Category Archives: Politics

Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics

The Home Secretary of the United Kingdom did his thing, which was little in the way of disagreement.  The superpower has issued a request; the retainer would comply.  This week, the US Department Justice Department formally sought the extradition of Julian Assange.  The process was certified by Sajid Javid, a man rather distracted of late.  He is, after all, seeking to win the hearts of the Conservatives and replace Theresa May as Prime Minster.  Boris Johnson, not Wikileaks and press freedom, is on his mind.

The WikiLeaks front man had failed to satisfy Javid that there were exceptions warranting the refusal to sign off on the request.  A spokesman explained the matter in dull terms.  “The Home Secretary must certify a valid request for extradition… unless certain narrow exceptions to section 70 of the Extradition Act 2003 apply.”  Robotic compliance was almost expected.

The exceptions outlined in the section note that the Secretary may refuse to issue a certificate in circumstances where it may be deferred; where the person being extradited is recorded as a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Convention; or where, having been granted leave to enter or remain in the UK, Articles 2 or 3 of the Human Rights Convention would be breached if removal of the person to the extraditing territory would take place.

The European Convention on Human Rights expressly prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, with Article 3 also prohibiting the extradition of a person to a foreign state if they are likely to be subjected to torture.

Massimo Moratti, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe, is certain that the Wikileaks publisher will suffer grave mistreatment if extradited to the United States.  “The British government must not accede to the US extradition request for Julian Assange as he faces a real risk of serious human right violations if sent there.”  This will further add substance to the potential breach of Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention, a point reiterated by Agnes Callamard, Special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions.  Ecuador, she argues, permitted Assange to be expelled and arrested by the UK, taking him a step closer to extradition to the US which would expose him to “serious human rights violations.”  The UK had “arbitrary [sic] detained Mr Assange possibly endangering his life for the last 7 years.”

On May 31, Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on torture, concluded after visiting Assange in detention that the publisher’s isolation and repeated belittling constituted “progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.”

The issue of Assange’s failing health is critical.  An important feature of his legal team’s argument is the role played by the UK authorities in ensuring his decline in physical and mental terms.  The argument in rebuttal, disingenuous as it was, never deviated: you will get treatment as long as you step out of the Ecuadorean embassy.

There is also another dimension which the distracted Javid failed to articulate: the sheer political character of the offences Assange is being accused of.  Espionage is a political offence par excellence, and the UK-US extradition treaty, for all its faults, retains under Article 4 the prohibition against extraditing someone accused of political offences, including espionage, sedition, and treason.  As John T. Nelson notes in Just Security, “Each of Assange’s possible defences are strengthened by the 17 counts of espionage”.

The prosecutors heading the effort against Assange were not content with keeping matters confined to the single count of conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.  Had they done so, the narrow scope would have made the challenge from Assange’s legal team more difficult.  Hacking is an artificial fault line in the world of publishing and revealing classified material; such individuals have been quarantined and treated as standard middle-of-the-road vigilantes who fiddle computer systems.

Assange, as he has done so often, blurred the lines: the youthful hacker as political activist; the more mature warrior of information transparency.  The Justice Department’s efforts, at least initially, involved divorcing Assange the publisher from Assange the hacker.  According to Steve Vladeck, a legal boffin versed in national security law, “the more the US is able to sell the British government, sell British courts the idea that [the CFAA charge] is the heart of the matter, I think the more of a slam dunk it will be for extradition.”

Assange’s legal team were ready for the Home Secretary’s decision, but their case has been hampered.  Supporters such as the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei have been perturbed by the way Assange has been hamstrung in case preparations.  “The big problem there is that Julian has no access to the means to prepare his case.  And his case, I think, has another two months before its full hearing.  He needs more access to the means to prepare his defence against this terrible extradition order.”

The enormity of the case against the Assange team, prosecuted by an assemblage of security machinery wonks and a sociopathic establishment, has presented WikiLeaks with its greatest challenge.  In the information war environment, it has thrived; in the legal warfare environment, the circumstances are upended. But the legal grounds are there to defeat the case; the question, more to the point, is where Britain’s scales of justice, rather unbalanced on the issue of dealing with classified information, will be tipped.

A Green Global Party?

Following the lead of the late Ulrich Beck in works such as Risk Society and Power in the Modern Age the time has now come to ask ourselves whether or not the Green party is already or is about to become a global political party.

First a little background in theory. Beck was, of course, famous for introducing the idea of a “risk society” and “second modernity”. What he meant by these phrases was that the modern world had left behind earlier forms (First Modernity) of national community and entered a phase where the complexities and uncertainties of the modern world led to the creation of a “global risk society”. In other words, a global technical modern society creates problems that only a global political response can effectively solve.

Related to these ideas, Beck also thought that traditional notions, practices, and institutions of the nation state would not be up to the job of meeting complex global challenges whether in the environment, finance, or the political sphere.

What was needed among other things was a new “cosmopolitan politics” both as a form of world consciousness and global practice.
For the latter, Beck proposed the formation of a global political party.

He supposed, quite rightly, that such a party would grow from urban, “world city” roots. In this, he was not mistaken.

For the modern Green party is most definitely a progressive, urban political phenomenon.

Its recent impressive showing in the European Parliament elections (particularly in Germany) seems to tell a story of a growing regional (if not yet global) political consciousness that is frightened of the future and is ready for present political action on a local, region, and worldwide scale.

The Green party, due to the nature of the threat it wishes to solve, is well suited to play the role of a global political party able to transcend its various national roots.

All Green parties are focused on the global nature of climate change.  In order for each of them separately to achieve their self-professed goals they must to a much greater extent than other political parties work across borders which is to say transnationally.

This is exactly what Beck had in mind.

A world political movement, capturing the attention of the most progressive elements of both Western and (eventually) non-Western societies (many of them located in Global cities such as London, Paris, Frankfurt, New York, Sao Paulo) working transnationally to affect change in global society.

The Green party has all the potential elements of a world political party focused on the environment and social justice.

One of the key questions now is: will such a party be able to take effective root in, at least, two of the world’s greatest polluters: China and the USA?

Without the participation of these two nations (regions?), the Green party movement will ultimately prove ineffectual.

In the US, either the Green party will find ways to make itself more palatable to the American electorate or the most progressive fractions of the Democratic party will have to declare common cause with the world’s potentially first global party.

For now, we must agitate, advocate, and assist by all reasonable means the necessary birth of this potential global instrument of collective salvation.

Why is the Ruling Class Putting Up With the Idiot-King?

Mass complicity

Wilhelm Reich, in both The Mass Psychology of Fascism and The Function of the Orgasm argued that socialists do not understand mass psychology. He said that the biggest problem in Germany was not Hitler or even the economic system of capitalism. Rather he asked what is it about the masses of people who supported Hitler? His answer was that Hitler wouldn’t have existed if there wasn’t a little bit of Hitler in a whole lot of people. The problem is why masses of people are so passive. He gave answers to these questions, but his answers aren’t as important to me as the question he posed. Even in his later books (Listen Little Man and The Murder of Christ), when Reich was clearly paranoid, he remained lucid when it came to insisting that masses of people are ultimately responsible for whatever political body has power.

Group Complicity

In my experience teaching courses in group dynamics, I ask my students to discuss problems they are having in the groups they are members of outside of school. My greatest problem is to get them to go beyond a) blaming the leader of the group or b) identifying some jerk in the group who is obnoxious, crabby, recalcitrant, needy and then blaming them. The assumptions of both blaming leaders and individual group members is that: a) if only we got a good group leader, everything would be fine; b) if only we could get rid of a couple of pain-in- the neck group members, the group would be fine; or c) the rest of the group members are neutral witnesses with little responsibility. What this doesn’t take into account is that when the majority group members are passive, they are producing both bad group leaders and obnoxious individual members. Again, the most interesting question to me is the complicity of most group members.

Don’t follow the bouncing ball

Another way to describe this ignored perspective is to use an analogy from football. The easiest and most self-evident way to watch a football game is to follow the ball. The quarterback gives the ball to the running back, we follow the running back. The quarterback passes to the wide receiver, we follow the wide receiver. But what neither the cameraman nor the fans do is follow a) what is going in the offensive defensive lines away from the ball and b) what is going on between the defensive secondary and the offensive ends when they are not part of the immediate action. What is going on away from the ball might hold the key to understanding which team may ultimately prevail.

But what does this mass and group complicity and watching football have to do with the subject of the relationship between the ruling class and the Idiot King?

The political economy of ruling class complicity

My questions do not have to do with mass psychology, group dynamics or watching football. My question is why the ruling class in the United States is putting up with the Idiot King. To use the analogies in the previous sections, blaming the Idiot King for the state of the political economy in Yankeedom is like blaming Hitler alone for fascism or blaming only the leader for problems in group dynamics. In the football analogy, it is like following Trump’s tweets or actions (the ball in football) and thinking that counts as following politics. What is missing is why the ruling class, that has had power long before the Idiot King and will have power after he is gone, has put up with him for 2 ½ years.

In this article I ask some very simple questions. They are questions that have bothered me for over two years now. I have not found any articles that answer my questions, so I will pose them to you in the hopes you may have some answers. I am not an expert in ruling class machinations, though I have studied the work of William Domhoff, Robert Michaels and Gaetano Mosca. Hopefully a few good answers will lead us to deeper, more penetrating questions.

Network Revisited

About three-quarters of the way through the great film 1976 Network by Paddy Chayefsky, there is a showdown between Mr. Jensen, representing the forces of global capitalism, and Howard Beale who in some ways resembles Trump in his instability and economic nationalism. Here is the exchange:

Jensen: You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won’t have it!! Is that clear? You think you’ve merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance!

You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no west. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immanent, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichsmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels.

It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU WILL ATONE!

Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale?

You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.

What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state – Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do.

We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business,

Assuming that Mr. Jensen is the ruling class of today, how well have his predictions turned out? For well over two years, Howard Beale (Donald Trump) has gotten the better of the Mr. Jensen and the ruling class. The purpose of this article is to explore why.

The ruling class has no clothes

For the last two and a half years much has been written about the psychology of the Idiot King, his immorality, his crassness, his lack of impulse control, his political reversals and his inability to follow normal political procedures. Others have written about the failings of the capitalist economy and the rise of strikes. To write about those things make sense. But my purpose is to draw your attention to the absence of articles on how the ruling class has allowed the Idiot King to go on and on.

Why are the Christian Fundamentalists putting up with him?

Mike Pence, Christian fundamentalist must at least be partly sickened by Trump. Faithless in religion, patron of prostitutes, a squanderer of money, how can Pence stand next to this guy? He takes it – and he smiles. The Christian fundamentalists who are the base of Pence’s following must do cognitive compartmentalization handstands trying to square the Idiot King with their Christian beliefs. But they are managing. Why don’t they rebel?

Is Trump doing the will of the ruling class?

For some, the answer to my question is that the idiot king is simply doing the will of the ruling class. After all, some may say fascism is the last stage of capitalism. The ruling class is frightened that more people are calling the economic system “capitalism,” and a new generation is interested in socialism. They need fascism to rule by a visible fist rather than an invisible hand. I don’t buy this and I’ll explain why.

When I bring up the ruling class, I am talking about the Council of Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission and the whole Rockefeller apparatus. I am thinking about Kissinger, Brzezinski, the CIA, NSA and the military elites. I am talking about the liberal think tanks, the foundations and the media. I’m thinking of the New York Times, the Guardian , CNN, MSNBC. All these groups have a stake in the long-term success of capitalism and Yankee world domination. They all like to have a long-term plan and they don’t like surprises. Trump is full of surprises. Why are they putting up with him?

Maybe the Neocons have gained power at the expense of the Neoliberals?

It is a mistake to think that Trump was simply a creature of the neocons. Before the elections, the neocons, any more than anyone else, knew what Trump was going to do. It was only after the elections that they seized the opportunity. One possible exception to this is Steve Bannon who, even before the elections, saw the political possibilities. The presence of Tillerson, Bolton and Abrams affecting policy must have involved the hand of Bannon. The neocons can give the Rockefeller ruling class a run for its money. After all Cheney ruled for eight years. But so what?

A corresponding concern for the ruling class has to be Trump’s rabid followers. I suspect that many workers who voted for Trump might not vote for him again because he has not instituted policies that have improved their lives. We must remember the research done by labor historian Kim Moody, that many working-class people who voted for Trump in 2016 voted for Obama in 2008. They switched sides after they found out Obama didn’t give a hoot about the working class. They could shift again or simply not bother to vote at all. However, there are rabid racists among Trump supporters who will not go quietly if the Idiot King is not crowned. The ruling class does not want a civil war on their hands.

Ruling class incompetence before the elections

What is far more important than Trump winning the election is that Hillary Clinton lost. The queen of the Council of Foreign Relations, hand-picked, “It’s my-turn” Clinton, lost to a reality TV host and bad businessman. All the money of the ruling class was put on Clinton and she lost anyway. How can that be? What is the ruling class doing wrong?

Ruling class incompetence after the elections

As we know, the Idiot King is full of surprises. If you were a member of the ruling class would you be pleased with his performance? In the space of less than two years Trump has alienated Europe as Italy, Germany and even England are turning towards Russia and China for resources. He has wrecked relations with China. The Yankee ruling classes have Israel, Saudi Arabia, Australia, England and perhaps India on their side, along with assorted dictators they’ve installed on the periphery of the world-system. However, the number of countries they can count on is dwindling. It this what Rockefeller and Kissinger wanted? Why hasn’t the idiot King been stopped? The CIA has tried assassinations all over the world. The CIA works for the Rockefellers. Draw your own conclusions.

Look at the neoliberal press. They work for the ruling class. Yet day after day they respectfully report on his escapades, treat him with respect in public even though they loathe and despise him. Journalists are upper middle class people, many of whom have PHDs. Going toe-to-toe with the Idiot King, they could easily humiliate him in public. They are far more knowledgeable than Trump, yet they put up with him. There is no reason why journalists could not unite as a group, walk out of his press conferences and shout him down together publicly. But they don’t. The editors of most every neoliberal newspaper probably hate Trump. But day after day, week after week Trump’s stupid opinions are trotted out and his moronic mug appears constantly in the news. These papers are the organs of the ruling class. Why don’t they refuse to print what he says?

The instability of capitalism

There is one other factor I want to consider and that is the instability of capitalism. The ruling class has never understood the system from which their wealth derives. Capitalism has been in a decedent phase since the 1880s or so. If we follow the work of Michael Roberts in his book, The Long Depression, capitalism is haunted by the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. In the last 150 years it has used investment in the military and finance to forestall this decline.

But now, all around the world the limits of the system are showing. Ecological forecasters say at this rate the earth will be unlivable in 30 years. Countries on the periphery of the world-system, taken as a whole, have been in hell for at least 50 years. Even Europe, the home of capitalism, is in big trouble. Southern Europe is swamped with debt. The EU is on its last legs and the centrist parties have taken a beating. Macron had been stung by Yellow Jackets for six months. Even Germany, the mighty jewel of Europe, has ceased to develop its manufacturing sector. World-systems theorists have said that relative to world-capitalism, the US has been in decline for 50 years. Strikes around the world have been increasing. Even the World Economic Forum has been worried about the potential for world rebellion.

The capitalists who run the world are cannibalizing their own infrastructures and their working class and all they can do is invest in wars and finance capital. They have no answers. It used to be that a capitalist would say to a socialist, triumphantly, “name one country where socialism works?”. We can now say without any hyperbole or dogma “name one capitalist country that works”. You know – the way Adam Smith described it and the way economics professors in the United States teach it.

Is the ruling class finally drawing a line in the sand?

Up until now, the ruling class has benefitted from Trump’s “policies” of tax cuts and deregulation. But these are both domestic policies. His relationship with the ruling class around international issues is another story. In his trade war with China and now Mexico, Trump has been disrupting supply chains all over the world. The companies affected include General Motors, Delphi, Constellation Brands, Cummins, Black & Decker and Fiat-Chrysler (partly American). Not exactly small potatoes. Some companies are switching suppliers to countries not affected by Trump’s tariffs like Vietnam, Taiwan and Korea, according to Capital Economics. The patience of the heads of these corporations with Trump must be wearing thin. There are the costs of pulling out and setting up shop in a new place with no guarantee of a better deal than China, and for what?

The Idiot King is allowing his hatred of CNN, the NYT and the Washington Post to get in the way of international capital. He is on a collision course with the ruling class. His has encouraged a boycott of AT&T which owns CNN. He is considering Antitrust proceedings against Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, owner of the Washington Post.

Has the ruling class lost its capacity to rule?

Even if the ruling class finds a way to stop Trump, this doesn’t account for why it has taken them so long. The self-assured silkiness of Mr. Jensen of Network is gone. The calm inevitability of capitalism is gone. The ruling class the world over is fumbling. Their efforts seem to be focused on how to climb higher and higher up the mountain to avoid the rising flames below. The ruling class is lost.

For those of us who are revolutionaries, the most important question is to understand why the ruling class is so weak and how we can exploit those weaknesses. We cannot expect to overthrow capitalism if we don’t understand where the ruling classes are weakest and act accordingly. I welcome your thoughts.

• Originally Published in Planning Beyond Capitalism

Europe in Irreversible Decay

Europe, an “old” colonialist continent, is decaying, and in some places even collapsing. It senses how bad things are going. But it never thinks that it is its own fault.

North America is decaying as well, but there, people are not even used to comparing. They only “feel that things are not going well”. If everything else fails, they simply try to get some second or third job, and just survive, somehow.

On both sides of the Atlantic, the establishment is in panic. Their world is in crises, and the ‘crises’ arrived mainly because several great countries, including China, Russia, Iran, but also South Africa, Turkey, Venezuela, DPRK and the Philippines, are openly refusing to play in accordance with the script drawn in Washington, London and Paris. In these nations, there is suddenly no appetite for sacrificing their own people on the altar of well-being of Western citizens. Several countries, including Venezuela and Syria, are even willing to fight for their independence.

Despite insane and sadistic embargos and sanctions imposed on them by the West; China, Russia and Iran are now flourishing, in many fields doing much better than Europe and North America.

If they are really pushed any further, China, Russia and their allies combined, could easily collapse the economy of the United States; an economy which is built on clay and unserviceable debt. It is also becoming clear that militarily, the Pentagon could never defeat Beijing, Moscow, even Teheran.

After terrorizing the world for ages, the West is now almost finished: morally, economically, socially, and even militarily. It still plunders, but it has no plan to improve the state of the world. It cannot even think in such terms.

It hates China, and every other country that does have progressive, internationalist plans. It smears President Xi Jinping and his brainchild, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but there is nothing new and exciting that the West is able to offer to the world. Yes, of course, those regime changes, coups, military interventions and theft of natural resources, but anything else? No, silence!

*****

During my two weeks long working visit to Europe, in the Czech Republic (now renamed to Czechia), a country that enjoys a higher HDI (Human Development Index defined by UNDP) than Italy or Spain, I saw several young, decently dressed men, picking through garbage bins, right in front of my hotel, looking for food.

In Pilsen, Czechia, people raiding garbage in order to eat

I saw young Europeans kneeling and begging in Stuttgart, the second richest city in Germany (where both Mercedes and Porsche cars are produced).

This used to be proud Communist factory Skoda in Pilsen

What I observed in all seven countries of the EU that I visited, was confusion, but also indifference, extreme selfishness and almost grotesque idleness. In great contrast to Asia, everybody in Europe was obsessed with their ‘rights’ and privileges, while no one gave a slightest damn about responsibilities.

When my plane from Copenhagen landed in Stuttgart, it began to rain. It was not heavy rain; just rain. The Canadair jet operated by SAS is a small aircraft, and it did not get a gate. It parked a few meters from the terminal and the captain announced that ground staff refused to bring a bus, due to lightning and the downpour. And so, we stayed inside the plane, for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour. The lightning ended. The drizzle continued. 40 minutes, no bus. One hour later, a bus appeared. A man from the ground staff emerged leisurely, totally wrapped in plastic, protected hermetically from rain. Passengers, on the other hand, were not even offered umbrellas.

“I love myself”, I later read graffiti in the center of the city.

The graffiti was not far from the central train station, which is being refurbished at the cost of several billion euros, and against the will of the citizens. The monstrous project is marching on at an insanely lazy pace, with only 5-6 construction workers detectable at a time, down in the tremendous excavations.

Stuttgart is unbelievably filthy. Escalators often do not work, drunkards are all over, and so are beggars. It is as if for decades, no one did any face-lift to the city. Once free museums are charging hefty entrance fees, and most of the public benches have disappeared from parks and avenues.

The decay is omnipresent. The German rail system (DB) has virtually collapsed. Almost all trains are late, from the ‘regional’; to the once glorified ICE (these German ‘bullet trains’ are actually moving slower, on average, even in comparison to some Indonesian inter-city expresses).

The services provided everywhere in Europe, from Finland to Italy, are grotesquely bad. Convenience stores, cafes, hotels – all are understaffed, badly run and mostly arrogant. Humans are often replaced by dysfunctional machines. Tension is everywhere, the bad mood omnipresent. Demanding anything is unthinkable; one risks being snapped at, insulted, sent to hell.

I still remember how Western propaganda used to glorify services in the capitalist countries, when we were growing up in the Communist East: “The customer is always treated like a god”. Yes, right! How laughable.

For centuries, “European workers” were ‘subsidized’ by colonialist and neo-colonialist plunder, perpetrated in all non-white corners of the world. They ended up being spoiled, showered with benefits, and unproductive. That was fine for the elites: as long as the masses kept voting for the imperialist regime of the West.

“The Proletariat” eventually became right-wing, imperialist, even hedonistic.

Old German lady beggar and a pigeon

I saw a lot this time, and soon I will write much more about it.

What I did not witness, was hope, or enthusiasm. There was no optimism. No healthy and productive exchange of ideas, or profound debate; something I am so used to in China, Russia or Venezuela, just confusion, apathy and decay everywhere.

And hate for those countries that are better, more human, more advanced, and full of socialist enthusiasm.

*****

At Sapienza University in Rom

Italy felt slightly different. Again, I met great left-wing thinkers there; philosophers, professors, filmmakers, journalists. I spoke at Sapienza University, the biggest university in Europe. I lectured about Venezuela and Western imperialism. I worked with the Venezuelan embassy in Rome. All of that was fantastic and enlightening, but was this really Italy?

Author with great Marxist Italian professor Luciano Vasapollo

A day after I left Rome for Beirut, Italians went to the polls. And they withdrew their supports from my friends of the 5-Star-Movement, leaving them with just over 17%, while doubling the backing for the extreme right-wing Northern League.

This virtually happened all over Europe. UK Labor lost, while right-wing Brexit forces gained significantly. Extreme right-wing, even near-fascist parties, reached unexpected heights.

It was all “me, me, me” politics. An orgy of “political selfies”. Me had enough of immigrants. Me wants better benefits. Me wants better medical care, shorter working hours. And so on.

Who pays for it, no one in Europe seems to care. Not once did I hear any European politicians lamenting about the plundering of West Papua or Borneo, about Amazonia or the Middle East, let alone Africa.

Rome at night

And immigration? Did we hear anything about that nuisance of European refugees, millions of them, many illegal, that have descended in the last decades on Southeast Asia, East Africa, Latin America, and even Sub Continent? They are escaping, in hordes, from meaninglessness, depressions, existential emptiness. In the process, they are stripping the locals of land, real estate, beaches, everything.

“Immigrants out”? Fine; then European immigrants out from the rest of the world, too! Enough of the one-sidedness!

The recent EU elections clearly showed that Europe has not evolved. For countless dark centuries, it used to live only for its pleasure, murdering millions in order to support its high life.

Right now, it is trying to reshuffle its political and administrative system, so it can continue doing the same. More efficiently!

On top of it, absurdly, the world is expected to pity that overpaid and badly performing, mainly right-wing and lethargic European proletariat, and sacrifice further tens of millions of people, just in order to further increase its standard of living.

All this should not be allowed to happen. Never again! It has to be stopped.

What Europe has achieved so far, at the expense of billions of lives of “the others”, is definitely not worthy of dying for.

Beware of Europe and its people! Study its history. Study imperialism, colonialism and the genocides it has been spreading all over the world.

Let them vote in their fascists. But keep them away. Prevent them from spreading their poison all over the world.

They want to put the interests of their countries first? Wonderful! Let us do exactly the same: The people of Russia first, too! China first! And, Asia, Africa, Latin America first!

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

The Truth Behind The “Pro-Life” “Christian” Fraudulent Hypocrisy

Alabama’s horrific top-in-the-nation child poverty rate and newest legislative attempt to overturn Roe v Wade, PROVES beyond a shadow of a doubt that so-called “pro-lifers” are really just anti-woman. They hate the fact that women can do the one thing men cannot and have a sick need to CONTROL her body and procreation in any way they can. The fact that it takes a man (or at least his body fluid) to procreate is not enough for these misogynists.

It PROVES beyond a shadow of doubt that they do not give a rat’s ass about children or the quality of their lives. Once they are born they can starve to death for all these so-called “right to lifers” care! Of course, we know, their first choice is to have all these un-aborted lives they’ve so nobly “saved” adopted out to “good” Christian homes to be trained as soldiers for their god. Onward Christian soldiers! Adopted into homes where the “Christianity” will be beaten and/or starved into them. They will be beaten, burned and starved in the name of their god if they do not recite their bible properly. So-called “Christianity” that would make Jesus cry with shame that his name and the love he taught is so diametrically distorted and defamed.

This is sick perverted extremism and it has infiltrated the highest levels of our government. THIS, my friends, is the answer to the question why so many in the GOP don’t stand up to crazy, insane DT. They don’t care what kind of a narcissistic maniac he is as long as they get their religious agenda passed in SCOTUS

And we fear those who follow Allah? HAHAHA!! This country is turning into a woman, child, Jew, Muslim, LGBT, POC HATEFUL theocracy!! And THAT is why DT won and that is why the GOP tolerates, allows and goes along with his insanity. In order to have a nation for and by WHITE MEN ONLY!!! Good upstanding hypocritical white closeted gay and pedophile men. Women subjugated by being forced procreation for “righteous” Christian women who know their place is to serve their man and bear “his” children. And we fear Muslim extremists?

With white male privilege comes the spoils of keeping the wealth isolated to the few. Let the rest die of poverty and disease as the few control medical care and the pharm industry and keep those prices out of the reach of non-existent middle class. Ignore climate change because it doesn’t enrich the greedy. That’s the ticket! Let the trailer park trash be destroyed by floods and tornados. Who cares? Let all of California burn. Who cares?

The end of the world will be the final clash between these two groups of extremists who have more in common than not!! The true, real life Game of Thrones. In the midst of the global fires and floods . . .they will fight it out. . .

Truth is, abortion is a political issue, not religious, yet founded on misogyny nonetheless.

Neil Carter reports that:

. . . Given the growing Southern Baptist disdain for feminism and the sexual revolution, Paul Weyrich [founder of both the Heritage Foundation and ALEC], sensed an opportunity to use opposition to Roe v. Wade as a rallying cry to unify Catholics and Protestants into a single powerful [Republican] coalition.

Compromise Needed to Win Relief for Undocumented Immigrants

A political compromise with the Trump administration on immigration is necessary to prevent the electorate from consolidating behind Trump thus bolstering his re-election chances. A compromise that would win legal relief for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the US. This article assesses the political and legislative possibilities and public attitudes that make a compromise possible. One that a majority of Americans would support and that would have a chance of passing congress this session. Nearly all segments of society, from leading business organizations, to trade unions and political institutions are actively seeking a resolution. Not all agree on the details, but all agree Congress needs to act.

Democrats, immigration rights advocates, progressives and the left can take this issue away from Trump. To do so, however, means compromising on measures to secure the border and to change asylum laws. Millions of undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States have seen one deal after another falter while watching neighbors and family members deported. A compromise would relieve them from threats of deportation and millions would become eligible for social security and Medicare for which they are currently ineligible.  This would be a major win for immigrant rights. The Trump administration and GOP lawmakers have voiced a readiness to make a deal on the undocumented. Whether or not they are sincere needs to be tested.

One underlying political assumption governs this approach. Americans, particularly the working class, have a right to demand effective immigration control at the borders. For one, to prevent undo competition for jobs and the downward pressure on wages and labor standards to which undocumented labor contributes. While business may want a free flow of undocumented labor, it is not in the interest of US labor, nor even those millions of immigrants currently living and working in the US.  From this perspective, we can argue about how to manage borders, but not if we should.1 Trump will continue to win this argument, unless this is acknowledged.

Furthermore, to deny there is a crisis at the US-Mexico border, is to have ones head in the political sand. It is plain to see on the nightly news. While the reasons for it are complex, as well as tragic; this fact, not idealism should guide political tactics and proposals.

Leading Democrats say they are for border security, but have not offered any viable negotiating positions. They should not miss another opportunity to test the possibilities of winning comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). A possibility they stubbornly ignored during the government shutdown when Trump was in a more vulnerable negotiating position. Why don’t they take the lead? Political pundits from right to left, say the Democrats don’t want to give Trump a win on immigration (or anything) as the 2020 election approaches. If this is their strategy, it is sorely misguided. Inaction is a losing gambit. It will not help one undocumented immigrant. Public opinion demands action and compromise from both sides of the aisle, not petty party politics.

Some or all of the following will need to be on the negotiating table. Most of these points were agreed to in the 2013 bipartisan CIR legislation, Senate bill 744.

  1. Changing asylum laws to discourage the idea that by just be setting foot in the US allows one to apply.2
  2. Ending the visa lottery. This has little public support and acts a drain on talented and professional people from the nations from which people apply.
  3. Agreeing on a system for monitoring student visas, entering and exiting the US and instituting employment verification.
  4. Limiting what has been called, “chain migration” to a narrower set of family members.
  5. Agreeing on a means to alter the Flores Settlement (1997) that governs border patrol protocols when handling unaccompanied minors and asylum seekers with children. The settlement mandates release from detention after a period of no more than 20 days. It is clear this has induced for more families to migrate and claim asylum. Yet, 90 percent of the claims are denied, and people are deported if they can be located.

As such, Americans rightfully question how the tens of thousands arriving at the border can have credible claims. The only hope asylum seekers have of staying is to blend into the undocumented when they are released. They become permanent targets of immigration enforcement. To maintain laws and processes that erroneously convey hope in asylum is a cruel hoax on would be asylum seekers. As difficult as it is, this must be resolved.

More and more Americans lay the blame for inaction on a dysfunctional congress. If this doesn’t change, the Trump administration is likely to win more public support, not lose it. As unlikely as it may seem, it may be possible to bring Americans together around a realistic compromise for CIR. Reform that affirms the sovereignty of the border and affords border agents and immigration judges with the laws and resources to properly assess asylum applications expeditiously and fairly.

Complicating the asylum discussion is a belief that granting asylum is obligatory under international law. It is not clear cut. Those states party to the 1951 Convention on Refugees, as is the US, retain the right to define and determine who meets the definition of a refuge. Sovereignty, then is assured for each country in regard to its immigration policies. And, again, on this issue, the administration is gaining support. The more it gains, the bargaining position for winning legal status for millions of undocumented will diminish.

Demands that need to be met in return

  1. The Trump administration and GOP need to agree to grant the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US legal status subject to review of their status and criminal record. Negotiations on legal background check parameters must be clearly defined so those with minor legal infractions, nonviolent crimes and immigration offenses are not automatically excluded.
  2. The target should be to include all undocumented who have been here three years or longer. Fewer than three years has little chance of passing.
  3. All Dreamer immigrants, children brought to the US by undocumented parents, as well as their parents must be granted legal status to keep families intact.
  4. All temporary status immigrants (TPS), from Liberia, Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras, many who have been living in the US for years, also need permanent legal status.

American public opinion overwhelmingly supports granting the undocumented such relief (80 percent in Gallup 2019 poll). Yet, without an agreement on border security and asylum issues public support drops off rapidly. Polling suggests Americans want to be generous, but not without tightening the border to halt illegal immigration. Polls also show that delaying congressional action risks a hardening of sentiments frustrated by the lack of congressional action. This plays into Trump’s hand.

A Gallup Poll in January this year showed 37 percent favored deporting all undocumented immigrants. Fifty percent support banning sanctuary cities, nearly 50 percent support ending immigrants from sponsoring family members, 85 percent want tighter border security and nearly that many supports hiring significantly more border patrol agents.

This is the political reality. And, it is realistic steps, not idealistic values, that are required to aid undocumented immigrants. If not, the political discord and divide is likely to become more volatile. A half a win now, is better than no win. Simply opposing Trump has proven a losing strategy. Senate bill 744 is the political center and the political possible. It was supported by many immigrant rights organizations and US labor unions. Senate Democrats were party to drafting the language.

Of course, efforts should be made to fight for improvements during negotiations and for more just solutions overtime, but the nations need a partial win now. To hope a Democratic administration and congress will enact a significantly more generous provisions than those in S.744 is Pollyannaish. They will have little choice to act. It appears they just want to claim credit for it on their watch.

A compromise approach might also lessen Trump’s support among his base. If he does not agree to negotiate or baulks at a deal that his base finds realistic it will cast doubt on his motives. If a deal is reached, it will take the issue off the table and both sides can claim victory. With this aside Democrats will have a better chance to defeat him 2020.

For activists that long for a more just solution, our struggle will continue. Our efforts must include demanding a change in the long-standing US foreign policy of interfering militarily in Central America and elsewhere. The bipartisan agreement on imperialist foreign policy is no more evident than that displayed toward Honduras under both the Obama and Trump administration. In 2009, then secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, declined to call the coup in Honduras that ousted an elected government, a coup. The US sided with the elite coup makers, not the people.

Then, in 2017, the Trump administration gave a stamp of approval to a stolen election that again disenfranchised the people of Honduras. This led to protests and repression. The actions of both administrations led to a surge of asylum seekers at the US border. Our foreign policies create migration. This is not the space to review decades of mistaken, brutal US foreign policies in the region. The struggle to change US foreign policy will continue. However, the current immigration issues must be tackle now.

Leading Democrats were mum during the Obama administration as an estimated 2.5 million immigrants were deported. Some untold number led to family separations. In 2014-15, the administration paid for the Mexican police and military to close the border with Guatemala to stop unaccompanied minors from Honduras traveling to the US. Thus, it is the height of hypocrisy for Democrats to obstruct a deal that could bring relief to the undocumented. Is a deal possible? The only way to find out is to put a proposal on the table that tests whether or not the GOP and Trump are serious. If they are not, at least the American people will know who is obstructing a solution. As such, whether a deal is made or not, this approach can take the steam out of Trump’s rhetoric and dampen his re-election chances.

  1. For a US labor perspective see: “Immigration for Shared Prosperity: A Framework for Comprehensive Reform,” 2009, by Ray Marshall. A publication of the Economic Policy Institute, Washington, DC. Many features of S744 and other proposed legislation contain elements of this framework. It’s more progressive features are unlikely to pass congress, but the book is a helpful guide to working toward a compromise.
  2. GOP Senator Lindsay Graham has drafted legislation that would (1) allow families with minor children to be held for 100 days, (2) require Central Americans to apply for asylum in the home country or Mexico and (3) allow unaccompanied minors arriving at the border to be returned immediately.

Israel’s Common Denominator: Why Israel Will Continue to Bomb Gaza

On May 4, Israel launched a series of deadly airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip, prompting a response from various resistance groups. At least 25 Palestinians were killed and nearly 200 people wounded in the Israeli attacks. Four Israelis were also killed by Palestinian rockets.

The clashes were instigated by Israel, when the Israeli military killed four Palestinians in Gaza on May 3. Two were killed while protesting along the fence separating Gaza from Israel. They were participating in the Great March of Return, a protracted Palestinian non-violent protest demanding an end to the Israeli siege. The other two were killed in an Israeli airstrike that targeted a Hamas post in the central Gaza Strip.

Why did Netanyahu choose such timing to bomb Gaza? It would have made more sense to attack Gaza in the run-up to the general elections. For months prior to the April 9 elections, Netanyahu was repeatedly accused of being soft on Hamas.

Although desperate for votes, Netanyahu refrained from a major operation against Gaza, because of the inherent risk in such attacks, as seen in the botched Israeli incursion into Khan Younis on November 11. Netanyahu could have lost a highly contested election, had he failed.

Following a victory, the soon-to-be longest-serving Israeli Prime Minister has the necessary political capital to launch wars at whim.

Israeli politics featured heavily in the latest Gaza onslaught.

Netanyahu is in the final stages of forming a new coalition, yet another government of like-minded far right, religious zealots and ultra-nationalist politicians which, he admits, is not easy.

“It’s not a simple job and there are different aspects – giving out portfolios, control over the state budget and many other challenges,” Netanyahu said at a Likud party meeting on April 30.

If Netanyahu succeeds, he will form his fifth government – four of them consecutively. However, his main challenge is to reconcile among the various potential coalition partners.

Netanyahu wishes to include six parties in his new government: his own, the Likud, with 35 seats in the Israeli Knesset (parliament); religious extremist parties: Shas (8 seats), United Torah Judaism (8), Yisrael Beiteinu of ultra-nationalist, Avigdor Lieberman (5), the newly-formed Union of Right-wing Parties (5) and the centrist Kulanu with 4 seats.

“Netanyahu is keen to include all six parties in his government to provide a semblance of stability and prevent a narrow majority that will be at the mercy of a single disgruntled party threatening to quit,” reported the Israeli daily Jerusalem Post newspaper.

But how is Netanyahu to maintain peace among vastly different allies and how is that relevant to the bombing of Gaza?

Netanyahu bombed Gaza because it is the only unifying demand among all of his allies. He needed to assure them of his commitment to keep pressure on Palestinian Resistance, of maintaining the siege on Gaza and ensuring the safety of Israel’s southern towns and settlements.

Barring that, there is little that these groups have in common. Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu and the ultra-Orthodox parties barely agree on some fundamental issues. For example, Lieberman has been pushing for a draft law requiring ultra-Orthodox conscription in the Israeli army, vehemently rejected by Netanyahu’s religious allies.

Although the election performance of Lieberman’s party was hardly impressive, his influence goes beyond numbers. Lieberman had resigned his post as a Defense Minister last November in protest of Netanyahu’s supposed “capitulation to terror”, but he has formed a strong alliance with Israel’s southern towns bordering the besieged Gaza Strip.

For years, Lieberman has expressed solidarity with them and, in return, has manipulated this whenever he wishes to pressure or challenge the Prime Minister.

Lieberman has exploited the notion among residents and settlers in southern Israel and the Occupied West Bank that they are being treated unfairly compared to their compatriots elsewhere.

Following a truce between Israel and Gaza factions last November, for example, hundreds of settlers protested their “second class status”, demanding greater government support to protect their “security” against Gaza. Interestingly, these border towns have been at the center of a significant economic and demographic growth over the last few years, which has been stimulated by the Israeli government’s investments in the area.

Seeing themselves as the heirs to the Zionist founders of Israel, residents of these towns believe that they are the defenders of the Zionist vision.

Despite their incessant complaints, southern Israeli communities have seen constant growth in economic opportunity, thus population. This fact has placed these areas at the center of Israeli politicians’ radar, all trying to win favor with their leaders and obtain the support of their vastly expanding economic sectors.

This recent electoral strength has made the demands and expectations of Israeli southern community leaders a focal point in mainstream Israeli politics.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that one of the conditions placed by Lieberman to join Netanyahu’s coalition is the intensification of the Israeli siege on Gaza and the liquidation of the Gaza resistance.

Although Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White Party, has lost the elections, he wishes to stay relevant in mainstream politics by appeasing the Jewish settlers and residents of southern Israel. During the Israeli army’s attack on Gaza on May 4, Gantz joined the chorus calling for more Palestinian blood.

“We must strike hard, in an uncompromising manner, in any way the army will recommend, with military and intelligence considerations,” he told Israeli Channel 13. “We must restore the deterrence that has been eroded catastrophically for more than a year.”

Following the death of 4 Israelis as a result of Gaza rockets, Israeli politicians jockeyed to show support for southern residents, demanding yet more violence. The euphoria of support inspired the mayor of Sderot, Alon Davidi, to call for the invasion of Gaza.

The latest attack on Gaza was meant to serve the interests of all of Netanyahu’s possible coalition partners. Alas, although a truce has been declared, more Israeli violence should be expected once the coalition is formed because, in order for Netanyahu to keep his partners happy, he would need to persistently keep pounding Gaza.

The Two Narratives of Palestine: The People Are United, the Factions Are Not

The International Conference on Palestine held in Istanbul between April 27-29 brought together many speakers and hundreds of academics, journalists, activists and students from Turkey and all over the world.

The Conference was a rare opportunity aimed at articulating a discourse of international solidarity that is both inclusive and forward thinking.

There was near consensus that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement must be supported, that Donald Trump’s so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ must be defeated and that normalization must be shunned.

When it came to articulating the objectives of the Palestinian struggle, however, the narrative became indecisive and unclear. Although none of the speakers made a case for a two-state solution, our call for a one democratic state from Istanbul – or any other place outside Palestine – seemed partially irrelevant. For the one state solution to become the overriding objective of the pro-Palestine movement worldwide, the call has to come from a Palestinian leadership that reflects the true aspirations of the Palestinian people.

One speaker after the other called for Palestinian unity, imploring Palestinians for guidance and for articulating a national discourse. Many in the audience concurred with that assessment as well. One audience member even blurted out the cliched question: “Where is the Palestinian Mandela?” Luckily, the grandson of Nelson Mandela, Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela, was himself a speaker. He answered forcefully that Mandela was only the face of the movement, which encompassed millions of ordinary men and women, whose struggles and sacrifices ultimately defeated apartheid.

Following my speech at the Conference, I met with several freed Palestinian prisoners as part of my research for my forthcoming book on the subject.

Some of the freed prisoners identified as Hamas and others as Fatah. Their narrative seemed largely free from the disgraced factional language we are bombarded with in the media, but also liberated from the dry and detached narratives of politics and academia.

“When Israel placed Gaza under siege and denied us family visitations, our Fatah brothers always came to our help,” a freed Hamas prisoner told me. “And whenever Israeli prison authorities mistreated any of our brothers from any factions, including Fatah, we all resisted together.”

A freed Fatah prisoner told me that when Hamas and Fatah fought in Gaza in the summer of 2007, the prisoners suffered most. “We suffered because we felt that the people who should be fighting for our freedom, were fighting each other. We felt betrayed by everyone.”

To effectuate disunity, Israeli authorities relocated Hamas and Fatah prisoners into separate wards and prisons. They wanted to sever any communication between the prisoners’ leadership and to block any attempts at finding common ground for national unity.

The Israeli decision was not random. A year earlier, in May 2006, the leadership of the prisoners met in a prison cell to discuss the conflict between Hamas, which had won the legislative elections in the Occupied Territories, and the PA’s main party, Fatah.

These leaders included Marwan Barghouthi of Fatah, Abdel Khaleq al-Natshe from Hamas and representatives from other major Palestinian groups. The outcome was the National Conciliation Document, arguably the most important Palestinian initiative in decades.

What became known as the Prisoner’s Document was significant because it was not some self-serving political compromise achieved in a luxurious hotel in some Arab capital, but a genuine articulation of national Palestinian priorities, presented by the most respected and honored sector in Palestinian society.

Israel immediately denounced the document.

Instead of engaging all factions in a national dialogue around the document, PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, gave rival factions an ultimatum to either accept or reject the document in full. The spirit of the unity in the prisoners’ initiative was betrayed by Abbas and the warring factions. Eventually, Fatah and Hamas fought their own tragic war in Gaza the following year.

On speaking to the prisoners after listening to the discourse of academics, politicians and activists, I was able to decipher a disconnection between the Palestinian narrative on the ground and our own perception of this narrative from outside.

The prisoners display unity in their narrative, a clear sense of purpose, and determination to carry on with their resistance. While it is true that they all identified as members in one political group or another, I am yet to interview a single prisoner who placed factional interests above national interest. This should not come as a surprise. Indeed, these men and women have been detained, tortured and have endured many years in prison for being Palestinian resisters, regardless of their ideological and factional leanings.

The myth of the disunited and dysfunctional Palestinian is very much an Israeli invention that precedes the inception of Hamas, and even Fatah. This Zionist notion, which has been embraced by the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, argues that ‘Israel has no peace partner‘. Despite the hemorrhaging concessions by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, this claim has remained a fixture in Israeli politics to this day.

Political unity aside, the Palestinian people perceive ‘unity’ in a whole different political context than that of Israel and, frankly, many of us outside Palestine.

‘Al-Wihda al-Wataniya’ or national unity is a generational quest around a set of principles, including resistance, as a strategy for the liberation of Palestine, Right of Return for refugees, and self-determination for the Palestinian people as the ultimate goals. It is around this idea of unity that the leadership of Palestinian prisoners drafted their document in 2006, in the hope of averting a factional clash and keeping the struggle centered on resistance against Israeli occupation.

The ongoing Great March of Return in Gaza is another daily example of the kind of unity the Palestinian people are striving for. Despite heavy losses, thousands of protesters insist on their unity while demanding their freedom, Right of Return and an end to the Israeli siege.

For us to claim that Palestinians are not united because Fatah and Hamas cannot find common ground is simply unjustified. National unity and political unity between factions are two different issues.

It is important that we do not make the mistake of confusing the Palestinian people with factions, national unity around resistance and rights with political arrangements between political groups.

As far as vision and strategy are concerned, perhaps it is time to read the prisoners’ National Conciliation Document’. It was written by the Nelson Mandelas of Palestine, thousands of whom remain in Israeli prisons to this day.

As the Israel Lobby in the US Weakens, its UK Counterpart Grows More Fearsome

For decades it was all but taboo to suggest that pro-Israel lobbies in the United States like AIPAC used their money and influence to keep lawmakers firmly in check on Israel-related issues – even if one had to be blind not to notice that that was exactly what they were up to.

When back in February Ilhan Omar pointed out the obvious – that US Representatives like her were routinely expected to submit to the lobby’s dictates on Israel, a foreign country – her colleagues clamoured to distance themselves from her, just as one might have expected were the pro-Israel lobby to wield the very power Omar claimed.

But surprisingly Omar did not – at least immediately – suffer the crushing fate of those who previously tried to raise this issue. Although she was pressured into apologising, she was not battered into complete submission for her honesty.

She received support on social media, as well as a wavering, muted defence from a Democratic grandee like Nancy Pelosi, and even a relatively sympathetic hearing from a few prominent figures in the US Jewish community.

The Benjamins do matter

Omar’s comments have confronted – and started to expose – one of the most enduring absurdities in debates about US politics. Traditionally it has been treated as anti-semitic to argue that the pro-Israel lobby actually lobbies for its chosen cause – exactly as other major lobbies do, from the financial services industries to the health and gun lobbies – and that, as with other lobbies enjoying significant financial clout, it usually gets its way.

Omar found herself in the firing line in February when she noted that what mattered in US politics was “It’s all about the Benjamins” – an apparent reference to the 1997 Puff Daddy song of the same name – later clarifying that AIPAC leverages funds over Congressional and presidential candidates.

The claim that the pro-Israel lobby isn’t really in the persuasion business can only be sustained on the preposterous basis that Israeli and US interests are so in tune that AIPAC and other organisations serve as little more than cheerleaders for the two countries’ “unbreakable bond”. Presumably on this view, the enormous sums of money raised are needed only to fund the celebrations.

‘A one-issue guy’

Making the irrefutable observation that the pro-Israel lobby does actually lobby on Israel’s behalf, and very successfully, is typically denounced as anti-semitism. Omar’s comments were perceived as anti-semitic on the grounds that she pointed to the canard that Jews wield outsized influence using money to sway policymaking.

Allegations of anti-semitism against her deepened days later when she gave a talk in Washington DC and questioned why it was that she could talk about the influence of the National Rifle Association and Big Pharma but not the pro-Israel lobby – or “the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country”.

That pro-Israel lobbyists – as opposed to Jews generally – do have dual loyalty seems a peculiar thing to deny, given that the purpose of groups like AIPAC is to rally support for Israel in Congress.

Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a key backer of Republican candidates for the presidency, has never hidden his passion not only for Israel but specifically for the ultra-nationalist governments of Benjamin Netanyahu.

In fact, he is so committed to Netanyahu’s survival that he spent nearly $200 million propping up an Israeli newspaper over its first seven years – all so he could assist the prime minister of a foreign country.

Similarly, Haim Saban, one of the main donors to Democratic presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton, has made no secret of his commitment to Israel. He has said: “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel.”

Might Saban and Adelson’s “Benjamins” have influenced the very pro-Israel – and very anti-Palestinian – positions of Democratic and Republican presidential candidates? You would have to be supremely naïve or dishonest to claim it has not.

‘No Bernie-like approach’

This point really should be beyond doubt by now. This month the New York Times published an unprecedented essay in which author Nathan Thrall quoted political insiders and lobbyists making plain that, as one would expect, the pro-Israel lobby uses its money to pressure Congressional candidates to toe the lobby’s line on Israel.

Some of the lobby’s power operates at the level of assumption about what Jewish donors expect in return for their money. According to the NYT, some three-quarters of all donations over $500,000 to the major political action committee supporting Democratic nominees for the US Senate race in 2018 were made by Jews.

Though many of those donors may not rate Israel as their main cause, a former Clinton campaign aide noted that the recipients of this largesse necessarily tailor their foreign policy positions so as not to antagonise such donors. As a result, candidates avoid even the mild criticism of Israel adopted by Bernie Sanders, the Democratic party’s challenger to Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.

“There’s no major donor that I can think of who is looking for someone to take a Bernie-like approach,” said the aide. Sanders raised his campaign funds from small donations rather these major funders, leaving him freer to speak openly about Israel.

Fight for donors, not voters

Other insiders are more explicit still. Ben Rhodes, a former confidant of Barack Obama, says the lobby effectively tied Obama’s hands domestically on efforts to promote peace. “The Washington view of Israel-Palestine is still shaped by the donor class,” he told Thrall, adding: “The donor class is profoundly to the right of where the activists are, and frankly, where the majority of the Jewish community is.”

Joel Rubin, a former political director at lobby group J Street and a founding board member of the centrist Jewish Democratic Council of America, concurred: “The fight over Israel used to be about voters. It’s more about donors now.”

All of these insiders are stating that the expectations of major donors shape candidates’ US foreign policy positions in line with Israel’s interests, not necessarily US interests. It is hard not to interpret that as reformulation of “dual loyalty”.

Out of the shadows

What’s so significant about the NYT article is that it signals, as did the muted furore over Omar’s comments, that the pro-Israel lobby is weakening. No powerful lobby, including the Israel one, wants to be forced out of the shadows. It wants to remain in the darkness, where it can most comfortably exercise its influence without scrutiny or criticism.

The pro-Israel lobby’s loyalty to Israel is no longer unmentionable. But it is also not unique.

As Mondoweiss recently noted, Hannah Arendt, the Jewish scholar and fugitive from Nazi Germany, pointed to the inevitability of the “double loyalty conflict” in her 1944 essay “Zionism Reconsidered”, where she foreshadowed the rise of a pro-Israel lobby and its potential negative impacts on American Jews. It was, she wrote, “an unavoidable problem of every national movement of a people living within the boundaries of other states and unwilling to resign their civil and political rights therein.”

For that reason, the US-Cuban lobby has an obvious dual loyalty problem too. It’s just that, given the Cuban lobby’s priority is overthrowing the Cuban government – a desire shared in Washington – the issue is largely moot.

In Israel’s case, however, there is a big and growing gap between image and reality. On the one hand, Washington professes a commitment to peace-making and a promise to act as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians. And on the other, the reality is it has offered full-throated support for a series of ultra-nationalist Israeli governments determined to destroy any hope of peace and swallow up the last vestiges of a potential Palestinian state.

Doing the Lord’s work

It’s important to point out, however, that advocates for Israel are not only Jews. While the pro-Israel lobby represents the views of a proportion of Jewish Americans, it is also significantly comprised of Christians, evangelicals in particular.

Millions of these Christians – including Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – can be accused of dual loyalty too. They regard Israel’s role in Biblical prophecy as far more important than the future of the US, or mankind for that matter.

For many of these evangelicals, bringing about the end of the world by ensuring Jews return to their Biblical homeland – triggering a final reckoning at the Battle of Armageddon – is the fulfillment of God’s will. And if it’s a choice between support for Washington’s largely secular elites and support for God, they know very definitely where they stand.

Again, the NYT has started to shine a light on the strange role of Israel in the US political constellation. Another recent article reminded readers that in 2015 Pompeo spoke of the end-times struggle prophesied to take place in Israel, or what is often termed by evangelicals as “The Rapture”. He said: “We will continue to fight these battles.”

During his visit last month to Israel, he announced that the Trump administration’s work was “to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state, remains. I am confident that the Lord is at work here”.

Divorced from reality

If the debate about the pro-Israel lobby in the US is for the first time making a nod to truth, the conversation about the pro-Israel lobby in the UK is becoming more and more divorced from reality.

Part of the reason is the way the Israel lobby has recently emerged in the UK – hurriedly, and in a mix of panic and damage limitation mode.

Given that for decades European countries largely followed Washington’s lead on Israel, pro-Israel lobbies outside the US were much less organised and muscular. European leaders’ unquestioning compliance was assured as long as Washington appeared to act as a disinterested broker overseeing a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. As a result, Europe was in little need of vigorous pro-Israel lobbies.

But that illusion has now been shattered, first by the explicit Greater Israel ideology espoused by a series of Netanyahu governments, and latterly by Donald Trump’s occupancy of the White House and his vehement backing of Israeli demands, however much they violate international law.

That has left European policy towards Israel – and its enabling by default of Netanyahu and Trump’s efforts to crush Palestinian rights – dangerously exposed.

Conflating Jews and Israel

Popular backlashes have taken the form of a rapid growth in support for BDS, a grassroots, non-violent movement promoting a boycott of Israel. But more specifically in Britain’s case, it has resulted in the surprise election of Jeremy Corbyn, a well-known champion of Palestinian rights and anti-racism struggles generally, to lead the opposition Labour party.

For that reason, Jewish leadership groups in the UK have had to reinvent themselves quickly, from organisations to promote the community’s interests into vehicles to defend Israel. And to do that they have had to adopt a position that was once closely identified with anti-semitism: conflating Jews with Israel.

This, we should remember, was the view taken 100 years ago by arch anti-semites in the British government. They regarded Jews as inherently “un-British”, as incapable of assimilation and therefore as naturally suspect.

Lord Balfour, before he made his abiding legacy the 1917 Declaration of a Jewish “national home” in Palestine, helped pass the Aliens Act to block entry to the UK of Jews fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe. Balfour believed Jewish immigration had resulted in “undoubted evils”.

A lobby cobbled together

Also significantly, unlike the US, where the pro-Israel lobby has maintained fervent support for Israel as a bipartisan matter over decades, the need for an equivalent pro-Israel lobby in the UK has emerged chiefly in relation to Corbyn’s unexpected ascent to power in the Labour party.

Rather than emerging slowly and organically, as was the case in the US, the British pro-Israel has had to be cobbled together hastily. Israel’s role in directing this immature lobby has been harder to hide.

Most of the UK’s Jewish leadership organisations have been poorly equipped for the task of tackling the new sympathy for Palestinian rights unleashed in the Labour party by Corbyn’s rise. The Board of Deputies, for example, has enjoyed visible ties to the ruling Conservative party. Any criticisms they make of the Labour leader are likely to be seen as having an air of partisanship and point-scoring.

So unusually in Britain’s case, the chief pro-Israel lobby group against Corbyn has emerged from within his own party – in the form of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).

The JLM is trumpeted in the British media both as a venerable Jewish group, more than a century old, and as one that is widely representative of Jewish opinion. Neither claim is true.

Revived to deal with Corbyn

The JLM likes to date its origins to the Poale Zion organisation, which was founded in 1903. A socialist society, Poale Zion affiliated itself not only with the British Labour party but also with a wide range of anti-Palestinian Zionist organisations such as the World Zionist Organisation and the Israeli Labour party. The latter carried out the ethnic cleansing of the vast majority of Palestinians in 1948 and the party’s leaders to this today publicly support the illegal settlement “blocs” that are displacing Palestinians and stealing their land.

But as the investigative journalist Asa Winstanley has shown, before the unexpected ascent of Corbyn to the Labour leadership in 2015, the JLM had largely fallen into dormancy.

It was briefly revived in 2004, when Israel was facing widespread criticism in Britain over its brutal efforts to crush a Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories. But the JLM only really became active again in 2015.

According to a covert recording of a private JLM event in late 2016, its then chair Jeremy Newmark said he and other activists had agreed to reform the group in September 2015 in response to “the rise of Jeremy Corbyn” and “Bernie Sanders in the States”. Corbyn has been elected Labour leader only days previously.

According to the transcript, Newmark told the other activists that it would be the “start of a struggle and a battle we will all be engaged in for months and probably years ahead of us”. He added that the JLM would be a suitable vehicle for their work because of the “rights and privileges” it enjoyed as a Labour party affiliate organisation.

Front for Israeli embassy

The motive behind the JLM’s resuscitation was also revealed by an undercover documentary made by Al-Jazeera, aired in early 2017. It showed that the JLM was acting as little more than a front for the Israeli embassy, and that the mission it set itself was to weaken Corbyn in the hope of removing him from the leadership.

Early on, the JLM and other pro-Israel lobbyists within the party realised that the most effective way to damage Corbyn, and silence solidarity with the Palestinian cause, was to weaponise the charge of anti-semitism.

Support for Palestinian rights necessarily requires severe criticism of Israel, whose popular, right wing governments have shown no interest in making concessions to the Palestinians on self-determination. In fact, while westerners have debated the need for urgent peacemaking, Israel has simply got on with grabbing vast tracts of Palestinian land as a way to destroy any hope of statehood.

But pro-Israel lobbyists in the UK have found that they can very effectively turn this issue into a zero-sum game – one that, in the context of a British public conversation oblivious to Palestinian rights, inevitably favours Israel.

Identifying with Israel

The thrust of the lobby’s argument is that almost all Jews identify with Israel, which means that attacks on Israel are also attacks on Jewish identity. That, they claim, is a modern form of anti-semitism.

This argument, if it were true, has an obvious retort: if Jews really do identify with Israel to the extent that they are prepared to ignore its systematic abuse of Palestinians, then that would make most British Jews anti-Arab racists.

Further, if Jewish identity really is deeply enmeshed in the state of Israel, that would place a moral obligation on Jews to denounce any behaviour by Israel towards Palestinians that violates human rights and international law.

And yet the very Jewish leaders claiming that Israel is at the core of their identity are also the ones who demand that Jews not be expected to take responsibility for Israel’s actions – and that to demand as much is anti-semitic.

Could there be a clearer example of having your cake and eating it?

‘Institutionally anti-semitic’

Nonetheless, the JLM has very successfully hijacked the debate within Labour of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to silence criticism. It has worked hard to impose a highly controversial new definition of anti-semitism that conflates it with criticism of Israel. Seven on the 11 examples of anti-semitism used to illustrate the new definition relate to Israel.

Arguing, for example, that Israel is a “racist endeavour”, the view of many in the growing BDS movement and among Corbyn supporters, is now being treated as evidence of anti-semitism.

For this reason, the JLM has been able to file a complaint against Labour with the Equality and Human Rights Commission arguing that the party is “institutionally anti-semitic”.

Labour is only the second political party after the neo-Nazi British National Party to have been subjected to an investigation by the equality watchdog.

Counterweight to the JLM

Despite its claims, the JLM does not represent Jewish opinion in the Labour party. The JLM says it has 2,000 members, though that figure – if accurate – includes non-Jews. Attendance at its annual general meeting this month could be measured in the dozens.

As one Jewish critic observed: “There are some 300,000 Jews in Britain. The Jewish Labour Movement claims to represent us all. So why were there fewer people at their AGM [annual general meeting] than at my Labour Party branch AGM?”

Many Jews in the Labour party have chosen not to join the JLM, preferring instead to act as a counterweight by creating a new Jewish pressure group that backs Corbyn called Jewish Voice for Labour.

Even a new JLM membership drive publicised by former Labour leader Gordon Brown reportedly brought only a small influx of new members, suggesting that support for the JLM’s anti-Corbyn, pro-Israel agenda is very limited inside Labour.

Speaking for ‘the Jews’

The re-establishment of the JLM has one very transparent aim in mind: to push out Corbyn, using any means at its disposal. At its annual general meeting, the JLM unanimously passed a motion of no confidence in Corbyn, describing him as “unfit to to be Prime Minister”. The resolution declared that “a Labour Government led by [Corbyn] would not be in the interests of British Jews”.

One Jewish commentator derisively noted the JLM’s arrogance in speaking for all British Jews at a time of Conservative government-imposed austerity:

“I would not presume to proclaim what is in the interests of ‘the Jews’, but I really cannot imagine that the person who drafted this resolution had any real experience of meeting unemployed Jews, Jewish pensioners and single mothers just scraping by, or Jews who are struggling as they use under-resourced mental health services.”

Scoring Labour candidates

In other circumstances, a group of people operating inside a major political party using underhand methods to disrupt its democratic processes would be described as entryists. Some 2,000 pro-Israel fanatics within Labour are trying to overturn the overwhelming wishes, twice expressed at the ballot box, of the Labour membership, now numbering more than 500,000.

Nonetheless, last week the JLM started to show its hand more publicly. It has been noisily threatening to disaffiliate from the Labour party. In the circumstances that would at least be an honourable – if very unlikely – thing for it to do.

Instead it announced that it would begin scoring local and national Labour politicians based on their record on anti-semitism. After the JLM’s frantic lobbying for the adoption of the new anti-semitism definition, it seems clear that such scores will relate to the vehemence of a candidate’s criticism of Israel, or possibly their ideological sympathy with Corbyn, more than overt bigotry towards Jews.

That was underscored this week when a senior Labour politician, Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary, came under fire from the JLM and Board of Deputies for comments he made in 2014, during Israel’s attack on Gaza, that only recently came to light. He was recorded saying: “The enemy of the Palestinian people is not the Jewish people, the enemy of the Palestinian people are Zionists.” He had previously denied making any such comment.

Mike Katz, the JLM’s new chair, responded: “Insulting a core part of their [Jewish people’s] identity and then dissembling about it is shameful behaviour from a senior frontbencher in our party, let alone someone who aspires to administer our justice system.”

Marginal prejudice

According to the Labour party’s own figures, actual anti-Jewish prejudice – as opposed to criticism of Israel – is extremely marginal in its ranks, amounting to some 0.08 percent of members. It is presumably even less common among those selected to run as candidates in local and national elections.

The JLM has nonetheless prioritised this issue, threatening that the scores may be used to decide whether activists will campaign for a candidate. One might surmise that the scores could also serve as the basis for seeking to deselect candidates and replace them with politicians more to the JLM’s liking.

“We have got elections coming up but we are not going to put that effort in unless we know people are standing shoulder to shoulder with us,” said Katz.

Need for vigorous debate

Paradoxically, the JLM appears to be preparing to do openly what pro-Israel lobbyists in the US deny they do covertly: use their money and influence to harm candidates who are not seen as sympathetic enough to Israel.

Despite claims from both US and UK pro-Israel lobby groups that they speak for their own domestic Jewish populations, they clearly don’t. Individuals within Jewish communities are divided over whether they identify with Israel or not. And certainly, their identification with Israel should not be a reason to curtail vigorous debates about US and UK foreign policy and Israeli influence domestically.

Even if the vast majority of Jews in the US and UK do support Israel – not just in a symbolic or abstract way, but the actual far-right governments that now permanently rule Israel – that does not make them right about Israel or make it anti-semitic for others to be highly critical of Israel.

Chipping away at democracy

The overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews support a narrow spectrum of politicians, from the militaristic right to religious fundamentalists and fascists. They view Palestinians as less deserving, less human even, than Jews and as an obstacle to the realisation of Jewish rights in the whole of the “Land of Israel”, including the Palestinian territories. Does that make them right? Does their numerical dominance excuse their ugly bigotry towards Palestinians? Of course not.

And so it would be the same even were it true that most Jewish members of the Labour party supported a state that proudly upholds Jewish supremacism as its national ideology. Their sensitivities should count for nothing if they simply mask ugly racist attitudes towards Palestinians.

Lobbies of all kinds thrive in the dark, growing more powerful and less accountable when they are out of view and immune from scrutiny.

By refusing to talk frankly about the role of pro-Israel lobbies in the UK and the US, or by submitting to their intimidation, we simply invite Israel’s supporters and anti-Palestinian racists to flex their muscles more aggressively and chip away at the democratic fabric of our societies.

There are signs that insurgency politicians in the US are ready for the first time to shine a light into the recesses of a political system deeply corrupted by money. That will inevitably make life much harder for the pro-Israel lobby.

But paradoxically, it is happening just as the the UK’s Israel lobby is pushing in exactly the opposite direction. British politics is being plunged into a stifling, unhealthy silence on the longest example of mass human rights abuses, sanctioned by the west, in modern history.

• First published at Mondoweiss

War Versus Peace: Israel Has Decided and So Should We

So, what have we learned from the Israeli legislative elections on April 9?

A whole lot.

To start with, don’t let such references as the “tight race” between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his main rival, Benny Gantz, fool you.

Yes, Israelis are divided on some issues that are particular to their social and economic makeup. But they are also resolutely unified around the issue that should concern us most: the continued subjugation of the Palestinian people.

Indeed, ‘tight race’, or not, Israel has voted to cement Apartheid, support the ongoing annexation of the Occupied West Bank, and carry on with the Gaza siege.

In the aftermath of the elections, Netanyahu emerged even more powerful; his Likud party has won the elections with 36 seats, followed by Gantz’s Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) with 35 seats.

Gantz, the rising star in Israeli politics was branded throughout the campaign as a centrist politician, a designation that tossed a lifeline to the vanquished Israeli ‘left’ – of which not much is left anyway.

This branding helped sustain a short-lived illusion that there is an Israeli alternative to Netanyahu’s extremist right-wing camp.

But there was never any evidence to suggest that Gantz would have been any better as far as ending the Israeli occupation, dismantling the Apartheid regime and parting ways with the country’s predominantly racist discourse.

In fact, the opposite is true.

Gantz has repeatedly criticized Netanyahu for supposedly being too soft on Gaza, promising to rain yet more death and destruction on an a region that, according to the United Nations, will be unlivable by 2020.

A series of videos, dubbed “Only the Strong Survives”, were issued by the Gantz campaign in the run up to the elections. In the footage, Gantz was portrayed as the national savior, who had killed many Palestinians while serving as the army’s chief of staff between 2011 and 2015.

Gantz is particularly proud of being partly responsible for bombing Gaza “back to the stone age.”

It apparently mattered little to Israeli centrists and the remnants of the left that in the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza, dubbed Operation “Protective Edge”, over 2,200 Palestinians were killed and over 11,000 were injured. In that most tragic war, over 500 Palestinian children were killed, and much of Gaza’s already ailing infrastructure was destroyed.

But then again, why vote for Gantz when Netanyahu and his right-wing extremist camp are getting the job done?

Sadly, Netanyahu’s future coalition is likely to be even more extreme than the previous one.

Moreover, thanks to new possible alliances, Netanyahu will most likely free himself of burdensome allies, the likes of former Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

One significant change in the likely makeup of the Israeli right is the absence of such domineering figures, who, aside from Lieberman also include former Education Minister, Naftali Bennett and former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

All the grandstanding from Bennett and Shaked, who had recently established a new party called “The New Right”, didn’t even garner them enough votes to reach the threshold required to win a single seat in the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset. They needed 3.25 percent of the vote, but only achieved 3.22 percent. They are both out.

The defeat of the infamous duo is quite revealing: the symbols of Israel’s extreme right no longer meet the expectations of Israel’s extremist constituencies.

Now the stage is wide open for the ultra-orthodox parties, Shas, which now has eight seats, and United Torah Judaism, with seven seats to help define the new normal in Israel.

The Israeli left – if it was ever deserving of the name – received a final blow; the once prominent Labor Party, won merely six seats.

On the other hand, Arab parties that ran in the 2015 elections under the united banner of the “Joint List”, fragmented once more, to collectively achieve only 10 seats.

Their loss of three seats, compared to the previous elections, can be partly blamed on factional and personal agendas. But, that is hardly enough to explain the massive drop in Arab voter participation in the elections: 48 percent compared to 68 percent in 2015.

This record low participation can only be explained through the racist ‘Nation State Law”, which was passed by the right wing-dominated Knesset on July 19, 2018. The new Basic Law, declared Israel as the “nation state of the Jewish people” everywhere, relegating the rights of the Palestinian people, their history, culture and language, while elevating everything Jewish, making self-determination in the state an exclusive right for Jews only.

This trend is likely to continue, as Israel’s political institutions no longer offer even a symbolic margin for true democracy and fair representation.

But perhaps the most important lesson that we can learn in the aftermath of these elections is that in today’s Israel, military occupation and apartheid have been internalized and normalized as uncontested realities, unworthy of national debate. This in particular should summon our immediate attention.

During election campaigns, no major party spoke about peace, let alone provided a comprehensive vision for achieving it. No leading politician called for the dismantling of the illegal Jewish settlements that have been erected on Palestinian land in violation of international law.

More importantly and tellingly, no one spoke of a two-state solution.

As far as Israelis are concerned, the two-state solution is dead. While this is also true for many Palestinians, the Israeli alternative is hardly co-existence in one democratic secular state. The Israeli alternative is Apartheid.

Netanyahu and his future government coalition of like-minded extremists are now armed with an unmistakably popular mandate to fulfill all of their electoral promises, including the annexation of the West Bank.

Moreover, with an emboldened and empowered right-wing coalition, we are also likely to witness a major escalation in violence against Gaza this coming summer.

Considering all of this, we must understand that Israel’s illegal policies in Palestine cannot and will not be challenged from within Israeli society.

Challenging and ending the Israeli occupation and dismantling Apartheid can only happen through internal Palestinian resistance and external pressure that is centered around the strategy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

It is now incumbent on the international community to break this vicious Israeli cycle and support the Palestinian people in their ongoing struggle against Israeli occupation, racism and apartheid.