Category Archives: Settler Colonization

Guardian Sells False Image of an Open Jerusalem

A Guardian essay on a new Israeli open-rooftops project in Jerusalem, part of a Season of Culture, sadly falls into a standard trap for feelgood articles of this kind. It fails to provide the main context for Jerusalem: that the native Palestinians live under a belligerent Israeli occupation that is ultimately trying to evict them from the city.

Ignoring that context when reporting on life for Jews and Palestinians in Jerusalem is gravely irresponsible journalism.

Does this misrepresentation simply reflect author Hannah Ellis-Petersen’s ignorance? Or is it a consequence of who is footing the bill: the Rockefeller Foundation sponsored the article.

Note these infuriatingly misleading introductory paragraphs:

For its Season of Culture, the ancient capital has thrown open its rooftops to encourage residents to see beyond their blinkered boundaries. But the reality is a city where the divides are growing deeper.

The standfirst sets the mendacious “balanced” tone, as though Palestinians could ever afford the luxury of choosing to be “blinkered” in a city where the Israeli-run, occupation municipality is openly hostile to them, and where their homes can be demolished for the smallest infraction of opaque, Israeli-imposed planning rules.

The city’s divides are not “growing deeper”. They were always deep in a city where the occupying power has sought for five decades to colonise Palestinian East Jerusalem with Jewish settlers. There are now more than 200,000 of these settlers gradually displacing the native Palestinian population.

Living side by side in Jerusalem are communities who exist with no interaction with one another – kept apart by fear, nationalism and religion.

No, that is not what keeps them apart. Just imagine an article on apartheid South Africa stating that whites and blacks had no interaction because they were “kept apart by fear, nationalism and religion”. In reality, the two populations were kept apart by the colour of their skin. For blacks under apartheid, and today for Palestinians under occupation, their inferior status is dictated to them. They have no say in the matter.

Palestinians and Israelis are kept apart by the structural violence of occupation, which confers on them entirely different rights and life choices. Jews in Jerusalem have Israeli citizenship; Palestinians have a residency that Israel can easily revoke. Potentially, Jews can live almost anywhere in the city; Palestinians are confined to ghettoes, where they are being suffocated of space and services to encourage them to leave.

Israel has even built a wall cutting some Palestinian neighbourhoods off from the rest of East Jerusalem and the services they pay for through their municipal taxes. They do not live apart because of fear, nationalism or religion. They have been cut off from family, friends and services by concrete walls and armed checkpoints.

While Israelis typically live in the west and Palestinians in the east of Jerusalem, mixed neighbourhoods do exist. In the winding alleys of the old city and the streets of downtown, the diverse inhabitants peacefully cross paths every day.

“Mixed neighbourhoods”? Is the author referring to Jewish settlers who have forcibly taken over Palestinian properties in areas of occupied East Jerusalem like the Old City, Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah in violation of international law and have then turned their apartment blocs into armed compounds? Is that her idea of “paths crossing peacefully” – that Palestinians must live submissively, in terror of armed Jewish interlopers?

What’s more, the only rooftops of Palestinians that were made accessible are in the old city; there are none in east Jerusalem. … The project traces a line across a divided city via its rooftops. And the stories of the volunteers who have opened their homes to strangers, regardless of ethnicity or creed, speak to a multi-layered Jerusalem, one rarely seen in a conflict-obsessed news cycle: a colourful, fractious and potent city.

Is it really a failure of the news cycle that it wishes to highlight “conflict” rather than accentuate the supposed rough-and-tumble co-existence proposed by this article, and achieved after Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem?

Israel professes to have created an “eternal, united capital” of Jerusalem, but nothing could be further from the truth. We don’t need from the media less of an obsession with “conflict”. We need greater honesty from them about Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and the harsh reality of a Jewish settler colonial society slowly disappearing the natives.

Only the gullible or dishonest could believe that opening rooftops in the privileged, Jewish side of the city challenges or mitigates the ugliness of what is going on on the other side of Jerusalem, for Palestinians.

“The Agreement of the Century”

According to a report circulating unofficially in Arabic, the latest in a sixty-nine year history of proposals to resolve the western Zionist invasion of Palestine (AKA the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict”) is about to see the light of day. It claims Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu originated the proposal and that secret deliberations have been underway for more than five months.

Netanyahu has now presented the proposal to the US, which made some changes and agreed to promote it. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will carry the plan, called “the Agreement of the Century” to Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait for review and discussion.

The provisions

The proposal has 21 points, but the main provisions are that the West Bank will be federated (or re-federated) with Jordan, and the Gaza Strip with Egypt. Together, they will be known as the Palestinian Confederation, ostensibly converting the Palestinian “Authority” into a national government, although it is already widely recognized as such and although it will not have any of the authority or sovereignty that nation states are deemed to have under international law.

Israel will govern Jewish settlements directly and Jerusalem is excluded from the proposal, for resolution at a later time. The primary function of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, therefore, will be to take over the security functions currently administered by the Israeli armed forces; i.e., to protect Israel and repress Palestinians. As they say in Israel, “When you have a dirty job, give it to an Arab.”

Other provisions concern development of infrastructure, international guarantees, and conversion of Hamas into a purely political party while integrating its military wing into the Palestinian security forces. The borders will be based on the armistice lines as of June 4th, 1967, with some territorial swaps. Refugees will be permitted to “return” to the West Bank and Gaza, even if it is not the home from which they were displaced. This is not going to be accepted by expatriate refugees in Lebanon, Syria and other countries, but they have always been disenfranchised in all proposals, and this one is no exception.

Unanswered questions

The biggest unanswered question is the status of Jerusalem. Will the Arab leaders accept an agreement that has no assurances at all with respect to Jerusalem? This is hard to imagine, and it was, in fact, the major stumbling block to an agreement at the Camp David Summit in 2000.

Another major unknown is what happens to the West Bank areas designated A, B and C in the Oslo agreement. Area A is the only one of the three where Oslo grants full administrative and security control to the Palestinian Authority, and it comprises less than 15% of the total area of the West Bank, itself only 18% of historic Palestine. Israel is unlikely to hand B and C over to Palestinian authority and limit the settlements to their current footprints, without prospect of outward expansion or new settlements. More likely, they will insist upon continuing the current arrangement, allowing Israel to continue expanding the settlements indefinitely. This is also unlikely to be acceptable to the Arabs and to the Palestinian people.

Analysis

What do the parties to the agreement expect to gain from it?

Israel wants to rid itself of the Palestinians. It wants the land but not the people. It also wants to stop being considered an occupier of someone else’s land. In 1948 it achieved this by massive ethnic cleansing and genocide. In 1967 it used the same methods but was somewhat less successful except on the Golan Heights, where it expelled 94% of the population. Since then, expulsions have been gradual and slower, except for the 2006 expulsion of a million people in south Lebanon, which was subsequently reversed by the victory of the Hezbollah resistance.

If the above assumptions about areas A, B and C are correct, a signed agreement means that Israel concedes nothing at all and will be able to continue with its territorial ambitions. However, it will rid itself of the Palestinians by farming out the occupation to Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. The agreement also removes the teeth (such as they are) of Hamas, and makes Israel appear to be a “peacemaker” with a “generous proposal”.

Mahmoud Abbas’s interest is to become the president of a “real” (though not sovereign) country, recognized universally, even by Israel. He also gets Gaza in the bargain, as well as some handsome development funds that will improve the economy, at least in the short run. The recently announced “unity government” between Hamas and Fatah can be seen as a prelude to such an agreement, and a means of strengthening Abbas’s hand in the negotiations (which is why Israel is not very happy about it).

Hamas gains the least of any of the parties, but Israel’s decade-long siege on Gaza is now so debilitating that they are possibly loathe to dash the hopes of their people for relieving their isolation. They are under tremendous pressure to improve the intolerable living conditions, and may not wish to be seen as spoilers.

The Arab monarchies and Egypt want to be rid of the problem and to get on with other concerns, chiefly their rivalry and potential conflict with Iran. In this case they would like to be able to collaborate and ally themselves more openly with a powerful Israel, which the agreement will legitimate. Iraq and Syria, who are friendly to Iran, are not currently on Abbas’s itinerary, which underscores that their views are not likely to be given consideration.

The US also gets a Middle East peace agreement that has eluded eleven administrations since 1948, and which Trump desperately needs to bolster his flagging image on the domestic front. The agreement would also strengthen the hand of both the US and Israel to undertake aggressive action against Iran and destroy it as a regional power, which is an ambition of both countries and the conservative Arab regimes.

All of this assumes that the agreement will be approved. That is still a very big “if”. But Israel is also prepared for failure, which also works to their advantage. In that case Israel will do what it has always done: blame the Palestinians for refusing to be complicit in their own demise. They will then give their military a free hand to commit another pogrom, known in Israel as “mowing the grass”.

In fact, Israel may pull another plan off the shelf, one using a more direct means of ridding themselves of the Palestinians. They learned in Lebanon that they could create a million refugees in ten days, and thereby clear the land of its inhabitants. Instead of “mowing the grass”, this would be more akin to “scorching the earth”, which is also a definition of the term “holocaust”.

The Real Reasons Trump is Quitting Unesco

At first glance, the decision last week by the Trump administration, followed immediately by Israel, to quit the United Nation’s cultural agency seems strange. Why penalise a body that promotes clean water, literacy, heritage preservation and women’s rights?

Washington’s claim that the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) is biased against Israel obscures the real crimes the agency has committed in US eyes.

The first is that in 2011 Unesco became the first UN agency to accept Palestine as a member. That set the Palestinians on the path to upgrading their status at the General Assembly a year later.

It should be recalled that in 1993, as Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo accords on the White House lawn, the watching world assumed the aim was to create a Palestinian state.

But it seems most US politicians never received that memo. Under pressure from Israel’s powerful lobbyists, the US Congress hurriedly passed legislation to pre-empt the peace process. One such law compels the United States to cancel funding to any UN body that admits the Palestinians.

Six years on, the US is $550 million in arrears and without voting rights at Unesco. Its departure is little more than a formality.

The agency’s second crime relates to its role selecting world heritage sites. That power has proved more than an irritant to Israel and the US.

The occupied territories, supposedly the locus of a future Palestinian state, are packed with such sites. Hellenistic, Roman, Jewish, Christian and Muslim relics promise not only the economic rewards of tourism but also the chance to control the historic narrative.

Israeli archaeologists, effectively the occupation’s scientific wing, are chiefly interested in excavating, preserving and highlighting Jewish layers of the Holy Land’s past. Those ties have then been used to justify driving out Palestinians and building Jewish settlements.

Unesco, by contrast, values all of the region’s heritage, and aims to protect the rights of living Palestinians, not just the ruins of long-dead civilisations.

Nowhere has the difference in agendas proved starker than in occupied Hebron, where tens of thousands of Palestinians live under the boot of a few hundred Jewish settlers and the soldiers who watch over them. In July, Unesco enraged Israel and the US by listing Hebron as one of a handful of world heritage sites “in danger”. Israel called the resolution “fake history”.

The third crime is the priority Unesco gives to the Palestinian names of heritage sites under belligerent occupation.

Much hangs on how sites are identified, as Israel understands. Names influence the collective memory, giving meaning and significance to places.

The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has coined the term “memoricide” for Israel’s erasure of most traces of the Palestinians’ past after it dispossessed them of four-fifths of their homeland in 1948 – what Palestinians term their Nakba, or Catastrophe.

Israel did more than just raze 500 Palestinian towns and villages. In their place it planted new Jewish communities with Hebracaised names intended to usurp the former Arabic names. Saffuriya became Tzipori; Hittin was supplanted by Hittim; Muyjadil was transformed into Migdal.

A similar process of what Israel calls “Judaisation” is under way in the occupied territories. The settlers of Beitar Ilit threaten the Palestinians of Battir. Nearby, the Palestinians of Sussiya have been dislodged by a Jewish settlement of exactly the same name.

The stakes are highest in Jerusalem. The vast Western Wall plaza below Al Aqsa mosque was created in 1967 after more than 1,000 Palestinians were evicted and their quarter demolished. Millions of visitors each year amble across the plaza, oblivious to this act of ethnic cleansing.

Settlers, aided by the Israeli state, continue to encircle Christian and Muslim sites in the hope of taking them over.

That is the context for recent Unesco reports highlighting the threats to Jerusalem’s Old City, including Israel’s denial for most Palestinians of the right to worship at Al Aqsa.

Israel has lobbied to have Jerusalem removed from the list of endangered heritage sites. Alongside the US, it has whipped up a frenzy of moral outrage, berating Unesco for failing to prioritise the Hebrew names used by the occupation authorities.

Unesco’s responsibility, however, is not to safeguard the occupation or bolster Israel’s efforts at Judaisation. It is there to uphold international law and prevent Palestinians from being disappeared by Israel.

Trump’s decision to quit Unesco is far from his alone. His predecessors have been scuffling with the agency since the 1970s, often over its refusal to cave in to Israeli pressure.

Now, Washington has a pressing additional reason to punish Unesco for allowing Palestine to become a member. It needs to make an example of the cultural body to dissuade other agencies from following suit.

Trump’s confected indignation at Unesco, and his shrugging off of its vital global programmes, serve as a reminder that the US is not an “honest broker” of a Middle East peace. Rather it is the biggest obstacle to its realisation.

• First published in The National, Abu Dhabi.

The Balfour Declaration Destroyed Palestine, Not the Palestinian People

Some promises are made and kept; others disavowed. But the ‘promise’ made by Arthur James Balfour in what became known as the ‘Balfour Declaration’ to the leaders of the Zionist Jewish community in Britain one hundred years ago, was only honored in part: it established a state for the Jews and attempted to destroy the Palestinian nation.

In fact, Balfour, the foreign Secretary of Britain at the time his declaration of 84 words was pronounced on November 2, 1917, was, like many of his peers, anti-Semitic. He cared little about the fate of Jewish communities. His commitment to establishing a Jewish state in a land that was already populated by a thriving and historically-rooted nation was only meant to enlist the support of wealthy Zionist leaders in Britain’s massive military buildup during World War I.

Whether Balfour knew it or not, the extent to which his short statement to the leader of the Jewish community in Britain, Walter Rothschild, would uproot a whole nation from their ancestral homes and continue to devastate several generations of Palestinians decades later, is moot. In fact, judging by the strong support his descendants continue to exhibit towards Israel, one would guess that he, too, would have been ‘proud’ of Israel, oblivious to the tragic fate of the Palestinians.

This is what he penned down a century ago:

His Majesty’s government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Speaking recently at New York University, Palestinian professor Rashid Khalidi described the British commitment, then, as an event that “marked the beginning of a century-long colonial war in Palestine, supported by an array of outside powers which continues to this day.”

But oftentimes, generalized, academic language and refined political analysis, even if accurate, masks the true extent of tragedies as expressed in the lives of ordinary people.

As Balfour finished writing down his infamous words, he must have been consumed with how effective his political tactic would be in enlisting Zionists to join Britain’s military adventures, in exchange for a piece of land that was still under the control of the Ottoman Empire.

Yet, he clearly had no genuine regard for the millions of Palestinian Arabs – Muslims and Christians alike – who were to suffer the cruelty of war, ethnic cleansing, racism and humiliation over the course of a century.

The Balfour Declaration was equivalent to a decree calling for the annihilation of the Palestinian people. Not one Palestinian, anywhere, remained completely immune from the harm invited by Balfour and his government.

Tamam Nassar, now 75 years old, was one of millions of Palestinians whose life Balfour scarred forever. She was uprooted from her village of Joulis in southern Palestine, in 1948. She was only five.

Tamam, now lives with her children and grandchildren in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp in Gaza. Ailing under the weight of harsh years, and weary by a never-ending episode of war, siege and poverty, she holds on to a few hazy memories of a past that can never be redeemed.

Little does she know that a man by the name of Arthur James Balfour had sealed the fate of the Nassar family for many generations, condemning them to a life of perpetual desolation.

I spoke to Tamam, also known as Umm Marwan (mother of Marwan), as part of an attempt to document the Palestinian past through the personal memories of ordinary people.

By the time she was born, the British had already colonized Palestine for decades, starting only months after Balfour signed his declaration.

The few memories peeking through the naïveté of her innocence were largely about racing after British military convoys, pleading for candy.

Back then, Tamam did not encounter Jews or, perhaps, she did. But since many Palestinian Jews looked just like Palestinian Arabs, she could not tell the difference or even care to make the distinction. People were just people. Jews were their neighbors in Joulis, and that was all that mattered.

Although the Palestinian Jews lived behind walls, fences and trenches, for a while they walked freely among the fellahin (peasants), shopped in their markets and sought their help, for only the fellahin knew how to speak the language of the land and decode the signs of the seasons.

Tamam’s house was made of hardened mud, and had a small front yard, where the little girl and her brothers were often confined when the military convoys roamed their village. Soon, this would happen more and more frequently and the candy that once sweetened the lives of the children, was no longer offered.

Then, there was the war that changed everything. That was in 1948. The battle around Joulis crept up all too quickly and showed little mercy. Some of the fellahin, who ventured out beyond the borders of the village, were never seen again.

The battle of Joulis was short-lived. Poor peasants with kitchen knives and a few old rifles were no match for advanced armies. British soldiers pulled out from the outskirts of Joulis to allow Zionist militias to stage their attack, and the villagers were chased out after a brief but bloody battle.

Tamam, her brothers and parents were chased out of Joulis, as well, never to see their beloved village again. They moved about in refugee camps around Gaza, before settling permanently in Nuseirat. Their tent was eventually replaced by a mud house.

In Gaza, Tamam experienced many wars, bombing campaigns, sieges and every warfare tactic Israel could possibly muster. Her resolve is only weakened by the frailty of her aging body, and the entrenched sadness over the untimely deaths of her brother, Salim, and her young son, Kamal.

Salim was killed by the Israeli army as he attempted to escape Gaza following the war and brief Israeli invasion of the Strip in 1956, and Kamal died as a result of health complications resulting from torture in Israeli prisons.

If Balfour was keen to ensure “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” why is it, then, that the British government remains committed to Israel after all of these years?

Isn’t a century since that declaration was made, 70 years of Palestinian exile, 50 years of Israeli military occupation all sufficient proof that Israel has no respect for international law and Palestinian human, civil and religious rights?

As she grew older, Tamam began returning to Joulis in her mind, more often seeking a fleetingly happy memory, and a moment of solace. Life under siege in Gaza is too hard, especially for old people like her, struggling with multiple ailments and broken hearts.

The attitude of the current British government, which is gearing up for a massive celebration to commemorate the centennial of the Balfour Declaration, suggests that nothing has changed and that no lessons were ever learned in the 100 years since Balfour made his ominous promise to establish a Jewish state at the expense of Palestinians.

But this also rings true for the Palestinian people. Their commitment to fight for freedom, also remains unchanged and, neither Balfour nor all of Britain’s foreign secretaries since then, have managed to break the will of the Palestinian nation.

That, too, is worth pondering upon.

Abbas is no Arafat

I’ve been writing about the plight of the amiable Palestinian people under Israel’s jackboot for the same length of time that Mahmoud Abbas has been Palestinian president. And that’s far too long. Abbas has also been chairman of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation, which describes itself as the sole representative of the Palestinian people) for even longer.

A recent poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research showed that the Palestinians have had enough. Two-thirds want Abbas out.

A majority are also dissatisfied with the decision at Fatah’s latest Convention to keep Abbas as head of Fatah for another 5 years. The poll found that most view the Palestinian Authority, which is also headed by Abbas, as a burden to the Palestinian people rather than an asset. An even larger majority feel they cannot criticise the PA without fear. Perception of corruption in the PA now stands at 76%.

What’s more, two-thirds of Palestinians believe a two-state solution is no longer possible due to Israel’s relentless expansion of illegal settlement and 53% support a return to an armed intifada.

And if presidential elections were held now, Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh would probably win.

“As naked as the day that he was born”

Abbas has been a big noise in Palestinian affairs for decades. In 2003 Arafat appointed him prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority. Some say the West foisted Abbas on Arafat. A power struggle ensued, and after Arafat’s suspicious death in 2004 Abbas was seen as a natural successor. Hamas boycotted the presidential election of January 2005 and Israel arrested or restricted the movement of other candidates. So Abbas won easily in dubious circumstances.

Abbas’s term as President officially ended more than 8 years ago. It is long past clear-your-desk time. The Basic Law allowed him an extension of one year but he still clings to power. Increasingly he’s seen as the king with no clothes and, in the words of the Danny Kaye song, “altogether as naked as the day that he was born”.

The trouble with Abbas is that he’s always ‘behind the curve’. Illegal settlement building under the Allon Plan, effectively annexing Palestinian territory, began in 1967 and the Israelis’ dash to create as many irreversible ‘facts on the ground’ as possible in order to make their occupation permanent was clear from the start.

Abbas claims to be one of the architects of the Oslo Interim Agreement, which was supposed to ensure a start to negotiations on permanent status by 1996 and lead to the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the settling of all main issues. But ever since the beginning of the Oslo process back in 1993 the rights of the Palestinian people have been sacrificed on the altar of so-called political progress, the glittering prize being ‘peace and security’.

That was all smoke ‘n’ mirrors, of course. What we’ve seen is a continuous slide downhill for the Palestinians while the Israelis’ colonisation and expansion programme goes from strength to strength. Justice has never been allowed to play a part. Furthermore Abbas has repeatedly given the Israelis time to cement their ill-gotten gains, readily agreeing to more bogus negotiations arranged by the same dishonest brokers.

And he inexplicably dragged his feet over joining the International Criminal Court.

During his over-long tenure Abbas has failed to unite the Palestinians under a single purposeful voice with a clear mission. He has driven the factions further apart by letting rip the old Fatah-Hamas rivalry. His regime fails to keep the world informed or make proper use of media opportunities and behaves as if gagged.

He is not noted for tactical brilliance and his embassies in the West are lazy, uncommunicative and uncooperative towards journalists and writers, and probably under orders not to ‘make waves’. I myself have been branded an enemy of Palestine by Abbas’s London embassy, an insult I wear as a badge of honour.

The Palestinian Authority under Abbas is frequently accused of collaborating with Israel in its brutal oppression. Abbas seems to be the darling of the West and of Israel, and the Israelis are said to regard him as a strategic asset. They’d hate to lose him.

Hamas is usually blamed for any whiff of corruption but the PA is bursting with it. In 2015 a report by The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) titled Absolute Power, Total Corruption hit the headlines. AMAN was established by a number of Palestinian civil society organizations to combat corruption and enhance integrity, transparency and accountability in Palestinian society.

According to the Commissioner-General, Azmi Shuaibi, “the cancellation of elections and the absence of the Legislative Council led to the president’s monopolizing the three powers — legislative, judicial, executive — which has served as fertile soil for some cases of corruption.” Certain non-ministerial government institutions were still outside the scope of official accountability and had awarded salaries and privileges to officials that were inconsistent with financial reality.

But even this catalogue of misbehaviour didn’t hammer the final nail into Abbas’s political coffin. Today he’s increasingly busy cracking down on dissenters within his own Fatah party and outside organisations.

Peace process “a deceptive farce”

The confidential Palestinian Papers, leaked by Al-Jazeera in 2011, revealed the shambolic conduct of the so-called peace process and how the Palestinian team allowed the Israelis to walk all over them, with US help.

One of the leak’s sources, a French-Palestinian lawyer and former adviser to the PLO, Ziyad Clot, said in an article in The Guardian that the peace process was “an inequitable and destructive political process which had been based on the assumption that the Palestinians could in effect negotiate their rights and achieve self-determination while enduring the hardship of the Israeli occupation”. They were “a deceptive farce whereby biased terms were unilaterally imposed by Israel and systematically endorsed by the US and EU”. They “excluded for the most part the great majority of the Palestinian people: the seven million Palestinian refugees”. And, he said, “the PLO, given its structure, was not in a position to represent all Palestinian rights and interests”.

So why did the Palestinians’ chief negotiator since 1995, Saeb Erekat, still engage in it? Erekat was educated in political science in the US and conflict studies in England, so should have been savvy enough to see through it. Will no-one steer the Palestinians into a sane justice process and away from the ‘kangaroo’ peace negotiations that Erekat and Abbas seem addicted to?

Not long ago, in an interview, I asked law professor and former UN special rapporteur Richard Falk:

How acceptable is it for a weak, demoralized and captive people like the Palestinians to be forced into negotiating with their brutal occupier under the auspices of a US administration seen by many people as too dishonest to play the part of peace broker?

He replied:

Even if the United States was acting in good faith, for which there is no evidence, its dual role as Israel’s unconditional ally and as intermediary would subvert the credibility of a negotiating process. In fact, the US Government signals its partisanship by White House appointments of individuals overtly associated with the AIPAC lobbying group as Special Envoys to oversee the negotiations such as Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk… The unsatisfactory nature of the current framework of negotiations is further flawed by weighting the process in favor of Israel, which enjoys a position of hard power dominance.

That the UK Government will shortly be celebrating 100 years of the infamous Balfour Declaration, and continuing to endorse its cruel legacy while refusing to support Palestinian statehood, is an indictment of Abbas’s dismal performance.

Face it, the guy is no Arafat. On Abbas’s watch the high hopes of ordinary Palestinians have turned to dust. As Oliver Cromwell told the English Parliament in 1653: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” Those same words are applicable also to Abbas, and indeed the entire PLO and Palestinian Authority.

What Palestinians need, but probably will never get, is leadership with style, wisdom and the will to make friends with the West. Their case is still not widely understood and any new leader must have the ability to outwit Israel’s absurdly successful propaganda. Yes, the Zionists may have a stranglehold on Western opinion, but the Palestinians possess a superior two-edged weapon which they have never used effectively: truth and a just cause.

Israel’s Chief Stooge at Westminster shames us again

As Prime Minister, I am proud to say that I support Israel. And it is absolutely right that we should mark the vital role that Britain played a century ago in helping to create a homeland for the Jewish people.

Thus spake Theresa May the other day as she welcomed members of the Jewish community to 10 Downing Street. But by focusing on creating a homeland for the Jewish people she’s also celebrating the hell that Balfour’s Declaration created for the gentle Palestinians and for the rest of the region. “Born of that letter, the pen of Balfour, and of the efforts of so many people, is a remarkable country,” said May, apparently blind to the reality.

Right now we’re on the run-up to the centenary of what is arguably the biggest foreign policy blunder in British history: the Balfour Declaration. In 1917 Arthur Balfour, foreign secretary, bowed to Zionist demands for a homeland for the Jews in Palestine and gave an undertaking that set the world on course for long-term turmoil and, for the native Palestinians, unspeakable misery, dispossession and displacement. It was a criminal conspiracy. And Balfour was an A-list idiot who bragged that he wasn’t even going to counsult the local Arab population about this theft of their homes and lands.

Yet he remains a hero of the Conservative Party which, led by Theresa May, plans to celebrate this hundred-year “running sore” — as Lord Sydenham called it — in great style, inviting Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu to the festivities. That’s if the warmonger isn’t under arrest by then on imminent charges of corruption back home.

“I will always do whatever it takes to keep our Jewish community safe,” May added. “Through our new definition of anti-Semitism we will call out anyone guilty of any language or behaviour that displays hatred towards Jews because they are Jews. We will actively encourage the use of this definition by the police, the legal profession, universities and other public bodies.”

She was referring to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.

BDS “unsucessful”? Really?

One of May’s Cabinet minsiters, Sajid Javid, told the World Jewish Congress that the UK would celebrate the upcoming anniversary with pride. “Someone said we should apologise for the Declaration, to say it was an error of judgment. Of course that’s not going to happen.” To apologise, he said, would be to apologise for the existence of Israel and to question its right to exist.

Instead, he emphasised the UK government’s intolerance towards any kind of boycott of Israel. “I’ll be 100 per cent clear. I do not support calls for a boycott, my party does not support calls for a boycott. For all its bluster, the BDS campaign is most notable I think, for its lack of success….  As long as I’m in government, as long as I’m in politics, I will do everything in my power to fight back against those who seek to undermine Israel.” The UK, he said, has maintained close diplomatic, trade and security ties with Israel since its inception, and is counted upon by Israel to vote in its favour at the UN and other international institutions.

As Noam Chomsky has aptly observed: “People who call themselves supporters of Israel are actually supporters of its moral degeneration and ultimate destruction.”

Israel lobby stooges like May and Javid continue trying to ram their pro-Zionist nonsense down out throats despite the fact that last time they attacked the successful BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, warning that her government would “have no truck with those who subscribe to it”, they came spectacularly unstuck. 200 legal scholars and practising lawyers from all over Europe put May in her place by pointing out that BDS is a lawful exercise of freedom of expression and outlawing it undermines a basic human right protected by international convention. Her efforts to repress it amounted to support for Israel’s violations of international law and failure to honour the solemn pledge by States to ‘strictly respect the aims and principles of the Charter of the United Nations’.

May needs a crash course in human rights

Top legal experts were recently asked for their views by Free Speech on Israel, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Their verdict was that those in public life cannot behave in a manner inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of expression and applies not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive, but also to those that “offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population”.

What’s more, there is an obligation to allow all concerned in public debate “to express their opinions and ideas without fear, even if these opinions and ideas are contrary to those defended by the official authorities or by a large part of public opinion, or even if those opinions and ideas are irritating or offensive to the public”. Article 10 says that everyone has the right to freedom of expression including “freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.” Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says the same sort of thing, subject of course to the usual limitations required by law and respect for the rights of others.

Eminent human rights lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC has sharply criticised the anti-Semitism definition touted by May. Firstly, it isn’t a legally binding definition so doesn’t have the force of a statutory one. And it cannot be considered a legal definition as it lacks clarity. Therefore any conduct contrary to the IHRA definition couldn’t necessarily be ruled illegal.

He says it was “most unsatisfactory for the Government to adopt a definition which lacks clarity and comprehensiveness” and suggests the Government’s decision to adopt the IHRA definition was simply a freestanding statement of policy — a mere suggestion as to a definition of anti-Semitism that public bodies might wish to use. But no public body was under an obligation to adopt or use it, or should be criticised for refusing to. He warned that if a public authority did decide to adopt the definition then it must interpret it in a way that’s consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights mentioned above.

A further obligation put on public authorities is “to create a favourable environment for participation in public debates for all concerned, allowing them to express their opinions and ideas without fear, even if these opinions and ideas are contrary to those defended by the official authorities or by a large part of public opinion, or even if those opinions and ideas are irritating or offensive to the public”.

According to Tomlinson, then, the IHRA definition doesn’t mean that calling Israel an apartheid state that practices settler colonialism, or urging BDS against Israel, can properly be characterized as anti-Semitic. Furthermore, a public authority seeking to apply the IHRA definition in order to prohibit or punish such activities “would be acting unlawfully.”

Retired Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Stephen Sedley, has weighed in by criticising the IHRA definition for lack of legal force. “It is not neutral: it may well influence policy both domestically and internationally.” He added that the right of free expression, now part of our domestic law by virtue of the Human Rights Act, “places both negative and positive obligations on the state which may be put at risk if the IHRA definition is unthinkingly followed”. Moreover the 1986 Education Act established an individual right of free expression in all higher education institutions “which cannot be cut back by governmental policies”.

Sedley felt the IHRA definition was open to manipulation. “What is needed now is a principled retreat on the part of government from a stance which it has naively adopted.”

As for Javid’s crack about not having to apologise for Israel’s existence, he must have forgotten that in the wake of the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which granted the Jews territory within defined borders, they declared statehood in 1948 without borders, grabbing as much extra land as they could by armed terror and ethnic cleansing.  The new state of Israel’s admission to the UN in 1949 was conditional upon honouring the UN Charter and implementing UN General Assembly Resolutions 181 and 194. It has failed to do so and to this day repeatedly violates provisions and principles of the Charter.

When the UK Conservative Government makes pronouncements on foreign affairs it pays to consider that 80 percent of its MPS are claimed to be signed-up members of Friends of Israel and this is a stepping-stone to higher office. Conservative Friends of Israel, according to their website, are active at every level of the party.

It is sad that so many of our politicians are so spineless and so insecure that they feel the need to herd together under the flag of what the UN has called a racist state.

How Israel robs Palestinians of Citizenship

Israel has quietly revoked the citizenship of thousands of members of its large Palestinian minority in recent years, highlighting that decades of demographic war against Palestinians are far from over.

The policy, which only recently came to light, is being implemented by Israel’s population registry, a department of the interior ministry. The registry has been regularly criticized for secrecy about its rules for determining residency and citizenship.

According to government data, some 2,600 Palestinian Bedouins are likely to have had their Israeli citizenship voided. Officials, however, have conceded that the figure may be much higher.

The future offspring of those stripped of citizenship are likely to suffer problems gaining citizenship too.

Human rights groups have severely criticized Israel for violating its own laws, as well as international conventions to which it is a party, in carrying out such revocations.

Sawsan Zaher, a lawyer with Adalah, a legal center for Israel’s Palestinian minority, told The Jerusalem Post newspaper: “This policy is illegal and in contravention to international law because you cannot leave someone stateless.”

Harsh treatment

Palestinian citizens, one in five of Israel’s population, are descended from Palestinians who survived a mass ethnic cleansing campaign waged during Israel’s creation in 1948.

Today, some 200,000 Bedouins live in Israel, most of them in a semi-desert area known as the Naqab (Negev).

One of the two fastest-growing groups in Israel’s population, the Bedouins have faced especially harsh treatment. Israel continued expelling them to Jordan, Egypt and Gaza through the 1950s and to this day tightly limits the areas in the Naqab where the Bedouins can live.

Revelations of the revocations emerged as Ayelet Shaked, the far-right justice minister, warned Israel’s judges to prioritize demographic concerns and maintenance of the state’s Jewishness over human rights. She called growing numbers of non-Jews in the state “national challenges” that risked turning a Jewish state into “an empty symbol.”

According to Adalah, Bedouins typically learn that they have been stripped of citizenship when they approach the interior ministry for routine services such as renewing an identity card or passport, obtaining a birth certificate, or declaring a change of address.

Some have discovered their loss of status when seeking a passport to go on pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the obligations for Muslims.

Tip of the iceberg?

Aida Touma-Sliman, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, said the policy of revocations had intensified over the past 18 months.

“I’m afraid that what has been exposed is only the tip of the iceberg and what hasn’t been revealed yet is even more serious,” she told the Haaretz newspaper.

The legislator fears that many other Bedouins have been stripped of citizenship, but have yet to learn of the fact.

She said she believed that the government was in part targeting Bedouins with revocation of citizenship to weaken long-standing land claims against the state.

Tens of thousands of Bedouins have been mired in legal action for decades trying to claim back the title deeds to ancestral lands seized from them by military officials in the first years after Israel’s creation.

Israel has declared the surviving communities as “unrecognized,” effectively criminalizing their inhabitants and denying them basic services such as water and electricity. Officials have also been trying to revive the Prawer Plan, which seeks to evict some 40,000 Bedouins – Adalah puts the figure at 80,000-90,000 – and force them into poor “townships”. The original plan was ostensibly frozen in late 2013 after mass protests across the Naqab.

Touma-Sliman said that without citizenship, Bedouins would be largely defenseless against steps to evict them.

Endless foot-dragging

Mahmoud al-Gharibi, an unemployed carpenter from the al-Azazme tribe, was one of several Bedouins who spoke to Haaretz in August during a protest rally in the Naqab village of Bir Hadaj.

He was told his citizenship had been revoked when he applied for a new identity card in 2000. “Since then I’ve applied 10 times [for renewed citizenship], getting 10 rejections, each time on a different pretext,” he said. “I have two children who are over 18 and they too have no citizenship.”

Another Bedouin who spoke anonymously to Haaretz said: “No one explains anything and all of a sudden your status changes. You go in as a citizen and come out deprived of citizenship, and then an endless process of foot-dragging begins.”

Zaher pointed out that many of those recently stripped of citizenship had been voting in parliamentary elections for years, even though it is a right available solely to citizens.

Adalah has warned that revoking citizenship is not only illegal according to Israel’s own laws, but violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which Israel signed in 1961.

The group has appealed to Israel’s interior ministry and attorney general, demanding that they cancel the policy. Israeli officials have justified the revocations on the grounds that bureaucratic errors made in the state’s early years meant that the affected Bedouin’s parents or grandparents were not properly registered.

Israel did not pass its Citizenship Law – governing citizenship for non-Jews – until 1952. The legislation’s primary purpose was to strip some 750,000 Palestinians who had been made refugees by the 1948 war, and their millions of descendants, of a right to live in Israel.

A separate law, the 1950 Law of Return, entitles all Jews around the world to instant Israeli citizenship.

Martial law

The failure to register many Bedouins in Israel is related to a draconian period of martial law imposed on the Palestinian minority during Israel’s first 18 years.

Bedouins, like other Palestinian citizens, were not allowed to leave their communities without a special permit. But the remoteness of their communities and Israel’s continuing efforts to expel them through the 1950s mean that officials may have preferred to avoid registration in many cases.

According to reports by the United Nations and others, thousands of Bedouins were secretly expelled into neighboring Egypt and Jordan during the early years of the military government.

Even those who were not expelled outside Israel were often evicted from their ancestral lands and forced into overcrowded “townships.”

This intentionally murky period in Israel’s history has made it hard for the Bedouins to prove many decades later what happened to their parents or grandparents.

Adalah’s Zaher told The Jerusalem Post: “Basically, we’re talking about the grandparents of the people who are now affected and don’t know what happened under military rule. And then suddenly in 2010 they were told that because their grandparents were granted citizenship by mistake, now they will be stripped of their citizenship.”

The interior ministry has downgraded those Bedouins stripped of citizenship to “permanent residents” – the same status accorded to Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem.

However, in practice, Israel does not treat “permanent residency” as permanent. Figures show that Israel has voided the residency status of nearly 15,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem since the city’s occupation began in 1967.

Treated as foreigners

Bedouins have been told they are eligible to apply for citizenship again through a naturalization process, treating them effectively as foreigners.

However, according to Adalah, many have found that when they apply they continue to be denied citizenship, often on grounds that documents cannot be located or they lack sufficient proficiency in Hebrew.

There is no Hebrew language test for foreigners seeking citizenship, either Jews immigrating under the Law of Return, or non-Jewish spouses of Israeli citizens naturalizing under the Citizenship Law.

According to Haaretz, other Bedouins have found the interior ministry so unresponsive they have given up in despair.

The only provision allowing citizenship to be canceled is for recent arrivals who provided false information in their applications. Even then, the interior ministry is required to act within three years – otherwise it has to make an application for revocation through the courts.

Adalah has complained that those affected were not given a hearing before their citizenship was rescinded or the chance to appeal. Zaher said the policy was also blatantly discriminatory as no Jews had been denied citizenship because of errors in their parents’ or grandparents’ registration under the Law of Return.

Equal rights for equal burden?

The treatment of Bedouins gives the lie to one of Israel’s most familiar claims: that Palestinian citizens will receive the same rights as Jewish citizens if they share an equal burden. Avigdor Lieberman, the defense minister, has repeatedly campaigned on a platform of “no loyalty, no citizenship.” He argues that Palestinian citizens who do not serve in the Israeli army or perform an equivalent form of national service should lose their citizenship.

However, a proportion of those stripped of citizenship are from Bedouin families that have served in the Israeli army as desert trackers.

Several unrecognized villages, home to some 100,000 Bedouins, have a tradition of military service, but have still been denied services. Their homes are all under threat of demolition.

Some of the residents of Umm al-Hiran, which is currently being demolished to make way for the exclusively new Jewish community of Hiran, served as trackers for the Israeli army.

Atalla Saghaira, a resident of the unrecognized village of Rahma, told Haaretz he had been stripped of his citizenship in 2002 when he applied for a passport, even though his father was a tracker for the Israeli army. After 13 years of struggle, he eventually managed to regain citizenship, but three of his brothers were still stateless.

‘No harm intended’

The Israeli parliament’s interior committee held a meeting last year at which officials for the first time gave details of the revocation policy.

The head of the interior ministry’s citizenship department, Ronen Yerushalmi, submitted a report stating that as many as 2,600 Bedouins were affected. He admitted, however, that the data was not precise and the figure could be even higher.

At another meeting, the committee’s legal adviser, Gilad Keren, warned that the ministry was most likely breaking Israeli law. He said he could not “understand how, when a person has been a citizen for 20 years and the state makes a mistake, that person’s status is changed.”

In a statement to The Jerusalem Post, the interior ministry denied the evidence heard by the committee, claiming that only about 150 people had been affected. “No one means to harm them,” a spokesperson said. “Now the ministry is asking them to legally re-register so they will remain citizens.”

Revelations of the mass revocations came as an Israeli court last month approved for the first time stripping of citizenship a Palestinian convicted of carrying out an attack.

The interior ministry gave Alaa Zayoud, from the town of Umm al-Fahm in present-day northern Israel, the status of temporary resident after he was sentenced to 25 years for carrying out a car-ramming attack last October on Israeli soldiers. Four people were injured in that incident.

The revocation was made on the basis of a 2008 amendment to the Citizenship Law that allows citizenship to be rescinded for “breach of loyalty” to the state.

Double standard

Adalah, which opposed the government’s decision, pointed out a double standard in not applying the amendment to Israeli Jews. It cited recent cases such as that of a Jewish man and two Jewish juveniles who burned alive a 16-year-old Palestinian, Muhammad Abu Khudair, in Jerusalem in 2014, and that of Jewish settlers behind an arson attack a year later that killed three members of the Dawabsha family in the occupied West Bank village of Duma. None had citizenship revoked.

In 1996, Israel’s high court also refused a request to rescind the citizenship of an Israeli Jew, Yigal Amir, who a year earlier had assassinated Yitzhak Rabin, then prime minister. The judges ruled that such offenses should be dealt with in the criminal courts, not by revoking citizenship.

Previous revocations, though rare, have solely targeted Palestinian citizens. In 2002, Eli Yishai, then interior minister, stripped Nahad Abu Kishaq and Kais Obeid of citizenship.

Zayoud’s case was different because the interior ministry needed to seek court approval, therefore setting what Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel have called a “dangerous precedent.”

The fear is that Israel will use the case to justify many more such revocations or conditions of citizenship for the Palestinian minority on loyalty.

Ethnic cleansing

The question of whether Palestinians should have been awarded citizenship in the state’s early years is one that has exercised the Israeli leadership for decades. Many have feared that a growing Palestinian population in Israel poses a “demographic threat” to the state’s Jewishness.

Writing in 2002, Israeli historian Benny Morris suggested that Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion, should have “gone the whole hog” in 1948 – ethnically cleansing all Palestinians from the newly founded state of Israel.

Research has shown that Ben Gurion gave citizenship only reluctantly to the 150,000 Palestinians who survived the mass expulsions. They were initially assigned residency, chiefly as a way to aid in identifying and expelling Palestinian refugees trying to cross back into the new state of Israel to reach their villages.

Only in 1952, under international pressure, did Israel award the Palestinian minority citizenship through the Citizenship Law, legislation separate from that for Jews.

However, scholars have noted that for more than a decade Israeli leaders repeatedly attempted to find ways to expel Palestinian citizens or establish incentive schemes to encourage them to leave.

Israeli scholar Uri Davis has noted that 30,000 Palestinians living in Israel remained stateless until 1980, when Israel passed an amendment to the Citizenship Law belatedly awarding them citizenship.

Ben Gurion himself hoped to fix the percentage of Palestinians in Israel at no higher than 15 percent of the population. But with the proportion of Palestinian citizens now at one in five, Israeli politicians have been seeking ever more desperate ways to rid Israel of sections of the minority.

In July, the office of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, was reported to have urged the Trump administration in the US to agree to a land swap that would move an area that is home to some 250,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel to Palestinian control.

The proposal echoed Avigdor Lieberman’s long-standing plan to redraw Israel’s internationally recognized borders as a way to deny hundreds of thousands of Palestinians their citizenship.

In early 2014, the Maariv newspaper reported that Netanyahu had first posited a land and population exchange as a quick fix to reduce Palestinian citizens to no more than 12 percent of the population.

Fantasticalism and the Future of a Dying Planet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge with Ethics with Universal Rights with Rights of Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Martian Chronicles Are Dead Sea Scrolls

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity Eugenicists, Dachau Developers, Zombie Makers 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democracy Now:

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

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

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

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

Things Always Go Haywire When Contemplating the Obscene Rich — Robots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Despotic Origins of U.S. Public Secondary Education

This article is part of a project that critically analyzes the historical and present day purposes of U.S. public education. Related articles focus on the history of Common Schools, the undemocratic nature of Local Control and the finacialization of education via Social Impact Bonds and Personalized Learning. The point of this project is to further expose the underlying social control function of U.S. public education and the interests it has consistently served over time, which cannot be extracted from the undemocratic nation-state it was designed – and continually redesigned – to preserve. 

*****

Stoking nationalism with fears of “Another Black Republic”

During the 1890s, as patriotic fervor was sweeping the nation, the flying of the nation’s flag on school grounds and within classrooms was normalized, whereupon students were required to pledge allegiance to the nation’s flag on a daily basis. This morning ritual was initiated by a signal from a teacher or principal, where students, in ordered ranks, started with their hands to their side, facing the flag. Another signal was given and every student was required to give the flag the military (Bellamy) salute – right hand lifted, palm downward, to align with the forehead and close to it; and repeating together, slowly: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” At the words, “to my Flag,” the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereby all hands immediately drop to the side. Starting in the 1930’s and continuing to the present day, students are required to stand in the same obedient fashion, except with their right hand to their heart, as they recite the pledge of allegiance.

This ritual served to further align the social control function of the Common School movement with a more advanced stage of U.S. nationalism that served U.S. imperialist pursuits, tied to the nation’s white supremacist foundations. At the turn of the 20th century, capitalism’s proclivity for crisis was fomenting rebellion within the U.S. through massive labor strikes, struggles for universal suffrage and relief from poverty as a major depression gripped the nation due to overproduction. In response, the nation’s political and economic elite significantly expanded U.S. pursuits of overseas markets for American goods and investment capital. Long salivating over the commercial possibilities of Caribbean and Latin American markets and trade outposts, government and business focused their sights on Cuba. At the time Cubans were rebelling against Spanish rule, and the fact that a majority of the Cuban population was Black provided a convenient rationale for U.S. military intervention. These events required the intensification of the social control apparatus of U.S. nationalism – well oiled by its highly effective and profitable role in the conquest of North America – as a means to deflect attention towards an external “threat.”

In doing so, the Cleveland administration agitated white fears that a Cuban victory could lead to “the establishment of a white and a black republic.” In an 1896 article in The Saturday Review, a young rising star Englishman named Winston Churchill, whose mother was American, wrote: “A grave danger represents itself. Two-fifths of the insurgents in the field are negroes” who might “in the event of success, demand a predominant share in the government of the country . . . the result being, after years of fighting, another black republic.” That other Black republic was, of course, Haiti; of which the U.S. has relentlessly worked to destroy (initiated by Jefferson) since a Black slave rebellion established the nation in 1804. Churchill would go on to be known as one of the most racist U.K leaders of the 20th century, which was quite the feat. Always one to brutishly cut to the chase, the soon to be celebrated “war hero” and president, Theodore Roosevelt, wrote to a friend in 1897, “In strict confidence . . . I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one.”

This racist and profit-driven war machine also resulted in the U.S acquisition and occupation of the Philippines, resulting in a protracted war against armed Filipino freedom fighters. By some estimates, over one million Filipinos died, along with the pillaging of the country’s natural resources. In 1902, president Theodore Roosevelt summarized the essence of the war against the Filipino people by claiming it, “involved not only the honor of the flag but the triumph of civilization over forces which stand for the black chaos of savagery and barbarism.”

In his 1909 book titled Changing Conceptions of Education, influential education historian and administrator, Ellwood P. Cubberley was explicit about how public education needed to be refashioned to meet capitalism’s domestic and international demands. He believed that the Spanish American War of 1898 served:

…to concentrate attention once more on the advantages of general education. It was “the man behind the gun” who won. The trained artisan is to be the private; the trained leader the captain; and an educated, sober, capable, and industrious people the base of supplies for the national armies of the future. Whether we like it or not we are beginning to see that we are pitted against the world in a gigantic battle of brains and skill, with the markets of the world, work for our people, and internal peace and contentment [social cohesion] as the prizes at stake.

Cubberley went on to note, “that the great battles of the world in the future are to be commercial rather than military or naval” and the “great educational lessons to be learned from a study of the educational political and industrial progress of the German Empire…are at last beginning to take root with us.” Cubberley thought it was critical for public education to be “adapted to the needs of the future rather than to the needs of the present or the past” and by doing so, an “industrial and vocational” education needed to be widely instituted “if we wish to continue to prosper as a nation.”

Prior to the Spanish-American War, the U.S. had already intervened militarily to establish or protect U.S. economic and political power in Argentina, Chile, Haiti, Hawaii, Nicaragua, Korean, Panamá, Samoa, Greece, Uruguay, Japan, Tripoli, Colombia, Mexico and Korea. These imperialist interventions were only a warm up for what would ensue over the next three decades, let alone the 20th century. In contrast to Ellwood P. Cubberley’s 1909 proclamations, U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Bulter, characterized the nature of U.S. militarism in 1935 based on his personal involvement:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.

Strengthening the Infrastructural Power of Ideology

By 1890, as public secondary education was slowly evolving as an alternative to private academies and seminaries and was being scrutinized, portrayed as too disorganized, pluralistic, inefficient and in need of being aligned with the new economy and emerging national interests. These rumblings were the beginnings of what many establishment historians, along with Harvard University economist Claudia Goldin, refer to as the “high school movement” within the “human capital century.” According to Goldin, this framing describes how a “set of republican institutions” established a “host of changes” that allowed “the United States to respond to the increased demand for skill…with a set of New World preconditions.” Following a nationalistic script, Goldin explains how “By the early 20th century the United States began to endow a large fraction of its youth with skills in formal, school-based, academic settings, using a system termed here the U.S. template. The United States achieved mass secondary (and later mass higher) education because of a set of virtues. The virtues enabled the supply-side institutions to respond to the demand-side shift.”

The “republican institutions” that were steering this virtuous agenda included federal and state officials, capitalists, scholars and religious-based charity organizations. These influential groups – as agents of the founders original cultural political and economic aspirations – were debating the social aim of secondary education as a means to buttress domestic instability due to mass inequality while simultaneously expanding U.S. hegemony internationally. For these purposes, new scientific reasoning was being attached to long held cultural scripts that justified systems of domination as means to rationalize new or improved instruments of social control. At the time social control theories were being applied to new scientific concepts of efficiency in support of white supremacy and class domination and rationalized through the “science” of Social Darwinism and eugenics.

These reform efforts to expand infrastructural power as a means to strengthen social cohesion were tied to what is known as the Progressive Era. According to education professor Ann Gibson Winfield, many of these Progressive Era reformers, “were consumed by a defensive strategy that called for the eradication of the socially inferior and the preservation of ‘old stock’ American values and genetic material.” Others, according to the Social Welfare History Project, were motivated by “democratic ideals and social justice” and “made themselves the arbiters of a ‘new’ America in which the origin story myths of the founding fathers (liberty, equality, justice) could find a place within the nation’s changing landscape.” Of course, the actual “ideals” of the founding fathers were already well in place and working quite efficiently.

A group of white male scholars and leading college presidents, who were focused on the social aims of education based on the ideals of “American Democracy,” began to meet in the early 1890s, taking a more custodial and opportunity-based stance on schooling. They believed that all (white) students – regardless of their class positions – should receive intellectually stimulating curriculum that equally prepares them for college and/or work. They articulated their position in 1893 as the National Education Association’s Committee on Secondary School Studies (Committee of Ten). Aiming to establish a standardized curriculum, the Committee of Ten recommended that all public high schools should follow a predetermined college preparatory, liberal arts curriculum that did not differentiate between students heading for college or work.

As education reformers made concerted efforts to design the twentieth century high school, so did big business, positioned to further consolidate power and influence in government and public opinion. Beginning in 1860, capitalists began to organize themselves nationally, and between 1890 and 1920, various commercial and trade associations flourished; and setting the agenda for secondary education was a major priority. One such group was the National Associations of Manufacturers (NAM), which formed in 1896 and was highly influential in shaping education policy with a focus on vocational secondary education based on the differentiated German system. NAM members were concerned that the efficient skills-based German model of schooling disadvantaged American manufactures in world markets.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, this was a period when the “need for a closer relationship between government and business” became more “obvious” since organized labor was presenting a clear and present threat to the progress of the nation. This concern led President Taft to recommend to Congress in 1911 that a centralized business organization be created to be “in touch with associations and chambers of commerce throughout the country and able to keep purely American interests in a closer touch with commercial affairs.” In 1912, Taft called “for a conference in Washington of commercial and trade organizations” which resulted in the establishment of the “Chamber of Commerce of the United States” whereby “Business had found its voice.”

Educators, businessmen, social workers, clergy, charity groups, large labor unions – most Progressive Era reformers were either beneficiaries or agents of, or skeptical participants in, the all encompassing free-market based Efficiency Movement, which considered all aspects of society to be riddled with waste and inefficiency. The “progressive” remedy required expertise within the fields of science, engineering, technology and the new social sciences to develop quantifiable methodologies and road maps that would guarantee a less wasteful and more cohesive, productive and predictable industrial society. For this to happen, government, business and civil society were largely aligned in a common nationalistic aim of designing a model capitalist “democracy.” Theirs was the founders “democracy,” yet now it would be more firmly anchored by a comprehensive public secondary education system.

In 1894 British writer and Social Darwinist Benjamin Kidd popularized the term social efficiency in his internationally celebrated publication Social Evolution. Kidd postulated that social efficiency entitles “superior” races to control the raw materials of the world because, “the last thing our civilization is likely to permanently tolerate is the wasting of the resources of the richest regions of the earth through the lack of the elementary qualities of social efficiency in the races possessing them.”

According to Jennifer Karns Alexander, the author of the 2008 The Mantra of Efficiency: From Waterwheel to Social Control, the ideology of efficiency when applied to society was conceptualized from the merging of two prevailing schools of thought during the 19th century – Darwin’s theory of evolution and the theories of celebrated microeconomist Alfred Marshall. Speaking to this idea, technology historian Peter Sutton explains how their commonality was based on:

…the insight that within large-scale dynamic systems (ecological and economical respectively), measurable differences in individual efficiency could make the difference between success and failure over the long-term. In business, as in nature, success in the competition for limited resources was determined by the extent to which methods that minimized waste and maximized output could be perfected…these lines of thinking increasingly permeated a wide range of intellectual matters by mid-19th century, linking efficiency with ideas of social progress and commercial growth.

Alexander goes on to claim that for both Darwin and Marshall “efficiency meant increasing and sophisticated organization necessarily accompanied by sacrifice: the death and extinction of less-adapted and less-specialized organic beings and the loss of autonomy by those engaged in all but the most mentally demanding forms of labor.”

The rulers and beneficiaries of the industrialized society, who saw themselves as the most adapted and most specialized (hence genetically superior), believed that efficiency served a conservationist function of preserving the natural order of a hierarchical society and world. Of course, from the perspective of those at the bottom of this “food chain,” this conceptualization is antithetical to the promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” a promise intended for the nation’s opulent. This notion of efficiency therefore authorizes the “less-adapted” and “less-specialized” human beings to be treated as disposable economic maximizers, whose only value is judged by their level of productivity as disciplined instruments within highly controlled profit seeking systems.

The instrument of social efficiency zeroed in on education while consensus was simultaneously building amongst the elite that, in the same vein as common schools, public secondary education should be established as a foundational institution for social control as a means to ensure adherence to the social aims of industrial capitalism. Drawing on Social Darwinism the social and scientific movement of eugenics quickly emerged within the new science of human genetics, providing the foundation for social efficiency in establishing science-based rationales for race and class hierarchies. Eugenicists advocated putting limitations on political participation based on race and class, arguing the U.S. ruling class was in grave danger of “committing racial suicide” resulting from the precipitous reproduction of the genetically inferior, combined with the steady decline in the birthrate of the genetically superior. To address this social crisis, eugenicists advocated for a range of prescriptions, including mandatory segregation, sterilization, immigration restriction, and legal prohibition of interracial marriage. Newly developed Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests soon became an instrument to reinforce the hegemony of eugenics and social efficiency, and over time became the basis for standardized tests generally, as a means to efficiently sort and rank students according to race, gender, class and ability.

U.S. sociologist, eugenicist and renowned social control theorist Edward Ross is recognized as conceptualizing social efficiency to serve as a means for social control. In his 1901 book titled Social Control, Ross was primarily concerned with how democratic societies can be structured to reinforce dominant social orders. With regard to education, Ross’s ideas centered on how the state, its schools, along with its disciplined agents (teachers), can serve as a far superior socializer (compared to genetically inferior parents) and the most powerful instrument of social control by instilling “the habit of obedience to an external law which are given by a good school discipline.”

Some social efficiency educators recognized mass public education’s potential as a remedy to the moral and social ills associated with new immigrants. In line with Horace Mann’s views, Ellwood P. Cubberley promoted public schooling’s role in civilizing the “illiterate” and “docile” immigrants flooding in from southern and eastern Europe who lacked “in self reliance and initiative” and did not “possess the Anglo Teutonic [German] conceptions of law, order, and government” and therefore diluted “our national stock” and corrupted “our civic life.” According to Cubberley, the aim was “to break up these groups or settlements, to assimilate and amalgamate these people as a part of our American race, and to implant in their children, so far as can be done, the Anglo Saxon conception of righteousness, law and order, and popular government, and to awaken in them a reverence for our democratic institutions and for those things in our national life which we as a people hold to be of abiding worth.” In Cubberley’s 1922 book titled A Brief History of Education (a widely used textbook in teacher education programs), one section was labeled “The Education of Defectives,” and another “The Education of Superiors.” In the latter section, Cubberley complained that:

All the work…relating to the work of defectives, delinquents, and children for some reason in need of special attention and care has been for those who represent the less capable and on the whole less useful members of society – the ones from whom society may expect the least.

Within this worldview, public education needed to be standardized and made more efficient. Instead of an academically grounded curriculum and student-centered instruction, public schooling was to serve a larger “social mission” with a curricular focus on practical vocational knowledge and future “life experiences.” Beginning in 1903, Frederick Winslow Taylor was rapidly gaining attention by industrialists with his Scientific Management model of industrial production, which went on to gain prominence within the social efficiency movement, when he published “Principles of Scientific Management” in 1911. Scientific Management rapidly replaced older, craft-based, manufacturing methods with what became the prevailing principles of large-scale industrial manufacturing within assembly-line factories.

The development of this model was partially in response to factory managers concerns about workers’ motivational problems, also called “soldiering,” which is when workers attempt to do a minimum amount of work in the longest amount of time. As a remedy, Taylor’s model (Taylorism) emphasized the standardization of work, through a division of labor, where factory managers constantly monitored and scientifically measured worker productivity. He suggested they do this by conducting time and motion studies on shop floors, monitoring workers with stopwatches and documenting their level of efficiency and productively at every step of production. Individual worker’s pay was then to be tied directly to output through piece-rate wages. Of course, this method was ultimately about maximizing profits through the application of soul crushing and body battering methods, which played a major role in the unionization of factories over the proceeding decades.

Educating the “worm eaten stock”

John Franklin Bobbitt, a leading curriculum scholar, ardent follower of Taylor and head of the Department of Education at the University of Chicago published “The Elimination of Waste in Education” in 1912. In it, Bobbitt likened schools to factories, referring to them as “plants,” claiming that each “plant” should be operated “according to recently developed principles of scientific management, so as to get a maximum of service from a school plant and teaching staff of minimum size.” Bobbitt’s contributions went well beyond the hierarchical and standardized physical organization of schools and their curriculum. His conceptualization of education for the future labor force was one of dehumanization and commodification. Bobbitt viewed students as “raw material” and schools as factories and classes as the assembly line that manufactured “a uniform, standardized product” designed with the singular intent of reproducing and maintaining existing social orders.

Teachers were disciplined factory workers who utilized the most efficient means to ensure that students (as raw material) were molded and sorted according to the narrow vocational standards, cultural scripts and mental dispositions that served private industry and other nationalistic aims. School administrators were the factory managers who monitored, directed and disciplined teachers – as assembly line workers – throughout the production process.

Bobbitt’s model of schooling was highly influential and shaped public education for decades to come, on many levels. His views, like many of his contemporaries, were also explicitly infused with the ideologies of white supremacy and class superiority propagated by eugenics. In his 1909 article titled “Practical Eugenics,” Bobbitt declared, “If a child is well-born” of Anglo-Saxon “stock” and is thus genetically superior, “he possesses high endowment potential” and is “protected from adverse influences…and abundantly responsive to the positive influences of education.” Bobbitt went on to explain:

…if, on the other hand, the child…springs from a worm-eaten stock, if the foundation plan of his being is distorted and confused in heredity before his unfolding begins, then the problem of healthy normal development is rendered insoluble before it is presented. Such a child is difficult to protect against adverse influences, and he remains to the end stupidly unresponsive to the delicate growth factors of education.

Bobbitt continued, in this piece, with a warning to his colleagues concerning the sinister processes that were unfolding in 20th century America. He went on to express distress about the decreasing birthrate of the Anglo-Saxon “stock” and how this would result in a “drying up of the highest, purest tributaries to the stream of heredity.” He proceeded to diagnose the problem as being the increasing birthrates and immigration of those who are not from the “strains of our imperial race,” which are causing a “rising flood in the muddy, undesirable streams” into society. Bobbitt also pondered the problems facing eugenics, which in his words is “the newly-arising science which seeks to improve the inborn qualities of our race” and while “it is easy to see the practical advantages to result from an application of its principles…it is not at all easy to see how it is to be done.” Apparently he found the solution to this “problem” when he published “Elimination of Waste in Education” two years later.

Expanding on the broader impacts of eugenics on U.S. education, Rethinking Schools noted in 2014:

The United States has a long history of using intelligence tests to support white supremacy and class stratification. Standardized tests first entered the public schools in the 1920s, pushed by eugenicists whose pseudoscience promoted the “natural superiority” of wealthy, white, U.S.-born males. High-stakes standardized tests have disguised class and race privilege as merit ever since. The consistent use of test scores to demonstrate first a “mental ability” gap and now an “achievement” gap exposes the intrinsic nature of these tests: They are built to maintain inequality, not to serve as an antidote to educational disparities.

In his book, Unequal by Design, Wayne Au writes:

It is important to recognize that the technology of standardized testing, beyond its role in I.Q. and eugenics, proved to be a pivotal technical, conceptual, and ideological apparatus in the ascendancy of the application of scientific management and models of capitalist production to education. Tests as a technological instrument enable education to operate in several ways. They determine universal norms and standards through which to classify, construct comparisons, mark deviance and sort human populations under the pretext of scientific objectivity. Through the establishment of universal objectivity, standardized tests also commodify those who are being measured by the tests, allowing for students to be viewed and treated as products. Commodification therefore permits learners to be categorized and sorted as ‘things’ and creating conditions for systems of production to be monitored, surveilled, and ultimately disciplined.

Standardized testing, with its foundational concepts of scientific objectivity and students as commodities, is designed to serve as a crucial apparatus in the maintenance of the American cultural myth of meritocracy, which posits that everyone has the chance to work hard and compete freely to attain educational, social and economic success.

Because of this fact, any historical examination of the establishment of universal public education must expose its social engineering aims through the intersection of scientific management and eugenics. It is hard to imagine how an institution with these designs – while constructed to serve the cultural, political and economic power structures of an inherently unequal, undemocratic and violently racist nation state – could ever be reformed to serve any emancipatory purpose.

The Institutionalization of Efficiency

David Snedden, a Columbia Teachers College professor and Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, was one of the most influential social efficiency leaders during the 1910’s and played a major role in propelling vocational education into all of the domains of power by the end of the decade. Snedden’s ideology of education is described by Emery Hyslop-Margison as being:

…a vocational training model that responded directly to the specific labor force needs identified by industry. Under his scheme, vocational education would be structured to direct non-academic students into required labor force roles for which they were deemed best suited. He argued that educators should simply accept the industrial social system and its accompanying class structure as an inevitable fact of life, and channel their energies toward ensuring its efficient operation. According to Snedden, the primary purpose of vocational education was meeting labor force needs and preparing students with assumed limited intellectual capacities for immediate employment in industry.

Two of Snedden’s major influences included Edward Ross (social control) and leading Social Darwinist Herbert Spencer. Snedden is best known for mentoring and launching the careers of key leaders in the social efficiency movement.

Between 1900 to 1917 over 30 bills were introduced in Congress in support of vocational education based on calls from agricultural and manufacturing trade associations for the federal government to provide aid to further vocational education in secondary schools. In 1903, Carroll D. Wright, a former Massachusetts Senator and the first U.S. Commissioner of Labor, was appointed to be a member of the Massachusetts Commission on Industrial and Technical Education (also known as the Douglas Commission). The Douglas Commission – named after then Massachusetts governor William Lewis Douglas (and owner of the world’s largest shoe manufacturer) enacted legislation in 1906 establishing Massachusetts industrial education, making it “the Grandfather of Vocational Education.” In 1908, the Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton Massachusetts was the first Vocational Technical school to open in the country. At the request of industry and key social efficiency leaders, Massachusetts carved out a separate public vocational education system that, according to education historian Melvin Barlow, served as a model for “industry leaders and educators from other states of the nation.”

In 1907, Wright became the second president of the National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education (NSPIE), which was established in 1906 for the purpose of distributing federal funds to states “to assist in focusing public opinion in favor of an educational system that would give boys and girls who enter at an early age…an adequate preparation for industrial efficiency.” NSPIE was composed of prominent social efficiency educators, many industry trade organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as the National Education Association (NEA) and the Democratic Party. The American Federation of Labor was also on board since this was a period when its membership was composed of the more elite “skilled tradesmen.” NSPIE was the major player in the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act. In a 1909 article written by Carroll D. Wright about NSPIE, he shared some of their legislative strategies, some of which were first deployed in Massachusetts:

…the methods for propaganda must of necessity vary, and obviously they should be based on a full knowledge of local conditions. The board of managers therefore at the start adopted the plan of organizing in each state a nucleus of interest from which wise and effective activity might radiate. In accordance with this view, an effort was made to establish state committees in all states of the Union… And it is worthy of note that, although practically all invitations to serve on these committees were necessarily extended by letter, prominent men and women everywhere readily responded to the call… ready to preach the gospel of practical education for efficiency whenever the opportunity might arise.

David Snedden disciple Charles A. Prosser served as the Deputy Commissioner of Industrial Education in Massachusetts between 1910-1912, leaving this post to serve as the Secretary of the NSPIE until 1915. Prosser went on to be known as the father of vocational education in the U.S. and the author of the Smith-Hughes Act. Smith-Hughes is recognized as a milestone in federal intervention in establishing extensive vocational education in U.S. public secondary schools, for the purpose of preparing the 20th century workforce that industry demanded. It marked a major victory for the social efficiency movement in that it established a tracked and differentiated system of schooling for poor and working-class students who were “predestined” to not be worthy of a liberal arts education and postsecondary education. The timing of Smith-Hughes was not coincidental; it was enacted during a time of hyper nationalism that was fueling the nation’s first large-scale war of imperialism. Facets of the massive domestic propaganda machine during the “Great War” (World War I) focused on competing against the highly regarded and efficient German vocational education system. Many critics also charged that the U.S. public education system was still not delivering adequate job training during a period when technology was rapidly changing, further raising suspicion by some of its underlying social engineering purpose.

The practical nature of social efficiency’s approach to schooling made for a persuasive sell by its powerful and highly influential proponents, particularly by framing it as a means of social mobility. Many working people, immigrants and moderate unions supported the utility of having a legitimized and highly structured education system that is aligned with economic realities, providing relevant skills and greater opportunities for their children’s future. The public at large was also easily convinced that this model of education made good economic sense. Besieged by the era’s cult of efficiency, it was difficult to dispute the common sense cultural script that productivity enhancing discipline and skills, which promote economic stability, growth and an investment in human capital would provide a higher return on investment for industry (and therefore society) and dividends for individual investors (taxpayers).

Twenty-five years after the National Education Association released the Committee of Ten report with its emphasis on intellectual development of all white children, the NEA formed the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education, chaired by another Snedden disciple, Clarence Kingsley. This Commission was tasked with forming the social efficiency doctrine for secondary education, resulting in a 1918 report titled “Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education.” In this report, the commission prescribed seven aims of secondary education: (1) Health, (2) Command of fundamental processes, (3) Worthy home membership, (4) Vocation, (5) Citizenship, (6) Worthy use of leisure, and (7) Ethical character. These standardized aims of schooling defined an ideological curriculum that efficiently shaped students to be disciplined and self regulating citizens according to the political, economic and military aims of more intensive forms of U.S. nationalism. As in the past, the social control instrument of nationalism was again fortifying U.S. imperialism, while suppressing growing leftist resistance domestically, which was gaining traction in electoral politics, labor unions and in massive opposition to “The Great War.”

Deviating from the practice of establishing separate vocational schools that were advocated by Snedden and others, “Cardinal Principles” recognized that segregating white students on a large scale into two separate school systems with two different curriculums based on social class would be politically indefensible. Instead of one system for vocational students as future producers and followers and another for liberal arts education students as future consumers and leaders, the report advocated for the establishment of vocationalized and tracked comprehensive high schools. The differentiated curriculum recommended by “Cardinal Principles” proposed to align coursework with the expected destinations of students based on social class. This became the template for public secondary education that would go on to predominate throughout the 20th century and is not only reflective of the evolution of social efficiency, but is also viewed as being highly influential in the entrenchment of standards-based education.

The “Cardinal Principles” designers’ break with the social efficiency tenet of segregated schools for working-class white students was not about adopting new worldviews, but was more about adhering to the empty promises of U.S. democracy and to accommodate a relatively influential opposition. Those being accommodated were those on the “rational left,” the liberal education reformers aligned with John Dewey who believed that democracy could coexist with American capitalism and white supremacy; and the politically moderate craft union movement associated with the American Federation of Labor. According to education professor David Labaree, “The way the Cardinal Principles report wove together the themes of social efficiency and democracy provided the rhetorical structure for this compromise” and “allowed the social efficiency strand of the progressive movement to have a lasting impact on goals and curricular organization of American education.” Similar to the social cohesion or “social unification” purpose of Horace Mann’s common schools, “Cardinal Principles” proposed comprehensive public high schools, where white middles-class students would mix and form common personal and social bonds with white working-class students, thus reducing envious tensions based on their family’s differing incomes and social agency. According to Herbert Kliebard the differentiated high school was designed “to reflect the needs of an industrial society through a differentiated curriculum” while also attending “to the significant differences in ability as well as the multifarious needs of an industrial democracy.”

Ultimately, this model of schooling served an important assimilation function in that it created an integrated common space in schools (yet with segregated coursework) as a means to have more “enlightened” students model American values and conduct for working-class students, particularly new immigrants. This environment also served to normalize – and cultivate acceptance of – the larger inequitable and socially stratified society. This socialization project was in line with a nationalistic script popularized during that time, which portrayed the U.S. as a wondrous “melting pot” where all nationalities, cultures, ethnicities and classes (from Europe) could come to America (as the land of opportunity) and live as one big socially cohesive white society.

With the understanding that secondary schools would be the site where differentiation would be most prominent, the Junior High School (and the Middle School) was created for the purpose of determining children’s capacities and to sort them accordingly before entering high school. As Kliebard goes on to explain:

There had, after all, been a whole new institution created, the junior high school, and with the influx of mental testing into the schools on a mass scale after World War I, that institution could devote itself to determining the true nature of the “raw material,” leaving the high school free to provide the differentiated curriculum that the social efficiency reformers so insistently demanded.

The original design and intent of primary and secondary public education provided the foundation for a model of schooling that would endure throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century. Yet, struggles over curriculum at the federal, state and local levels were significant; often reflecting the influences of intellectual and cultural movements, struggles for political, economic and social protections and humanistic and holistic approaches to education. These influences were consistently undermined or reversed by anti-intellectual and imperious social efficiency interests that are embedded within the state-capitalist pact that is intrinsic to the founders’ cultural political economy. Thus, mass public education stayed the course of its original mission of preserving the inequitable, violent and undemocratic structures of white supremacy, settler-colonialism, capitalism and heteropatriarchy.