they can also demonstrate that for minority groups, the survival of their language depends just as much on social and economic issues (emigration, unemployment, poverty) as the rights it is accorded by the state.

In Ireland, the refusal to accord linguistic rights by British colonialism to Gaelic speakers played an important part in the move of cultural nationalists to political nationalism and the subsequent War of Independence. Colonisers and conservative dominant élites both learned that their own ‘parochial traditionalism’ could be the author of their downfall in the play of history.

  1. Paulo Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (London: Penguin, 1990) 122.
  2. Ali A. Mazrui, The Political Sociology of the English Language: An African Perspective (The Hague: Mouton, 1975) 218.
  3. Antonio Gramsci, Selections From Cultural Writings. Eds. David Forgacs and Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, trans. William Boelhower (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1985) 183-184.

Does Capitalism Exist?

My starting point here may seem rather remote from the question posed in the title of this essay, but certain background subjects must be given attention before addressing that question.

Thorstein Veblen [1857–1929] closed his “Some Neglected Points in the Theory of Socialism1 with this paragraph (p. 74):

Certainly, the fact that constitutional government—the nationalization of political functions—seems to have been a move in the right direction is not to be taken as proof of the advisability of forthwith nationalizing the industrial functions.   At the same time this fact does afford ground for the claim that a movement in this direction may prove itself in some degree advantageous, even if it takes place at a stage in the development of  human nature at which mankind is still far from being entirely fit for the duties which the new system shall impose.  The question, therefore, is not whether we have reached the perfection of character which would be necessary in order to a perfect working of the scheme of nationalization of industry, but whether we have reached such a degree of development as would make an imperfect working of the scheme possible.

If we ignore here the fact that Veblen should have said “socialized nature” rather than “human nature,” what’s implicit in the above statement is that we’ve grown used to thinking of there being a political realm and an economic realm in our society.  We have, that is, become used to thinking of two distinctly different spheres in our society.  However, by Veblen asserting that there had been a nationalization of political functions in our society, he in effect asked why there could not be a nationalization of economic functions as well.

Veblen pointed out that a “nationalization” of political functions seems “to have been a move in the right direction . . . ;” but that that fact should not be “taken as proof 2 of the advisability of forthwith nationalizing the industrial functions.”  Veblen then added that the “nationalization” of political functions that had occurred does “afford ground for the claim that a movement in this direction may prove itself in some degree advantageous . . . .”  That is, there was enough evidence in support of the claim that the “nationalization” of political functions had been a “good thing” to give consideration of the possibility that a similar “nationalization” of economic functions could be a “good thing” as well.

By claiming that there had been a “nationalization” of political functions, Veblen was asserting that a process had been initiated in the political realm that could be—if so chose—continued by simply expanding that process into the economic realm.  Although the word “process” does not occur in the above passage, the concept is implicit in the passage—and indicates the important role that the concept of evolution played in Veblen’s thinking.

Implicit in the concept of “process” is that change is a fact of life, and an implication of that fact is that our descriptive words, because they imply stasis rather than change, may become obsolete and, thereby, misleading.  This fact has been recognized in the field of what might be termed “classification science,” where the “logical division” procedure of classification—which has been the dominant procedure for centuries—has increasingly been recognized as having limitations.3

An example of a logical division classification is the Dewey Decimal System that was designed for use by libraries.  With this system, first general categories are identified, then subcategories under each category, subsubcategories under each subcategory, etc.  The result is a hierarchy, with the most specificity existing at the lowest level in the hierarchy.

Such a classification can be termed an a priori classification, to distinguish it from the a posteriori type of classification.  Here’s a brief clarificatory discussion:

These terms are used with respect to reasoning (epistemology) to distinguish “necessary conclusions from first premises” (i.e., what must come before sense observation) from “conclusions based on sense observation” (which must follow it). Thus, the two kinds of knowledgejustification, or argument may be glossed:

(a) A priori knowledge or justification is independent of experience, as with mathematics (3 + 2 = 5), tautologies (“All bachelors are unmarried”), and deduction from pure reason (e.g., ontological proofs).

(b) A posteriori knowledge or justification is dependent on experience or empirical evidence, as with most aspects of science and personal knowledge.

The key point in the above discussion is that a posteriori knowledge has an empirical basis; so that an a posteriori classification would have its basis in empirical data. To illustrate this, assume that (a) our observational unit is national economies, (b) for a given set of variables, observations have been made on each national economy, that (c) a mathematical grouping procedure (e.g., principal components analysis) has been applied to the observations, that (d) two “principal” components have been discovered, and that (e) the graph above displays the results of the analysis.

Although real-world data have not been used in creating the graph, I suspect that had such data been used, the results would have been rather similar to those depicted on the graph.

Visual inspection of the graph is likely to lead most observers to perceive three groups (3 units in one group, 7 in a second, and 5 in the third), with three isolates. Now if we are “reading” this graph with such concepts as “capitalist,” “socialist,” “communist,” etc., in mind (highly likely!), we are likely to be puzzled by the results of our analysis. Concepts such as “capitalist,” etc., lead us to expect “tight” clusters on the graph, with one of the clusters clearly warranting the label “capitalist.” However, we perceive no “tight” clusters!

Some implications of this “exercise” are that:

  1. Real-world economies differ one from another; and even if we feel comfortable labeling some economies as “capitalist,” it’s clear that even “capitalist” economies are not clones one of another.
  2. The graph might even cause some to ask whether “capitalism” even exists (to allude to my title)!  Is “capitalism,” one might ask, a word without a real-world referent?!  A word, therefore, that should be expunged from our language?!
  3. An economy as perceived by, e.g., Adam Smith [1723–1790] decades ago differs greatly from any now-existing economy.4 As Veblen might say, change in economies is simply a fact of life.

Language was created in the first place to enable communication between people.  However, the nature of one’s language affects how one perceives things, and also how one thinks about things.  Regarding the latter, a point of relevance for the present essay is that language tends to cause us, quite “naturally,” to create logical division classifications—i.e., classifications that can lead us to “misread” the real world!

Of perhaps even more importance is the fact that language enables the formulation of ideologies—which misrepresent and, therefore, mislead.  Whether a given ideology was deliberately created or not, ideologies function to create a “fog” which serves the (apparent) interests of some at the expense of others—those “others” not being able to see this, because of the “fog” that prevents their seeing clearly.  The importance of that “fog” being compounded by the failure of the press to inform us adequately.

One might view the Veblen statement quoted at the beginning of this essay as an effort to dispel the “fog” surrounding the word “socialism.”  In a sense, he succeeded here in Milwaukee—where “Socialism meant honest, frugal government5—but not elsewhere in the United States.

Could that be part of the reason why the claim was made last year that our species might go extinct by 2026?!

  1. This article was published in 1891, in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
  2. I added the emphasis.
  3. This article about Pauli Murray proves my point!
  4. Although Smith is often touted as the creator of the concept of “capitalism,” Smith did not use that term.  For a discussion of the term, see this, for example.
  5. When I returned, in 1976, to Wisconsin (the Milwaukee area) from Ohio, I made a point of visiting former mayor Frank Zeidler [1912-2006] in his office.  I felt blessed to be in the presence of that great, wonderful man!!

From Clintons to Goldman Sachs, the Winners Take All

And I love all people, rich or poor. But in those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense? Does that make sense?

From the criminally insane leader to his insane captives, at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Wednesday [6/21/17], as Trump was stumping for the health (sic) care (sic-sic) death bill the Republicans are pushing with the blessings of the kleptocracy that is the millionaire-billionaire class (sic). That’s us, folks, poor people – looking at a cool 150 million of us in the USA, or maybe even more! He wants zero voice or self-agency from us poor, huddled tired masses!

Lately, I’ve been thinking hard about the law of time, and how fractured we are as Western Nuclear-tipped Civilization, leagues away from any sort of humane equilibrium, which if we look at white society, something the white race has been disconnected to for thousands of years, and how Western (civilization) time has warped everything, from how we live and work, and how we fornicate and defecate, how we treat our families, neighbors, the earth.  Easy to wander into philosophical and extraterrestrial thought — how we have pushed the 13 moons and 20 sequence tied to the Mayan calendar into a broken system of 12 (months) and 60 (seconds and minutes):

Jose Arguelles knew this number was the key to the tzolkin, the 13 x 20 (= 260) “time matrix” upon which the Mayan calendar is based. Utilizing Oliver Reiser’s hypothesis of the psi field as a kind of DNA thought belt located in the radiation field, while finding the design key to place the DNA in the Tzolkin matrix, Arguelles was able to unlock a great system of codes underlying the programs governing the historical manifestation of civilization and its imminent transformation into a stage of galactic civilization and consciousness – the noosphere made manifest.

In Projects Prometheus and Krishna, Appendix II to his fascinating synthesis, Oliver Reiser takes full cognizance of the contribution of Vladimir Vernadsky and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Reiser cites Vernadsky’s calling attention to the process of social synthesis, “whereby mankind become a single totality in the life of the Earth, and the psychozoic era of the earth’s biosphere be transformed into the noosphere.” Taking account of the sequence of spherical shells constituting the whole system earth – the barysphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere – he writes, “Now, at long last, the processes of cultural evolution have generated another envelope, superimposed on the biosphere, i.e., a ‘sheet of humanized and socialized matter,’ which is the noosphere.”1

This discussion of the noosphere now seems new agey, especially in a time of tweets and intellectual retardants not only escaping all the orifices of the man in orange-glow-worm toxicity, but by followers, who would dare laugh with or validate this horror of a man’s premise that he only believes the rich are human enough to be in the corridors of both power and the economy. All those eggheads ratcheting up the nerve gas formulas, the smart bombs, the drone-enhanced surveillance, and the nuclear tipped nightmare missiles of this class of people. America, the business (sic) mentality (dog eat dog, let all businesses rule) tied to everything the digital kings serve us, the workers, trapped in their ever-expanding Excel Spreadsheets and microprocessor gulags.

Collective consciousness, hmm. Looking for an alternative form of energizing positive thought and conscience? Hmm, pretty out of the mainstream Kick Ass Now, Shoot First, Ask Questions Never thinking that has captured this Wonder Woman endless bang-bang shit that serves as hog sty consumption.

It’s the same thinking and attitude toward the poor, that is, those on the other side of strap pulling the gunny sack of gold – neoliberal, liberal, highfalutin new rich, Hollywood syphilitics, Democrats, Politically Correctives, Corrosive Corporate Media and the Mindless Mush Heads of the Suburbs. They bullshit their ways to Sundance or this or that crappy TED Talk/conference, but in the end, they too do not want your local ex-con, ex-druggie, ex-offender, current-homeless, continual recovery bloke and gal anywhere near the chambers of control over their shit-storm companies and non-profits and higher and lower educational institutions.

These people — Trump or ClintonX2, GatesX2 or Any X/Y/Z Philanthropist — never-ever bring the poor and disposed and dispossessed and down-trodden and diseased and disheveled and drunk and drugged and deranged to the table. Instead, we have these insane people — like every white mutated soul roaming the corridors of power, politics, military, industry, the press, medicine, psychology, and entertainment – propping up their bullshit superficiality and absurd self-absorption. They speak for “those people,” the “other ones,” anyone “not of our caliber-pedigree-upbringing-educational/economic standard.”

Is this one of the most blatantly rich/sick (monetarily) administration ever, and those yahoos in Iowa or Georgia or you name it anywhere U-S-A chanting, U.S.A. . . . U.S.A., like the maniacs they are in real time, is it the most corrosive? This battlefield today of missing IQ elites and this idiocracy ruling the people, is it so new, so unnerving today in 2017? Just go back, young man, young woman, and see that road show of lying, bombing, stealing, killing, thieving presidents, tall, squat, square jawed and flabby.

This is a country of vapidity and false valor. Hokum’s and hussies. Whores and pimps groveling for one elite after another elite/chosen peoples. Surface to Air Delight in Every Bombs Bursting in Depleted Uranium-Coated Air.

So, when I think hard about how wicked this economy has always been, and how blood-sucking the people running the little shows – bureaucracies – and then the big engines of pollution and garbage – corporations – ARE, I understand there has to be another field of alternative forms of thinking and communicating, whether it’s telepathy or collective consciousness. Anything but this hocus-pocus marketing crap of the Freudian nephew creation (Bernays).

How many people have poo-pooed the harmonic convergence or the concept of universal disharmonics? How many know we are living in this out of sync globe, with faulty mathematics and broken time-clock chronology, so misaligned from and with the universe it’s obvious for anyone with a brain and heart to see and feel — while the pestilence of nuclear-biological-propaganda wars shapes our out of balance closed system, a cosmic disorder that has over millennial created these Caesars and Mammon worshipers, these Trumps and Carnegies, these weapons of cultural destruction, slavery and the Sixth Mass Extinction.

Trump, Obama, Dell, Zuckerberg, Hitler, Mussolini, Rothschild, Pharaoh, Emir, Ford, Genghis Khan, Rabi, Pope, Minister, General, Admiral, Queen, King – these are the culmination of out of whack thinking, breathing, living and dying. Can we really admonish this warped mind, the missing link of a Trump, his racist-sexist-war monger-slum landlord- little big Mafioso-perverted version of misanthropy? Is he not the culmination of the hard soil that grows no love — the caliche planted by generations of bankers and ministers of pain, by the land thieves and empire seekers, all those twisted people who occupy the political pigsties of the world? From the Old World to this Genocidal New World.

Ahh, the real law is the law of time and the principles of a noosphere where humanity can merge with the energy of the biosphere to attain a new consciousness, one that had already been ebbing and flowing in different cultures and native tribes way before the mutated white race flogged the earth with his/her/its out of synchronicity superstition and clock of horrors which have continually shaped white civilization around the black ideas of war is peace, truth is lies, death is life.

I see the hollow hearts of America, the industrialists and digital kings, those hearts ticking in numeric derivative sequence as Artificial Intelligence shapes the future of this plagued world. These manipulators, and the technocrats and patent lawyers, all are living off the flesh of other worldly beasts.

This is a story of stories – social worker now, and my journey begins each day and never ends, as one life is layered upon the layers of my soul, and then another set of circumstances overcomes, and then the entire field of Maya corn is planted over and over in my worst nightmares.

I am working with biological and foster parents. Let it be known that most of the bastards (sperm donors) and receptacles (women) have millions of years in hell to pay for the germination and gestation and incubation and unholy labor and daily abuse of their offspring – beaten, starved, pimped out, sexually assaulted, raped, bridled and chained to these adults’ ectoplasm of sin-shame-salaciousness.

It takes more than a village to re-raise a village or a child. These horror stories are like white lightning in the soul of their DNA, and my youth are struggling, whipped by PTSD and acquired traumatic developmental delays/disorders/ disabilities.

I was with one of my youth today at the end of a shift when it struck me how plagued and maladjusted these captains of industry and so-called leaders really are. I am a social worker for young people in the clutches of foster care, where most are wards of the state, held into place with the fences that are guardian parents and the grips which define many levels of bureaucracy.

Two months ago, I was servicing older homeless people – addicts, ex-felons, sex offenders, the mentally harassed, one day at a time adults. Many of my friends’ stories at the last non-profit are tied into abuse at a very young age – fathers and mothers, stepparents and siblings, strangers and family members raping, beating, humiliating, denigrating and plying youth with drugs and prostitution and minute-by-minute consternation and condemnation.

You don’t wake up one morning and say, “I want to be addicted to meth, and I want all my teeth to fall out in 15 years, and I want all my possessions stolen, and want my life to be welded to a turnstile of constant court-jail-prison-fines-restitution homelessness.” So, most of my peeps a few months ago in another job with another non-profit tie into what the hell went wrong in a child’s life that brought him or her to the streets, to gangs, to the pipe and cooker, to the gun and the knife, to the abuse and the violence, and to the sexual assaults and criminality?

Try a big bad daddy and mommy and slew of wrong people at the right time of development.

Every day the clock ticks in disharmony, and the pigs juggle botulism balls and masquerade as officials and servants of the public when, in fact, they are worse than heroin-coke-booze-gambling-sex addicts all rolled up into one scabby man or emaciated woman. These pigs run the show, and we have to react to their presence in the cultural ether, and the noosphere, with so much potential, is being short-circuited by the millions blathering on TV, the millions holding seances with their millions of bucks in their 10,000 square-foot well-appointed elite prisons working on project after project to addict the next and the next generation to their flaccid Facebook and Amazon dot com worlds.

That we even sit on thumbs and let the latest baboon president, Trump, say what he says . . . .

  • 26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?
  • “It’s certainly not groundbreaking news that the early victories by the women on ‘The Apprentice’ were, to a very large extent, dependent on their sex appeal.” — HowToGetRich, 2004
  • “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” — from an interview with Esquire, 1991
  • When a lawyer facing Trump in 2011 asked for a break to pump breast milk for her infant daughter, The Donald reacted very poorly.“He got up, his face got red, he shook his finger at me and he screamed, ‘You’re disgusting, you’re  disgusting,’ and he ran out of there,” attorney Elizabeth Beck told CNN. Trump’s attorney does not dispute that his client called Beck “disgusting.”
  • “My favorite part [of ‘PulpFiction’] is when Sam has his gun out in the diner and he tells the guy to tell his girlfriend to shut up. Tell that bitch to be cool. Say: ‘Bitch be cool.’ I love those lines.” — TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald, 2005
  • “I have black guys counting my money. … I hate it,” Trump told John R. O’Donnell, the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, according O’Donnell’s account in his 1991 book Trumped! “The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day.” Trump, according to O’Donnell, went on to say, “‘Laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that.”
  • Speaking to Time magazine for a profile published in January 1989, Trump was asked to give an estimate of his total wealth. “Who the f knows? I mean, really, who knows how much the Japs will pay for Manhattan property these days?” he asked in response, using a racial slur for the Japanese.

Khizr Khan, the father of the late Army Captain Humayun Khan, spoke out against Trump’s bigoted rhetoric and disregard for civil liberties at the Democratic National Convention on July 28. It became the most memorable moment of the convention.

“Let me ask you, have you even read the U.S. Constitution?” Khan asked Trump before pulling a copy of the document from his jacket pocket and holding it up. “I will gladly lend you my copy.”

Khan’s wife, Ghazala, who wears a head scarf, stood at his side during the speech but did not speak.

In response to the devastating speech, Trump seized on Ghazala Khan’s silence to imply that she was forbidden from speaking due to the couple’s Islamic faith.

“If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News that first appeared on July 30.

Ghazala Khan explained in an op-ed in The Washington Post the following day that she could not speak because of her grief.

“Walking onto the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself. What mother could?” she wrote. “Donald Trump has children whom he loves. Does he really need to wonder why I did not speak?”

. . . . and that we even validate his big bellied thugs chanting U/S/A, this Ugly Sick America, USA, sick and ugly America, while we hunker down and hold chins to sternums, well, this is the reaction of the Rachel Maddow-loving Har-Har-Har Liberals, a la Stewart and Colbert.

I’ve seen enough of the lambasting, the entertaining us to death, the Facebook billion flickers of foolishness, and the endless swill and sewage that is an America high on corporate sodium pentothal.

Many Americans of the white persuasion ARE the evil seeds or evil breeders of this Trump World, where money, meanness, madness, and tossing grenades at every crowd possible to get a rise out of them is the daily blue chip special served up in their corridors of shame and horror they call families.

  1. Cosmic Humanism, p. 557

Police State/Corporate State: The Devil is in the Details

Isaac Asimov quote: The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

Police state, corporate state, denuded duncery state — a blistery bunch of 80 percenters lost in a carnival of debt, malignant food, maladjusted education and the folly of a full-throttle powerfully propagandist media like a proverbial copper girdle wire around our collective consciousness. That So Called Liberal (sic) Press (sic) playing triple dirges for the death of any emaciated version of democracy with a capital D for dollar.

Feeding frenzy of the old and new rich class, and a lot of wannabe’s lusting after lotto, You Tube fame, anything from the comfort of plasma 72 inch Big Brother.

Isaac Asimov’s I Robot, going on 70 years soon, and that’s the way of the Zionist drone hucksters, those lovely glassy-eyed Jeff Bezos, Zuckerberg, Gates, Dell types, and the entire class of probiotic Kombucha libertarians who have no interest in climate change, clean oceans, the growth in poverty, wars, pestilence, resource theft, toxins, on-the-spectrum child birth rates skyrocketing, art, revolution, real human to human relationships, nature, other species, blue skies, discourse, food sanity, clean water, education.

Read this from NewsSpeak, err, Newsweek rag:

The world’s top tech companies are in a race to build the best AI and capture that massive market, which means the technology will get better fast—and come at us as fast. IBM is investing $1 billion in its Watson; Amazon is banking on Alexa; Apple has Siri. Google, Facebook and Microsoft are devoting their research labs to AI and robotics. In September, Salesforce.com announced it’s adding AI, called Einstein, to its business software. Its value, CEO Marc Benioff said at the launch, will be in ‘helping people do the things that people are good at and turning more things over to machines.’

AI will lead us into the mother of all tech revolutions. The last time anything came close was around 1900, when the automobile, telecommunications, the airplane and mass electrification all came together at once, radically changing the world from the late 1800s to the 1920s. Such times are particularly frightening. ‘A society that had established countless routines and habits, norms and regulations, to fit the conditions of the previous revolution, does not find it easy to assimilate the new one,’ wrote economist Carlota Perez in Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital, her classic book. ‘A sense of impotence and frustration accumulates and a growing incongruence is experienced between the new and the old paradigm.’

Amazingly, these people are many cards missing from a full deck of humanity. Shelter, baby, sane sanity, and calm, less frenetic anxiety, less is more, and more is monstrous — obvious necessitates in any hierarchy of needs paradigm. More time for humanity to do what, is the question about these libertarians who think robotics and computers will turn us all into Athenians? More reading and schooling and community-it-takes-a-village action? Right! To help thy neighbor in endless bouts of humanitarian sharing? Right! To bring distribution of health, education, nourishment, and sanity to the rest of the world? Right! So, the goal of AI and robotics is, drum roll, to grease the palms of the millionaire and billionaire class and their classless middle managers and technocrats.

More:

The danger of artificial intelligence is in its behavior, and whether it is conscious or possesses other attributes of human thought is irrelevant. Computers that can drive cars and fly airplanes certainly pose dangers to humans and in fact Google has gone to great efforts to design safety into their self-driving cars. Computers that can run the entire world economy and provide constant companionship to all humans will pose great danger to humans.

Malicious motivation is irrelevant to many of the dangers posed by super-intelligent machines. There are two forms of ‘wireheading’ to guard against: computers that delude themselves about their observations of the environment and computers that modify the source of approval for their actions, for example modifying humans. There are also dangers from what Omohundro described as ‘Basic AI Drives.’ Super-intelligent machines may be tools of competition among humans, who will be careless about these dangers because they are caught up in the heat of competition.

And, Bill Hibbard, academic and AI tinkerer, is many times quoted as someone questioning AI, but let’s look at this, from James Barrat, author of Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era:

That’s the cornerstone of an idea called the ‘intelligence explosion,’ developed in the 1960s by English mathematician I.J. Good. At the time, Good was studying early artificial neural networks, the basis for ‘deep learning’ techniques that are creating a buzz today, some 50 years later. He anticipated that self-improving machines would become as intelligent, then exponentially more intelligent, than humans. They’d save mankind by solving intractable problems, including famine, disease and war. Near the end of his life, as I report in my book Our Final Invention, Good changed his mind. He feared global competition would push nations to develop superintelligence without safeguards. And like Stephen Hawking, Stuart Russell, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak, Good feared it would annihilate us.

‘They’ll become self-protective and seek resources to better achieve their goals. They’ll fight us to survive, and they won’t want to be turned off.’

The crux of the problem is that we don’t know how to control superintelligent machines. Many assume they will be harmless or even grateful. But important research conducted by A.I. scientist Steve Omohundro indicates that they will develop basic drives. Whether their job is to mine asteroids, pick stocks or manage our critical infrastructure of energy and water, they’ll become self-protective and seek resources to better achieve their goals. They’ll fight us to survive, and they won’t want to be turned off.

Omohundro’s research concludes that the drives of superintelligent machines will be on a collision course with our own, unless we design them very carefully. We are right to ask, as Stephen Hawking did, ‘So, facing possible futures of incalculable benefits and risks, the experts are surely doing everything possible to ensure the best outcome, right?’

These conversations intrigue the controllers and their minions, especially in our institutions of higher learning where a scant few are also the controllers of the narrative and worse, the curriculum. Imagine the dialogues around poverty, resource theft, cultural immolation with farmers, activists, revolutionaries, the parents of 11 million babies dying a year from treatable (mostly caused by malnutrition) disease.

Imagine the former prisoners talking about reform and the enslavement of their lives and families’ lives by the punishment society, largely ramped up by the very inventions of the robotics-AI-Big Data yahoos, espousing their idiocy at conferences in the Rockies and at the foot of their superconductors. Imagine the millions of lost human lives caused by the financialization schemes dreamed up by computer whizzes. The model of terror for New Orleans, Detroit, Flint, across the land and globe, the Bhopal-driven corporations utilizing the best and the brightest and their inventions of creative human destruction. The political classless sucking on the crack pipe of power and money. Imagine, these conferences and interviews INTERSECTING with the age old problem of the rich and haves and the majority, poor and haves not, never in the same room. From that mush-making propaganda and infotainment and dirty entertainment, to the daily dehumanizing life cycle of drive-thru’s, Amazon Fresh deliveries, tellerless banking, on-line K12 and college, and the endless Windows and Screens of mush that sucks any agency and verve out of the average person as they navigate the endless bureaucracy of the modern 21st Century/Beyond Kafka Road Show of Stiff Arm Saluting to the Digital Gods.

Can anyone see the efficacy of actually calling upon us, the masses, the ones stuck on the hamster wheel of generational poverty, generational indebtedness, generational running from the repo man (now some cyber security systems embedded into all the tools of democratic life – DMV, Labor, Medicine, Insurance, Credit Bureaus, Background Agencies, Drug Screeners, Fact Checkers).

I have spasms of the old Molotov way, when I hear these supposed eggheads, and our superficial lust for another Turning or Watson.

Oh, these billionaires and their underlings, the geniuses, sure, driving this absurdity of technology, colonizing Mars and Uranus, endless projects of tinkering, while coral reefs melt, farms dry up, millions perish yearly, while these captains of industry fly their AI-captained drones into the orifices of the dying while sending out gigatons of meaningless junk into both the ether and on our highways and byways.

Food, Shelter, Safety, Education, Health? Shit no, if you are not part of the White Jewish-Christo-Emirate Class –

Big questions derailed in this punishment society scrambling to make sense of 100 years of robber barons and elitists running the show, the neo-con, neo-liberal, neo-fascist, neo-libertarian, neo-gulag show: Where do I live, social worker? Portland, Oregon, where rubber and spewing diesels rule the day and night, 24/7?

At least 10 states (California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Texas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Arizona, Florida and Colorado) offer less than 30 affordable rental units for every 100 potential renters. Will Mexico pay to build a wall to stem the American exodus south?

Image result for The Gap Figure five units affordable and available
You think those mental tinkerers give a shit about people, of the soil, pushed away from the lands – rivers, beaches, islands, mountains, deltas, steppes, savannas, fjords, ice-fields, hills, canyons, forests, deserts, jungles, cloud islands, plains — to solder the shit of their digital orgasm, and to glue, hammer, weld, galvanize, ionize, nanosize, titrate, liquefy, saw, mill, percolate, mine, harvest, spray, tap, refine, package, burn, acidify, synthesize, denature, distill, stitch, sew, de-ionize, plow, scrape, smelt, sluice, pulverize, butcher, hoe, excavate, fertilize, fumigate, decapitate, denigrate, assemble all the other supplies, junk, consumer items, raw goods, commodities, toys, weapons, propaganda tools for the vaunted minority in the First World.

The digital creeps love inventing and marketing the toys of lobotomy and anti-social thought control – one giant replicator for Call of Duty and variations on a theme . . . and all the crap that pits people against people, race against race, religion against religions, class against class, gender against gender, nation against nation in this clawing and shooting and pummeling cultural slipstream that teaches each next generation the devaluing of ”the other.”

The controllers this side of the next Kool-aide batch coursing through each and every home’s tap water spigot are having a hay day, as Americans are floundering now more than ever, waiting for the next 3.0 iPhone, pining over the next Ridley Scott movie of salvation, at the ready to stump the Trump in meaningless spasms of attacking just his side of fascism, leaving the rot-gut democrats and libertarians to continue their giant tapeworm of destruction to grow and grow.

Now, especially, this abomination out of the closet (Familia Trump) — reflective of the stupidity and tough-guy-in-the-mirror/on-Twitter-Kardashian-wanna-be but never really able to back machismo that is America the Red-White-Blue of the continuous hematoma in the pericardium — IS holding the sputtering heart of America, and Trump and Company, LLC, Kosher Certified, are drawing the ire and bombastic support of the leveling Americans with a little “a” for abomination. All these spasms, or even silent nightly sweats, after this last shit-hole election, when all along, the blackness of Capitalism has been the rancid pustule smothering each next generation – Baby-Boomer, Yuppie, Millennial, Gen X,Y, Gen Zed, Zombie. Always with us, days of genocidal floodgate openings, first nations the real genocide purloined by all manner of cultures, religions, shit-bag people — always here in the place called Turtle Island: those robber barons, slave holders, financiers from over the pond, Rothschilds, the 1.3 percenters called the Chosen People, shifting massive trillions through their sluices of pain, collective punishment gulags, legal gymnastics and technological Kendo moves their forte now. Colluding Talmud-citing, Bible-Thumping, Manifest Destiny-humping peoples from another womb.

As I lay Dying, William Faulkner  –

And the next morning they found him in his shirt-tail laying asleep on the floor like a felled steer, and the top of the box bored clean full of holes and Cash’s new auger broke off in the last one. When they taken the lid off her they found that two of them had bored on into her face.

Soylent Green is people, you’re goddamned right. Money, derivatives, the billionaires’ four-timing shuffle, the perversions of debt and credit, the heavy sack of coagulated blood hanging like a dowager hump on every family’s next and next generation.

Now daily the liberals, the so-denatured Americans of the little-to-the-left-of- center adherents of the continuous never tell a lie Georgy Porgy Washington, they cluck and claw and turn pink about this Mafioso President, the one on TV, paid for and delivered by the American people-Nielsen Ratings-Arbitron-$50,000 a second commercial satisfaction. They all tune in, now don’t they, happy Capital Americans. The un-Holy Publishers print his vile, art of the deal, publish the vile of every one of them – traitor, general, politico, POTUS, and shyster peddling invented history and deafening feats of pseudo psychology and mainstream entertainment.

We are all the rump and laughing stock in his apprentice way of raping entire classes of people, this POTUS Numero Four-Five. Like a .45 stuck in the craw of every American and Third Worlder!

In the mix, though, the controllers, they keep ladling pap or pabulum, pushing the spine loosening pacification into each bronchial of our lives — respect for all peoples, bring in the consensus crew, respect all opinions, all people while they kill us with their smiles.

Imagine, we should be teaching who to hate, how to hate and in all the meaningful ways, how to utilize hate into action. Imagine, we teach these toddlers and the college ones and all of us in these sappy companies to do the opposite of what should be – thou shalt hate and seek justice for crimes perpetrated by the elite onto humankind.

WTF! So, we unteach anger, unteach retribution, unteach action, unteach revolution, unteach how to spot a precipitant. Every minute we should be auguring that ability to fight back, and rebuff, not only the fascism of the Holy Republican Party and a Trump or Netanyahu, but to hate the entire sociopathic nature of corporations-militaries-punishers-bankers-investors-renters-technologists.

Instead, we get pundits and middling folk attacking anyone who might go out and march and scream and shout and dervish in the streets when the police state comes down hard like Gestapo, their weapons of Zionism glimmer in the sweat of the mace and industrial tear gas.

I see them go to Costco, see them find more days off lifting false dreams in their Disneyland world, their American evil seeding of cultures with the poison of travelers checks and exceptionalism . . . . like resistant tuberculous, the Americans hit those beaches and slum-poverty tours, cruises, enclaves in Costa Rica, anywhere on earth, the westerners end up like leeches looking for more soft flesh.

Americans . . . Germans . . . Canadians . . . Brits . . . Australians . . . .

From sea to shining oil slick sea!

Interestingly, I go back to Andre Vltchek, on one of his American book and film tours, “In the USA – “I Cannot Write!”:

I was shocked by the state in which I found the United States.

I left many years ago. I left New York, which was, for more than a decade, my home. I never returned, except to launch my books and films, and to see my friends. I never stayed for long time. Two weeks, this time, was the longest in years.

This visit broke me. It exhausted me. It thoroughly depressed me.

I saw clearly how grotesque pseudo-morality, disgusting religious concepts and hypocrisy influenced and ruined entire nations, client states, worldwide, especially in Asia and Africa.

Yes, I believe in collective guilt. Holding US citizenship, I share the guilt. And therefore, I work non-stop, not to wash my hands, but to stop the madness.

I am convinced that the West, the white race and its lackeys abroad, have no right to rule over this Planet. I saw enough to back my conviction.

The West is finished, its culture dead. What is left is unattractive, even horrifying. There is no heart, no compassion, and no creativity. And those billions of people beyond the Western realm should not be dying, while forced to support the aggressive individualism of the post-Christian, post-Crusade colonialism and fascism of Europe and the United States.

Ahh, living the dream, daily, watching people running around in tights and redneck t-shirts, everyone looking like they are in a Walmart clothing competition. Or the fake ones. All the inside jokes, the memes, from Facebook to the next recipe for spicy hot wings, these Americans lavish in the trash of the airwaves, Netflix, and the entire Madison Avenue tripe fed to this country of ennui, NASCAR, polluting football, and endless buffets.

I easily find how much I drown daily – my comeuppance —  the fruity intercourse-interchanges with the people I work with, those neighbors, the frightened ones, and the idiots running the streets with their lifted-up pick-ups with six-foot by eight-foot USA and Trump Makes America Great flags streaming like swastikas ablaze.

So many corners turned, USA, the world of half-assed thinking and doing, until we come to today, POLICE STATE USA, thanks largely to the colluding Press, and my daily reminder, how one of my professions ended up in the sewage pit. From Robert Parry, Consortium News:

It was on Dec. 9, 2004, when the mean-spirited mainstream media’s treatment of investigative journalist Gary Webb led him his career devastated, his family broken, his money gone and his life seemingly hopeless to commit suicide. It was a moment that should have shamed all the big-shot journalists who had a hand in Webb’s destruction, but it mostly didn’t.

Oh these precious decades like Rip Van Winkle narcolepsy of the collective soul, until we are all soiled by this lazy, anxiety-filled hibernation:

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.

— Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

It’s easy to go on and on about this police state, and the policing by the corporations – swabs on cheeks, background checks, no time off, work 24-7, black out those holidays, no excuses for terminal gridlock, wage thieves. This is the mortician on duty and manning the radio and air ways – you are guilty until pronounced dead. You are suspect until you’ve given pound of flesh and left kidney for the cause of Capitalism. You are shit out of luck because we have the backing of the Sixth Fleet, a million marching SWAT teams, endless surveillance of every waking blink and snoring seizure.

It all comes down to basic rights, right?

In a blistering dissent in Utah v. Strieff, Justice Sonia Sotomayor blasted the court for holding ‘that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.’ Sotomayor continued:

‘This Court has allowed an officer to stop you for whatever reason he wants—so long as he can point to a pretextual justification after the fact. That justification must provide specific reasons why the officer suspected you were breaking the law, but it may factor in your ethnicity, where you live, what you were wearing, and how you behaved. The officer does not even need to know which law you might have broken so long as he can later point to any possible infraction—even one that is minor, unrelated, or ambiguous.

The indignity of the stop is not limited to an officer telling you that you look like a criminal. The officer may next ask for your consent to inspect your bag or purse without telling you that you can decline. Regardless of your answer, he may order you to stand helpless, perhaps facing a wall with [your] hands raised. If the officer thinks you might be dangerous, he may then frisk you for weapons. This involves more than just a pat down. As onlookers pass by, the officer may feel with sensitive fingers every portion of [your] body. A thorough search [may] be made of [your] arms and armpits, waistline and back, the groin and area about the testicles, and entire surface of the legs down to the feet.’

If you still can’t read the writing on the wall, Sotomayor breaks it down further:

‘This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong… So long as the target is one of the many millions of people in this country with an outstanding arrest warrant, anything the officer finds in a search is fair game for use in a criminal prosecution. The officer’s incentive to violate the Constitution thus increases…’

Need any lessons on spread eagle poses, downward facing dog body cavity assists, frog march locomotion tips, and upside facing black boot gymnastics? God, the American Psychological Association, here, mealy-mouthing:

While much was known about psychologist involvement in detainee abuse prior to the PENS (Psychological Ethics and National Security) report, what has become progressively clearer is that the methods used by interrogators, guided by Behavioral Science Consultant Teams (BSCTs), have been intentionally shaped by psychologists. Many of the most objectionable interrogation strategies had been re-designed by psychologists from U.S. military programs, primarily the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program, originally intended to protect U.S. soldiers from undesirable thought reform.

According to international definitions, and the understanding of the SERE program itself, SERE-based interrogation procedures constitute torture. Official reports and numerous journalists over the last several years have provided extensive documentation depicting how these SERE techniques were used in U.S. interrogation practices by SERE-trained psychologists, both in DOD and CIA detention facilities. Yet, however despicable, psychology should never let these ‘enhanced techniques’ cause us to ignore the only somewhat more subtle techniques prescribed in the Army Field Manual, the common guide for all U.S. military interrogations. In the Army Field Manual, allowable interrogation tactics include deception, fear escalation, ego harm, isolation, and psychological disorientation. Regardless of whether these techniques are ethical for professional interrogators, they are morally problematic for psychologists, given the clearly circumscribed ethical underpinnings of the profession.

Being and Politics

Gilad Atzmon has a new book just out titled Being in Time: A Post-Political Manifesto. The title probably is influenced from a book, Being and Time, written by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger.

Atzmon has put forward his manifesto that attempts to synthesize various political, cultural, psychological, linguistic strands to explain why the western world finds itself in its current state of unfettered capitalism, crushed communism, the continuing Jewish occupation of and oppression in Palestine, supremacism, the West fighting Israel’s wars, and the discourse being manipulated (even within purportedly independent media).

In Being in Time, Atzmon pulls on many threads, including sexuality, psychoanalysis, the Frankfurt school, cultural Marxism, cognitive partitioning, political correctness, language, identity politics, leftism, rightism, and more.

Identity Politics

I continue to dissent from how Atzmon characterizes the Left, which he divides into the Old and New Left. Fine, there are divisions in the Left. There are certain core principles that leftists adhere to: pro-human rights for all humans, accepting of diversity, anti-war, pro-worker, anti-exploitation, etc. But what must also be realized is that many persons may pose as Left but are not leftist in orientation. People who do not embrace core leftist principles are not leftist, they are faux-leftists. To criticize the entirety of the Left because a fifth column has undermined a segment of the Left speaks to the level of infiltration, the gullibility of certain leftists, or the fragility of social conviction among some leftists.

The Left is not a monolith, and neither is the Right a monolith. Hence any criticism leveled at the entirety of a political orientation is only valid when the entirety of a political orientation espouses an identical platform.

Atzmon considers that identity politics characterizes liberalism and progressivism. (p 8) He names, for example, LGBTQ, feminists, Latinos, Blacks, and Jews as forming exclusive political alliances. However, a major plank of the Left is solidarity as it is widely understood that to bring about some greater form of socialism the masses must unite. Ergo, strict allegiance to identity politics is contrary to leftist principles. Atzmon further notes that patriotism is secondary among leftists. Jingoistic nationalism is an enemy of the working class, and it is certainly anathema to anarchists. Therefore, insofar as patriotic sentiment prejudices one’s attachment with wider humanity, it serves to divide rather than unite peoples.

Yet rightists also engage in identity politics as Whites, militarists, religious sects, and anti-abortionists attest. In the case of the US politics, Amanda Marcotte of Salon writes, “Democrats are always accused of playing ‘identity politics.’ The reality is that Republicans do it far more.”

Left-Right

I wonder what exactly Atzmon means by post-politics. I assume this refers to the “fatigue” he points to in the Brexit vote and election of Donald Trump, as well as the discarding of Left and Right politics.

He sees Left and Right as “now indistinguishable and irrelevant.” (p 9)

According to Atzmon, the Left is focused on “what could be” and the Right on “what is.” (p 13) Atzmon argues, “The Right does not aim to change human social reality but rather to celebrate, and even to maximize it.” (p 13)

But the Right has engineered this “social reality” through neoliberalism, imperialism, and militaristic violence, and the only ones really benefiting from this so-called maximization are the capitalist class. That the Democratic Party in the US, the Labour Party in the UK, the Liberal Party in Canada are in step with this engineering of “social reality” adduces that they are rightist parties.

“The Left,” continues Atzmon, “yearns for equality, but for the Right, the human condition is diverse and multi-layered, with equality not just tolerated but accepted as part of the human condition, a natural part of our social, spiritual and material world.” (p 13)

The imprecision of what constitutes a chunk of Atzmon’s manifesto is annoying. The Left “yearns”? This might be written in a less biased manner as a “desire.” But it is not simply a desire for an undefined “equality.” The Left calls for an equality of conditions, opportunities, and access to resources. Why not? Should an inequality of conditions, opportunities, and access to resources be accepted? Should one class of people be accorded privileges over the rest of humanity? Is this not supremacism – which Atzmon deplores? And for most of the Left – most (and for anarchists, likeliest all), respect for diversity is a valued principle. Diversity is recognized by the Right, specifically, pecuniary diversity. But American society historically has been considered a melting pot rather than a celebration of diversity.

Atzmon sets up the parameters for discussion,such that the “post-political” author can diss both Left and Right. He does not discuss in the Left-Right context as to what constitutes “the human condition” and whether the rightist perspective is indeed “a natural part of our social, spiritual and material world.” I find such a statement ahistorical. The economist Karl Polanyi presented a compelling historical perspective in his book The Great Transformation that elucidates how communitarian human society was changed.

Atzmon writes, “For the Right ideologue, it is the ‘will to survive’ and even to attain power that makes social interactions exciting.” (p 13) The sentence strikes this reader as platitudinal. There is no example or substantiation provided. Which ideologue from whatever corner of the political continuum does not have a will to survive or seek exciting interactions?

Atzmon sums up the Left-Right schism as “the tension between equality and reality.” (p 13) If one cannot accept the definitions, and if the premises are faulty, then the logical structure collapses.

One flips the page and the Left is described as dreamy, illusory, unreal, phantasmal, utopian; thus, it did not appeal to the working class. Atzmon asserts, “Social justice, equality and even revolution may really be nothing but the addictive rush of effecting change and this is perhaps why hard-core Leftist agitators often find it difficult to wake from their social fantasy. They simply refuse to admit that reality has slipped from their grasp, preferring to remain in their phantasmal universe, shielded by ghetto walls built of archaic terminology and political correctness.” (p 14-15)

Atzmon is also abusive of the Right, seeing the Right ideologue as mired in biological determinism. (p 17)

Atzmon says he wants to push past political ideology. I am unaware of his professing any political leaning, so I guess he is, in a sense, already post-political. This strikes me as illusory since in western “democracies” the corporations still pull the strings of their politicians.

Atzmon applies the noun democracy recklessly. Without defining what is a democracy, through using the word (as so many people do), he inadvertently reifies something that does not exist in any meaningful sense.

Atzmon writes darkly, “Symptomatic of the liberal democratic era was the belief that people could alter their circumstances.” (p 19) Yet contemporary politicians still play on that sentiment, witness Barack Obama in the US and Justin Trudeau in Canada whose political campaigns appealed to such a belief. Does Atzmon think people cannot alter their circumstances?

Atzmon points to how the Labour Party under Blair became a neoliberal, warmongering party. He concludes, “The difference between Left and Right had become meaningless?” (p 24) I would describe this as the Left (to the extent the Labour Party was genuinely Left) being co-opted and disappeared by the Right — a political coup.

Atzmon says the political -isms and free markets are empty. He does not specifically target anarch-ism, however. Besides mentioning anarchist professor Noam Chomsky, one supposes anarchism is too fringe for Atzmon, but also it is beyond much of the criticism he levels at the Left. And as for the notion of a “free market,” there never has been one. Polanyi wrote in The Great Transformation: “The road to the free market was opened and kept open by an enormous increase in continuous, centrally organized and controlled interventionism.” (p 146)

Why has the genuine Left never attained power and brought its vision to fruition? Rampant capitalism has allowed 1% to profit grotesquely relative to the 99%. The 1%-ers have the money and the power that money buys: media, corporations, resources, and government. With the government controlled by the 1%-ers that puts the state security apparatus also under their control – and paid for the 99%-ers (because the rich all too often escape paying tax) to keep them in place. The police and military is, in essence, socialism exploited to protect capitalism. The few countries that have brought about Communism (Cuba, China, USSR, Viet Nam, etc) have found themselves under incessant militaristic and economic threat from capitalists who fear the example of successful socialism. This is missing from Atzmon’s analysis.

Atzmon even proposes that socialism can also be considered greedy because “… it promises that neither you nor anyone else will possess more than I.” (p 25) Really? Where is this stated and by who? Anarchist economics does not propose such a premise.1

Political correctness

Political correctness (PC). What is it? Atzmon calls it “a tyrannical project. The attempted elimination of essentialism, categorization and generalization… in opposition to human nature.” (p 38) Basically, it is the avoidance of language that stigmatizes other groups. Who wants to be stigmatized? Nobody. I can agree that PC has been pushed to extremes. PC also does not distinguish between intention and denotation. Should it? I confess when younger that I, close friends, and colleagues would call each other “gay.” It was actually a term of affection we used for each other. No negative sentiments were felt toward any sexual orientations; in fact, many of us were frequently in the company of LGBTQ. But we were not PC.

Atzmon finds that self-censorship is an outcome of PC: “Initially we don’t say what we think; eventually we learn to say what we don’t think.” (p 39) Perhaps. But sometimes it is better to bite one’s tongue and say nothing. I prefer to think of PC having encouraged a more respectful discourse, but PC should be criticized when it becomes excessive. There are plenty of non-PC examples among those who affiliate with the PC crowd, such as denigrating people who demonstrate for Palestinian human rights as “anti-Semites” – probably the most abused anti-PC term. PC becomes a tool of indoctrination when not practiced with equanimity and sincerity.

Is PC a freedom of speech issue? In some cases, yes. For instance, why is it okay to label someone a “holocaust denier” when questioning the veracity of certain aspects of WWII history? No serious person denies that Jews were among those targeted by Nazis; and no serious person denies that Jews were among those people transported to and having died in concentration camps.

An inordinate focus on PC can be vexing; there are much bigger issues in the world than a focus on whether to call a female “girl” or “woman.” It seems simple enough to raise awareness of inappropriate use of language. Most people will come around to a polite request to avoid words that may offend.

Miscellania

Being in Time finally begins to hit its stride when focusing on manipulations to grab and maintain power. The author is unafraid to point a finger and criticize identitarian groupings that create and exploit divisions.2 The stride is bumpy though, as Atzmon discusses sexuality, LGBTQ, feminism, Left abandonment of the working class, psychoanalysis and the scientific method, Athens and Jerusalem, severe criticism of Marxism, etc. The depth and breadth of the manifesto is beyond a book review.

The scope of Being in Time even looks at a 1970’s sitcom, All in the Family, which Atzmon sees as having “succeeded in pushing the liberal agenda into every American living room.” (p 109) Atzmon calls it a “sophisticated” “cultural manipulation.” (p 110)

Atzmon sees Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign as an institutional failure “embedded in progressive and liberal thought.” (p 120) Describing the ardent neoliberal Clinton or her supporters as liberal or progressive is classic mislabeling.

Atzmon is razor sharp when discussing aspects of Jewishness identity and what the different aspects mean for being a Jew. However, when discussing the political spectrum, political ideology, and society, his definitions too often seem contrived to support his thesis.

In the final pages of Being in Time, Atzmon speaks from deep familiarity with the subject matter: capitalism, Mammonism, and tribalism. With a closing flourish, Atzmon poignantly dares to ask, “And isn’t it correctness, pure and simple, that stops us from mentioning that the protagonist [in George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brotherhood leader Emmanuel] Goldstein is, himself, Jewish?” (p 208)

Final Comments

In the typical human perspective, Being proceeds in a linear fashion. But from a cultural, historical, linguistic, ethical, scientific perspective Being is clearly multi-faceted and not confined to linearity. Atzmon is fully aware of this, nonetheless his Being in Time tackles myriad issues in a rather binary fashion.

There are arguments presented in the book that I diverge from, but Being in Time presents points of view that deserve contemplation and a threshing out. Over all, it is a manifesto that I find unrefined; in dire need of definitions that are substantiated, not merely asserted; and (although I believe Atzmon would state this was beyond his remit) it would be fruitful if the book erected a promising structure, rather than simply tear down structures with little left standing. Being in Time comes across as an interesting foray to understanding and twining politics, power, and ontology that deserves deeper development. A dialectical approach might be most illuminating.

Alas, politics is not yet dead.

The Dream of a better world is not yet dead either. But one day the Dream must end because the Dream must be made a Reality. That is my simplistic two-sentence manifesto.

  1. Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel’s parecon posits balanced job complexes, remuneration based on effort and sacrifice, and decision-making empowered for all workers, but people are free — according to individual preferences — to work more or fewer hours to pursue interests or acquire material goods.
  2. He has been much, and unfairly, maligned even in purportedly progressive media for his arguments. Recently, Aztmon tells of being attacked by three antifa. These people are unprincipled and not what I would call Left.

The Rhetoric of Regime Change


From the end of WWII until the present, the United States has been borrowing, inventing, or inverting terms to label other nations and their political systems. Eventually, the repertoire of politically motivated rhetorical gadgetries swelled to become a convenient ideological arsenal for US expansions into the sovereign domains of all nations. Noam Chomsky once noted, “Talking about American imperialism is rather like talking about triangular triangles.”1 Debating the rhetorical validity of Chomsky’s observation and if it effectively describes talking about the United States is not the subject of this article. However, the conclusion that US imperialism is highly adept at dispensing interminable triangular triangles is self-evident.

Terms such as “American exceptionalism,” “leader of the free world,” “God bless America,” and “our great American democracy” to describe the United States, and terms such as “dictatorship,” “totalitarian,” “closed-nation,” “rogue state,” “state sponsor of terrorism,” “regime,” etc. to describe targeted states are littered throughout the American political lexicon. Could such terms shape policies and determine events?

The manipulation of language can be baleful. In the documentary film Psywar, a compelling case is made that scourges, such as impoverishment and wars, arise from the abuse of language. Consider World War II. American Anti‑German propaganda used certain Third Reich terms (Lebensraum, Aryan race, Führer, Social Darwinism, etc.) as a rationale, among many others, to justify US entry into that war. In Vietnam, the catch phrase was to stop the “Communist domino” in South East Asia. In the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the semantic ornamentation of US wars of aggression took the cynical names of “enduring freedom,” and “Iraqi freedom,” respectively.

Emphatically, people need to be well aware of words and the meanings they impart. It is all too easy to latch onto and use terms that have been integrated into mainstream discourse from media ubiquity. Language has significance, and it helps to shape consciousness and actions. Knowing this, some people who crave wealth and power will manipulate language to satisfy their cravings. But when imperialist ambition for other nations’ assets or strategic locations becomes state policy, the results can be calamitous for nations targeted by imperialism. Hence, the idioms of US imperialism cannot simply be harmless cravings. What drives this imperialism is the quest for a global imperium, regardless of costs to others.

Within this context, the terms Regime and Regime Change play a role in shaping the linguistic landscape for the US militarism and unchallenged world hegemony. Earlier in US history, President Thomas Jefferson epitomized that drive. Hypothesizing on the “inevitable” collapse of the Spanish Empire in Latin America, he stated that the United States could wait “until our population can be sufficiently advanced to gain it from them piece by piece.”2

Because of incessant state propaganda and the media’s absorption of ideologized terms, the rhetoric of regime and regime change have become so pervasive that even progressive outlets are not immune from it. To evaluate how these terms seep into and embed in the culture and conduct of political systems, we will discuss a typical case as represented by Aaron Maté, a host and producer for The Real News.

On 25 April, The Real News carried an interview by Maté with former Bush administration official Lawrence Wilkerson. In the interview, Maté refers to the Syrian government as the “Assad regime.”When speaking of the US, however, he never uses the term “regime.”Maté refers to the “Trump administration” and the “Bush administration,” and Wilkerson speaks of the “Obama administration.”

Because the term regime is ambiguous, highly politicized, exceedingly ideologized, often used out of context, and invariably employed by the West as an instrument of political defamation, why does this supposedly progressive, independent news outlet use a clear imperialist jargon to demonize foreign governments?

Given that language conveys images through words, using figuratively pejorative wording such as regime implies that a government of such a country is illegitimate. Therefore, effecting “regime change” by military force becomes a purported corrective moral duty of the US. Has this been the case, for instance, with “regime change” in Iraq, Libya, and other Arab states? Let us dispense for one moment with linguistic gimmicks. Because Wilkerson and Maté spoke of “regime change” throughout the interview, why not opt for straightforward clarity and say the violent overthrow of a foreign government directly or through proxy! In the case of Syria, it should be emphasized that the overthrow is largely being driven by foreign actors.

To dispel any misunderstanding on our part, and to clarify the intent of Maté, one of us, Kim, wrote to him. Here is the exchange:

KP: In recent interviews, you use “Assad regime” but you never refer to a Bush/Trump regime. They are called administrations. Since “regime” is pejorative, why do you call the elected Syrian government a regime?

AM: The Assads have been in power for more than four decades. And I don’t think Trump-Bush’s electoral victories and Assad’s are comparable — correct me if I’m wrong, but in the latter, there wasn’t voting outside of government areas and some foreign embassies. I can understand the argument against using regime if it can help legitimize regime change. What term would you use?

KP: First, the business parties of the US have been in power several more decades — since the US was established on Indigenous territory. Second, the 2014 Syrian election was open to international observers; it had a 73.4% turnout that garnered 88.7% support for Assad (64% of eligible voters … which, I submit, obviates the criticism of “outside government controlled areas” … difficult to control when foreign mercenaries and terrorists are wreaking havoc in parts of the country). And you are certainly aware of criticisms of US “democracy” and voting there.

I would refrain from using a pejorative term. I would refer to the “Syrian government” or the “Assad administration” … terms I use with the US or other western governments. I believe an unbiased (or a person hiding biases because most of us arguably have them) media person would not use (mis)leading language with readers/viewers. So I would not use the term “regime change.” I would say “coup” or “foreign-backed overthrow of an elected government.”

Lastly, I submit the US has no business determining for Syrians how they will be led and who will lead them?

AM: Exactly, the business parties have ruled in the US, not one intertwined family regime. I don’t see the 2014 elections, where opponents were state-approved and large parts of the country excluded, as you do. I think regime is exactly the right term for the Assad gang but I can see the argument for not using a pejorative term, even an accurate one. So I’ll consider it. I certainly agree re: your last point.

Remarks

It was rather unsettling when Maté stated, “I can understand the argument against using regime if it can help legitimize regime change. What term would you use?” [Emphasis added]. It seemed evident that Maté was aware that using the word regime would predispose for violent change. So Kim asked The Real News host for clarification. Maté replied, “I’m saying I wouldn’t want to use language that can can legitimate regime change. I think the Assad regime is a regime, a horrible one, but I don’t support regime change.”

Maté calls the Assad government “the Assad gang.” This is problematic because Maté knows that George W. Bush launched the war that killed hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet did anyone hear Maté saying “the Bush gang”? We are also unaware of, to use the descriptor of Maté, the “Bush administration” (not a regime according to Maté) being described as “a horrible one” (although Maté might agree Bush was horrible; however, if one leaves unchallenged that the “Assad regime” is horrible,3 then the question arises whether the “Assad regime” is more horrible than the “Bush administration,” “Obama administration,” or “Trump administration”). We suspect that Maté decided to qualify the Assad government according to his ideological leaning and not according to neutral metrics of journalism or political judgement. Of interest, by saying, “I can see the argument for not using a pejorative term, even an accurate one,” Maté demonstrated an intention to persist in his prejudicial charge of “regime” despite his capability to see the “argument for not using a pejorative term.”

Further, Maté questions the decades-long father-to-son Assad governance in Syria. We agree. However, such aspect must not be questioned parochially. First, the United States loves dynasties that serve its plans. One example is the Somoza dynasty in Nicaragua (1936-1974). The other was the planned transfer of power from Hosni Mubarak to his son Gamal that the US encouraged and blessed until the Egyptian people put an axe to that plan in 2011. Second, we should place the question of dynastic rule in the political context of independent states. That is, the status of who rules in an independent state is exclusively an internal affair of said state.

Explanation: most modern nation-states—especially in Asia and Africa—that emerged after WWI and WWII are the result of myriad historical, domestic, and external (i.e., foreign power intervention) factors. (Israel, being a state created by the West as a homeland for Jewish Europeans is an exception. The western hemisphere, Australia, and Aotearoa/New Zealand are also another subject.) After the dust settled, many nation-states came to exist as political systems with boundaries arbitrarily demarcated by European powers. Consequently, we deem that criticizing, destabilizing, indicting, partitioning, or overthrowing the legitimate (according to prevailing international agreements) governments of these states is not only absurd but patently criminal. Legally and morally, no foreign states, institutions, groups, or individuals have any right to rearrange the political configuration and type of power of any other country.

Of course, we have every right to question the power assets of a specific state if they negatively affect other nations. We also have the right to question the power structures of all other states be they the business duopoly of the United States, the medieval system of Saudi Arabia, or the moribund but obstinate colonialist system of Britain.

Conclusion: Leaving aside the question of the moral cogency of the system of nation states, it is elementary to uphold the notion that the configuration of any national government is a matter for the citizenry to decide. However, no one need defer from taking a critical position in evaluating its policies and actions. Further, if one insists on indicting a country based on any premise, then the meterstick used to judge that country must be extended, first of all to one’s own country, and second, be extendable to all other countries without exception.

Take the example of Jordan. Imperialists abstain from referring to Jordan as the Hashemite “regime,” which Britain fostered to allow for the installation of a Zionist state in Palestine. A similar imperialist impediment exists against calling the house of Windsor the monarchical regime, even though it descended from houses that conquered Scotland and Wales?

Additionally, in terms of power as a family affair, familial lineages are now an entrenched trait in US politics: the influence of the Kennedys, the Bushes, and the Clintons in politics are recent examples. Where do we hear the protests against the power of such dynasties or their being dubbed as regimes transplanted in power roles through elections? If the explanation is that free elections led to that, then the validity of elections (as a process for attaining power for specific families) should be scrutinized and categorized. Moreover, because the validity of US “democracy” and US elections are questionable,4 is it not throwing rocks from a glasshouse when criticizing forms of government elsewhere?

We understand that that not all governments are elected in a popular vote with multiple parties. But to assert that governments determined through US-style elections are more democratic is preposterous.5

This brings us to question of what has been learned from “regime change” wreaked by the United States and other western powers such as helping racists overthrow the socialist government in Libya, for example?

The US Department of State in its “2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” provides a rather damning example of what can result from “regime change”:

The most serious human rights problems during the year resulted from the absence of effective governance, justice, and security institutions, and abuses and violations committed by armed groups affiliated with the government, its opponents, terrorists, and criminal groups. Consequences of the failure of the rule of law included arbitrary and unlawful killings and impunity for these crimes; civilian casualties in armed conflicts; killings of politicians and human rights defenders; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention and prison facilities.

Other human rights abuses included arbitrary arrest and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; denial of fair public trial; an ineffective judicial system staffed by officials subject to intimidation; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; use of excessive force and other abuses in internal conflicts; limits on the freedoms of speech and press, including violence against and harassment of journalists; restrictions on freedom of religion; abuses of internally displaced persons, refugees, and migrants; corruption and lack of transparency in government; violence and social discrimination against women and ethnic and racial minorities, including foreign workers; trafficking in persons, including forced labor; legal and social discrimination based on sexual orientation; and violations of labor rights.

Given the contemporary history in Libya, what would one predict for “regime change” in Syria?

Discussion

It is agreed that rhetoric can nonplus media consumers. Now, even though Maté uses the “regime” rhetoric, he nonetheless declares he is anti-“regime change.” This is a contradiction. For the record, we view Maté as an informed journalist worth listening to; but if we want to identify the conceptual dichotomies forced upon the use and misuse of such term, we need to dissect Maté’s ideological construct of regime and regime change

If logical arguments matter, then it is one thing when the French once referred to the monarchic system prior to the French Revolution as the Ancien Régime—that when the term regime came into usage. However, it is something else when the West uses it as a means to express dubious political paradigms. The reason is simple: such expression comes with the implanted code/pretext for military intervention. In post-WWII imperialist practice, the moment a government of a given country gains the enmity of the United States (or Israel), it becomes a “regime.” For example, when Muammar Gaddafi was considered an enemy of the West, they called his government a regime. But when he gave up his advanced weapons programs and rudimentary equipment, the US and Britain refrained from using the word “regime” and started using the standard term: Libyan government. To show the change of heart of the West toward the Libyan leader, Tony Blair, a bona fide war criminal, went to dine with him in his tent.

And when the Egyptian people were about to force the then incumbent ruler Hosni Mubarak to step down from power (in 2011), CNN anchor Anderson Cooper shouted from Cairo against the “dictator” Hosni Mubarak. Yes, Mubarak was a dictator. He was also an obedient stooge of the United States and Israel. But how did the United States and Israel call their stooge during the 32 years that preceded the Maidan al-Tahrir (Liberation Square) revolt? Former Israeli official Benjamin Ben-Eliezer called Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak “Israel’s greatest strategic treasure” and Haaretz’s editor-in-chief said Egypt under Mubarak was “Israel’s guard,” and the United States called Mubarak our “ally.”

Another US oddity: the Al Saud family that is ruling Saudi Arabia, with its shuttered female population and head chopping meted out to malcontents, is a regime from top to bottom. When about 14,000 “royals” are placed in every crevice of power, then that power is the pure expression of a regime. And yet, we do not recall Western governments ever calling the Saudi family rule as regime. What is the mystery?

There is no mystery. As stated, the term regime is all of the following: expedient, arbitrary, politicized, ideological, and to make sure, it is a tool of denigration for multiple objectives depending on who are the users. Thirty years ago, the Iraqi government of President Saddam Hussein called the Syrian government of President Hafez Assad a “regime.” Likewise, the Assad government (until the death of Hafez) has called the Iraqi government a “regime.” Interestingly, both Iraq and Syria called the Saudi ruling family a “regime.” Saudi Arabia (and the West) called the Iranian government the “mullah regime.” Today, US media have no qualms dubbing the Russian government as “the Putin Regime.” (It is easy to capitulate and wield the language in reverse. We, too, have called the G.W. Bush and the Obama administrations “regimes.”)

Where do we go from here? What is a Régime?

The notion that a government cannot be called regime because it is elected is a defective way to look at how things work. In the US, for example, the president is elected. Fine, but the entire administration is first appointed and then approved. Technically, therefore, the said administration is a specific regime convened within the framework of certain strictures. Consider this: no one elected Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and other Zionists to take decisions for war against Iraq. Yet, their influence in making decisions transcended the role of elected governance. Arguably, therefore, the US government is a particular regime that responds to special interests among its ruling elites.

Consequently, when the United States calls any foreign government a “regime,” we immediately know that the appellation is dictated by the need of the imperialist system to appear as an expression of a “democratic government.” Meaning, while the US is a normal and democratic state, the other state is not.

Recently, Paul Craig Roberts, an economist and former US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan, joined the ideological skirmishes surrounding the use of the word regime. It is rare in US politics that elements belonging once to the Establishment acquire enough intellectual independence and honest lucid thinking to turn against it, and in the process, expose its making and who really rule it. Roberts is such a courageous element. However, in his article, “How Information Is Controlled by Washington, Israel, and Trolls, Leading to Our Destruction,” Roberts does not go all the way to investigate all aspects of a matter. He writes:

I hold Israel and the Israel Lobby accountable, just as I held accountable the Reagan administration, the George H.W. Bush administration, the Clinton regime, the George W. Bush regime, the Obama regime, and the Trump regime. (I differentiate between administration and regime on the basis of whether the president actually had meaningful control over the government. If the president has some control, he has an administration.) [Emphasis added]

Roberts tried to walk a very thin line between two concepts with different meanings and purposes: administration and regime. In short, his method to differentiate is critically flawed. He attributed the conceptual distinction to one factor: Control. The scheme does not work. Control, whether exercised in a “regime” setting or in an “administration” environment neither elucidates nor qualifies the structural quality of governance and its hierarchical order.

For instance, it is known that Ronald Reagan, the governor and the president, was in the habit of delegating many if his responsibilities to others due to serious shortcomings (William E. Leuchtenburg, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina, described Reagan with these words, “No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed.”) This means, although Reagan might have had what it takes to appear as the one in charge, he lacked the expertise to run the complex system he was supposed to govern. However, both delegation of power and decision-making do not entail exercising control by those who give it because ultimately those who undertake such delegation are only theoretically responsible for it, while the delegator takes only nominal responsibility.

Further, if the head of a given “regime” tightly controls the apparatuses of his government, would that be enough reason to qualify that regime as administration? On the other hand, even if Roberts meant to confine his distinction to the United States, his approach would not work either. Explanation: Roberts often uses the Deep State paradigm as the true pattern of power in the United States (we endorse this paradigm, too). But an altered reality, where patterns of power are preserved and repeated like clockwork, is the corollary of Deep State. Evidently, therefore, Roberts overlooked how the Deep State works. If this state is effectively in control of the US government, then that government is no longer an administration but a regime that carries the orders of that state.

Considering that the American political system—since inception—responds positively to the financial and political interests and pressure by its capitalistic class, top oligarchs, and special interest groups, then all US administration are regimes—by concept and by fact—under the control of powerful circles.

Curiously, is the Chinese government an administration or regime? When answering, we have to keep in mind the role of the Chinese Communist Party. Because this party appears to control the totality of the Chinese governmental policies and its economic plan, then do we have a regime? Would the Chinese government accept to be called a regime? Would any government accept to be labeled as a regime if such a term is heavily infused with derogatory attributes that could be used against them by aggressive states?

Closing Remarks

We resolutely consider a change of government imposed by foreign actors as an aggression and act of war. Definitively, it is illegal under the prevailing international law that imperialist states themselves co-wrote and endorsed. What constitutes a legitimate change of government? A change of government should be an expression of the will of a domestic population—be it through revolution, massive civil unrest, or peaceful transition of power. Consequently, we deem all states that are not installed by colonialist powers as having the inalienable right to be considered legitimate and viable for further development.

Does voting confer legitimacy? Broadly, does western-style “democracy” imposed by the mass destruction of weaker nations give legitimacy to governments installed by aggressors? Why does the Vichy Regime installed by Hitler in France still evoke opprobrium but comparatively few criticize regimes installed by the United States in Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, and Libya? In the end, could such regimes ever evolve into a genuine democracy—assuming that we have settled on its acceptable definition and mechanisms? We submit that the answer is no.

We view a government imposed by invaders as a means to satisfy the plans of the power that installed it, not the aspirations of the country’s people. Iraq is an example. The post-invasion Iraqi political system cannot be but a regime. When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, it dissolved its legitimate governing structures, the army, police force, ministries (except the oil ministry), banks, currency, and so on. Apart from geopolitical demarcation, the Iraqi state ceased to functionally exist including, of course, its political status. That is, we had no idea what it had become: anarchy-land, fiefdom, sect-land, republic, or just mere colony without face or name. And yet, the United States of George W. Bush went ahead and installed a “president” (Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar) for a shell republic. If the post-invasion political system was not a regime exemplar, then what is a regime? With all that, the United State never called the illegitimate and illegal order it imposed on Iraq (still in power today) with any label except the “Iraqi government” to convey the impression of normalcy.

Since the dawn of history, no government has ever reached a theorized- or aspired-to perfection. Is such perfection possible? Societies and governance are an evolving process. In the example of Syria, the struggle of the Syrian people to liberate their land from French colonialism, to confront the installation of a militarized, expansionist Zionist state on its flanks and US plots to overthrow successive Syrian governments have all shaped political attitudes and considerations. Like most developing countries, the Syrian government has flaws. Shall we then accept the killing of over 350,000 Syrians and destruction of their cities in order to enlarge Israel, to allow Turkish intrusions against Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, to provide passage for Qatari pipelines, to re-design the maps of the Arab world, and to turn Syria into an American and Israeli vassal?

Consequent to these arguments, and when confronted with denominating the plethora of political systems existing today, our position is based on simple logic. First, we define any ruling entity of a country as government, and give the name administration to its political configuration. Second, we reserve the term regime to any entity—elected or not elected—that is ruled, directly or indirectly, by special interest groups, by clans, by families, by organizations, by personalities of dubious loyalty to the people, by lobbyists, by oligarchs, by ideologues, by militarists, and by servility to foreign governments. But in the first place, we reserve the term regime to any entity that declares itself above the laws of humanity, above the laws of nations, above criticism, and beyond moral accountability.

To close, we believe clear-minded and critically thinking writers could take the lead in naming any government as “regime” if objective conditions—as explained (or further improved upon)—would support the designation. Again, a middle way exists: that we simply call the entity that rules a country as “government.” Ultimately, this could avoid the diatribe as to what a government is and how it differs from a regime. Having stated that, we do have serious problems when writers, using circulating clichés, uncritically follow the naming system promulgated by the US hyperpower.

  1. Noam Chomsky, “Modern-Day American Imperialism: Middle East and Beyond.”
  2. Walter LaFeber, Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America, W. W. Norton & Company, 1993, p 19.
  3. For a rebuttal see Robert Roth, What’s really happening in Syria (available for download here).
  4. Noam Chomsky, who Maté admires (according to one bio), holds the US is not a genuine democracy. As for the validity of US elections, Greg Palast has been an outspoken critic of stolen elections. See his Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps.
  5. See Arnold August, Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion (review). See also Wei Ling Chua, Democracy: What the West Can Learn from China (review). Both August and Chua provide compelling narratives on what approximates “democracy” and how favorably Cuba and China stack up compared to the United States.

International Campaign is Criminalizing Criticism of Israel as “Anti-semitism”

Delegates at the 2009 Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism convention in London. The organization issued a declaration calling on governments to use an Israel-centric definition of antisemitism and to outlaw and prosecute such “antisemitism.”


For two decades, some Israeli officials and Israel partisans have worked to embed a new, Israel-focused definition of antisemitism in institutions around the world, from international bodies and national governments to small college campuses in heartland America. This effort is now snowballing rapidly. As a result, advocacy for Palestinian rights is well on the way to being curtailed and even criminalized as “hate.”

As the world has witnessed the oppression and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, many people have risen in protest. In response, the Israeli government and certain of its advocates have conducted a campaign to crack down on this activism, running roughshod over civil liberties (and the English language) in the process.

The mechanism of this crackdown is the redefinition of “antisemitism”1 to include criticism of Israel, and the insertion of this definition into the bodies of law of various countries.

Where most people would consider “antisemitism” to mean bigotry against Jewish people (and rightly consider it abhorrent), for two decades a campaign has been underway to replace that definition with an Israel-centric definition. That definition can then be used to block speech and activism in support of Palestinian human rights as “hate.” Various groups are applying this definition in law enforcement evaluations of possible crimes.

Proponents of this Israel-centric definition have promoted it step by step in various arenas, from the U.S. State Department and European governments to local governments around the U.S. and universities.

While this effort has taken place over the last two decades, it is snowballing rapidly at this time. The definition is increasingly being used to curtail free speech and academic freedom, as well as political activism.

Furthermore, such politicizing of an important word may reduce its effectiveness when real antisemitism occurs, doing a disservice to victims of true bigotry.

As of this writing, the U.S. Congress has endorsed the distorted definition, the governments of the UK and Austria have officially adopted it (in December and April, respectively), various U.S. State legislatures are considering it, and numerous universities are using it to delineate permissible discourse. Many representatives and heads of other states around the world have embraced the new meaning, even if they have yet to officially implement it.

This article will examine the often interconnected, incremental actions that got us where we are, the current state of affairs, and the public relations and lobbying efforts that are promoting this twisting of the definition of “antisemitism” — often under cover of misleadingly named “anti-racism” movements.

Claims of “Antisemitism” Used to Silence Support for Palestinians

For many years, numerous respected organizations have documented Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, including killing of Palestinian civilians, abuse of Palestinian children, torture of Palestinian prisoners, confiscation of Palestinian land, and other cases of systematic violence and oppression. Detailed reports have been compiled by Defense for Children International, the International Red Cross, Amnesty International, Foreign Service Journal, Physicians for Human rights, Christian Aid, Human Rights Watch, the National Lawyers Guild, Israel’s Public Committee Against Torture, Israel’s B’Tselem and others.

Israel long claimed that its 1948 creation was on “a land without a people for a people without a land,” and many people may still believe this founding myth. The fact is, however, that the land was originally inhabited by an indigenous population that was approximately 80 percent Muslim, 15 percent Christian, and a little under 5 percent Jewish. The Jewish State of Israel was created through the ejection of approximately three-quarters of a million people.

Over the decades since Israel’s founding in 1948, accusations of antisemitism have been leveled against many people who criticized Israeli actions. Indeed, the accusation was used effectively to silence very prominent critics.2

However, for most of that time, the meaning of the term itself was not in question. The standard definition was, in Google’s terms, “hostility to or prejudice against Jews.”3 Around the turn of this century, though, certain advocates began promoting official and even legal definitions of antisemitism that included various kinds of criticism of Israel.

Conflating Criticism of Israel with Antisemitism

Natan Sharansky, Israeli minister, in 2003: “The State of Israel has decided to take the gloves off and implement a coordinated counteroffensive against anti-Semitism.” Sharansky’s formulation formed the basis for the new Israel-centric definitions adopted around the world.

Unsurprisingly, the new definitions appear to have originated from within the Israeli government, or at least with an Israeli government official.

The definitions adhere to a pattern set by a man named Natan Sharansky, who was Israel’s Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs and chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Sharansky founded a Global Forum against Anti-Semitism in 2003, stating: “The State of Israel has decided to take the gloves off and implement a coordinated counteroffensive against anti-Semitism.”

But Sharansky apparently didn’t mean a counteroffensive against just anti-Jewish bigotry, but an offensive against criticism of Israel. The following year he wrote a position paper that declared: “Whereas classical anti-Semitism is aimed at the Jewish people or the Jewish religion, ‘new anti-Semitism’ is aimed at the Jewish state.”

Sharansky’s paper laid out what he called the “3-D Test of Anti-Semitism.” Sharansky applied the term “antisemitic” to criticism of Israel in three cases. First, he argued that statements that “demonize” Israel are antisemitic — by being, in his mind, unfairly harsh. (Some of those allegedly guilty of “demonizing” Israel are Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Human Rights Watch, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, French President François Mitterrand, and others.)

Second, Sharansky declared that it’s antisemitic to apply a “double standard” to Israel — in other words, to criticize Israel for actions that other states may also take. However, if one could never criticize, protest or boycott abuses without calling out every single other similar abuse, no one would ever be able to exercise political dissent at all.

Finally, Sharansky said it’s antisemitic to “delegitimize” Israel, or dispute its “right to exist” (a standard Israeli talking point for many years). In fact, insisting Israel has the “right” to exist amounts to saying it had the right to expel Muslim and Christian Palestinians in order to found a religiously exclusive state. (See “What ‘Israel’s right to exist’ means to Palestinians,” by John Whitbeck, published in the Christian Science Monitor.)4

Sharansky’s outline provided the pattern for a European agency to create a new definition of antisemitism the next year, 2005 — a definition that would then be adopted by a succession of organizations and governments, including the U.S. State Department.

Jean Kahn (R) with French President Francois Mitterand. Kahn initiated the creation of the European Monitoring Centre, which released an Israel-centric “working” definition of antisemitism.


There is a back story to how this all came about.

This European agency itself was founded and run by a man with important connections to Israel. It was called “The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia,” under the Council of the European Union. A Frenchman named Jean Kahn had convinced European heads of state to create it in 1997.

Kahn had been a President of the European Jewish Congress, elected in a plenary session in Israel, and said the Congress “would demonstrate its solidarity with Israel” and that he hoped European countries would “coordinate their legislation outlawing racism, anti-Semitism or any form of exclusion.”

Kahn was chairman of the Monitoring Centre’s management board and called the “personification” of the agency. Within three years, the Centre issued a position paper calling for the definition of anti-Semitic offenses to be “improved.”

A few years later, Israeli professor Dina Porat took up the effort to create a new definition. Working with her were Kenneth Stern and Rabbi Andrew “Andy” Baker of the American Jewish Committee. Stern reports that when the Monitoring Centre’s then head, Beate Winkler, had failed to deliver the desired definition, Andy Baker “smartly developed a working relationship with her.” Stern and others5 then created a draft for the Monitoring Centre to use.

Israeli Dina Porat, Kenneth Stern, Rabbi Andrew Baker worked to draft what became the European Monitoring Centre definition of antisemitism.


In 2005 the agency issued its “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism,” largely based on that draft. It included an array of negative statements about Israel as examples of antisemitic offenses. While standard dictionary definitions of antisemitism didn’t even mention Israel, fully half of the newly devised Monitoring Centre definition referred to Israel.

Once the Monitoring Centre had created its expanded definition, certain Israel partisans used it to promote similar definitions elsewhere. And while the Monitoring Centre itself continued to term it only a “working” definition and its replacement organization eventually withdrew the definition, in other countries and agencies the expanded definition became official.

In addition, quite frighteningly, proponents pushed successfully to begin applying the Israel-centric definition to law enforcement.

In the United States

The same year Sharansky created his “3-D” antisemitism test — a year after he founded the Global Forum against Anti-Semitism — the U.S. Congress passed a law establishing exceptional government monitoring of antisemitism. The law created a special State Department envoy and office for this monitoring, over objections of the State Department itself.

The law, called the “Global Anti-Semitism Review Act,” included a line that subverted its meaning by enshrining a new definition of antisemitism aligned with Sharansky’s: “Anti-Semitism has at times taken the form of vilification of Zionism, the Jewish national movement, and incitement against Israel.”

The bill was introduced in April 2004. That June, a Congressional hearing was conducted about how to combat antisemitism. A major witness was Israeli minister Sharansky. In his testimony Sharansky proposed his “3-D” Israel-connected definition for anti-Semitism.6

State Department officials objected to the proposed legislation, saying the new office was unnecessary and would be a “bureaucratic nuisance” that would actually hinder the Department’s ongoing work. A State Department press release opposing the new office described the many actions that State was already taking against antisemitism.

Despite this opposition, the Senate bill acquired 24 cosponsors representing both parties, including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Diane Feinstein, Russ Feingold, Sam Brownback, Saxby Chambliss and Ted Stevens. Similar bills (here and here) were introduced in the House of Representatives, acquiring 35 cosponsors, again including both Republican and Democratic leaders. The legislation passed easily and quickly became law.

Gregg Rickman, first U.S. antisemitism envoy, later worked for AIPAC.

The first Special Envoy, Gregg Rickman, endorsed the European Monitoring Centre’s Working Definition in 2008. Rickman’s report called it a “useful framework” for identifying and understanding antisemitism. After Rickman left the State Department, he went to work for the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the major Israel advocacy organization that lobbies Congress.

The next Special Envoy, Hannah Rosenthal, took this campaign a major step forward: In 2010 the office officially adopted the European Monitoring Centre’s definition.

Rosenthal was extremely proud of having achieved this “breakthrough” definition. She began making use of it quickly, establishing a 90-minute course on the new antisemitism at the Foreign Service Institute, the training school for diplomats.

“We have now a definition we can train people on,” she told the Times of Israel, “and we’ve been very aggressive in training foreign service officers.”

Rosenthal announced that with the new definition including criticism of Israel, their reporting on antisemitism improved “300 percent,” even though, she said, that didn’t mean that antisemitism had actually increased in all the countries monitored.

Hannah Rosenthal adopted the “breakthrough” Israel related definition and promptly used it in training U.S. diplomats.


The gloves were off. Now fully half of the official U.S. State Department definition of antisemitism had gone beyond the normal meaning of the world to focus on Israel.

Applying the New Definition to U.S. Citizens

The State Department uses the new definition to monitor activities overseas. But once the State Department definition was in place, efforts began to use it to crack down on political and academic discourse and activism within the U.S.

This past December (2016) the U.S. Senate passed a law to apply the State Department’s definition (i.e. the Sharansky-Stern-Rosenthal definition) of antisemitism to the Education Department, for use in investigating reports of religiously motivated campus crimes.

A companion bill for the House is supported by AIPAC, the ADL, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

South Carolina’s House of Representatives recently passed legislation under which the State Department’s definition “would be used in probes of possible anti-Semitism at state colleges and universities.” The state senate will consider this in 2018. If passed, it will mean that the state will now probe criticism of Israel on state campuses.

Similar bills are being considered in Virginia and Tennessee.

Such efforts are also ongoing in California. In December Democrat Brad Sherman called on the California Secretary of Education to “expand its definition to include certain forms of anti-Israel behavior.” Pro-Israel organizations such as the Amcha Initiative have also been pushing the state legislature for several years to officially adopt the State Department definition. So far these have been defeated but continue to be promoted.

U.S. Campuses

A parallel effort has been occurring on U.S. campuses. In 2003 Sharansky said that college campuses were “one of the most important battlefields” for Israel.

In 2015 University of California President Janet Napolitano (head of 10 campuses) publicly supported adopting the state department definition, after 57 rabbis sent a letter to her and the University Board of Regents promoting the definition.

Student councils or other groups at various universities have passed resolutions adopting the State Department definition, which can then be used to block campus events about Palestine.

An AIPAC official announced at the 2010 convention: “We’re going to make certain that pro-Israel students take over the student government. That is how AIPAC operates in our nation’s capitol. This is how AIPAC must operate on our nation’s campuses.”


An ongoing campaign to ensure Israel partisans become influential in student government has supported these efforts. This campaign was announced by an AIPAC leader in 2010: “We’re going to make certain that pro-Israel students take over the student government,” he said. “That is how AIPAC operates in our nation’s capitol. This is how AIPAC must operate on our nation’s campuses.” (Video here.)

Resolutions referencing the Israel-centric definitions have now been passed by student governments at UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, East Carolina UniversityIndiana University, Ohio’s Capital University, Ohio’s Kent State, Orange County’s Chapman University, San Diego State University, and other campuses around the country.7

An example of these resolutions is the 2015 bill at Indiana University. The resolution denounced anti-Semitism “as defined by the United States State Department” and stated that the student government would not fund antisemitic activities or activities that “undermine the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.” It also said that IUSA executives and Congress members would undergo diversity training on anti-Semitism.

According to the student newspaper, the bill was written by Rebekah Molasky, a fellow with the international pro-Israel organization Stand With Us. After the resolution was passed, “the bill’s sponsors and outside supporters hugged and high-fived before gathering in the hallway to take a picture to commemorate the moment.”

As evidenced above, such resolutions can now be used to censor student events. The UC San Diego resolution largely replicated the Indiana format, announcing that the student government will not support activities that “promote anti-Semitism” under the new definition, including “denying Israel the right to exist.” Stand With Us applauded the resolution.

In 2012, an organization called the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law was founded and immediately began promoting the new definition. Within a year it launched an initiative to establish student chapters at law schools throughout the U.S. to advance “the organization’s mandate to combat campus anti-Semitism through legal means.” The Center helped push the South Carolina legislation. It is one of numerous organizations promoting the new definition.

(Incidentally, former Supreme Court Justice Brandeis was a leader in the world Zionist movement and worked in public and covert ways to promote it — see here.)

“Thought Policing”

A number of analysts have pointed out some of the many significant flaws with such legislation.

Anthony L. Fisher at Reason.com writes of Congress’s December law applying the State Department definition to the Education Department: “It gives the federal government the authority to investigate ideas, thoughts, and political positions as violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Fisher continues: “By specifically using the broad language of a 2010 State Department memo attempting to define anti-Semitism, the Senate bill wades into thought policing.”

Attorney Liz Jackson wrote in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times: “Anyone who values the constitutional right to express political dissent should worry about this development.”

NY Times columnist Bret Stephens says Jewish Americans should “do all we can to assure the survival of the Jewish State.”


On the other side of the debate is New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, formerly Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor and before that editor of an Israeli newspaper. Stephens, extremely hawkish on Israel, writes and speaks fervently against the movement to boycott Israel (BDS) and what he says is antisemitism on US campuses and elsewhere. In a Wall Street Journal editorial, he claimed that “anti-Semitism is the disease of the Arab world.”

In 2014 Stephens spoke at the Tikvah Fund, a philanthropic foundation committed to supporting the “Jewish people and the Jewish State,” opining that it would be a scandal if Jewish people failed “to do all we can to assure the survival of the Jewish State.”

U.S. and European Lawmakers Pressure Governments to Ban Criticism of Israel

During all this time, parallel efforts to promote the new definition continued in Europe.

In 2009 an organization called the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA) took up the effort to spread the expanded definition. The group says it brings together parliamentarians from “around the world” to fight antisemitism and lists a steering committee of six European and U.S. legislators.

UK politician (and later Prime Minister) David Cameron signed the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition statement calling on governments to outlaw certain forms of criticism of Israel, including calls to boycott Israel; to regulate criticism of Israel in the media; to monitor criticism of Israel online and elsewhere; and to prosecute critics of Israel under “hate crimes” legislation.


The group held a conference in London in 2009 at which it issued a “London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism,” which was signed by then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other heads of state and legislators. This declaration called on governments to use the European Monitoring Centre’s definition and to outlaw and prosecute such “antisemitism.”

It was couched in “anti-racism” terms, but when we look at the declaration’s recommendations combined with its definition of antisemitism, one thing becomes clear: In the declaration, numerous lawmakers of the Western world called on world governments to restrict political dissent.

Specifically, they called on governments to outlaw certain forms of criticism of Israel, including calls to boycott Israel; to regulate criticism of Israel in the media; to monitor criticism of Israel online and elsewhere; and to prosecute critics of Israel under “hate crimes” legislation.

Among numerous other demands, the lawmakers declared that governments:

  • “must expand the use of the EUMC [Monitoring Centre] ‘Working Definition of antisemitism’” including “as a basis for training material for use by Criminal Justice Agencies;”
  • should “isolate political actors” who “target the State of Israel;”
  • “should legislate ‘incitement to hatred’ offences and empower law enforcement agencies to convict;”
  • “should … establish inquiry scrutiny panels;”
  • “should utilise the EUMC [Monitoring Centre] ‘Working Definition of antisemitism’ to inform media standards;”
  • “should take appropriate and necessary action to prevent the broadcast of antisemitic programmes on satellite television channels, and to apply pressure on the host broadcast nation to take action to prevent the transmission of antisemitic programmes” (keeping in mind here that the declaration’s definition of “antisemitic” includes various criticism of Israel);
  • “should use domestic ‘hate crime’, ‘incitement to hatred’ and other legislation … to prosecute ‘Hate on the Internet’ where racist and antisemitic content is hosted, published and written” (again keeping in mind what is defined as “antisemitic”);
  • and that “education authorities should … protect students and staff from illegal antisemitic discourse and a hostile environment in whatever form it takes including calls for boycotts.”

In 2015 the European Commission created a special position to coordinate work on combating antisemitism and appointed German national Katharina von Schnurbein to the post. Schnurbein proceeded to promote the use of the Israel-centric definition.8

UK and Austria Adopt Definition

In December 2016, the UK announced it would formally adopt the Israel-centric definition. It was quickly followed by Austria, which adopted the definition in April 2017. The Austrian justice minister had previously announced that the new definition would be used in the training of new judges and prosecutors.

British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the adoption of the Israel-centric definition at a Conservative Friends of Israel event.


UK Prime Minister Theresa May made the announcement during a talk before 800 guests at the Conservative Friends of Israel’s annual lunch.

UPI reported: “The British police are already using this definition,9 which can now also be used by other groups, such as municipal councils and universities. The definition is not a law, but provides a formal interpretation of an illegal act that can serve as a guideline for criminal proceedings.” Shortly afterward the UK’s higher education minister sent a letter informing universities that the government had adopted the IHRA definition and directing them to utilize it.

(The London council quickly followed suit with its own adoption of the definition, and other cities have now done the same. In May the Israel-Britain Alliance (IBA) began asking candidates for Parliament to sign a pledge that they would support the new definition.)

A number of groups objected to the definition, arguing that the definition “deliberately equates criticism of Israel with hatred of Jews.”

Opponents said it was “vigorously promoted by pro-Israel lobbyists to local authorities, universities, Labour movement organisations and other public bodies.”

They stated that after its adoption there had been “an increase in bannings and restrictions imposed on pro-Palestinian activities, especially on campuses.” Some of the cancellations cited the IHRA definition. Oxford Professor Stephen Sedley wrote in the London Review of Books that the IHRA definition gives “respectability and encouragement to forms of intolerance which are themselves contrary to law.”

Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, recipient of the President’s Medal of the British Operational Research Society and Chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, said there were many examples of the definition creating a “chilling effect” on institutions’ willingness to permit lawful political activity, “even when the definition was not specifically cited.”

AJC’s Rabbi Andrew “Andy” Baker helped create and disseminate the new definition throughout Europe, Eurasia, the U.S., and Canada.


The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which represents all of Europe, Eurasia, the U.S., and Canada — a billion people — was also pushed to adopt the definition at its December 2016 conference.

The American Jewish Committee, which has offices in Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Rome, and Warsaw, reported that it had “met with senior European government officials to encourage OSCE adoption of the definition.” However, adoption of the definition has so far been blocked by one member: Russia.

AJC leader Rabbi Andrew Baker wrote that the AJC would now work “to foster its greater use by the individual states of the OSCE and members of the European Union.”

Inter-Parliamentary Coalition’s American Representatives

Two American Congressmen are among the six-member steering committee of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (CCA).

One is Florida Congressman Ted Deutch. Deutch’s Congressional website highlights his support for Israel as well as his work against antisemitism.

Florida Congressman Ted Deutch has pushed the use of the Israel-centric definition to curtail academic freedom and campus political dissent within the United States. Deutch’s website declares him “a passionate supporter of Israel whose advocacy for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship stretches back to his youth.”


According to the site, Deutch “works closely with his colleagues in the House and Senate to… pass resolutions strongly opposing manifestations of anti-Semitism at home in South Florida, across the United States, and around the world.”

Florida Congressman Ted DeutchThe website reports: “Congressman Ted Deutch is a passionate supporter of Israel whose advocacy for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship stretches back to his youth. Ted spent his summers at Zionist summer camp, worked as a student activist in high school and college, and served in leadership roles on several local and national Jewish organizations throughout his professional career. Today, Ted serves as Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s influential Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, where he continues to champion Israel’s security during a time of great volatility in the Middle East.”

Deutch is also a member of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats. His ICCA bio announces that he plans to use this position “to continue to publicly condemn anti-Semitism.”

Deutch receives considerable funding from the pro-Israel lobby.

In March Deutch led a bipartisan letter to Trump “Urging Forceful Action on Anti-Semitism.” It demanded ‘a comprehensive, inter-agency strategy that called for the Justice Department to investigate “anti-Semitic crimes” and “ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Deutch was one of two Congresspeople who introduced the December law to apply the State Department definition to education.

New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith, member of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition, brought Sharansky to testify before Congress about his new definition.


The other U.S. Congressman on the steering committee of the ICCA is Republican Chris Smith of New Jersey. Smith is also a senior member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. According to the website Open Secrets, a large proportion of his campaign donations are also from pro-Israel sources.

Natan Sharansky twice testified at hearings Smith chaired. In a speech at an event honoring Smith for his work against antisemitism, Smith remembered that Sharansky had  “proposed what he called a simple test to help us distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism. He called it the three Ds: Demonization, double standard, and de-legitimization.”

Spreading the New Definition Under Cover of “Anti-Racism” Movement

UK universities have seen repression of pro-Palestinian activism on an epic scale. In 2007 the UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) adopted the new antisemitism definition at its national conference, when pro-Israel students introduced a motion entitled “AntiRacism: Challenging Racism on Campus and in Our Communities.” Some student unions at various UK universities then did the same.

This was a particularly ironic name for a pro-Israel motion, given that many people around the world consider Israel’s founding ideology, political Zionism, racist. In fact, in 1975 the UN General Assembly specifically passed a resolution that “Zionism is a form of racism.”

(The resolution was revoked In 1991, but not because the world body had changed its mind. In that year President Bush was pushing for the Madrid Peace Conference, which he hoped would end the “Arab-Israeli” conflict. When Israel said it would only participate in the conference if the UN revoked the resolution, the U.S. pressured member states to do just this.)

Through the years numerous entities have affirmed that Zionism is a type of racism, including conferences in South Africa and a recent UN commission which reported that Israel was practicing apartheid. (This report was then removed by the UN Director General, after Israeli and U.S. pressure.)

The UK student actions exemplify a trend that has pervaded this movement since the beginning: Efforts to shut down pro-Palestinian activism, curtail free speech and police thought both online and off are repeatedly packaged as “anti-racism” and sometimes “anti-fascism.”10

Campaign for New Definition Overcomes Hiccups

Taken together, these steps towards redefining “antisemitism” to include criticism of Israel, and then ban it, are effectively (and increasingly rapidly) producing significant results in terms of actual regulation and even law enforcement. Nevertheless, there apparently has been some resistance to the change.

In 2013, the successor organization to the European Monitoring Centre (called the European Fundamental Rights Agency) quietly dropped the working definition from its website. Without any public announcement, the definition was simply no longer on its site. When questioned about this, the agency’s director simply said that the organization had “no mandate to develop its own definitions.”

Proponents of the definition were outraged. Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center complained that the agency’s “disowning of its own definition is astounding” and that “those who fight antisemitism have lost an important weapon.” (The Wiesenthal Center is a global organization that declares it “stands with Israel” with offices in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Miami, Chicago, Paris, Buenos Aires, and Jerusalem.)

However, the fact that the Monitoring Centre had never officially adopted the definition, and that its successor organization now had apparently discarded it, seems to have been ignored by those who had adopted it.

The U.S. State Department continues to use the discarded version. The only difference is that the PDF that gave its Monitoring Centre origins has been removed from State’s website.

The World Jewish Congress convention 2014, chaired by David de Rothschild, urged “all countries to adopt a binding definition of anti-Semitic crimes” based on the Israel-centric definition.


The following year, the World Jewish Congress, which represents Jewish umbrella bodies in 100 countries, called on “all countries to adopt a binding definition of anti-Semitic crimes based on the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism developed by the former European Union Monitoring Commission (EUMC) and used in a number of states’ law enforcement agencies.”

IHRA Picks Up the Ball

Other groups stepped into the vacuum and kept the definition alive. In 2016 The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) adopted the definition.

The IHRA consists of 31 Member Countries, ten Observer Countries, and seven international partner organizations. Its chair announced that the IHRA’s goal was to inspire “other international fora” to also adopt “a legally binding working definition.” It’s working: Britain and Austria almost immediately followed suit.

The U.S. Brandeis Center applauded the move, saying that “because the IHRA has adopted it, the definition has now officially been given the international status that it was previously lacking.”

The Brandeis Center reported that this was the “culmination of a process initiated by Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, two years ago, with help from others including Ira Forman and Nicholas Dean of the U.S. Department of State.”

Ira Forman, antisemitism envoy under Obama and formerly of AIPAC, played a pivotal role in the IHRA adoption of the new definition.


Forman was the State Department Special Anti-Semitism Envoy under Obama, reportedly led Obama’s reelection campaign in the Jewish community, had worked for Bill Clinton, and had served as Political Director and Legislative Liaison for AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying organization. Nicholas Dean had been the State Department Special Envoy for the Holocaust.

The New York Jewish Week reported that Forman and Dean “played a pivotal role in diplomatic efforts that led to the recent adoption by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance of a Working Definition of Anti-Semitism.”

“This is the first-ever formal international definition of anti-Semitism, and a potentially crucial tool for forcing governments and international agencies to confront and take action against it,” the article continued.

Pressure On State Department to Continue Extra Monitoring

Among much budget slashing proposed by President Donald Trump were cuts to the State Department that would have ended funding for the antisemitism monitoring office and special envoy (though State Department monitoring of antisemitism would continue even after the cuts).

Various organizations are lobbying to keep the office and envoy, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a U.S. organization whose mission is to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people” but which in effect seems to serve as an American extension of the most right-wing elements of Israel’s government. It has a long and infamous history of attacking critics of Israeli policy as “antisemites” and also uses an Israel-centric definition of antisemitism.

The ADL and allies pointed to a rash of bomb threats against Jewish institutions to strengthen their argument that this exceptional office must be funded. A letter with over a hundred signatories was sent to Trump demanding that he keep the dedicated State Department position, a bipartisan letter in support of retaining that special monitor was circulated in Congress, and over 100 Holocaust memorial groups and scholars urged Trump to keep the office.

As this political fight has raged, the ADL, which has a budget of over $56 million, sent out press releases to national and local media around the country reporting that antisemitic incidents have soared. The release was repeated almost verbatim in numerous national media and in individual states (as a random example, a Massachusetts headline declared: “Report: Anti-Semitism on the rise in Massachusetts.”)

However, it is impossible to know how many of the antisemitic incidents reported by the ADL were actually related to criticism of Israel, because the ADL didn’t release the data on which these results were based.

Israeli man arrested for over 2,000 bomb threats.

In addition, the ADL’s reported spike includes a spate of threats called in to Jewish organizations, schools and community centers that, thankfully, were hoaxes. The vast majority of threats (reportedly to over 2,000 institutions) apparently were perpetrated by an 18-year-old Jewish Israeli who reportedly suffers from medical and mental problems. (This alleged perpetrator is also accused of trying to extort a US Senator, threatening the children of a US official, and a range of other crimes.)

Another individual, an American in the U.S., apparently perpetrated eight hoax bomb threats in a bizarre campaign to get his former girlfriend in trouble.

A Jewish News Service article says the threats by the Israeli teen made up a significant percentage of the ADL’s spike and reported: “The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) decision to count an Israeli teenager’s alleged recent bomb hoaxes as ‘anti-Semitic incidents’ is prompting criticism from some Jewish community officials.”

An ADL official admitted that the audit is an approximation, saying “the science on it is currently being written.” A regional ADL director said that “this is not a poll or a scientific study,” but rather “an effort to get a sense of ‘what’s going on in people’s hearts.’”

Regarding hard data, the report said that anti-Semitic assaults across the nation had “decreased by about 36 percent.”

The ADL blames various groups for antisemitism, pointing the finger at people of color with claims that Hispanic Americans and African Americans are “the most anti-Semitic cohorts,” at “white supremacists” and at Trump’s election — but not at the Israeli teen responsible for 2,000+ hoax threats that terrorized Jewish institutions, nor at its own distorted, Israel-connected definition.11

Claims of increased antisemitism are cited repeatedly in calls for the U.S. government to maintain funding for the special State Department monitoring.

Former US Ambassador to UN Samantha Power tweeted that the entire Trump administration should focus on antisemitism.


Former Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and two Democratic congressional representatives, Reps. Nita Lowey of New York and Deutch of Florida, are among those demanding that Trump appoint a new antisemitism monitor and maintain this office at full strength, even while he cuts other federal spending.

Power tweeted: “Anti-semitism is surging in world. Entire Trump admin needs to focus on it & envoy position must be kept.”

Lowey demanded: “The president must show he takes the rise of anti-Semitism seriously by immediately appointing a special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism and fully staffing the Special Envoy’s office.”

In a May 2017 speech, World Jewish Congress leader Ronald Lauder said, “Being anti-Israel is being anti-Semitic.” He announced that the congress “is creating a new communications department, or what you might call Hasborah” to counter this new “antisemitism.”

Dissenting Views

Many Jewish writers and activists dispute Lauder’s contention and oppose the campaign to conflate antisemitism with criticism of Israel. An article in Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper points out that “were anti-Zionism a cover for the abuse of individual Jews, individual Jews would not join anti-Zionist groups. Yet many do. Jewish students are well represented in anti-Zionist groups like Students for Justice in Palestine.”

Rabbi Ahron Cohen of Naturei Kartei (“Guardians of the Faith”) writes that “Judaism and Zionism are incompatible and mutually exclusive.” Cohen states that antisemitism is “an illogical bigotry. Anti-Zionism, however, is a perfectly logical opposition, based on very sound reasoning, to a particular idea and aim.”

Cohen argues: “According to the Torah and Jewish faith, the present Palestinian Arab claim to rule in Palestine is right and just. The Zionist claim is wrong and criminal. Our attitude to Israel is that the whole concept is flawed and illegitimate. So anti-Zionism is certainly not anti-Semitism.”

 Antisemitism?

Recently Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper published a column entitled, “An Israeli Soldier Shot a Palestinian in Front of Her Kids. Where’s Her Compensation?”

The article, by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, begins: “For three months, Dia Mansur was certain his mother was dead. He was 15 years old when he saw her collapse in the living room of their home, felled by a bullet fired by an Israel Defense Forces soldier that sliced into her face, tearing it apart. He saw his mother lying on the floor, blood oozing from her mouth…”

Gaza, 2014. Israel’s invasions and shelling of Gaza killed and injured thousands of children and left multitudes homeless.


Levy, citing a report by an Israeli human rights organization, writes that from September 2000 to through February 2017, “Israel killed 4,868 noncombatant Palestinian civilians, more than one-third of them (1,793) were children and adolescents below the age of 18.” (More info here.)

He continued: “Thousands of others, who were also not involved in fighting, have been wounded and permanently incapacitated.” (Photos here.)

Shifa Hospital, Gaza, 2014

A few weeks before that report, Ha’aretz published an article that described Israel’s month-long imprisonment of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, one of over 200 Palestinian children taken by Israeli forces in a little over three months. The boy, accused of throwing stones against Israeli soldiers, would have been released from incarceration earlier, except that his impoverished family didn’t have enough money to pay the fine.

In the article, Israeli journalist Amira Haas reported that the boy’s father said that his son “wasn’t how he used to be before he was arrested.” “He used to joke,” the father said, “and he stopped doing that. He talked a lot, and now he is silent.”

Haas wrote that UNICEF had issued a report four years ago that Israel was “extensively and systematically abusing detained Palestinian children and youth.” Today, she reported, “The stories of physical violence, threats, painful plastic handcuffs and naked body searches remain almost identical.”

Sadly, every week there are similar stories.

Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian boy in West Bank town of Hebron, June 20, 2014. “Human Rights Watch on Monday accused Israel of ‘abusive arrests’ of Palestinian children as young as 11 and of using threats to force them to sign confessions.” – AFP


To the multi-billion dollar network of lobbies advocating for conflating criticism of Israel with antisemitism, those who work to get such information to the American people – whose government gives Israel $10 million per day – are antisemitic.

Many others of all faiths and ethnicities have a different view.

Sixteen years ago I wrote: “Equating the wrongdoing of Israel with Jewishness is the deepest and most insidious form of anti-Semitism of all.”

It is ironic that it is the Israel lobby that is today doing this equating, and that it has worked to invert the very meaning of antisemitism itself. Rather than denoting only abhorrent behavior, as it once did, today the term is often officially applied to what many consider courageous actions against oppression.

More troubling, still, these lobbying groups are working to outlaw conduct that numerous people (including many Israelis and Jewish Americans) consider morally obligatory.

It seems imperative for Americans who wish for justice and peace in the Middle East, and who oppose Orwellian distortions of language and law, to speak out against this campaign – while we can.

N.B. I deeply hope that no one will exaggerate or misrepresent the information this article reveals. The actions above were taken by specific individuals and organizations. They alone are responsible for them, not an entire religious or ethnic group, most of whom quite likely have little idea that this is occurring.


Timeline for creating new Israel-centric definition of antisemitism

Following is a timeline of some of the key events in the creation, promotion and adoption of the Israel-focused definition of antisemitism. It provides an outline, but does not include every step of the process, all the key players, or every action.

1991 – Jean Kahn is elected president of the European Jewish Congress at its plenary session in Israel. He announces an ambitious agenda, including demonstrating solidarity with Israel and European countries coordinating legislation to outlaw antisemitism.

1997 – Kahn “convinces 15 heads of state” to create the The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia to focus on “racism, xenophobia and antisemitism.”

2000 – The Monitoring Centre issues a position paper calling for the definition of antisemitic offenses to be “improved.”

2003 – Israel’s minister for diaspora affairs Natan Sharansky founds the Global Forum against Anti-Semitism, stating: “The State of Israel has decided to take the gloves off and implement a coordinated counteroffensive against anti-Semitism.”

2004 – Sharansky, who is also chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, issues a position paper that lays out the “3-D Test of Anti-Semitism:” statements that “demonize” Israel, apply a “double standard” or “delegitimize” Israel are “antisemitic.” These will form the blueprint for new definitions adopted by lobbying organizations and finally governments.

2004 – US Congress passes law establishing special office and envoy in the State Department to monitor antisemitism that includes statements about Israel under this rubric. (Sharansky is witness at Congressional hearing.)

2004 – American Jewish Committee directors Kenneth Stern and Rabbi Andrew “ Andy” Baker work with Israeli professor Dina Porat to draft a new antisemitism definition and push the Monitoring Centre to adopt it, according to Stern. Their draft drew on Sharansky’s 3 D’s.

2005 – Monitoring Centre issues a “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism” that includes Sharansky’s 3 D’s, based on Stern et al’s draft. While standard dictionary definitions of antisemitism didn’t even mention Israel, fully half of the newly devised Monitoring Centre definition referred to Israel.

2007UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) adopts the new antisemitism definition focused on Israel, after pro-Israel students introduce a motion misleadingly entitled “AntiRacism: Challenging Racism on Campus and in Our Communities.” Some student unions at various UK universities then follow suit.

2008 – The first U.S. State Department Special Envoy on antisemitism, Greg Rickman, endorses the Monitoring Centre working definition in State Department report to Congress. (Rickman later went to work for AIPAC.)

2009 – The Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (CCA), which brings together parliamentarians from around the world, issues the London Declaration signed by then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and others. The Declaration calls on governments to use the Monitoring Centre definition and to outlaw and prosecute such “antisemitism.” US Congressmen Ted Deutch and Chris Smith are members of the CCA’s steering committee.

2010 – Second US State Department Special Envoy on antisemitism Hanna Rosenthal officially adopts European Monitoring Centre definition; this is subsequently referred to as the State Department definition of antisemitism. Rosenthal creates course on antisemitism using this definition to train Foreign Service Officers.

2012Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law is founded and immediately begins promoting the new definition. Within a year it launches an initiative to establish student chapters at law schools throughout the U.S.

2013 – Successor organization to the European Monitoring Centre (called the European Fundamental Rights Agency) quietly drops the working definition from its website. When questioned about this, the agency’s director says the organization had “no mandate to develop its own definitions.” (Groups using the definition continue to use it.)

2014 – Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, with help from Ira Forman and Nicholas Dean of the U.S. Department of State, initiates efforts for another agency to adopt and promote the working definition of antisemitism.

2015 – European Commission creates a special position to coordinate work on combating antisemitism, appointing German Katharina von Schnurbein to the post. Schnurbein proceeds to promote use of the Israel-centric definition. 

2015 – Indiana University passes resolution denouncing “anti-Semitism as defined by the United States State Department and will not fund or participate in activities that promote anti-Semitism or that ‘undermine the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.’” University of California Santa Barbara and UCLA also pass such resolutions.

2016 – The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), consisting of 31 Member Countries, adopts the definition; the goal is to inspire others to also adopt “a legally binding working definition.” An analyst writes that the IHRA action is “a potentially crucial tool for forcing governments and international agencies to confront and take action.”

December 2016 – U.S. Senate passes law to apply the State Department’s definition of antisemitism to the Education Department, for use in investigating reports of religiously motivated campus crimes. Now the law defines actions connected to criticism of Israel as “religiously motivated.”

December 2016 – UK announces it will formally adopt the Israel-centric definition–the first country to do so besides Israel. UK Prime Minister Theresa May made the announcement during a talk before 800 guests at the Conservative Friends of Israel’s annual lunch.

December 2016 – Adoption of the definition by the 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which had been heavily lobbied by the American Jewish Committee, is blocked by Russia. The AJC then says it will push for individual member states to adopt it.

March 2017 South Carolina House of Representatives passes legislation under which the State Department’s definition “would be used in probes of possible anti-Semitism at state colleges and universities.” The Senate version will be discussed in 2018. Similar bills are being considered in Virginia and Tennessee.

March – May 2017 – Resolutions adopting the Israel-centric definitions are passed by student governments at Ohio’s Capital University and Kent State, California’s San Diego State University and at other campuses around the U.S.

April 2017

  • Austria adopts the definition. (The Austrian justice minister previously announced that the new definition would be used in the training of new judges and prosecutors.)
  • The ADL, which uses Israel-centric definition of antisemitism, announces that antisemitism has risen by 86 percent in 2017, but includes questionable statistics. News organizations throughout the U.S. report the ADL claim.
  • Reports that Trump administration budget cuts might cause special antisemitism envoy position to remain vacant provokes outrage among Israel lobby groups and others. Samantha Power calls for entire Trump administration to focus on antisemitism. Soon, Trump administration says it will fill post.
  • All 100 US Senators send a letter to UN demanding it stop its actions on Israel and connects these to antisemitism.

May 2017 –

  • Israel-Britain Alliance begins asking candidates for Parliament to sign a pledge that they will support the new definition.

*****

  • Originally published at If Americans Knew.
    1. I’m using the newer, unhyphenated spelling of this word, which seems to be growing in popularity. I feel it is a more appropriate spelling, since the hyphenated version suggests that it refers to all Semites, which is incorrect. The word was created in 1879 specifically to refer to anti-Jewish prejudice.
    2. Former Israeli parliament member Shulamit Aloni explained this in a 2002 interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy now. “It’s a trick. ” she said. “We always use it. When from Europe somebody is criticizing Israel, then we bring up the Holocaust. When in this country people are criticizing Israel, then they are ‘anti-Semitic’.

      Aloni noted that the pro-Israel lobby in the United States “is strong, and has a lot of money.” She continued: “Ties between Israel and the American Jewish establishment are very strong … their attitude is ‘Israel, my country right or wrong.’”

      “It’s very easy,” she said, “to blame people who criticize certain acts of the Israeli government as ‘anti-Semitic’ and use that claim to justify everything Israel does to the Palestinians.”

      Examples abound of critics of Israel silenced in this way. One telling story is that of once-famous journalist Dorothy Thompson, who was virtually erased from history after writing about the Palestinian cause. Read about her here and here.

    3. Dictionaries all agreed on this meaning, with one exception that caused considerable outrage. This was Merriam-Webster’s mammoth unabridged dictionary, which included a second meaning: “opposition to Zionism: sympathy with opponents of the state of Israel.”

      When some people discovered this extra, Israel-related meaning in 2004 and raised objections to it, there was a general outcry that the additional meaning was inaccurate and should be removed, including by New York Times columnist and linguistics arbiter Jeffrey Nunberg, who wrote that it “couldn’t be defended.”

      Merriam-Webster responded by saying that the extra meaning would “probably be dropped when the company published a new unabridged version in a decade or so.” The company hasn’t published a new version yet, but it seems to have followed through with this decision. The online version of the unabridged dictionary, which says it is updated with the latest words and meanings, makes no mention of Israel or Zionism.

    4. An increasingly common Israeli talking point is the claim that it’s antisemitic to deny the Jewish people their “right to self-determination.” This is disingenuous: Self-determination is the right of people on a land to determine their own political status, not the right of some people to expel others in order to form an exclusive state on confiscated land. In reality, the principle of self-determination would have had the Muslim, Christian and Jewish residents of historic Palestine forming a government for all of them, and today would give Palestinians living under Israeli occupation the freedom to determine their own destiny.
    5. Michael Whine, Jeremy Jones, Israeli Roni Stauber, Felice Gaer, Israeli Yehuda Bauer, Michael Berenbaum and Andy Baker, and later on, AJC’s Deidre Berger, previously an NPR reporter.
    6. The other witnesses were representatives of the Orthodox Union of Jewish Congregations, American Jewish Committee, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, Anti-Defamation League, National Conference for Soviet Jewry, B’nai B’rith International, World Jewish Congress, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Shai Franklin, and Jay Lefkowitz of Kirkland & Ellis, LLP.
    7. An organization called Students Supporting Israel (SSI) takes credit for most of these initiatives. Created in 2012 at the University of Minnesota by Israeli Ilan Sinelnikov and his sister, Valeria Chazin, SSI now has chapters on over 40 college campuses around the U.S., at least three high schools, and some campuses in Canada. In 2015 Israel’s Midwest Consulate chose SSI to receive the award for “Outstanding Pro Israel Activism.” Campus Hillels are also frequently involved.

      The bill at Chapman University passed but was vetoed. Another vote will probably be proposed in in the fall.

    8. For information on additional Israel-centered campaigns, see the works of Israeli strategist Yehezkel Dror, such as his paper “Foundations of an Israeli Grand Strategy toward the European Union
    9. The AJC’s Andy Baker reported: “It is part of police-training materials in the UK.”
    10. An antifa group in France, for example, reportedly shut down a talk by an anti-Zionist intellectual.
    11. A number of analysts have also suggested that some antisemitism may at times be an (inappropriate) response to Israeli violence and oppression of Palestinians. Yale Chaplain Bruce Shipman pointed out in a letter to the New York Times that an earlier period of reported rising antisemitism in Europe paralleled “the carnage in Gaza over the last five years, not to mention the perpetually stalled peace talks and the continuing occupation of the West Bank.” Israel partisans were outraged and Shipman was soon required to resign.

    International Campaign is Criminalizing Criticism of Israel as “Anti-semitism”

    Delegates at the 2009 Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism convention in London. The organization issued a declaration calling on governments to use an Israel-centric definition of antisemitism and to outlaw and prosecute such “antisemitism.”


    For two decades, some Israeli officials and Israel partisans have worked to embed a new, Israel-focused definition of antisemitism in institutions around the world, from international bodies and national governments to small college campuses in heartland America. This effort is now snowballing rapidly. As a result, advocacy for Palestinian rights is well on the way to being curtailed and even criminalized as “hate.”

    As the world has witnessed the oppression and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, many people have risen in protest. In response, the Israeli government and certain of its advocates have conducted a campaign to crack down on this activism, running roughshod over civil liberties (and the English language) in the process.

    The mechanism of this crackdown is the redefinition of “antisemitism”1 to include criticism of Israel, and the insertion of this definition into the bodies of law of various countries.

    Where most people would consider “antisemitism” to mean bigotry against Jewish people (and rightly consider it abhorrent), for two decades a campaign has been underway to replace that definition with an Israel-centric definition. That definition can then be used to block speech and activism in support of Palestinian human rights as “hate.” Various groups are applying this definition in law enforcement evaluations of possible crimes.

    Proponents of this Israel-centric definition have promoted it step by step in various arenas, from the U.S. State Department and European governments to local governments around the U.S. and universities.

    While this effort has taken place over the last two decades, it is snowballing rapidly at this time. The definition is increasingly being used to curtail free speech and academic freedom, as well as political activism.

    Furthermore, such politicizing of an important word may reduce its effectiveness when real antisemitism occurs, doing a disservice to victims of true bigotry.

    As of this writing, the U.S. Congress has endorsed the distorted definition, the governments of the UK and Austria have officially adopted it (in December and April, respectively), various U.S. State legislatures are considering it, and numerous universities are using it to delineate permissible discourse. Many representatives and heads of other states around the world have embraced the new meaning, even if they have yet to officially implement it.

    This article will examine the often interconnected, incremental actions that got us where we are, the current state of affairs, and the public relations and lobbying efforts that are promoting this twisting of the definition of “antisemitism” — often under cover of misleadingly named “anti-racism” movements.

    Claims of “Antisemitism” Used to Silence Support for Palestinians

    For many years, numerous respected organizations have documented Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, including killing of Palestinian civilians, abuse of Palestinian children, torture of Palestinian prisoners, confiscation of Palestinian land, and other cases of systematic violence and oppression. Detailed reports have been compiled by Defense for Children International, the International Red Cross, Amnesty International, Foreign Service Journal, Physicians for Human rights, Christian Aid, Human Rights Watch, the National Lawyers Guild, Israel’s Public Committee Against Torture, Israel’s B’Tselem and others.

    Israel long claimed that its 1948 creation was on “a land without a people for a people without a land,” and many people may still believe this founding myth. The fact is, however, that the land was originally inhabited by an indigenous population that was approximately 80 percent Muslim, 15 percent Christian, and a little under 5 percent Jewish. The Jewish State of Israel was created through the ejection of approximately three-quarters of a million people.

    Over the decades since Israel’s founding in 1948, accusations of antisemitism have been leveled against many people who criticized Israeli actions. Indeed, the accusation was used effectively to silence very prominent critics.2

    However, for most of that time, the meaning of the term itself was not in question. The standard definition was, in Google’s terms, “hostility to or prejudice against Jews.”3 Around the turn of this century, though, certain advocates began promoting official and even legal definitions of antisemitism that included various kinds of criticism of Israel.

    Conflating Criticism of Israel with Antisemitism

    Natan Sharansky, Israeli minister, in 2003: “The State of Israel has decided to take the gloves off and implement a coordinated counteroffensive against anti-Semitism.” Sharansky’s formulation formed the basis for the new Israel-centric definitions adopted around the world.

    Unsurprisingly, the new definitions appear to have originated from within the Israeli government, or at least with an Israeli government official.

    The definitions adhere to a pattern set by a man named Natan Sharansky, who was Israel’s Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs and chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Sharansky founded a Global Forum against Anti-Semitism in 2003, stating: “The State of Israel has decided to take the gloves off and implement a coordinated counteroffensive against anti-Semitism.”

    But Sharansky apparently didn’t mean a counteroffensive against just anti-Jewish bigotry, but an offensive against criticism of Israel. The following year he wrote a position paper that declared: “Whereas classical anti-Semitism is aimed at the Jewish people or the Jewish religion, ‘new anti-Semitism’ is aimed at the Jewish state.”

    Sharansky’s paper laid out what he called the “3-D Test of Anti-Semitism.” Sharansky applied the term “antisemitic” to criticism of Israel in three cases. First, he argued that statements that “demonize” Israel are antisemitic — by being, in his mind, unfairly harsh. (Some of those allegedly guilty of “demonizing” Israel are Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Human Rights Watch, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, French President François Mitterrand, and others.)

    Second, Sharansky declared that it’s antisemitic to apply a “double standard” to Israel — in other words, to criticize Israel for actions that other states may also take. However, if one could never criticize, protest or boycott abuses without calling out every single other similar abuse, no one would ever be able to exercise political dissent at all.

    Finally, Sharansky said it’s antisemitic to “delegitimize” Israel, or dispute its “right to exist” (a standard Israeli talking point for many years). In fact, insisting Israel has the “right” to exist amounts to saying it had the right to expel Muslim and Christian Palestinians in order to found a religiously exclusive state. (See “What ‘Israel’s right to exist’ means to Palestinians,” by John Whitbeck, published in the Christian Science Monitor.)4

    Sharansky’s outline provided the pattern for a European agency to create a new definition of antisemitism the next year, 2005 — a definition that would then be adopted by a succession of organizations and governments, including the U.S. State Department.

    Jean Kahn (R) with French President Francois Mitterand. Kahn initiated the creation of the European Monitoring Centre, which released an Israel-centric “working” definition of antisemitism.


    There is a back story to how this all came about.

    This European agency itself was founded and run by a man with important connections to Israel. It was called “The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia,” under the Council of the European Union. A Frenchman named Jean Kahn had convinced European heads of state to create it in 1997.

    Kahn had been a President of the European Jewish Congress, elected in a plenary session in Israel, and said the Congress “would demonstrate its solidarity with Israel” and that he hoped European countries would “coordinate their legislation outlawing racism, anti-Semitism or any form of exclusion.”

    Kahn was chairman of the Monitoring Centre’s management board and called the “personification” of the agency. Within three years, the Centre issued a position paper calling for the definition of anti-Semitic offenses to be “improved.”

    A few years later, Israeli professor Dina Porat took up the effort to create a new definition. Working with her were Kenneth Stern and Rabbi Andrew “Andy” Baker of the American Jewish Committee. Stern reports that when the Monitoring Centre’s then head, Beate Winkler, had failed to deliver the desired definition, Andy Baker “smartly developed a working relationship with her.” Stern and others5 then created a draft for the Monitoring Centre to use.

    Israeli Dina Porat, Kenneth Stern, Rabbi Andrew Baker worked to draft what became the European Monitoring Centre definition of antisemitism.


    In 2005 the agency issued its “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism,” largely based on that draft. It included an array of negative statements about Israel as examples of antisemitic offenses. While standard dictionary definitions of antisemitism didn’t even mention Israel, fully half of the newly devised Monitoring Centre definition referred to Israel.

    Once the Monitoring Centre had created its expanded definition, certain Israel partisans used it to promote similar definitions elsewhere. And while the Monitoring Centre itself continued to term it only a “working” definition and its replacement organization eventually withdrew the definition, in other countries and agencies the expanded definition became official.

    In addition, quite frighteningly, proponents pushed successfully to begin applying the Israel-centric definition to law enforcement.

    In the United States

    The same year Sharansky created his “3-D” antisemitism test — a year after he founded the Global Forum against Anti-Semitism — the U.S. Congress passed a law establishing exceptional government monitoring of antisemitism. The law created a special State Department envoy and office for this monitoring, over objections of the State Department itself.

    The law, called the “Global Anti-Semitism Review Act,” included a line that subverted its meaning by enshrining a new definition of antisemitism aligned with Sharansky’s: “Anti-Semitism has at times taken the form of vilification of Zionism, the Jewish national movement, and incitement against Israel.”

    The bill was introduced in April 2004. That June, a Congressional hearing was conducted about how to combat antisemitism. A major witness was Israeli minister Sharansky. In his testimony Sharansky proposed his “3-D” Israel-connected definition for anti-Semitism.6

    State Department officials objected to the proposed legislation, saying the new office was unnecessary and would be a “bureaucratic nuisance” that would actually hinder the Department’s ongoing work. A State Department press release opposing the new office described the many actions that State was already taking against antisemitism.

    Despite this opposition, the Senate bill acquired 24 cosponsors representing both parties, including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Diane Feinstein, Russ Feingold, Sam Brownback, Saxby Chambliss and Ted Stevens. Similar bills (here and here) were introduced in the House of Representatives, acquiring 35 cosponsors, again including both Republican and Democratic leaders. The legislation passed easily and quickly became law.

    Gregg Rickman, first U.S. antisemitism envoy, later worked for AIPAC.

    The first Special Envoy, Gregg Rickman, endorsed the European Monitoring Centre’s Working Definition in 2008. Rickman’s report called it a “useful framework” for identifying and understanding antisemitism. After Rickman left the State Department, he went to work for the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the major Israel advocacy organization that lobbies Congress.

    The next Special Envoy, Hannah Rosenthal, took this campaign a major step forward: In 2010 the office officially adopted the European Monitoring Centre’s definition.

    Rosenthal was extremely proud of having achieved this “breakthrough” definition. She began making use of it quickly, establishing a 90-minute course on the new antisemitism at the Foreign Service Institute, the training school for diplomats.

    “We have now a definition we can train people on,” she told the Times of Israel, “and we’ve been very aggressive in training foreign service officers.”

    Rosenthal announced that with the new definition including criticism of Israel, their reporting on antisemitism improved “300 percent,” even though, she said, that didn’t mean that antisemitism had actually increased in all the countries monitored.

    Hannah Rosenthal adopted the “breakthrough” Israel related definition and promptly used it in training U.S. diplomats.


    The gloves were off. Now fully half of the official U.S. State Department definition of antisemitism had gone beyond the normal meaning of the world to focus on Israel.

    Applying the New Definition to U.S. Citizens

    The State Department uses the new definition to monitor activities overseas. But once the State Department definition was in place, efforts began to use it to crack down on political and academic discourse and activism within the U.S.

    This past December (2016) the U.S. Senate passed a law to apply the State Department’s definition (i.e. the Sharansky-Stern-Rosenthal definition) of antisemitism to the Education Department, for use in investigating reports of religiously motivated campus crimes.

    A companion bill for the House is supported by AIPAC, the ADL, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

    South Carolina’s House of Representatives recently passed legislation under which the State Department’s definition “would be used in probes of possible anti-Semitism at state colleges and universities.” The state senate will consider this in 2018. If passed, it will mean that the state will now probe criticism of Israel on state campuses.

    Similar bills are being considered in Virginia and Tennessee.

    Such efforts are also ongoing in California. In December Democrat Brad Sherman called on the California Secretary of Education to “expand its definition to include certain forms of anti-Israel behavior.” Pro-Israel organizations such as the Amcha Initiative have also been pushing the state legislature for several years to officially adopt the State Department definition. So far these have been defeated but continue to be promoted.

    U.S. Campuses

    A parallel effort has been occurring on U.S. campuses. In 2003 Sharansky said that college campuses were “one of the most important battlefields” for Israel.

    In 2015 University of California President Janet Napolitano (head of 10 campuses) publicly supported adopting the state department definition, after 57 rabbis sent a letter to her and the University Board of Regents promoting the definition.

    Student councils or other groups at various universities have passed resolutions adopting the State Department definition, which can then be used to block campus events about Palestine.

    An AIPAC official announced at the 2010 convention: “We’re going to make certain that pro-Israel students take over the student government. That is how AIPAC operates in our nation’s capitol. This is how AIPAC must operate on our nation’s campuses.”


    An ongoing campaign to ensure Israel partisans become influential in student government has supported these efforts. This campaign was announced by an AIPAC leader in 2010: “We’re going to make certain that pro-Israel students take over the student government,” he said. “That is how AIPAC operates in our nation’s capitol. This is how AIPAC must operate on our nation’s campuses.” (Video here.)

    Resolutions referencing the Israel-centric definitions have now been passed by student governments at UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, East Carolina UniversityIndiana University, Ohio’s Capital University, Ohio’s Kent State, Orange County’s Chapman University, San Diego State University, and other campuses around the country.7

    An example of these resolutions is the 2015 bill at Indiana University. The resolution denounced anti-Semitism “as defined by the United States State Department” and stated that the student government would not fund antisemitic activities or activities that “undermine the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.” It also said that IUSA executives and Congress members would undergo diversity training on anti-Semitism.

    According to the student newspaper, the bill was written by Rebekah Molasky, a fellow with the international pro-Israel organization Stand With Us. After the resolution was passed, “the bill’s sponsors and outside supporters hugged and high-fived before gathering in the hallway to take a picture to commemorate the moment.”

    As evidenced above, such resolutions can now be used to censor student events. The UC San Diego resolution largely replicated the Indiana format, announcing that the student government will not support activities that “promote anti-Semitism” under the new definition, including “denying Israel the right to exist.” Stand With Us applauded the resolution.

    In 2012, an organization called the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law was founded and immediately began promoting the new definition. Within a year it launched an initiative to establish student chapters at law schools throughout the U.S. to advance “the organization’s mandate to combat campus anti-Semitism through legal means.” The Center helped push the South Carolina legislation. It is one of numerous organizations promoting the new definition.

    (Incidentally, former Supreme Court Justice Brandeis was a leader in the world Zionist movement and worked in public and covert ways to promote it — see here.)

    “Thought Policing”

    A number of analysts have pointed out some of the many significant flaws with such legislation.

    Anthony L. Fisher at Reason.com writes of Congress’s December law applying the State Department definition to the Education Department: “It gives the federal government the authority to investigate ideas, thoughts, and political positions as violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

    Fisher continues: “By specifically using the broad language of a 2010 State Department memo attempting to define anti-Semitism, the Senate bill wades into thought policing.”

    Attorney Liz Jackson wrote in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times: “Anyone who values the constitutional right to express political dissent should worry about this development.”

    NY Times columnist Bret Stephens says Jewish Americans should “do all we can to assure the survival of the Jewish State.”


    On the other side of the debate is New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, formerly Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor and before that editor of an Israeli newspaper. Stephens, extremely hawkish on Israel, writes and speaks fervently against the movement to boycott Israel (BDS) and what he says is antisemitism on US campuses and elsewhere. In a Wall Street Journal editorial, he claimed that “anti-Semitism is the disease of the Arab world.”

    In 2014 Stephens spoke at the Tikvah Fund, a philanthropic foundation committed to supporting the “Jewish people and the Jewish State,” opining that it would be a scandal if Jewish people failed “to do all we can to assure the survival of the Jewish State.”

    U.S. and European Lawmakers Pressure Governments to Ban Criticism of Israel

    During all this time, parallel efforts to promote the new definition continued in Europe.

    In 2009 an organization called the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA) took up the effort to spread the expanded definition. The group says it brings together parliamentarians from “around the world” to fight antisemitism and lists a steering committee of six European and U.S. legislators.

    UK politician (and later Prime Minister) David Cameron signed the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition statement calling on governments to outlaw certain forms of criticism of Israel, including calls to boycott Israel; to regulate criticism of Israel in the media; to monitor criticism of Israel online and elsewhere; and to prosecute critics of Israel under “hate crimes” legislation.


    The group held a conference in London in 2009 at which it issued a “London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism,” which was signed by then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other heads of state and legislators. This declaration called on governments to use the European Monitoring Centre’s definition and to outlaw and prosecute such “antisemitism.”

    It was couched in “anti-racism” terms, but when we look at the declaration’s recommendations combined with its definition of antisemitism, one thing becomes clear: In the declaration, numerous lawmakers of the Western world called on world governments to restrict political dissent.

    Specifically, they called on governments to outlaw certain forms of criticism of Israel, including calls to boycott Israel; to regulate criticism of Israel in the media; to monitor criticism of Israel online and elsewhere; and to prosecute critics of Israel under “hate crimes” legislation.

    Among numerous other demands, the lawmakers declared that governments:

    • “must expand the use of the EUMC [Monitoring Centre] ‘Working Definition of antisemitism’” including “as a basis for training material for use by Criminal Justice Agencies;”
    • should “isolate political actors” who “target the State of Israel;”
    • “should legislate ‘incitement to hatred’ offences and empower law enforcement agencies to convict;”
    • “should … establish inquiry scrutiny panels;”
    • “should utilise the EUMC [Monitoring Centre] ‘Working Definition of antisemitism’ to inform media standards;”
    • “should take appropriate and necessary action to prevent the broadcast of antisemitic programmes on satellite television channels, and to apply pressure on the host broadcast nation to take action to prevent the transmission of antisemitic programmes” (keeping in mind here that the declaration’s definition of “antisemitic” includes various criticism of Israel);
    • “should use domestic ‘hate crime’, ‘incitement to hatred’ and other legislation … to prosecute ‘Hate on the Internet’ where racist and antisemitic content is hosted, published and written” (again keeping in mind what is defined as “antisemitic”);
    • and that “education authorities should … protect students and staff from illegal antisemitic discourse and a hostile environment in whatever form it takes including calls for boycotts.”

    In 2015 the European Commission created a special position to coordinate work on combating antisemitism and appointed German national Katharina von Schnurbein to the post. Schnurbein proceeded to promote the use of the Israel-centric definition.8

    UK and Austria Adopt Definition

    In December 2016, the UK announced it would formally adopt the Israel-centric definition. It was quickly followed by Austria, which adopted the definition in April 2017. The Austrian justice minister had previously announced that the new definition would be used in the training of new judges and prosecutors.

    British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the adoption of the Israel-centric definition at a Conservative Friends of Israel event.


    UK Prime Minister Theresa May made the announcement during a talk before 800 guests at the Conservative Friends of Israel’s annual lunch.

    UPI reported: “The British police are already using this definition,9 which can now also be used by other groups, such as municipal councils and universities. The definition is not a law, but provides a formal interpretation of an illegal act that can serve as a guideline for criminal proceedings.” Shortly afterward the UK’s higher education minister sent a letter informing universities that the government had adopted the IHRA definition and directing them to utilize it.

    (The London council quickly followed suit with its own adoption of the definition, and other cities have now done the same. In May the Israel-Britain Alliance (IBA) began asking candidates for Parliament to sign a pledge that they would support the new definition.)

    A number of groups objected to the definition, arguing that the definition “deliberately equates criticism of Israel with hatred of Jews.”

    Opponents said it was “vigorously promoted by pro-Israel lobbyists to local authorities, universities, Labour movement organisations and other public bodies.”

    They stated that after its adoption there had been “an increase in bannings and restrictions imposed on pro-Palestinian activities, especially on campuses.” Some of the cancellations cited the IHRA definition. Oxford Professor Stephen Sedley wrote in the London Review of Books that the IHRA definition gives “respectability and encouragement to forms of intolerance which are themselves contrary to law.”

    Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, recipient of the President’s Medal of the British Operational Research Society and Chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, said there were many examples of the definition creating a “chilling effect” on institutions’ willingness to permit lawful political activity, “even when the definition was not specifically cited.”

    AJC’s Rabbi Andrew “Andy” Baker helped create and disseminate the new definition throughout Europe, Eurasia, the U.S., and Canada.


    The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which represents all of Europe, Eurasia, the U.S., and Canada — a billion people — was also pushed to adopt the definition at its December 2016 conference.

    The American Jewish Committee, which has offices in Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Rome, and Warsaw, reported that it had “met with senior European government officials to encourage OSCE adoption of the definition.” However, adoption of the definition has so far been blocked by one member: Russia.

    AJC leader Rabbi Andrew Baker wrote that the AJC would now work “to foster its greater use by the individual states of the OSCE and members of the European Union.”

    Inter-Parliamentary Coalition’s American Representatives

    Two American Congressmen are among the six-member steering committee of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (CCA).

    One is Florida Congressman Ted Deutch. Deutch’s Congressional website highlights his support for Israel as well as his work against antisemitism.

    Florida Congressman Ted Deutch has pushed the use of the Israel-centric definition to curtail academic freedom and campus political dissent within the United States. Deutch’s website declares him “a passionate supporter of Israel whose advocacy for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship stretches back to his youth.”


    According to the site, Deutch “works closely with his colleagues in the House and Senate to… pass resolutions strongly opposing manifestations of anti-Semitism at home in South Florida, across the United States, and around the world.”

    Florida Congressman Ted DeutchThe website reports: “Congressman Ted Deutch is a passionate supporter of Israel whose advocacy for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship stretches back to his youth. Ted spent his summers at Zionist summer camp, worked as a student activist in high school and college, and served in leadership roles on several local and national Jewish organizations throughout his professional career. Today, Ted serves as Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s influential Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, where he continues to champion Israel’s security during a time of great volatility in the Middle East.”

    Deutch is also a member of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats. His ICCA bio announces that he plans to use this position “to continue to publicly condemn anti-Semitism.”

    Deutch receives considerable funding from the pro-Israel lobby.

    In March Deutch led a bipartisan letter to Trump “Urging Forceful Action on Anti-Semitism.” It demanded ‘a comprehensive, inter-agency strategy that called for the Justice Department to investigate “anti-Semitic crimes” and “ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

    Deutch was one of two Congresspeople who introduced the December law to apply the State Department definition to education.

    New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith, member of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition, brought Sharansky to testify before Congress about his new definition.


    The other U.S. Congressman on the steering committee of the ICCA is Republican Chris Smith of New Jersey. Smith is also a senior member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. According to the website Open Secrets, a large proportion of his campaign donations are also from pro-Israel sources.

    Natan Sharansky twice testified at hearings Smith chaired. In a speech at an event honoring Smith for his work against antisemitism, Smith remembered that Sharansky had  “proposed what he called a simple test to help us distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism. He called it the three Ds: Demonization, double standard, and de-legitimization.”

    Spreading the New Definition Under Cover of “Anti-Racism” Movement

    UK universities have seen repression of pro-Palestinian activism on an epic scale. In 2007 the UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) adopted the new antisemitism definition at its national conference, when pro-Israel students introduced a motion entitled “AntiRacism: Challenging Racism on Campus and in Our Communities.” Some student unions at various UK universities then did the same.

    This was a particularly ironic name for a pro-Israel motion, given that many people around the world consider Israel’s founding ideology, political Zionism, racist. In fact, in 1975 the UN General Assembly specifically passed a resolution that “Zionism is a form of racism.”

    (The resolution was revoked In 1991, but not because the world body had changed its mind. In that year President Bush was pushing for the Madrid Peace Conference, which he hoped would end the “Arab-Israeli” conflict. When Israel said it would only participate in the conference if the UN revoked the resolution, the U.S. pressured member states to do just this.)

    Through the years numerous entities have affirmed that Zionism is a type of racism, including conferences in South Africa and a recent UN commission which reported that Israel was practicing apartheid. (This report was then removed by the UN Director General, after Israeli and U.S. pressure.)

    The UK student actions exemplify a trend that has pervaded this movement since the beginning: Efforts to shut down pro-Palestinian activism, curtail free speech and police thought both online and off are repeatedly packaged as “anti-racism” and sometimes “anti-fascism.”10

    Campaign for New Definition Overcomes Hiccups

    Taken together, these steps towards redefining “antisemitism” to include criticism of Israel, and then ban it, are effectively (and increasingly rapidly) producing significant results in terms of actual regulation and even law enforcement. Nevertheless, there apparently has been some resistance to the change.

    In 2013, the successor organization to the European Monitoring Centre (called the European Fundamental Rights Agency) quietly dropped the working definition from its website. Without any public announcement, the definition was simply no longer on its site. When questioned about this, the agency’s director simply said that the organization had “no mandate to develop its own definitions.”

    Proponents of the definition were outraged. Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center complained that the agency’s “disowning of its own definition is astounding” and that “those who fight antisemitism have lost an important weapon.” (The Wiesenthal Center is a global organization that declares it “stands with Israel” with offices in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Miami, Chicago, Paris, Buenos Aires, and Jerusalem.)

    However, the fact that the Monitoring Centre had never officially adopted the definition, and that its successor organization now had apparently discarded it, seems to have been ignored by those who had adopted it.

    The U.S. State Department continues to use the discarded version. The only difference is that the PDF that gave its Monitoring Centre origins has been removed from State’s website.

    The World Jewish Congress convention 2014, chaired by David de Rothschild, urged “all countries to adopt a binding definition of anti-Semitic crimes” based on the Israel-centric definition.


    The following year, the World Jewish Congress, which represents Jewish umbrella bodies in 100 countries, called on “all countries to adopt a binding definition of anti-Semitic crimes based on the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism developed by the former European Union Monitoring Commission (EUMC) and used in a number of states’ law enforcement agencies.”

    IHRA Picks Up the Ball

    Other groups stepped into the vacuum and kept the definition alive. In 2016 The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) adopted the definition.

    The IHRA consists of 31 Member Countries, ten Observer Countries, and seven international partner organizations. Its chair announced that the IHRA’s goal was to inspire “other international fora” to also adopt “a legally binding working definition.” It’s working: Britain and Austria almost immediately followed suit.

    The U.S. Brandeis Center applauded the move, saying that “because the IHRA has adopted it, the definition has now officially been given the international status that it was previously lacking.”

    The Brandeis Center reported that this was the “culmination of a process initiated by Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, two years ago, with help from others including Ira Forman and Nicholas Dean of the U.S. Department of State.”

    Ira Forman, antisemitism envoy under Obama and formerly of AIPAC, played a pivotal role in the IHRA adoption of the new definition.


    Forman was the State Department Special Anti-Semitism Envoy under Obama, reportedly led Obama’s reelection campaign in the Jewish community, had worked for Bill Clinton, and had served as Political Director and Legislative Liaison for AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying organization. Nicholas Dean had been the State Department Special Envoy for the Holocaust.

    The New York Jewish Week reported that Forman and Dean “played a pivotal role in diplomatic efforts that led to the recent adoption by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance of a Working Definition of Anti-Semitism.”

    “This is the first-ever formal international definition of anti-Semitism, and a potentially crucial tool for forcing governments and international agencies to confront and take action against it,” the article continued.

    Pressure On State Department to Continue Extra Monitoring

    Among much budget slashing proposed by President Donald Trump were cuts to the State Department that would have ended funding for the antisemitism monitoring office and special envoy (though State Department monitoring of antisemitism would continue even after the cuts).

    Various organizations are lobbying to keep the office and envoy, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a U.S. organization whose mission is to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people” but which in effect seems to serve as an American extension of the most right-wing elements of Israel’s government. It has a long and infamous history of attacking critics of Israeli policy as “antisemites” and also uses an Israel-centric definition of antisemitism.

    The ADL and allies pointed to a rash of bomb threats against Jewish institutions to strengthen their argument that this exceptional office must be funded. A letter with over a hundred signatories was sent to Trump demanding that he keep the dedicated State Department position, a bipartisan letter in support of retaining that special monitor was circulated in Congress, and over 100 Holocaust memorial groups and scholars urged Trump to keep the office.

    As this political fight has raged, the ADL, which has a budget of over $56 million, sent out press releases to national and local media around the country reporting that antisemitic incidents have soared. The release was repeated almost verbatim in numerous national media and in individual states (as a random example, a Massachusetts headline declared: “Report: Anti-Semitism on the rise in Massachusetts.”)

    However, it is impossible to know how many of the antisemitic incidents reported by the ADL were actually related to criticism of Israel, because the ADL didn’t release the data on which these results were based.

    Israeli man arrested for over 2,000 bomb threats.

    In addition, the ADL’s reported spike includes a spate of threats called in to Jewish organizations, schools and community centers that, thankfully, were hoaxes. The vast majority of threats (reportedly to over 2,000 institutions) apparently were perpetrated by an 18-year-old Jewish Israeli who reportedly suffers from medical and mental problems. (This alleged perpetrator is also accused of trying to extort a US Senator, threatening the children of a US official, and a range of other crimes.)

    Another individual, an American in the U.S., apparently perpetrated eight hoax bomb threats in a bizarre campaign to get his former girlfriend in trouble.

    A Jewish News Service article says the threats by the Israeli teen made up a significant percentage of the ADL’s spike and reported: “The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) decision to count an Israeli teenager’s alleged recent bomb hoaxes as ‘anti-Semitic incidents’ is prompting criticism from some Jewish community officials.”

    An ADL official admitted that the audit is an approximation, saying “the science on it is currently being written.” A regional ADL director said that “this is not a poll or a scientific study,” but rather “an effort to get a sense of ‘what’s going on in people’s hearts.’”

    Regarding hard data, the report said that anti-Semitic assaults across the nation had “decreased by about 36 percent.”

    The ADL blames various groups for antisemitism, pointing the finger at people of color with claims that Hispanic Americans and African Americans are “the most anti-Semitic cohorts,” at “white supremacists” and at Trump’s election — but not at the Israeli teen responsible for 2,000+ hoax threats that terrorized Jewish institutions, nor at its own distorted, Israel-connected definition.11

    Claims of increased antisemitism are cited repeatedly in calls for the U.S. government to maintain funding for the special State Department monitoring.

    Former US Ambassador to UN Samantha Power tweeted that the entire Trump administration should focus on antisemitism.


    Former Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and two Democratic congressional representatives, Reps. Nita Lowey of New York and Deutch of Florida, are among those demanding that Trump appoint a new antisemitism monitor and maintain this office at full strength, even while he cuts other federal spending.

    Power tweeted: “Anti-semitism is surging in world. Entire Trump admin needs to focus on it & envoy position must be kept.”

    Lowey demanded: “The president must show he takes the rise of anti-Semitism seriously by immediately appointing a special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism and fully staffing the Special Envoy’s office.”

    In a May 2017 speech, World Jewish Congress leader Ronald Lauder said, “Being anti-Israel is being anti-Semitic.” He announced that the congress “is creating a new communications department, or what you might call Hasborah” to counter this new “antisemitism.”

    Dissenting Views

    Many Jewish writers and activists dispute Lauder’s contention and oppose the campaign to conflate antisemitism with criticism of Israel. An article in Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper points out that “were anti-Zionism a cover for the abuse of individual Jews, individual Jews would not join anti-Zionist groups. Yet many do. Jewish students are well represented in anti-Zionist groups like Students for Justice in Palestine.”

    Rabbi Ahron Cohen of Naturei Kartei (“Guardians of the Faith”) writes that “Judaism and Zionism are incompatible and mutually exclusive.” Cohen states that antisemitism is “an illogical bigotry. Anti-Zionism, however, is a perfectly logical opposition, based on very sound reasoning, to a particular idea and aim.”

    Cohen argues: “According to the Torah and Jewish faith, the present Palestinian Arab claim to rule in Palestine is right and just. The Zionist claim is wrong and criminal. Our attitude to Israel is that the whole concept is flawed and illegitimate. So anti-Zionism is certainly not anti-Semitism.”

     Antisemitism?

    Recently Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper published a column entitled, “An Israeli Soldier Shot a Palestinian in Front of Her Kids. Where’s Her Compensation?”

    The article, by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, begins: “For three months, Dia Mansur was certain his mother was dead. He was 15 years old when he saw her collapse in the living room of their home, felled by a bullet fired by an Israel Defense Forces soldier that sliced into her face, tearing it apart. He saw his mother lying on the floor, blood oozing from her mouth…”

    Gaza, 2014. Israel’s invasions and shelling of Gaza killed and injured thousands of children and left multitudes homeless.


    Levy, citing a report by an Israeli human rights organization, writes that from September 2000 to through February 2017, “Israel killed 4,868 noncombatant Palestinian civilians, more than one-third of them (1,793) were children and adolescents below the age of 18.” (More info here.)

    He continued: “Thousands of others, who were also not involved in fighting, have been wounded and permanently incapacitated.” (Photos here.)

    Shifa Hospital, Gaza, 2014

    A few weeks before that report, Ha’aretz published an article that described Israel’s month-long imprisonment of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, one of over 200 Palestinian children taken by Israeli forces in a little over three months. The boy, accused of throwing stones against Israeli soldiers, would have been released from incarceration earlier, except that his impoverished family didn’t have enough money to pay the fine.

    In the article, Israeli journalist Amira Haas reported that the boy’s father said that his son “wasn’t how he used to be before he was arrested.” “He used to joke,” the father said, “and he stopped doing that. He talked a lot, and now he is silent.”

    Haas wrote that UNICEF had issued a report four years ago that Israel was “extensively and systematically abusing detained Palestinian children and youth.” Today, she reported, “The stories of physical violence, threats, painful plastic handcuffs and naked body searches remain almost identical.”

    Sadly, every week there are similar stories.

    Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian boy in West Bank town of Hebron, June 20, 2014. “Human Rights Watch on Monday accused Israel of ‘abusive arrests’ of Palestinian children as young as 11 and of using threats to force them to sign confessions.” – AFP


    To the multi-billion dollar network of lobbies advocating for conflating criticism of Israel with antisemitism, those who work to get such information to the American people – whose government gives Israel $10 million per day – are antisemitic.

    Many others of all faiths and ethnicities have a different view.

    Sixteen years ago I wrote: “Equating the wrongdoing of Israel with Jewishness is the deepest and most insidious form of anti-Semitism of all.”

    It is ironic that it is the Israel lobby that is today doing this equating, and that it has worked to invert the very meaning of antisemitism itself. Rather than denoting only abhorrent behavior, as it once did, today the term is often officially applied to what many consider courageous actions against oppression.

    More troubling, still, these lobbying groups are working to outlaw conduct that numerous people (including many Israelis and Jewish Americans) consider morally obligatory.

    It seems imperative for Americans who wish for justice and peace in the Middle East, and who oppose Orwellian distortions of language and law, to speak out against this campaign – while we can.

    N.B. I deeply hope that no one will exaggerate or misrepresent the information this article reveals. The actions above were taken by specific individuals and organizations. They alone are responsible for them, not an entire religious or ethnic group, most of whom quite likely have little idea that this is occurring.


    Timeline for creating new Israel-centric definition of antisemitism

    Following is a timeline of some of the key events in the creation, promotion and adoption of the Israel-focused definition of antisemitism. It provides an outline, but does not include every step of the process, all the key players, or every action.

    1991 – Jean Kahn is elected president of the European Jewish Congress at its plenary session in Israel. He announces an ambitious agenda, including demonstrating solidarity with Israel and European countries coordinating legislation to outlaw antisemitism.

    1997 – Kahn “convinces 15 heads of state” to create the The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia to focus on “racism, xenophobia and antisemitism.”

    2000 – The Monitoring Centre issues a position paper calling for the definition of antisemitic offenses to be “improved.”

    2003 – Israel’s minister for diaspora affairs Natan Sharansky founds the Global Forum against Anti-Semitism, stating: “The State of Israel has decided to take the gloves off and implement a coordinated counteroffensive against anti-Semitism.”

    2004 – Sharansky, who is also chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, issues a position paper that lays out the “3-D Test of Anti-Semitism:” statements that “demonize” Israel, apply a “double standard” or “delegitimize” Israel are “antisemitic.” These will form the blueprint for new definitions adopted by lobbying organizations and finally governments.

    2004 – US Congress passes law establishing special office and envoy in the State Department to monitor antisemitism that includes statements about Israel under this rubric. (Sharansky is witness at Congressional hearing.)

    2004 – American Jewish Committee directors Kenneth Stern and Rabbi Andrew “ Andy” Baker work with Israeli professor Dina Porat to draft a new antisemitism definition and push the Monitoring Centre to adopt it, according to Stern. Their draft drew on Sharansky’s 3 D’s.

    2005 – Monitoring Centre issues a “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism” that includes Sharansky’s 3 D’s, based on Stern et al’s draft. While standard dictionary definitions of antisemitism didn’t even mention Israel, fully half of the newly devised Monitoring Centre definition referred to Israel.

    2007UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) adopts the new antisemitism definition focused on Israel, after pro-Israel students introduce a motion misleadingly entitled “AntiRacism: Challenging Racism on Campus and in Our Communities.” Some student unions at various UK universities then follow suit.

    2008 – The first U.S. State Department Special Envoy on antisemitism, Greg Rickman, endorses the Monitoring Centre working definition in State Department report to Congress. (Rickman later went to work for AIPAC.)

    2009 – The Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (CCA), which brings together parliamentarians from around the world, issues the London Declaration signed by then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and others. The Declaration calls on governments to use the Monitoring Centre definition and to outlaw and prosecute such “antisemitism.” US Congressmen Ted Deutch and Chris Smith are members of the CCA’s steering committee.

    2010 – Second US State Department Special Envoy on antisemitism Hanna Rosenthal officially adopts European Monitoring Centre definition; this is subsequently referred to as the State Department definition of antisemitism. Rosenthal creates course on antisemitism using this definition to train Foreign Service Officers.

    2012Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law is founded and immediately begins promoting the new definition. Within a year it launches an initiative to establish student chapters at law schools throughout the U.S.

    2013 – Successor organization to the European Monitoring Centre (called the European Fundamental Rights Agency) quietly drops the working definition from its website. When questioned about this, the agency’s director says the organization had “no mandate to develop its own definitions.” (Groups using the definition continue to use it.)

    2014 – Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, with help from Ira Forman and Nicholas Dean of the U.S. Department of State, initiates efforts for another agency to adopt and promote the working definition of antisemitism.

    2015 – European Commission creates a special position to coordinate work on combating antisemitism, appointing German Katharina von Schnurbein to the post. Schnurbein proceeds to promote use of the Israel-centric definition. 

    2015 – Indiana University passes resolution denouncing “anti-Semitism as defined by the United States State Department and will not fund or participate in activities that promote anti-Semitism or that ‘undermine the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.’” University of California Santa Barbara and UCLA also pass such resolutions.

    2016 – The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), consisting of 31 Member Countries, adopts the definition; the goal is to inspire others to also adopt “a legally binding working definition.” An analyst writes that the IHRA action is “a potentially crucial tool for forcing governments and international agencies to confront and take action.”

    December 2016 – U.S. Senate passes law to apply the State Department’s definition of antisemitism to the Education Department, for use in investigating reports of religiously motivated campus crimes. Now the law defines actions connected to criticism of Israel as “religiously motivated.”

    December 2016 – UK announces it will formally adopt the Israel-centric definition–the first country to do so besides Israel. UK Prime Minister Theresa May made the announcement during a talk before 800 guests at the Conservative Friends of Israel’s annual lunch.

    December 2016 – Adoption of the definition by the 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which had been heavily lobbied by the American Jewish Committee, is blocked by Russia. The AJC then says it will push for individual member states to adopt it.

    March 2017 South Carolina House of Representatives passes legislation under which the State Department’s definition “would be used in probes of possible anti-Semitism at state colleges and universities.” The Senate version will be discussed in 2018. Similar bills are being considered in Virginia and Tennessee.

    March – May 2017 – Resolutions adopting the Israel-centric definitions are passed by student governments at Ohio’s Capital University and Kent State, California’s San Diego State University and at other campuses around the U.S.

    April 2017

    • Austria adopts the definition. (The Austrian justice minister previously announced that the new definition would be used in the training of new judges and prosecutors.)
    • The ADL, which uses Israel-centric definition of antisemitism, announces that antisemitism has risen by 86 percent in 2017, but includes questionable statistics. News organizations throughout the U.S. report the ADL claim.
    • Reports that Trump administration budget cuts might cause special antisemitism envoy position to remain vacant provokes outrage among Israel lobby groups and others. Samantha Power calls for entire Trump administration to focus on antisemitism. Soon, Trump administration says it will fill post.
    • All 100 US Senators send a letter to UN demanding it stop its actions on Israel and connects these to antisemitism.

    May 2017 –

    • Israel-Britain Alliance begins asking candidates for Parliament to sign a pledge that they will support the new definition.

    *****

  • Originally published at If Americans Knew.
    1. I’m using the newer, unhyphenated spelling of this word, which seems to be growing in popularity. I feel it is a more appropriate spelling, since the hyphenated version suggests that it refers to all Semites, which is incorrect. The word was created in 1879 specifically to refer to anti-Jewish prejudice.
    2. Former Israeli parliament member Shulamit Aloni explained this in a 2002 interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy now. “It’s a trick. ” she said. “We always use it. When from Europe somebody is criticizing Israel, then we bring up the Holocaust. When in this country people are criticizing Israel, then they are ‘anti-Semitic’.

      Aloni noted that the pro-Israel lobby in the United States “is strong, and has a lot of money.” She continued: “Ties between Israel and the American Jewish establishment are very strong … their attitude is ‘Israel, my country right or wrong.’”

      “It’s very easy,” she said, “to blame people who criticize certain acts of the Israeli government as ‘anti-Semitic’ and use that claim to justify everything Israel does to the Palestinians.”

      Examples abound of critics of Israel silenced in this way. One telling story is that of once-famous journalist Dorothy Thompson, who was virtually erased from history after writing about the Palestinian cause. Read about her here and here.

    3. Dictionaries all agreed on this meaning, with one exception that caused considerable outrage. This was Merriam-Webster’s mammoth unabridged dictionary, which included a second meaning: “opposition to Zionism: sympathy with opponents of the state of Israel.”

      When some people discovered this extra, Israel-related meaning in 2004 and raised objections to it, there was a general outcry that the additional meaning was inaccurate and should be removed, including by New York Times columnist and linguistics arbiter Jeffrey Nunberg, who wrote that it “couldn’t be defended.”

      Merriam-Webster responded by saying that the extra meaning would “probably be dropped when the company published a new unabridged version in a decade or so.” The company hasn’t published a new version yet, but it seems to have followed through with this decision. The online version of the unabridged dictionary, which says it is updated with the latest words and meanings, makes no mention of Israel or Zionism.

    4. An increasingly common Israeli talking point is the claim that it’s antisemitic to deny the Jewish people their “right to self-determination.” This is disingenuous: Self-determination is the right of people on a land to determine their own political status, not the right of some people to expel others in order to form an exclusive state on confiscated land. In reality, the principle of self-determination would have had the Muslim, Christian and Jewish residents of historic Palestine forming a government for all of them, and today would give Palestinians living under Israeli occupation the freedom to determine their own destiny.
    5. Michael Whine, Jeremy Jones, Israeli Roni Stauber, Felice Gaer, Israeli Yehuda Bauer, Michael Berenbaum and Andy Baker, and later on, AJC’s Deidre Berger, previously an NPR reporter.
    6. The other witnesses were representatives of the Orthodox Union of Jewish Congregations, American Jewish Committee, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, Anti-Defamation League, National Conference for Soviet Jewry, B’nai B’rith International, World Jewish Congress, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Shai Franklin, and Jay Lefkowitz of Kirkland & Ellis, LLP.
    7. An organization called Students Supporting Israel (SSI) takes credit for most of these initiatives. Created in 2012 at the University of Minnesota by Israeli Ilan Sinelnikov and his sister, Valeria Chazin, SSI now has chapters on over 40 college campuses around the U.S., at least three high schools, and some campuses in Canada. In 2015 Israel’s Midwest Consulate chose SSI to receive the award for “Outstanding Pro Israel Activism.” Campus Hillels are also frequently involved.

      The bill at Chapman University passed but was vetoed. Another vote will probably be proposed in in the fall.

    8. For information on additional Israel-centered campaigns, see the works of Israeli strategist Yehezkel Dror, such as his paper “Foundations of an Israeli Grand Strategy toward the European Union
    9. The AJC’s Andy Baker reported: “It is part of police-training materials in the UK.”
    10. An antifa group in France, for example, reportedly shut down a talk by an anti-Zionist intellectual.
    11. A number of analysts have also suggested that some antisemitism may at times be an (inappropriate) response to Israeli violence and oppression of Palestinians. Yale Chaplain Bruce Shipman pointed out in a letter to the New York Times that an earlier period of reported rising antisemitism in Europe paralleled “the carnage in Gaza over the last five years, not to mention the perpetually stalled peace talks and the continuing occupation of the West Bank.” Israel partisans were outraged and Shipman was soon required to resign.

    The Unbearable Lightness of Union Contract Language

    By now most labor union officials in the country have heard about and are rejoicing over the “grammatical” U.S. Appellate Court ruling that favored dairy drivers in Maine.

    Given how rare it is for unions to win anything these days—whether in federal court, at the bargaining table, or in the court of public opinion—this ruling, minor as it was, counted as a significant victory.  We’ll take it.

    Essentially, what happened was this:  Maine dairy drivers argued that because there was no “Oxford comma” used to clearly delineate the intent of the overtime language, their union contract entitled them to premium pay.

    The company strenuously insisted that comma or no comma, it was never their intention to pay overtime for this task.  After carefully reading the language in question, and hearing arguments from both sides, the court sided with the workers.

    The Oxford comma is what grammarians call the comma that is used before “and” and “or.”  Consider this sentence:  “The five women who attended the seminar were Linda,  Joyce, Meagan, Elizabeth, and Pam.”  That last comma is referred to as the “Oxford comma.”

    Over the years, the Oxford comma has fallen out of favor, as casual users and various professionals came to regard it as redundant and unnecessary.  But logicians and strict grammarians have never waivered.  They realized that without this comma, we open ourselves to all sorts of misinterpretation.

    Consider the sentence:  “My favorite vegetables are potatoes, peas, carrots, onions, corn, and lima beans.”  Now consider it without the Oxford comma:  “My favorite vegetables are potatoes, peas, carrots, onions, corn and lima beans.”  We have inadvertently created a sub-set.  One of my English professors liked to say, we’ve turned the last two vegetables into “succotash.”

    As a former negotiator for a labor union, I was constantly amazed at how misinterpreted our contract language could be, even after both parties—union and management—had spent, literally, hours hammering out, editing, re-editing, and refining a particular clause.  Granted, some of this later “misinterpretation” was intentional and self-serving, but much of it wasn’t.

    For instance, the terms “qualified” and “unqualified,” which were used throughout the contract, gave the union and management considerable heartburn.  The Local was eventually able to win a grievance at arbitration by providing the arbitrator with bargaining notes that clearly indicated the intent of the language.

    Unlike legal statutes, where the letter of the law tends to count for everything, workplace disputes that reach arbitration rely heavily on the “intent” of the language, even when the language itself is clumsy.  So if either side can produce authentic bargaining notes that speak to intent, it’s a huge advantage.

    Not that there were any hard, fixed rules in regard to writing contract language, because there weren’t.  While some locals insisted that their officers pore over proposed language changes the way medieval Jesuits pored over scripture, there were other unions that didn’t seem to worry about it.  Just say what you want to say, and if we agree with it, we’ll initial our approval.

    Training was a concern, because being “trained up” meant a higher rate of pay.  Accordingly, there were several local union contracts that included paragraph after tedious paragraph of explanation for what constituted a successful training period, and layers of explanation covering who was “qualified” for a particular job, and who wasn’t.

    But there was a local in the same International that not only didn’t fuss over the finer points of training, they didn’t even use standard contract language.  They used the term “broken in.”  Where other contracts had phrases like, “upon the successful completion of formal training,” this one said, “Once the employee is broken in….”  We couldn’t believe how amateurish it was.

    This same local also used the term “usually” throughout its contract, a word so imprecise, you rarely saw it in a contract.  Sadly, things didn’t end well.  Once the company was sold, the new management team reinterpreted every ambiguous clause to suit themselves.  It didn’t take the greedy bastards more than a few weeks to get broken in.