Category Archives: Transparency/Secrecy

Gaza Rallies for Caracas: On the West’s Dangerous Game in Venezuela

Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of besieged Gaza to show their support of the democratically-elected government of Venezuela and its legitimate leader, President Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela is struggling to defeat a coup attempt that is supported by the United States, Israel and many Western governments.

The relationship between Venezuela and Palestine has been particularly strong under the presidencies of late Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez and current president Maduro. Neither leader has missed an opportunity to show their solidarity towards the Palestinian people, a fact that has always irked Tel Aviv and its western benefactors.

The Gaza rallies, however, were more than a display of gratitude towards a country that had enough courage to break off ties with Israel following the latter’s 2008-9 war on Gaza – a bloody campaign known as “Operation Cast Lead”. Thousands of Palestinians were killed in that one-sided war. No Arab government that has diplomatic ties with Israel severed its relations with Tel Aviv. While Caracas – over 10 thousand kilometers away – did. Then, former President Chavez, accused Israel of “state terrorism”.

But there is more to Palestinian solidarity with Venezuela than this recent history. Palestinians have experienced decades-long collective trauma from US-funded Israeli colonialism and military occupation. The US has imposed itself as an ‘honest peace broker’ as a way to mask its political interference and meddling in the Middle East, while fully and blindly supporting Israeli aggressions.

While the Venezuelan people have every right to protest their government, demanding greater accountability and economic solutions to the crushing poverty facing the country, no one has the right to meddle in the affairs of Venezuela or any other sovereign country anywhere.

We must remember that the US government has hardly ever been a source of stability in South America, certainly not since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Since then, the US has done more than mere meddling, but outright political and military interventions, supporting various coups that toppled or attempted to overthrow democratically-elected governments.

What is underway in Caracas is a repeat of that sad and tragic history.

The unhealthy relationship between the US and its southern neighbors took an even darker turn when, in 1904, then US President Theodore Roosevelt declared the “right” of his country to hold “international police power” in Latin America. Since then, the entire region has been Washington’s business.

Always looking for opportunities to exploit, Washington now sees a chance to undermine Venezuela and its elected government.

The Venezuelan people are dealing with overwhelming poverty and a very unstable social situation. Hyperinflation and the crumbling of the country’s oil industries led to a dramatic economic downturn, with about 10% of the population fleeing the country. Poor policy choices led to an escalation of the already endemic corruption, to a significant weakening of local production and increasing devaluation of the country’s currency.

However, consensus around president Maduro’s socialist government is still broad, as witnessed by their victory in the 2018 presidential election.

Despite the presence of about 150 international observers from 30 countries and international organizations, which declared that the last Venezuelan election was transparent, domestic opponents, supported by the US and its western and regional allies denounced it as “fraud foretold”, even before Maduro delivered his victory speech.

The US and its Western allies are frustrated by the fact that despite its economic problems, most Venezuelans remained united around Chavez, and now Maduro, who are perceived, especially by the poorer classes, as independent national leaders fighting against constant US destabilization and neocolonialism.

The world order is vastly changing, but US ruling elites refuse to change. While speaking about Washington’s need to “protect democracy” in Venezuela, US National Security Advisor, the infamous Israel supporter, John Bolton admitted that the coup in Venezuela is an opportunity to exploit the country’s oil and natural resources.

“It will make a big difference to the United States economically”, Bolton told Fox News in an interview this week, “if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”

Tragically, the US boycott against Venezuela forced the country to sell its gold in return for valuable currency, as well as consumer goods, food and medicinal products. The coup is meant to completely push Caracas to its knees.

Western predators are all moving in, each party playing the role entrusted of them, as if history is repeating itself. Bank of England (BoE) has blocked Maduro’s officials from withdrawing $1.2 billion worth of Venezuela’s gold. Worse, brazen interference from foreign countries is becoming so pronounced that UK foreign office minister, Sir Alan Duncan has suggested that the BoE grant access to the gold reserves to the self-proclaimed opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Germany, and France and Spain gave Venezuela’s Maduro an ultimatum: the President has eight days to call elections, otherwise they’ll recognize Guaido as president. On January 31, the European Parliament recognized Guaido as a de facto leader of Venezuela in complete disregard of the democratic rights of the Venezuelan people.

Yet, as odd as this may seem to some, Maduro still enjoys greater legitimacy in his country than Donald Trump or Emmanuel Macron do in the US and France respectively. Yet, no entity is threatening to intervene in France, for example, on behalf of the ‘Yellow Vests’, who have protested in their hundreds of thousands for weeks, demanding an end to Macon’s rule.

It is doubly important that Venezuela doesn’t collapse before this US-led sinister campaign because of the rising far-right powers in South and Latin America, namely the upsurge of reactionary forces in Brazil.

If Venezuela’s political order disintegrates, others, too will become target: Bolivia, Cuba, and even Mexico.

Since the US partial withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011, and the Obama Administration’s ‘pivot to Asia’, to challenge the inevitable dominance of China, US policy makers have been keen on staging a comeback in South America as well. More recently, the just-departed US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley was instrumental in shaping the aggressive US policy towards Venezuela.

Now that the country is struggling with extreme poverty – itself resulting from the manipulation of oil prices – the US sees an opportunity to make its move, and reclaim its destructive, domineering role in that part of the world. The election in Brazil of far-right leader, Jair Bolsonaro, who wants to “make Brazil great again’ is tipping the balance in favor of reactionary forces in the whole region.

But the plot against Venezuela is also an opportunity for those who want to challenge the old order, to tell the US government ‘enough is enough’; that the age of coups and blood-soaked interventions should be behind us, and that South America must not be subjugated again.

As Palestinians have fought Israeli tyranny for years, Venezuelans will continue to fight foreign tyranny and unlawful political and military interventions as well. And with true and tangible global solidarity, both nations will prevail – sooner or later.

Benny Gantz and Israel’s Drive to Become a Modern-day Sparta

With April’s elections looming, sr Benjamin Netanyahu has good reason to fear Benny Gantz, his former army chief. Gantz has launched a new party, named Iaeli Resilience, just as the net of corruption indictments is closing around the prime minister.

Already, at this early stage of campaigning, some 31 per cent of the Israeli public prefer Gantz to head the next government over Netanyahu, who is only months away from becoming the longest-serving leader in Israel’s history.

Gantz is being feted as the new hope, a chance to change direction after a series of governments under Netanyahu’s leadership have over the past decade shifted Israel ever further to the right.

Like Israel’s former politician generals, from Yitzhak Rabin to Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, Gantz is being portrayed – and portraying himself – as a battle-hardened warrior, able to make peace from a position of strength.

Before he had issued a single policy statement, polls showed him winning 15 of the 120 parliamentary seats, a welcome sign for those hoping that a centre-left coalition can triumph this time.

But the reality of what Gantz stands for – revealed this week in his first election videos – is far from reassuring.

In 2014, he led Israel into its longest and most savage military operation in living memory: 50 days in which the tiny coastal enclave of Gaza was bombarded relentlessly.

By the end, one of the most densely populated areas on earth – its two million inhabitants already trapped by a lengthy Israeli blockade – lay in ruins. More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the onslaught, a quarter of them children, while tens of thousands were left homeless.

The world watched, appalled. Investigations by human rights groups such as Amnesty International concluded that Israel had committed war crimes.

One might have assumed that during the election campaign Gantz would wish to draw a veil over this troubling period in his military career. Not a bit of it.

One of his campaign videos soars over the rubble of Gaza, proudly declaring that Gantz was responsible for destroying many thousands of buildings. “Parts of Gaza have been returned to the Stone Age,” the video boasts.

This is a reference to the Dahiya doctrine, a strategy devised by the Israeli military command of which Gantz was a core member. The aim is to lay waste to the modern infrastructure of Israel’s neighbours, forcing survivors to eke out a bare existence rather than resist Israel.

The collective punishment inherent in the apocalyptic Dahiya doctrine is an undoubted war crime.

More particularly, the video exults in the destruction of Rafah, a city in Gaza that suffered the most intense bout of bombing after an Israeli soldier was seized by Hamas. In minutes, Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment killed at least 135 Palestinian civilians and wrecked a hospital.

According to investigations, Israel had invoked the Hannibal Procedure, the code name for an order allowing the army to use any means to stop one of its soldiers being taken. That includes killing civilians as “collateral damage” and, more controversially for Israelis, the soldier himself.

Gantz’s video flashes up a grand total of “1,364 terrorists killed”, in return for “three-and-a-half years of quiet”. As Israel’s liberal Haaretz daily observed, the video “celebrates a body count as if this were just some computer game”.

But the casualty figure cited by Gantz exceeds even the Israel army’s self-serving assessment – as well, of course, as dehumanising those “terrorists” fighting for their freedom.

A more impartial observer, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, estimates that the Palestinian fighters killed by Israel amounted to 765. By their reckoning, and that of other bodies such as the United Nations, almost two-thirds of Gazans killed in Israel’s 2014 operation were civilians.

Further, the “quiet” Gantz credits himself with was enjoyed chiefly by Israel.

In Gaza, Palestinians faced regular military attacks, a continuing siege choking off essential supplies and destroying their export industries, and a policy of executions by Israeli snipers firing on unarmed demonstrators at the perimeter fence imprisoning the enclave.

Gantz’s campaign slogans “Only the Strong Wins” and “Israel Before Everything” are telling. Everything, for Gantz, clearly includes human rights.

It is shameful enough that he believes his track record of war crimes will win over voters. But the same approach has been voiced by Israel’s new military chief of staff.

Aviv Kochavi, nicknamed the Philosopher Officer for his university studies, was inaugurated this month as the army’s latest head. In a major speech, he promised to reinvent the fabled “most moral army in the world” into a “deadly, efficient” one.

In Kochavi’s view, the rampaging military once overseen by Gantz needs to step up its game. And he is a proven expert in destruction.

In the early stages of the Palestinian uprising that erupted in 2000, the Israeli army struggled to find a way to crush Palestinian fighters concealed in densely crowded cities under occupation.

Kochavi came up with an ingenious solution in Nablus, where he was brigade commander. The army would invade a Palestinian home, then smash through its walls, moving from house to house, burrowing through the city unseen. Palestinian space was not only usurped, but destroyed inside-out.

Gantz, the former general hoping to lead the government, and Kochavi, the general leading its army, are symptoms of just how complete the militaristic logic that has overtaken Israel really is. An Israel determined to become a modern-day Sparta.

Should he bring about Netanyahu’s downfall, Gantz, like his predecessor politician-generals, will turn out to be a hollow peace-maker. He was trained to understand only strength, zero-sum strategies, conquest and destruction, not compassion or compromise.

More dangerously, Gantz’s glorification of his military past is likely to reinforce in Israelis’ minds the need not for peace but for more of the same: support for an ultranationalist right that bathes itself in an ethnic supremacist philosophy and dismisses any recognition of the Palestinians as human beings with rights.

Benny Gantz and Israel’s Drive to Become a Modern-day Sparta

With April’s elections looming, sr Benjamin Netanyahu has good reason to fear Benny Gantz, his former army chief. Gantz has launched a new party, named Iaeli Resilience, just as the net of corruption indictments is closing around the prime minister.

Already, at this early stage of campaigning, some 31 per cent of the Israeli public prefer Gantz to head the next government over Netanyahu, who is only months away from becoming the longest-serving leader in Israel’s history.

Gantz is being feted as the new hope, a chance to change direction after a series of governments under Netanyahu’s leadership have over the past decade shifted Israel ever further to the right.

Like Israel’s former politician generals, from Yitzhak Rabin to Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, Gantz is being portrayed – and portraying himself – as a battle-hardened warrior, able to make peace from a position of strength.

Before he had issued a single policy statement, polls showed him winning 15 of the 120 parliamentary seats, a welcome sign for those hoping that a centre-left coalition can triumph this time.

But the reality of what Gantz stands for – revealed this week in his first election videos – is far from reassuring.

In 2014, he led Israel into its longest and most savage military operation in living memory: 50 days in which the tiny coastal enclave of Gaza was bombarded relentlessly.

By the end, one of the most densely populated areas on earth – its two million inhabitants already trapped by a lengthy Israeli blockade – lay in ruins. More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the onslaught, a quarter of them children, while tens of thousands were left homeless.

The world watched, appalled. Investigations by human rights groups such as Amnesty International concluded that Israel had committed war crimes.

One might have assumed that during the election campaign Gantz would wish to draw a veil over this troubling period in his military career. Not a bit of it.

One of his campaign videos soars over the rubble of Gaza, proudly declaring that Gantz was responsible for destroying many thousands of buildings. “Parts of Gaza have been returned to the Stone Age,” the video boasts.

This is a reference to the Dahiya doctrine, a strategy devised by the Israeli military command of which Gantz was a core member. The aim is to lay waste to the modern infrastructure of Israel’s neighbours, forcing survivors to eke out a bare existence rather than resist Israel.

The collective punishment inherent in the apocalyptic Dahiya doctrine is an undoubted war crime.

More particularly, the video exults in the destruction of Rafah, a city in Gaza that suffered the most intense bout of bombing after an Israeli soldier was seized by Hamas. In minutes, Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment killed at least 135 Palestinian civilians and wrecked a hospital.

According to investigations, Israel had invoked the Hannibal Procedure, the code name for an order allowing the army to use any means to stop one of its soldiers being taken. That includes killing civilians as “collateral damage” and, more controversially for Israelis, the soldier himself.

Gantz’s video flashes up a grand total of “1,364 terrorists killed”, in return for “three-and-a-half years of quiet”. As Israel’s liberal Haaretz daily observed, the video “celebrates a body count as if this were just some computer game”.

But the casualty figure cited by Gantz exceeds even the Israel army’s self-serving assessment – as well, of course, as dehumanising those “terrorists” fighting for their freedom.

A more impartial observer, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, estimates that the Palestinian fighters killed by Israel amounted to 765. By their reckoning, and that of other bodies such as the United Nations, almost two-thirds of Gazans killed in Israel’s 2014 operation were civilians.

Further, the “quiet” Gantz credits himself with was enjoyed chiefly by Israel.

In Gaza, Palestinians faced regular military attacks, a continuing siege choking off essential supplies and destroying their export industries, and a policy of executions by Israeli snipers firing on unarmed demonstrators at the perimeter fence imprisoning the enclave.

Gantz’s campaign slogans “Only the Strong Wins” and “Israel Before Everything” are telling. Everything, for Gantz, clearly includes human rights.

It is shameful enough that he believes his track record of war crimes will win over voters. But the same approach has been voiced by Israel’s new military chief of staff.

Aviv Kochavi, nicknamed the Philosopher Officer for his university studies, was inaugurated this month as the army’s latest head. In a major speech, he promised to reinvent the fabled “most moral army in the world” into a “deadly, efficient” one.

In Kochavi’s view, the rampaging military once overseen by Gantz needs to step up its game. And he is a proven expert in destruction.

In the early stages of the Palestinian uprising that erupted in 2000, the Israeli army struggled to find a way to crush Palestinian fighters concealed in densely crowded cities under occupation.

Kochavi came up with an ingenious solution in Nablus, where he was brigade commander. The army would invade a Palestinian home, then smash through its walls, moving from house to house, burrowing through the city unseen. Palestinian space was not only usurped, but destroyed inside-out.

Gantz, the former general hoping to lead the government, and Kochavi, the general leading its army, are symptoms of just how complete the militaristic logic that has overtaken Israel really is. An Israel determined to become a modern-day Sparta.

Should he bring about Netanyahu’s downfall, Gantz, like his predecessor politician-generals, will turn out to be a hollow peace-maker. He was trained to understand only strength, zero-sum strategies, conquest and destruction, not compassion or compromise.

More dangerously, Gantz’s glorification of his military past is likely to reinforce in Israelis’ minds the need not for peace but for more of the same: support for an ultranationalist right that bathes itself in an ethnic supremacist philosophy and dismisses any recognition of the Palestinians as human beings with rights.

Palestinians in Israel face Uncertain Political Future Amid Joint List Split

A political coalition representing Israel’s Palestinian minority – currently the third biggest faction in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset – has been plunged into crisis by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to call for a surprise general election for April.

Long-simmering ideological and personal tensions within the Joint List, comprising Israel’s four main Palestinian parties, have erupted into a split over who should dominate the faction.

Knesset member Ahmad Tibi announced this month that he would run on a separate ticket with his small Taal party, after polls showed he was more popular than the List’s current head, Ayman Odeh.

The move is yet another blow to the coalition, which has been beset by acrimony since its establishment four years ago.

The latest divisions threaten to further alienate Palestinian voters in Israel, potentially weakening their representation in the Israeli parliament and strengthening the right-wing bloc under Netanyahu.

Falling voter turnouts

The 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel are the remnants of the Palestinian population that was mostly expelled from its homeland in 1948 to create the state of Israel. Today, these Palestinians make up a fifth of the population, but face systemic discrimination.

Voter turnout among Palestinian citizens of Israel has been in steady decline for decades, reaching a low at the 2013 election, when just over half cast a ballot.

No Palestinian party has ever been invited to participate in any of the complex coalitions that are the basis of Israeli governments.

In addition, the Palestinian parties’ use of the Knesset as a platform to call for an end to the Israeli occupation and for equal rights for Palestinian citizens regularly attracts the ire of Jewish Israeli politicians.

Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan recently wrote a letter to the Knesset’s ethics committee describing Odeh, the head of the Joint List, as “a criminal and a supporter of terrorism”.

While launching his election campaign this week, former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman accused the Joint List of “treason” and called it “total lunacy” to let its representatives participate in the Knesset.

Acrimony in the Joint List

The creation of the Joint List in time for the 2015 legislative elections briefly boosted turnout, as Palestinian voters in Israel hoped it would give a stronger voice to their interests on the national stage.

The List won 13 out of the 120 seats in the Knesset, but a recent poll showed that only 44 percent of Palestinian voters thought it represented their interests, with 52 percent disagreeing.

Tibi’s departure threatens to lead to further splintering of the coalition, with the southern Islamic Movement also reportedly considering breaking away or demanding leadership of the surviving List.

Relations between the two other parties – Hadash, a block of communist and socialist groups headed by Odeh, and national-democratic party Balad – are fractious, as they compete for a similar pool of secular Palestinian voters.

Call for reform

According to Tibi, the fact that his party, Taal, only holds a single seat in the Knesset is “clearly unjust”.

“The composition of the List should be decided by the people, not decreed by the parties,” he told Middle East Eye.

According to polls, a separate Tibi ticket would be likely to receive six seats, level-pegging with the remnants of the Joint List.

He said an overhaul of the List would make it more democratic and accountable, and revive flagging support from Palestinian voters in Israel.

“The competition between two big lists will actually encourage people to come out and vote,” Tibi said. “Surveys show that we can get 12 seats when we run apart, but together we will drop to 10 or 11 seats.

“The other parties don’t want change because they are afraid of the outcome.”

Tibi said he would consider returning to the List only if it introduced more democratic procedures allotting seats to the parties on the basis of their popularity – either assessed through opinion polls or primaries.

Split could backfire

On social media, Odeh harshly criticised Tibi for the breakup, accusing him of prioritising his “personal interests”.

“Netanyahu wants to see the Joint List break up more than anyone else. The extreme right wants to divide and conquer the Arabs,” he tweeted.

According to analysts, the split could indeed backfire, fuelling disenchantment.

“Surveys show that people support the idea of the Joint List but want more, not less, unity from its parties. They want it better organised and more effective,” Asad Ghanem, a political scientist at Haifa University, told MEE.

“If that trend doesn’t continue, a significant proportion are likely to stay home – or vote for Jewish parties on the basis that at least those parties have some influence within the Israeli political system.”

‘Coming out in droves’

Ghanem also noted that Tibi, a former adviser to late Palestinian national leader Yasser Arafat, had until now been a largely one-man outfit. In the past, he has always allied with another party at election time.

“On paper, Tibi enjoys a lot of support, but that ignores the difficulty he faces widening his party’s appeal,” he said. “He needs to create a convincing list of candidates and establish a party machine capable of bringing out his voters to the polls.”

A combination of low turnout and separate parties could mean one or more fail to pass an electoral threshold, dramatically reducing Palestinian representation in the Knesset.

That would likely delight the Israeli right, including Netanyahu, who raised the electoral threshold before the 2015 vote in an undisguised bid to prevent Palestinian parties from winning seats.

When the Palestinian parties responded by forming the Joint List, Netanyahu used scaremongering on polling day to rally his supporters. He warned Jewish voters that the Palestinian minority was “coming out to vote in droves”.

Aida Touma-Suleiman, a legislator for the Hadash party, said those who preferred the Joint List to splinter were “gambling” that they would manage to pass the threshold. “That’s a very dangerous position to adopt,” she told MEE.

Need for common platform

Ghanem criticised the Joint List for failing to make an impact on the most pressing socio-economic issues faced by the Palestinian minority. Half of Palestinian families in Israel live under the poverty line, nearly four times the rate among Israeli Jews.

He also accused the List of failing to effectively counter recent legislative moves by the Netanyahu government that have targeted the rights of Israel’s Palestinian minority.

In 2016, the government passed an Expulsion Law empowering a three-quarters majority of the parliament to ban a legislator for holding unpopular political views. It was widely seen as a measure to silence Palestinian Knesset members.

And last summer, Israel voted through the Nation-State Basic Law, which explicitly gives the Jewish people alone a right to self-determination in Israel.

Ghanem said the Joint List’s failure to offer a clear position on the last law, or mobilise Palestinian opinion against it, was especially glaring.

“The problem is that the List has failed to develop a common political programme. It is not enough to have a Joint List, it must have a joint voice too.”

Touma-Suleiman, however, called much of the criticism of the Joint List unfair.

“The Nation State Law showed exactly what the Netanyahu government thinks of our rights. Anything we achieve is like pulling teeth from the lion’s mouth,” she said. “We are operating in a very hostile political environment.”

Crisis of legitimacy

Jafar Farah, the director of Mossawa, an advocacy group for Israel’s Palestinian citizens and rumoured to be a future candidate for the Hadash party, agreed with Tibi that the Joint List was suffering from a crisis of legitimacy.

“Who speaks for our community when we address the Israeli public or speak to the Palestinian Authority or attend discussions in Europe?” he told MEE. “That person needs to be able to say credibly that they represent the community.”

Farah, however, noted that the reality of Palestinians in Israel was “more complicated” than that for most other national minorities. Israeli officials have strenuously objected to any efforts by the Palestinian minority to create its own internal parliament or seek self-determination.

Nonetheless, he said, the Palestinian parties were making themselves irrelevant by focusing on a two-state solution in an era when Netanyahu and the right had imposed on the region their agenda of permanent occupation in the context of a single state.

“We can’t just accept the rules of a political game in which we operate in the margins of a Jewish democracy. It is not enough just to have a leader, we need to offer a new political vision. We have to be creative and bring a new agenda.

“The Jewish majority won’t come to our aid. We have to lead the struggle and be ready to pay the price.”

End of ideological politics

Ghanem said the Joint List’s failures, combined with the collapse of any peace-making efforts to end the occupation, had encouraged a move away from ideological politics among many Palestinian voters in Israel.

“People are instead increasingly focusing on their own personal concerns,” he said.

He pointed to recent local elections in Nazareth, the largest Palestinian-majority city in Israel, where the main political parties bowed out and left the mayoral race to two independent candidates.

The trend away from ideological politics was being reinforced, as elsewhere, by new media that offered people a wider set of perspectives.

“Generally, people feel more confused, and want clear, strong figures like a Netanyahu or a Trump,” Ghanem said. “Tibi can exploit that trend.”

Gaining more influence

Tibi said it was vital for the parties to find a way to make alliances with centre and centre-left Jewish parties in the current climate.

“It is not just about getting more Arab legislators into the Knesset,” he said. “It is about having more legislators who can have an influence, who can help shape the choice of the prime minister. That is imperative if we are going to bring down Netanyahu and the right.”

Tibi said he hoped that, by rebuilding the credibility of the Palestinian parties, they would be in a position to form a “blocking majority” in the Knesset, similar to the situation in the early 1990s.

Then, a newly elected centre-left coalition headed by Yitzhak Rabin needed the support of the Palestinian parties to push through the Oslo Accords, against fierce opposition from the right, led by Netanyahu.

Rabin did so through an arrangement with Palestinian legislators that they would back the coalition from outside the government.

“We helped Rabin achieve his goals and in return the situation of our community improved, with more rights and higher budgets,” said Tibi. “We can be in that position again but only if we can regain the confidence of our community.”

Calls for boycott

Tibi and others believe that, if the turnout among Palestinian citizens returns to the levels of the 1980s, the minority could elect several more legislators, potentially tipping the balance towards a centre-left government.

But for that to happen, the Palestinian parties will need to overturn growing apathy and frustration from their voters, warned Ghanem.

Salman Masalha, a Palestinian columnist for Haaretz newspaper, called the Palestinian members of the Knesset “a fig leaf” whose participation served only to “beautify the state to the world, making it look like a vibrant democracy”.

He argued for a boycott of the election, playing on Netanyahu’s 2015 election incitement: “Arab citizens must respond, ‘the Arabs are boycotting in droves’ the scam of Israeli democracy.”

A boycott of the national elections is the official platform of two factions: the small, staunchly secular Abnaa al-Balad (Sons of the Land) party and the popular northern wing of the Islamic Movement, under Sheikh Raed Salah, which the Netanyahu government outlawed four years ago.

Ghanem observed that Netanyahu’s fate, as he faces indictment on several corruption charges in the midst of the election campaign, could play a decisive role in the turnout of Palestinian voters.

“If Netanyahu looks vulnerable, more [Palestinian voters] will come out in the hope that their parties will be able to support the centre-left in challenging the right.

“But if he looks likely to win, as seems the case at the moment, then many will conclude that the situation is hopeless and stay home.”

• First published in Middle East Eye

Israeli Politics is Being Dragged into the Grubby Realm of Reality TV

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu commandeered the country’s airwaves last week in what many assumed would prove a moment of profound national import. They could not have been more wrong.

The context was his decision last month to move forward the general election to April, widely seen as a desperate effort to turn the vote into a referendum on his innocence as long-standing corruption investigations close in.

The police have recommended that he be charged over three separate allegations of bribery. By calling the election, Netanyahu has forced the attorney-general, Avichai Mendelblit, onto unfamiliar – and constitutionally tricky – terrain.

Mendelblit, an appointee of Netanyahu’s, has indicated that he will make a decision on whether to issue an indictment before the ballot, so that voters have the facts to make an informed choice.

But Netanyahu has said he won’t drop out or resign, even if indicted, and there is no decisive precedent to suggest he must.

Instead, he would prefer to bully the attorney-general into delaying a decision until after voters have spoken. That was the purpose of his unexpected live national TV address.

His supporters have already set the stage, claiming that an indictment mid-campaign would influence the outcome and usurp the will of the people.

Either way, Netanyahu hopes to benefit. If an indictment is served before the vote, it will rile up his base and bolster a carefully crafted narrative that he faces a campaign of persecution from state authorities.

If Mendelblit delays, Netanyahu will aim to exploit any electoral success to face down prosecutors, accusing them of seeking to reverse his popular mandate.

Netanyahu’s strategy was on full show last week when he took to the main TV channels. He used this moment of enforced national attention for nothing more serious than a self-serving gripe.

The investigators, led by a far-right police commander he personally approved, had supposedly joined a leftist plot to oust him. The proof was that they had denied him a chance to confront in person his accusers – former aides turned state witness – and challenge their testimony.

Claiming that he had been stripped of his legal rights, Netanyahu demanded a showdown be broadcast live – effectively trailblazing a new type of reality TV show for suspects in high-profile criminal cases.

Of course, Netanyahu understands only too well that such confrontations with witnesses are decided by the police, not the accused, and used only when evidence needs to be tested.

The police believe they already have the evidence required for a conviction, and hope to test it in a court of law, not in the type of TV spectacle in which Netanyahu excels.

Netanyahu’s move was intended to reinforce his claim that the “system” – one that has kept him and the ultra-nationalist right in uninterrupted power for a decade – is rigged against him.

There was a striking parallel with events last week in the United States, where President Donald Trump similarly addressed the nation to corner his opponents in Congress.

In his case, Trump sought to rally his base by fearmongering about a supposed “invasion” of immigrants, suggesting that the Democrats were subverting his efforts to block their entry with an Israeli-style wall.

But whereas many have described Netanyahu’s latest intervention as “Trumpian”, in truth the Israeli leader is as well-practiced as his American counterpart in the dark arts of media manipulation.

Two of the three bribery cases he faces relate directly to allegations that he offered favours – in one case captured on tape – to Israeli media moguls in return for better coverage in their publications.

Netanyahu has long demonstrated an obsession with controlling his image, and has proved an arch-manipulator of passions to mobilise support for his hawkish agenda.

It was at the last general election, in 2015, that he turned the tables on his right-wing rivals at the last moment. He rallied voters by claiming that Israel’s Palestinian citizens – a fifth of the population – were turning out in “droves” at polling booths. Only a vote for Netanyahu, he suggested, would save the Jewish state.

Not only did he imply that voting by Palestinian citizens was illegitimate, he claimed that the Israeli left was “bussing” them to the polls, citing this falsehood as proof of the left’s treachery.

Now Netanyahu is again deploying the “leftist” slur, this time to discredit the police and prosecution service.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Netanyahu’s Likud party is the only faction opposed to a plan by the Central Elections Committee to bar online propaganda in the campaign’s final two months.

Underscoring the way TV has increasingly become a tool in Israel not for clarifying issues but for inflaming emotions, the US TV comedian Roseanne Barr has been invited to address the Israeli parliament at the end of the month.

She will use the opportunity to denounce as Jew haters activists in the international boycott movement who stand in solidarity with Palestinians. Only in Israel’s current degraded public discourse would Barr, who has a history of making offensive comments variously about Jews, Muslims and black people, be taken seriously as an arbiter of racism.

Analysts widely expect this election campaign to be the dirtiest in Israel’s history. But, although they worry about Netanyahu’s demagoguery, they still overlook its grubbiest aspect.

Palestinians under occupation have been effectively disappeared from the campaign. They will have no voice in choosing the Israeli politicians who have determined their fate for the past five decades.

In fact, not one of the Israeli Jewish parties is highlighting Palestinian rights or putting the occupation at the centre of its platform. The vast majority of Israeli politicians want to entrench the occupation, not end it.

Israeli commentators noted that Mr Netanyahu had another pressing reason – apart from legal threats – to bring forward the election. He feared that otherwise Trump might unveil his long-promised peace plan.

However bad that plan will be for Palestinians, Netanyahu does not want his unwillingness to make concessions exposed.

But Netanyahu is far from the gravest threat to Israel’s “democracy”. The most dangerous thing of all is the widespread refusal in Israel to recognise that the Palestinians are human beings too – and that they should be able to determine their own fate, just like Israelis.

Charter Schools Haunt More Election Races

The intensely controversial nature of nonprofit and for-profit charter schools in the U.S., due in no small part to endless news about the infinite problems plaguing them, is increasingly a major issue in local, state, and federal election campaigns. It is hard to find a political race today where a candidate, especially a school board candidate, is not expected to have some position, hopefully well-worked out, but usually not, on charter schools. Tens of millions of dollars are being spent in some places based almost entirely on whether a candidate supports or opposes charter schools (e.g., California recently). This point is especially critical to appreciate as the tide against charter schools steadily rises. The last thing charter school advocates want is to open the door to disciplined investigation and serious discussion on charter schools. For them, disinformation and propaganda must have the upper hand. Informed, conscious, and oriented people do not serve their agenda.

Currently, more than a dozen individuals are vying for the position of Mayor of Chicago, a powerful position in one of the country’s largest cities, not to mention home to about 125 charter schools and the place from whence education privatizer and former U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, sprung. Elections will be held on February 26, 2019. Incumbent Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, is not seeking reelection.

A December 28, 2018 Chicago Sun-Times article titled, “Where 14 candidates for mayor stand on charter schools — their full responses,” exposes the extreme confusion that has traumatized the public and distorted the “great charter school debate” for decades.

The first paragraph of the Chicago Sun-Times article reads: “Fourteen of the candidates for mayor responded to our question about the future of charter schools in Chicago. We asked: What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?”

Revealing its bias, the Chicago Sun-Times automatically assumes that charter schools not only have a role, but an  “appropriate role,” and one “within the Chicago Public Schools system.” The newspaper could just have easily asked something like: “is there any justification for the existence of charter schools?” But it cannot do this because this is not its reference point, this is not its starting point for discussion. The paper thus begins with the acceptance of charter schools.

Predictably, candidates who support charter schools—the vast majority—tend to rely on the outdated ideologies of choice, consumerism, individualism, and competition to express their support for charter schools. This is often accompanied by the self-serving misuse of the concept of “parent power” to “justify” charter schools. The conclusion that education is a basic human right that cannot be given or taken away and that government must provide such a right with a guarantee in practice, is nowhere to be found in the discourse of charter school supporters. From their narrow perspective, everyone simply fends for themselves when it comes to getting into a good school, while hoping that the “free market” will not fail them as it has in every other sphere of life. Education is nothing more than a commodity. This old outlook also steadfastly maintains a no-facts, no-analysis, and no-discussion orientation when it comes to investigating and exposing why the rich and their state actively mandate school failure, particularly in urban communities, in the first place.

Supporters and Opponents

It is clear from the breakdown of supporters and opponents of charter schools (see below) that the corporate school reformers have the upper hand in Chicago and are determined to continue to ravage the third largest public school system in the country.

Students, teachers, parents, and others defending the public interest have their work cut out for them and will have to step up their efforts to combat the onslaught of disinformation coming from charter school supporters and their wealthy backers (e.g., the Walton family). Only one candidate appears to be reliably opposed to charter schools.

Mayoral candidates who support charter schools: Lori Lightfoot, Dorothy Brown, John Kenneth Kozlar, Paul Vallas, Gery Chico, La Shawn Ford, Jerry Joyce, Susana Mendoza, Bob Fioretti, Bill Daley, and Garry McCarthy.

Mayoral candidates who oppose charter schools: Toni Preckwinkle.

Mayoral candidate Amara Enyia provided perhaps one of the more useful critiques of charter schools but did not openly state whether she supports or opposes them. Another candidate,  Willie Wilson, also failed to clarify his position on charter schools. Candidates who fit this profile usually do not oppose charter schools firmly and unequivocally. Like many in the charter school supporter column, they will offer some convoluted, fence-riding, “balanced view” that, in effect, represents concrete support for charter schools; they just don’t wish to appear too unabashed and raw in their support of charter schools so that they appear to be “measured” in their comments on charter schools.

Taking Up Our Social Responsibility

Charter schools are on the agenda in the U.S. like never before, and they will continue to come to the fore in more forceful ways in the months ahead, thereby expanding the space for opponents of privatization and supporters of social responsibility to reverse the destructive neoliberal direction of education and society. People no longer want to see their public schools looted by wealthy private interests concerned only with building their private empires at any cost to society.

People are increasingly realizing that those in power have no solutions and are unfit to govern. They are depriving society and its members of solutions to major problems, causing misery for millions. Experience repeatedly confirms that relying on the politicians and experts doesn’t work, and that if things are going to move in a pro-social human-centered direction, then it is up to the people alone to independently forge a path of progress free of illusions, amnesia, disinformation, and a brutal financial oligarchy that will do anything to satisfy its unlimited greed.

People have more power than they realize. It is a power that oftentimes lies latent, waiting to be activated in order to usher in exciting progress for humanity and an end to the devastation wrought by the rich and their outdated economic system.

Capitalist Society Under the One Party of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

The delay of the socialist revolution engenders the indubitable phenomena of barbarism — chronic unemployment, pauperization of the petty bourgeoisie, fascism, finally wars of extermination which do not open up any new road.

— Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism

While the citizens of the rich world are protected from harm, the poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh reality of climate change in their everyday lives…. We are drifting into a world of ‘adaptation apartheid.

— South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, United Nations Human Development Report 2007-2008

That puking up barbarism phenomena in this enclave of genocide and perpetual war, resource theft and global toxification come in a coat of many colors. In the simplest terms I see it daily in my job as underpaid and spat upon social worker jiggering with the penury, punishment and putrefying systems of bureaucratic hell and legal rape exemplified in the schizophrenic American version of capitalism.

In no way am I ever NOT entertained by the magical thinking and retrograde beliefs of those I serve – homeless veterans who in some cases decry welfare for the masses while picking up their welfare checks and benefits from the Veterans Administration. On top of that, they feel entitled because they ended up in the economic draft of the US Military Industrial Complex. These are not the ones who saw “battle” overseas, but the ones who were snookered into thinking a tour here or there, in a non-combatant role would get them somewhere in life.

Broken people come to the military, and the military breaks them again, and, the gift that keeps on giving are the systems of oppression and criminalization of living life in Trump’s “MAGA, MAGA über alles, über alles in der Welt.”

Reality is that this thing called America, united snakes one in all, was running on that manifest destruction at the moment those Puritanical misanthropes ended up on the east coast with their fears, dark perversions, warped criminal religiosity and white DNA primed for a taking, eminent domain and killings far and wide.

On the one hand, my clients with mental strains beyond repair and hobbled with a truck-load of PTSD, and another container ship full of physical ailments believe their “service” was honorable, somehow divorced from the huge welfare trough that is the military-private contractor complex, and more so, suspended from the reality that their own kind — fellow soldiers ranging from the likes of a Private Gomer Pyle to Gen Schwarzkopf — screwed them in every which way possible inside the human frame of exploitation and downright pathological assault on every front.

Screwed them with shitty equipment, shittier intel, rampant rotten orders, and a million environmental assaults that have rendered millions of men and women who individually barely served a few years into the walking-wheelchaired-vegetative state wounded.

There have been a million battles and skirmishes that were set up as suicide assaults.

Then on the other hand, some of the clients who are self-declared  deplorables — who believe in Trump as something more than a rotten, lying, wimp of a man with his self-anointed Six Star General’s Bully Epaulets and Bone Spurs Yellow Streak Academy Jumpsuit — are not limited to a bunch of uneducated cretins, but also those who thought time served would be a touchstone in their lives.

Constantly, I have to wrestle with my clients’ reprobate ideas that anything about the government sucks and everything about private capital shines. It’s a reverse ideology of anti-Americanism: against teachers, against librarians, against the postman, against scientists and doctors and others from the so-called Great American Democracy as products of state schools, state governments, municipalities, and the like. They’ll root for these pathetic sports teams, both college and the pros, rendering stupid their concept of where those facilities are and where the billionaire owners get their sports gladiators.

Delusional, really, as my clients shudder with spiritual epiphany at those millionaire preachers like the Billy-Frank Graham Klan and hyper-millionaires running the retail show and all those attendant systems of destruction in the Big Pharma-Big Prison-Big Energy-Big Mining-Big Ag-Big Construction Complex they so often defend as the Defenders of Democracy in Private enterprise.

Here’s a common link to the duality of systems of oppression, that structural violence that leads communities and entire classes and races of people into more and more dungeons of despair and destruction:

One fellow, 62, homeless because the apartment management tossed him out as the maintenance man, with the free apartment in the mix. Out of a job and no longer making the dough to pay rent, he was forced to squat for a while before the iron jaws of the sheriff department came in and served him eviction papers.

Lapsed car insurance, lapsed driver’s license, and, alas, a speeding ticket in a school zone. And, now, 8 years later after eight years on the road and homeless, this little shithole town of King City has him in their vise for $1700. The original ticket was $700 with the add on’s of court fees, administrative costs and other highway robbery checks and balances. So, this fellow is in need of a driver’s license, but these cities have been colonized by those PRIVATIZERS – in this case some multi-millionaire outfit out of Gig Harbor, Washington, which takes on the collections. Imagine, we want to set up a payment plan, even though this fine has passed the statute of limitations. But the City of King City, OR, puts a hold on releasing licenses until every red-blooded Yankee cent is paid off.

We can only imagine what the cut is for this Little Eichmann outfit collecting fines from hundreds of cities, maybe thousands. The interest of a thousand bucks might be waived, but still, the $700 is probably only pennies on the dollar for the city as the Collection Agency (AKA mob in MBA clothing) racks up the largess of the original out of wack fine as profit running their boiler rooms of collection workers.

Punishment, boomerang retribution. Name one place and one job where a personal vehicle can easily be pushed aside as part of the work routine, discounted as a necessity of getting to and from work, or the fact that blue collar work never requires a driver’s license for using company vehicles. Right! A driver’s license is a right, not a privilege, in this bunkered society!

The great American rah-rah, fighting for one’s country, fighting for these evil punks like a Trump, just doesn’t cut it when the ex-soldiers start adding up the contradictions and outright lies of the elite class, which a Trump and his cronies signify and exemplify.

The core of these systems of pain and recurring punishment generates hate, fear, resentment, anger and violence – of the mind, violence of the soul and possible violence exacted on the innocents and not so innocents around them.

These characters I work with mostly never look at the concurrency of pathological serial shooters and these racist, homophobic anti-tolerance military experience, or how these synagogue attackers were subliminally and overtly recruited into the Armed Services with the true blue Yankee Doodle Dandy and Johnny Comes Marching Home Again glee perpetrated again by the neo-fascist army of Republicans and Trump Lagoon Monsters, all of which the Democrats simultaneously hide from and deal with.

Colonized With Hive and Mob Mentalities Simultaneously

I’ve signed permission passes (we force adults to sign and ask for permission to leave a homeless facility!) for overnight stays away from the shelter where I work for people who have brokered this idea of “anomie” into their very existence, a lack of meaningful and structuralized social life in return for Black Friday, the height of meaningless self-gratification at the expense of not only the planet but the faceless and nameless people charged with running this engine of Retailapithecus restlessness. As Émile Durkheim the sociologist stated, we are a modern culture where the individual follows an increasingly “restless movement, a planless self-development, an aim of living which has no criterion of value and in which happiness lies always in the future, and never in the present achievement.”

More and more of the clients I work with have as their end goal individualized happiness, their 40 acres and a mule dream, for me myself and I. They come from a hive of military brainwashing and propaganda, one where leaders are followed and hated at the same time, one where the broken system of war, empire, manifest destiny, nation invasions and nation building (sic) is their ultimate plan of self-gratification – I joined to protect the flag, our way of life and to protect our borders from savages and invaders. Except the borders, as anyone knowing the history of these here United Snakes of America, is all about Norte Americanos encroaching and breaking the borders of others.

As Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz states in the Boston Review:

Even during the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies continued to war against the nations of the Diné and Apache, the Cheyenne and the Dakota, inflicting hideous massacres upon civilians and forcing their relocations. Yet when considering the history of U.S. imperialism and militarism, few historians trace their genesis to this period of internal empire-building. They should. The origin of the United States in settler colonialism—as an empire born from the violent acquisition of indigenous lands and the ruthless devaluation of indigenous lives—lends the country unique characteristics that matter when considering questions of how to unhitch its future from its violent DNA.

So, when I speak to the veterans and their families I work with on this matter of America’s soul wrapped in the banner of decimating other peoples who were here first, there is bloviating, knee-jerk proclamations that the victors enjoy the spoils, and that there is a god-given right to the American (white) ideal of moving the world toward His image.

This calculus I deploy for the homeless, those who have been screwed-blued-and-tattooed by the systems of oppression, by those debt collectors, those police and sheriff departments, by the judges and lawyers, top and bottom feeders all: I remind them that the so-called victors in their America are the One percent, including cretins from Hollywood, all the way to former generals/lobbyists/ contractors, and to include their sacred religious snake oil men like Graham. I remind them the wars they maybe have participated in were wars of oppression and wars of profits, completely tied to the ideals of screwing and stealing from your neighbor. That karmic doozy comes boomeranging back in the form of the victors on Wall Street, in the Boardrooms, and at the corporate tables of the Military-Pharma-Med-Prison-Education-Real Estate-Chemical-IT-Retail Complex. These too are the American ideals they supposedly signed up to protect with their lives in someone else’s country.

Again, what are we fighting for, sir?

This country’s leaders have always been Bill-Barak-Donald; Bezos-Adelson-Walton; CNN-FOX-Breitbart. “Money talks and money rules” is not some new Mar-a-Lago printed saying on Trump Condoms! As I continually told my 32-year military veteran father, his “work” in Korea, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, et al was work for-by-and-because of the elites, the ones making two-bit Tin Soldiers jump through burning buildings and forced marches up another Pork Chop-Hamburger-Gizzard Hill. Marching orders by these bastions of money power and debt dread have been the history of these Un-united States.

Of course, the soldiers who are of color rarely jump on this Sherman Tank towed “bandwagon,” but to be sure, we talk about their own dire circumstances enveloped in the same sort of so-called “The Victors Enjoying the Spoils” mentality. The spoils include a complete but suppressed history of theft, lynchings, treaty breaking, incarcerations, land despoilments, eminent domain.

Black men and women fighting against black men and women from their mothership — Africa. AFRICOM. Imagine, a Black Alliance for Peace, and a movement to stop US military involvement in Africa, and again these disruptions of the narrative of white supremacy get flummoxed, and the irony of brown and black and red soldiers fighting for what, who knows, but definitely part of the system of oppression of their own people.

So, again, I go for the jugular, the fact that my old man and I argued much about the military’s legitimacy while on the same hand he agreed in my pursuit of journalism, writing, teaching, and education:

Not only does there need to be a mass movement in the U.S. to shut down AFRICOM, this mass movement needs to become inseparably bound with the movement that has swept this country to end murderous police brutality against Black and Brown people. The whole world must begin to see AFRICOM and the militarization of police departments as counterparts.

 Netfa Freeman, of Pan-African Community Action (PACA) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Freeman represents PACA, a BAP member organization, on BAP’s Coordinating Committee.

It cost $267 million to fund AFRICOM in 2018. Probably a lot more in dark money and secret budgets; let alone the billions coming from the Economic Hit Men:

That money is stolen from Africans/Black people in the U.S. to terrorize and steal resources from our sisters and brothers on the African continent. Instead, that money should be put toward meeting our human needs in the U.S. and toward reparations for people in every African nation affected by U.S. imperialism.

—  Vanessa Beck, BAP research team lead and Coordinating Committee member.

So, them’s fighting words, as the white damaged veterans reach for words, epithets, rejoinders, and false dichotomies in the form of, Might Makes Right. There is a greater good in what us mere mortals see. Money Talks, of course, as many of them believe this irreligious, woman thumper, chubby bully, inconceivably smut-riddled man is THEIR commander in chief.

This ground truthing isn’t a hot commodity on the lefty or progressive or socialist web sites, for sure, where their own respective tidy thinking is vaunted over messy shit coming from the mouths of people scratching for a living doing this dirty work of counseling assuredly lost, wounded, broken and in many cases, mean as cuss souls.

That 35,000-foot Noam Chomsky view is heralded over the gutter view, and it’s no deep search for meaning to understand the hive and the mob mentality colonizing those Democratic Socialists of America folk, those pro-Israel-at-any-cost Bernie folk, those Pried from My Cold Dead Hand NRA folk. You got the Godfather Cuomo in Albany getting some robed lion of repression judge to legally change his name to Mario Amazon Direct Cuomo, with all the dildos and vibrators free for life!

Trump or Biden, Adelson or Soros, Chris Wallace or Rachel Maddow, Daryl Hannah or Caitlyn Jenner. Charmin or Cottenelle. Coke or Pepsi. Prozac or Zoloft. Raytheon or Northrup Grumman. Mad dog Mattis or Old Blood and Guts Patton. Steelers or Florida State. A Star is Born or Bohemian Rhapsody.

The trenches are rarely delineated or written about, just these huge “investigative research white papers” on the power of the elite to powerfully corrupt all systems that were supposed to be set up to help-aid-assist-protect-empower-develop we the people’s communities. However, there are no more communities, just chaos (controlled chaos), disruptive technologies-economies-structural systems of repressions. Just Madison Avenue, Just Manufactured Narratives, Just Fallen Anti-Heroes, Just Entertainment.

Feeding the dopamine hits as the marketers of disaster-demented-demolition capitalism control all markets, all psychologies, all media, all armies.

The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.

— Eric Fromm, The Sane Society

A New Capital? Palestinians say Abu Dis is No Substitute for East Jerusalem

From the offputting concrete edifice that confronts a visitor to Abu Dis, the significance of this West Bank town – past and present – is not immediately obvious.

The eight metre-high grey slabs of Israel’s separation wall silently attest to a divided land and a quarter-century of a failed Middle East peace process.

The entrance to Abu Dis could not be more disconcerting, given reports that Donald Trump’s administration intends it to be the capital of a future Palestinian state, in place of Jerusalem.

The wall, and the security cameras lining the top of it, are the legacy of battles for control of Jerusalem’s borders. Sections of concrete remain charred black by fires residents set years ago in the forlorn hope of weakening the structure and bringing it down.

Before the wall was erected more than a decade ago, Abu Dis had a spectacular view across the valley to Jerusalem’s Old City and the iconic golden-topped Dome of the Rock, less than three kilometres away. It was a few minutes’ drive – or an hour’s hike – to Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the reputed location of Jesus’s crucifixion.

Now, for many of the 13,000 inhabitants, Jerusalem might as well as be on another planet. They can no longer reach its holy places, markets, schools or hospitals.

Abu Dis, say its residents, is hemmed in on all sides – by Israel’s oppressive wall; by illegal Jewish settlements encroaching relentlessly on what is left of its lands; and by a large, Israeli-run landfill site that, according to experts, is a threat to human health.

The Palestinian authorities do not even control Abu Dis. The Israeli security cameras watch over it and armoured jeeps full of Israeli soldiers make forays at will into its crowded streets.

Perhaps fittingly, given the Palestinians’ current plight, Abu Dis feels more like it is being gradually turned into one wing of a dystopian open-air prison than a capital-in-waiting.

Abu Dis repackaged

Nonetheless, the town has been thrust into the spotlight. Rumours have intensified that US President Trump’s promised peace plan – what he terms the “deal of the century” – is nearing completion. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been drafting it for more than a year.

Back in January Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, confirmed for the first time that the White House was leaning on him to accept Abu Dis as his capital.

The issue has become highly charged for Palestinians since May, when Mr Trump overturned decades of diplomatic consensus by moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

That appeared to overturn a once widely shared assumption that Israel would be required to withdraw from East Jerusalem, which it occupied in 1967, and allow the Palestinians to declare it their capital.

Instead Mr Kushner and his team appear to believe they can repackage Abu Dis, just outside the city limits, as a substitute capital.

How plausible is it that the Palestinians can accept a ghettoised, anonymous community like Abu Dis for such a pivotal role in their nation-building project?

Symbolic power

Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian cabinet minister, said Mr Trump would find no takers among the Palestinian leadership.

“A Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital simply won’t work. It’s not credible,” he said. “It’s not just Jerusalem’s religious and historic significance. It also has strategic, economic and geographic importance to Palestinians.”

The people of Abu Dis appear to feel the same way, with many pointing to Jerusalem’s enormous symbolic power, as well as the potential role of international tourism in developing the Palestinian economy.

Abu Dis, however, is unlikely ever to attract visitors, even should it get a dramatic makeover.

The approach road, skirting the massive settlement of Maale Adumim, home to 40,000 Jews, is adorned with red signs warning that it is dangerous for Israelis to enter the area.

The section of wall at the entrance to Abu Dis alludes to the residents’ growing anger and frustration – not only with Israel but some of their own leaders.

Artists have spray-painted a giant image of Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian resistance leader imprisoned by Israel for the past 16 years. It shows him lifting his handcuffed hands to make a V-for-victory sign.

But noticeably, next to him is a much smaller image of Mr Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, whose face has been painted out. He has come under mounting domestic criticism for maintaining Palestinian “security cooperation” with Israel’s occupation forces.

Resentment at such cooperation is felt especially keenly in Abu Dis. Large iron gates in the wall give the Israeli army ready access in and out of the town.

An orphaned town

Under the Oslo accords signed in the mid-1990s, all of Abu Dis was placed temporarily under Israeli military control, and most of it under Israel’s civil control also. That temporary status appears to have become permanent, leaving residents at the whim of hostile Israeli authorities who deny building permits and readily issue demolition orders.

The restrictions mean Abu Dis lacks most of the infrastructure one would associate with a city, let alone a capital.

Abdulwahab Sabbah, a local community activist, said: “We are now a small island of territory controlled by the Israeli army.

“Not only have we lost our schools, the hospitals we once used, our holy places, the job opportunities that the city offered. Families have been split apart too, unable to visit their relatives in Jerusalem.

“We have been orphaned. We have lost Jerusalem, our mother.”

A short drive into Abu Dis and the shell of a huge building comes into view, a reminder that the idea of an Abu Dis upgrade is not the Trump administration’s alone.

In fact, noted Mr Khatib, Israel began rebranding Abu Dis as a second “Al Quds” – the Holy City, the Arabic name for Jerusalem – in the late 1990s, after the Oslo agreement allowed Palestinian leaders to return to Gaza and limited parts of the West Bank.

The Palestinian leadership, desperate to get a foothold closer to the densely populated neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, played along. They expected that Israel would eventually relinquish Abu Dis to full Palestinian control, allowing it to be annexed to East Jerusalem in a future peace deal.

View of al-Aqsa

In 1996 the Palestinians began work building a $4 million parliament on the side of Abu Dis closest to Jerusalem. The location was selected so that the office of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would have a view of Al Aqsa.

Reports from that time talk of Abu Dis becoming a gateway, or “safe corridor”, for West Bank Palestinians to reach the mosque. One proposal was to build a tunnel between Abu Dis and the Old City.

However, with the outbreak of hostilities in 2000 – a Palestinian intifada – work on the parliament came to a halt. The interior was never finished, and there is now no view of Al Aqsa. The parliament too is sealed off from Jerusalem by the wall.

Since then Israel has barred the Palestinian Authority from having any role in East Jerusalem.

Khalil Erekat, a caretaker, holds the key to the unused parliament. Once visitors could inspect the building, including its glass-domed central chamber. Now, he said, only pigeons and the odd stray dog or snake ventured inside.

“No one comes any more,” he added. “The place has been forgotten.”

And that, it seems, is the way Palestinian officials would prefer it. With the Trump administration mooting the town as a substitute capital, the parliament is now an embarrassing white elephant.

Requests from The National to the Palestinian authorities to visit the building were rejected on the grounds that it was no longer structurally safe.

Eyesore ghetto

Evidence of how quickly Israel has transformed Abu Dis from a rural suburb of Jerusalem into an eyesore ghetto are evident in the homes around the parliament.

A once-palatial four-storey home next door would be more in place in war-ravaged Gaza than an impending capital. Its collapsed top floors sit precariously above the rest of the structure.

Mohammed Anati, a retired carpenter aged 64, is a tenant occupying the bottom floor with his wife and three sons.

He said the destruction was carried out by the Jerusalem municipality several years ago, apparently because the upper floors were built in violation of planning rules Israeli military authorities imposed after 1967.

Neighbours speculate that, in fact, Israel was more concerned that the top of the building provided views over the wall.

Mr Anati said that, paradoxically, the Jerusalem municipality treated this small neighbourhood next to the wall as within its jurisdiction. “We have to pay council taxes to Jerusalem even though we are cut off from the city and receive no services,” he said.

Asked whether he thought Abu Dis could be a Palestinian capital, Mr Anati scoffed. “Trump will offer us the worst deal of the century,” he said. “Jerusalem has to be the capital. There is nothing of Jerusalem here since Israel built the wall.”

Only pigeons still free

Nearby, Ghassan Abu Hillel’s two-storey home presses up against the grey slabs of concrete. He said cameras on the top of the wall monitored his and his neighbours’ activities around the clock.

His family moved to this house in 1967, when he was 14 years old, and shortly before Israel occupied Abu Dis, along with the rest of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Until the wall was constructed, he spent his time herding sheep and goats on the surrounding hills.

Now he has had to corral then into a corner of the wall. Their improvised pen is daubed with graffiti: “Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape.”

His herd of what was once more than 200 sheep is down to barely a dozen. The animals can no longer graze out on the hills, and he cannot afford the cost of feeding them straw.

Unlike Mr Abu Hillel and the sheep, his pigeons still enjoy their freedom. “They can fly over the wall and reach Jerusalem whenever they want,” he said.

His family owned much of the land surrounding Abu Dis before 1967, he added, but almost all of it had been taken by Israel – originally on the pretext that it was needed for military purposes.

Since then, Israel has built a series of Jewish settlements on the surrounding land, including Maale Adumim, Kfar Adumim and Kedar.

In the early 1980s it also opened a landfill site to cope with the region’s waste. In 2009 the United Nations warned that toxic fumes from waste-burning and leakage into the groundwater posed a threat to local inhabitants’ health.

A bluff from Israel

Some residents are actively finding ways to break out of the isolation imposed on Abu Dis by Israel.

Mr Sabbah is a founder of the Friendship Association, which encourages exchange programmes with European students, teachers and youth clubs. His most successful project is the twinning of Abu Dis with the London borough of Camden.

Mr Sabbah’s prominent political activities may be one reason why his home – along with the local mayor’s – was one of 10 invaded in the middle of the night on September 4.

The operation had the hallmarks of what former Israeli soldiers from the whistleblowing group Breaking the Silence have termed “establishing presence” – military training exercises designed to disrupt the lives of Palestinian communities and spread fear.

Mr Sabbah is sceptical that the Abu Dis proposal by the Trump administration has been made in good faith.

“It’s a bluff,” he said. “Israel has shown through all its actions that it does not want any Palestinian state – and that means no capital, even in Abu Dis.

“It is being offered only because Israel knows no Palestinian leader could ever accept it as a capital. And that way Israel can again blame us for being the ones to reject their version of ‘peace’.”

An oasis of normality

Amid its confinement, however, Abu Dis does have one asset – a university – that now attracts thousands of young Palestinians, though it adds to overcrowding.

The main campus of the Palestinian-run Al Quds university has been operating in Abu Dis since the 1980s.

Sitting on the crossroads between the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Nablus to the south, Jericho to the east, and Ramallah to the north, the Abu Dis campus has grown rapidly. It has profited from the fact that West Bank Palestinians cannot access another campus of Al Quds university in East Jerusalem.

The university is enclosed and security is tight. Inside, students enjoy spacious grounds with shaded gardens, a small oasis of normality where it is possible briefly to forget the situation outside.

Nonetheless, the university is not immune from Israeli military operations either. On September 5, soldiers shut down the campus and nearby schools, as they reportedly fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets at youths.

Omar Mahmoud, aged 23, a medical student from Nablus, raised his eyebrows at the suggestion that Abu Dis could serve as the Palestinians’ capital.

“It’s fully under Israeli control,” he said. “One side there is the wall and on the other side there are Israeli settlements. There are no services and it just gets more crowded by the year.”

He has shared an apartment with other students in Abu Dis for five years. He said: “To be honest, I can’t wait to get out of here.”

• First published in The National

Human Extinction by 2026?

There is almost unanimous agreement among climate scientists and organizations – that is, 97% of over 10,000 climate scientists and the various scientific organizations engaged in climate science research – that human beings have caused a dramatic increase in the amount of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide released into Earth’s atmosphere since the pre-industrial era and that this is driving the climate catastrophe that continues to unfold.

However, there is no consensus regarding the time frame in which this climate catastrophe will cause human extinction. This lack of consensus is primarily due to the global elite controlling the public perception of this time frame with frequent talk of ‘the end of the century’ designed to allow ongoing profit maximization through ‘business as usual’ for as long as possible. Why has this happened?

When evidence of the climate catastrophe (including the pivotal role of burning fossil fuels) became incontrovertible, which meant that the fossil fuel industry’s long-standing efforts to prevent action on the climate catastrophe had finally ended, the industry shifted its focus to arguing that the time frame, which it presented as ‘end of the century’, meant that we could defer action (and thus profit-maximization through business as usual could continue indefinitely). Consequently, like the tobacco, sugar and junk food industries, the fossil fuel industry has employed a range of tactics to deflect attention from their primary responsibility for a problem and to delay action on it.

These well-worn tactics include suggesting that the research is incomplete and more research needs to be done, funding ‘research’ to come up with ‘evidence’ to counter the climate science, employing scholars to present this ‘research’, discrediting honest climate scientists, infiltrating regulatory bodies to water down (or reverse) decisions and recommendations that would adversely impact profits, setting up ‘concerned’ groups to act as ‘fronts’ for the industry, making generous political donations to individuals and political parties as well as employing lobbyists.

As a result of its enormous power too, the global elite has been able to control much of the funding available for climate science research and a great deal of the information about it that is made widely available to the public, particularly through its corporate media. For this reason, the elite wields enormous power to shape the dialogue in relation to both the climate science and the time frame.

Therefore, and despite the overwhelming consensus noted above, many climate scientists are reluctant to be fully truthful about the state of the world’s climate or they are just conservative in their assessments of the climate catastrophe. For example, eminent climate scientist Professor James Hansen referred to ‘scientific reticence’ in his article ‘Scientific reticence and sea level rise‘, scientists might be conservative in their research – for example, dependence upon historical records leads to missing about one-fifth of global warming since the 1860s as explained in ‘Reconciled climate response estimates from climate models and the energy budget of Earth‘ – and, in some cases, governments muzzle scientists outright. But many of the forces working against full exposure of the truth are explained in Professor Guy McPherson’s article ‘Climate-Change Summary and Update‘.

However, in contrast to the elite-managed mainstream narrative regarding the climate time frame, there is a group of courageous and prominent climate scientists who offer compelling climate science evidence that human beings, along with millions of other species, will be extinct by 2026 (and perhaps as early as 2021) in response to a projected 10 degree celsius increase in global temperatures above the pre-industrial level by that date.

Before outlining the essence of this article, it is worth noting that the website on which it is posted is Arctic News and the editors of this site post vital articles on the world’s climate by highly prominent climate scientists, such as Professor Peter Wadhams (Emeritus Professor of Polar Ocean Physics at Cambridge University and author of A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic), Dr Andrew Glikson (an Earth and paleoclimate scientist who is a visiting fellow at the Australian National University), Professor Guy McPherson who has written extensively and lectures all over the world on the subject, and ‘Sam Carana’, the pseudonym used by a group of climate scientists concerned to avoid too many adverse impacts on their research, careers and funding by declaring themselves publicly but nevertheless committed to making the truth available for those who seek it.

So, in a few brief points, let me summarize the evidence and argument outlined in the article ‘Will humans be extinct by 2026?’

The Climate Science of Destruction of the Biosphere

In the Arctic, there is a vast amount of carbon stored in soils that are now still largely frozen; this frozen soil is called permafrost. But as Arctic temperatures continue to rise and the permafrost thaws, in response to the warming that has occurred already (and is ongoing) by burning fossil fuels and farming animals for human consumption, much of this carbon will be converted into carbon dioxide or methane and released into the atmosphere. There is also a vast amount of methane – in the form of methane hydrates and free gas – stored in sediments under the Arctic Ocean seafloor. As temperatures rise, these sediments are being destabilized and will soon result in massive eruptions of methane from the ocean floor. ‘Due to the abrupt character of such releases and the fact that many seas in the Arctic Ocean are shallow, much of the methane will then enter the atmosphere without getting broken down in the water.’

Adversely impacting this circumstance is that the sea ice continues to retreat as the polar ice cap melts in response to the ongoing temperature increases. Because sea ice reflects sunlight back into Space, as the ice retreats more sunlight hits the (dark-colored) ocean (which absorbs the sunlight) and warms the ocean even more. This causes even more ice melt in what becomes an ongoing self-reinforcing feedback loop that ultimately impacts worldwide, such as triggering huge firestorms in forests and peatlands in North America and Russia.

More importantly, however, without sea ice, storms develop more easily and because they mix warm surface waters with the colder water at the bottom of shallow seas, reaching cracks in sediments filled with ice which acts as a glue holding the sediment together, the ice melt destabilizes the sediments, which are vulnerable to even small differences in temperature and pressure that are triggered by earthquakes, undersea landslides or changes in ocean currents.

As a result, huge amounts of methane can erupt from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean and once this occurs, it will further raise temperatures, especially over the Arctic, thus acting as another self-reinforcing feedback loop that again makes the situation even worse in the Arctic, with higher temperatures causing even further methane releases, contributing to the vicious cycle that precipitates ‘runaway global warming’.

‘These developments can take place at such a speed that adaptation will be futile. More extreme weather events can hit the same area with a succession of droughts, cold snaps, floods, heat waves and wildfires that follow each other up rapidly. Within just one decade [from 2016], the combined impact of extreme weather, falls in soil quality and air quality, habitat loss and shortages of food, water, shelter and just about all the basic things needed to sustain life can threaten most, if not all, life on Earth with extinction.’

The article goes on to outline how the 10 degree increase (above the pre-industrial level) by 2026 is likely to occur. It will involve further carbon dioxide and methane releases from human activity (particularly driving cars and other vehicles, flying in aircraft and eating animal products, as well as military violence), ongoing reduction of snow and ice cover around the world (thus reflecting less sunlight back into Space), an increase in the amount of water vapor (a greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere, a falling away of ‘aerosol masking’ (which has helped reduce the impact of emissions so far) as emissions decline, as well as methane eruptions from the ocean floor. If you would like to read more about this and see the graphs and substantial documentation, you can do so in the article cited above: ‘Will humans be extinct by 2026?’

The Ecology of Destruction of the Biosphere

Not that these scientists, who focus on the climate, discuss it but there are other human activities adversely impacting Earth’s biosphere which also threaten near-term extinction for humans, particularly given their synergistic impacts.

For example, recent research has drawn attention to the fact that the ‘alarming loss of insects will likely take down humanity before global warming hits maximum velocity…. The worldwide loss of insects is simply staggering with some reports of 75% up to 90%, happening much faster than the paleoclimate record rate of the past five major extinction events’. Without insects ‘burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food crops…’ and providing food for many bird species, the biosphere simply collapses.

Moreover, apart from ongoing destruction of other vital components of Earth’s life support system such as the rainforests – currently being destroyed at the rate of 80,000 acres each day – and oceans which is generating an extinction rate of 200 species (plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects and reptiles) each day with another 26,000 species already identified as ‘under threat’ some prominent scholars have explained how even these figures mask a vital component of the rapidly accelerating catastrophe of species extinctions: the demise of local populations of a species.

In addition, relying on our ignorance and our complicity, elites kill vast areas of Earth’s biosphere through war and other military violence, subject it to uncontrolled releases of radioactive contamination and use geo-engineering to wage war on Earth’s climate, environment and ultimately ourselves.

Separately from all of this, we live under the unending threat of nuclear war.

This is because insane political and corporate elites are still authorizing and manufacturing more of these highly profitable weapons rather than dismantling them all (as well as conventional weapons) and redirecting the vast resources devoted to ongoing military killing (US$1.7 trillion annually) to environmental restoration and programs of social uplift.

By the way, if you think the risk of nuclear war can be ignored, you might find this recent observation sobering. In a review of (former US nuclear war planner) Daniel Ellsberg’s recent book The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Earth and paleoclimate scientist Dr Andrew Glikson summarized the book as follows:

This, then, is the doomsday machine. Not simply the existence of fission weapons or unspeakably destructive hydrogen bombs, but the whole network rigged together: thousands of them on hair-trigger alert, command and control equipment built in the 1970s and ’80s, millions of lines of antique code sitting on reels of magnetic tape or shuffled around on floppy discs even now. An architecture tended by fallible and deeply institutionalized human beings.

So, irrespective of whether elites or their agents or even we acknowledge it, Earth’s biosphere is under siege on many fronts and, very soon now, Earth will not support life. Any honest news source routinely reports one or another aspect of the way in which humans are destroying the Earth and perhaps suggests courses of action to respond powerfully to it. This, of course, does not include the insane global elite’s corporate media, which functions to distract us from any semblance of the truth.

How did all this happen?

How did human beings end up in a situation that human extinction is likely to occur within eight years (even assuming we can avert nuclear war)? And is there any prospect of doing enough about it now to avert this extinction?

To answer the first question briefly: We arrived at this juncture in our history because of a long sequence of decisions, essentially made by elites to expand their profit, power and privilege, and which they then imposed on us and which we did not resist powerfully enough.

In any case, the key questions now are simply these: Is it too late to avert our own extinction? And, if not, what must we do?

Well, I am not going to dwell on it but some scientists believe it is too late: we have already passed the point of no return. Professor Guy McPherson is one of these scientists, with a comprehensive explanation and a great deal of evidence to support it in his long and heavily documented article ‘Climate-Change Summary and Update‘.

So, the fundamental question is this: If we assume (highly problematically I acknowledge) that it is possible to avert our own extinction by 2026, what must we do?

Because we need to address, in a strategic manner, the interrelated underlying causes that are driving the rush to extinction, let me first identify one important symptom of these underlying causes and then the underlying structural and behavioral causes themselves. Finally, let me invite your participation in (one or more aspects of) a comprehensive strategy designed to address all of this.

As in the past, at least initially, the vast bulk of the human population is not going to respond to this crisis in any way. We need to be aware of this but not let it get in our way. There is a straightforward explanation for it.

Fear or, far more accurately, unconscious terror will ensure that the bulk of the human population will not investigate or seriously consider the scientific evidence in relation to the ongoing climate catastrophe, despite its implications for them personally and humanity generally (not to mention other species and the biosphere). Moreover, given that climate science is not an easy subject with which to grapple, elite control of most media in relation to it (including, most of the time, by simply excluding mention of key learning from the climate scientists) ensures that public awareness, while reasonably high, is not matched by knowledge, which is negligible.

As a result, most people will fearfully, unintelligently and powerlessly accept the delusions, distractions and denial that are promulgated by the insane global elite through its various propaganda channels including the corporate media, public relations and entertainment industries, as well as educational institutions. This propaganda always includes the implicit message that people can’t (and shouldn’t) do anything in response to the climate catastrophe (invariably and inaccurately, benignly described as ‘climate change’).

A primary way in which the corporate media reports the issue but frames it for a powerless response is to simply distribute ‘news’ about each climate-related event without connecting it either with other climate-related events or even mentioning it as yet another symptom of the climate catastrophe. Even if they do mention these connections, they reliably mention distant dates for phenomena like ‘heatwaves’ repeating themselves and an overall ‘end of century’ time frame to preclude the likelihood that any sense of urgency will arise.

The net outcome of all this, as I stated above, is that the bulk of the human population will not respond to the crisis in the short term (as it hasn’t so far) with most of what limited response there is confined to powerlessly lobbying elite-controlled governments.

However, as long as you consider responding – and by responding, I mean responding strategically – and then do respond, you become a powerful agent of change, including by recruiting others through your example.

But before I present the strategy, let me identify the major structural and behavioral causes that are driving the climate catastrophe and destruction of the biosphere, and explain why some key elements of this strategy are focused on tackling these underlying causes.

The Political Economy of Destruction of the Biosphere

The global elite ensures that it has political control of the biosphere as well as Space by using various systems, structures and processes that it largely created (over the past few centuries) and now controls, including the major institutions of governance in the world such as national governments and key international organizations like the United Nations.

It does this, for example, so that it can economically utilize, via the exploitative mechanisms of capitalism and its corporations (which the elite also created), domains of the biosphere rich in resources, particularly fossil fuels, strategic minerals and fresh water. The elite will use any means – including psychological manipulation, propaganda issued by its corporate media, national educational institutions, legal systems and extraordinary military violence – to achieve this outcome whatever the cost to life on Earth.

In short, the global elite is so insane that its members believe that killing and exploiting fellow human beings and destroying the biosphere are simply good ways to make a profit. Of course, they do not perceive us as fellow human beings; they perceive and treat us as a great deal less. This is why, for example, the elite routinely uses its military forces to attack impoverished and militarily primitive countries so that they can steal their resources.

But they are happy to steal from those of us living in western economies too, with Professor Barbara G. Ellis issuing the latest warning about yet another way this could easily happen.

Anyway, because of elite control of governments, it is a waste of time lobbying politicians if we want action on virtually all issues that concern us, particularly the ‘big issues’ that threaten extinction, such as the climate catastrophe, environmental destruction and war (especially the threat of nuclear war). While in very limited (and usually social) contexts (such as issues in relation to the right of women to abortions or rights for the LGBTQIA communities), when it doesn’t significantly adversely impact elite priorities, gains are sometimes made (at least temporarily) by mobilizing sufficient people to pressure politicians. This has two beneficial outcomes for elites: it keeps many people busy on ‘secondary issues’ (from the elite perspective) that do not impact elite profit, power and privilege; and it reinforces the delusion that democracy ‘works’.

However, in the contexts that directly impact elite concerns (such as their unbridled exploitation of the biosphere for profit), politicians serve their elite masters, even to the extent that any laws that might appear to have been designed to impede elite excesses (such as pollution generated by their activities) are readily ignored if necessary, with legal penalties too insignificant to deter phenomenally wealthy corporations.

Of course, if any government does not obey elite directives, it is overthrown. Just ask any independently-minded government over the past century. For a list of governments overthrown by the global elite using its military and ‘intelligence’ agencies since World War II, see William Blum’s book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II or, for just the list, see ‘Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List’.

How does the elite maintain this control over political, economic, military, legal and social structures and processes?

The Sociology of Destruction of the Biosphere

As explained in the literature on the sociology of knowledge, reality is socially constructed. That is, if an individual is born or introduced into a society in which particular institutions are in control and behaviors such as chronic over-consumption, unlimited profit-making, rampant exploitation of the environment and grotesque violence against (at least some) people are practiced, then the typical individual will accept the existence of these institutions and adopt the behaviors of the people around them even though the institutions and behaviors are dysfunctional and violent.

But while the sociology of knowledge literature recognizes that children ‘must be “taught to behave” and, once taught, must be “kept in line”’ to maintain the institutional order, this literature clearly has no understanding of the nature and extent of the violence to which each child is actually subjected in order to achieve the desired ‘socialization’. This terrorization, as I label it, is so comprehensive that the typical child quickly becomes incapable of using their own intellectual and emotional capacities, including conscience and courage, to actually evaluate any institution or behavior before accepting/adopting it themselves. Obviously then, they quickly become too terrified to overtly challenge dysfunctional institutions and behaviors as well.

Moreover, as a result of this ongoing terrorization, inflicted by the significant adults (and particularly the parents) in the child’s life, the child soon becomes too (unconsciously) afraid to resist the behavioral violence that is inflicted on them personally in many forms, as outlined briefly in the next section, so that they are ‘taught to behave’ and are ‘kept in line’.

In response to elite-driven imperatives then, such as ‘you are what you own’ to encourage very profitable over-consumption, most people are delusionarily ‘happy’ while utterly trapped behaving exactly as elites manipulate them – they are devoid of the psychological capacity to critique and resist – and the elite-preferred behavior quickly acquires the status of being ‘the only and the right way to behave’, irrespective of its dysfunctionality.

In essence: virtually all humans fearfully adopt dysfunctional social behaviors such as over-consumption and profit-making at the expense of the biosphere, rather than intelligently, conscientiously and courageously analyzing the total situation (including the moral and ecological dimensions of it) and behaving appropriately in the context.

Given the pervasiveness and power of elite institutions, ranging from those mentioned above to the corporate media and psychiatry, resistance to violent socialization (of both children and adults) requires considerable awareness, not to mention courage.

And so our fear makes virtually all of us succumb to the socialization pressure (that is, violence) to accept existing institutions and participate in widespread social behaviors (such as over-consumption) that are dysfunctional and violent.

The Psychology of Destruction of the Biosphere

This happens because each child, from birth, is terrorized (again: what we like to call ‘socialized’) until they become a slave willing to work and, in industrialized countries at least, to over-consume as directed.

Under an unrelenting regime of ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence, each child unconsciously surrenders their search in pursuit of their own unique and powerful destiny and succumbs to the obedience that every adult demands. Why do adults demand this? Because the idea of a powerful child who courageously follows their own Self-will terrifies adults. So how does this happen?

Unfortunately, far too easily and, strange though it may seem, it is not just the ‘visible’ violence (such as hitting, screaming at and sexually abusing) that we normally label ‘violence’ that causes the main damage, although this is extremely damaging. The largest component of damage arises from the  ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence that we adults unconsciously inflict on children during the ordinary course of the day. Tragically, the bulk of this violence occurs in the family home and at school.

So what is ‘invisible’ violence? It is the ‘little things’ we do every day, partly because we are just ‘too busy’. For example, when we do not allow time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and feelings, the child learns to not listen to themself thus destroying their internal communication system. When we do not let a child say what they want (or ignore them when they do), the child develops communication and behavioral dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to meet their own needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are genetically programmed to do).

When we blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize with and/or judge a child, we both undermine their sense of Self-worth and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail, moralize and/or judge.

The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others). However, mothers, fathers, teachers, religious figures and other adults also actively interfere with the expression of these feelings and the behavioral responses that are naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly invisible’ violence that explains why the dysfunctional behavioral outcomes actually occur.

For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a child into not expressing their feelings (for instance, by screaming at them when they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behavior that is generated by their feelings (for example, by hitting them, restraining them or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.

However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. This has many outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for the biosphere because the individual will now easily suppress their awareness of the feelings that would tell them how to act most functionally in any given circumstance and they will progressively acquire a phenomenal variety of dysfunctional behaviors, including some that are violent towards themself, others and/or the Earth.

Moreover, terrorizing the child has many flow-on effects. For example, once you terrorise a child into accepting certain information about themself, other people or the state of the world, the child becomes unconsciously fearful of dealing with new information, especially if this information is contradictory to what they have been terrorized into believing. As a result, the child will unconsciously dismiss new information out of hand.

In short, the child has been terrorized in such a way that they are no longer capable of learning (or their learning capacity is seriously diminished by excluding any information that is not a simple extension of what they already ‘know’). This is one important explanation why some people are ‘climate deniers’ and most others do nothing in response to the climate catastrophe.

Consequently, under this onslaught of terror and violence, the child surrenders their own unique Self and takes on their socially constructed delusional identity which gives them relief from being terrorized while securing the approval they crave to survive.

So if we want to end violence against the biosphere, we must tackle this fundamental cause. Primarily, this means giving everyone, child and adult alike, all of the space they need to feel, deeply, what they want to do, and to then let them do it (or to have the emotional responses they naturally have if they are prevented from doing so).

For some insight into the critical role that school plays in reducing virtually all children to wage slaves for employment in some menial or ‘professional’ role or as ‘cannon fodder’ for the military, while stripping them of the capacity to ask penetrating questions about the very nature of society and their own role in it, see ‘Do We Want School or Education?’

In summary, given that human society is so dysfunctional, beginning with the fact that human beings do not know how to parent or educate their children to nurture their unique and extraordinary potential, humans face a monumental challenge, in an incredibly short time frame, to have any chance of survival.

And we are going to have to fix a lot more things than just our destruction of the biosphere if we are to succeed, given that ecologically destructive behavior and institutions have their origin in dysfunctional psychology, societies and political economy.

To reiterate, however, it is our (often unconscious) fear that underpins every problem. Whether it is the fear getting in the way of our capacity to intelligently analyze the various structures and behaviors that generate the interrelated crises in which we now find ourselves or the fear undermining our courage to act powerfully in response to these crises, acknowledging and dealing with our fear is the core of any strategy for survival.

So what’s the plan?

Let’s start with you. If you consider the evidence in relation to destruction of our biosphere, essentially one of two things will happen. Either you will be powerful enough, both emotionally and intellectually, to grapple with this evidence and you will take strategic action that has ongoing positive impact on the crisis or your (unconscious) fear will simply use one of its lifelong mechanisms to remove awareness of what you have just read from your mind or otherwise delude you, such as by making you believe you are powerless to act differently or that you are ‘doing enough already’. This immobilizing fear, whether or not you experience it consciously, is a primary outcome of the terrorization to which you were subjected as a child.

So, if you sense that improving your own functionality – so that you can fully access your emotional responses, conscience and courage – is a priority, try ‘Putting Feelings First‘.

If you already feel able to act powerfully in response to this multi-faceted crisis, in a way that will have strategic impact, you are invited to consider joining those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘, which outlines a simple plan for people to systematically reduce their consumption, by at least 80%, involving both energy and resources of every kind – water, household energy, transport fuels, metals, meat, paper and plastic – while dramatically expanding their individual and community self-reliance in 16 areas, so that all environmental concerns are effectively addressed. You might also consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

If you are interested in nurturing children to live by their conscience and to gain the courage necessary to resist elite violence fearlessly, while living sustainably despite the entreaties of capitalism to over-consume, then you are welcome to make ‘My Promise to Children‘. To reiterate: capitalism and other dysfunctional political, economic, military, legal and social structures only thrive because our dysfunctional parenting robs children of their conscience and courage, among many other qualities, while actively teaching them to overconsume as compensation for having vital emotional needs denied.

If you are interested in conducting or participating in a campaign to halt our destruction of the biosphere (or any other manifestation of violence for that matter) you are welcome to consider acting strategically in the way that the extraordinary activist Mohandas K. Gandhi did. Whether you are engaged in a peace, climate, environment or social justice campaign, the 12-point strategic framework and principles are the same.

The two strategic aims and a core list of strategic goals to end war and to end the climate catastrophe, for example, are identified in ‘Campaign Strategic Aims‘ and, using these examples, it is a straightforward task to identify an appropriate set of strategic goals for your local environment campaign. As an aside, the strategic framework to defend against a foreign invading power or a political/military coup, to liberate your country from a dictatorship or a foreign occupation, or to defeat a genocidal assault is explained in ‘Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy‘.

If you would like a straightforward explanation of ‘Nonviolent Action: Why and How it Works‘ and an introduction to what it means to think strategically, try reading about the difference between ‘The Political Objective and Strategic Goal of Nonviolent Actions‘.

If you anticipate violent repression by a ruthless opponent, consider planning and implementing any nonviolent action according to the explanation in ‘Nonviolent Action: Minimizing the Risk of Violent Repression‘.

Finally, if you are going to do nothing in response to this crisis, make it a conscious decision to do nothing. This is far preferable to unconsciously and powerlessly doing nothing by never even considering the evidence or by simply deluding yourself. It also allows you to consciously revise your decision at some point in future if you so wish.

Conclusion

The evidence in relation to destruction of the Earth’s biosphere, leading to ongoing and rapid degradation of all ecosystems and their services, is readily available and overwhelming. The many and varied forms of destruction are having synergistic impact. An insignificant amount of the vast evidence in relation to this destruction is sampled above.

There is a notable group of prominent climate scientists who present compelling evidence that human extinction will occur by 2026 as a result of a projected 10 degree celsius increase in global temperatures above the pre-industrial level by this date. The primary document for this is noted above and this document, together with the evidence it cites, is readily available to be read and analyzed by anyone.

Largely separately from the climate catastrophe (although now increasingly complicated by it), Earth’s sixth mass extinction is already advancing rapidly as we destroy habitat and, on our current trajectory, all species will soon enter the fossil record.

Why? Because we live in a world in which the political, economic, military, legal and social structures and processes of human society are utterly incapable of producing either functional human beings or governance mechanisms that take into account, and respect, the ecological realities of Earth’s biosphere.

So, to reiterate: We are on the fast-track to extinction. On the current trajectory, assuming we can avert nuclear war, some time between 2021 and 2026 the last human will take their final breath.

Our only prospect of survival, and it still has only a remote chance of succeeding, is that a great number of us respond powerfully now and keep mobilizing more people to do so.

If you do absolutely nothing else, consider rearranging your life to exclude all meat from your diet, stop traveling by car and aircraft, substantially reduce your water consumption by scaling down your ownership of electronic devices (which require massive amounts of water to manufacture), and only eat biodynamically or organically grown whole food.

And tell people why you are doing so.

This might give those of us who fight strategically, which can include you if you so choose, a little more time to overturn the structural and remaining behavioral drivers of extinction which will require a profound change in the very nature of human society, including all of its major political, economic, military, legal and social institutions and processes (most of which will need to be abolished).

If this sounds ‘radical’, remember that they are about to vanish anyway. Our strategy must be to replace them with functional equivalents, all of which are readily available (with some briefly outlined in the various documents mentioned in the plan above).

‘It won’t happen’, you might say? And, to be candid, I sincerely believe that you are highly probably right. I have spent a lifetime observing, analyzing, writing about and acting to heal dysfunctional and violent human behavior and, for that reason, I am not going to delude myself that anything less than what I have outlined above will achieve the outcome that I seek: to avert human extinction. But I am realistic.

The insane individuals who control the institutions that are driving extinction will never act to avert it. If they were sane enough to do so, they would have been directing and coordinating these institutions in taking action for the past 40 years. This is why we must resist them strategically. Moreover, I am only too well aware that the bulk of the human population has been terrorized into powerlessness and won’t even act. But our best chance lies in offering them our personal example, and giving them simple and various options for responding effectively.

It is going to be a tough fight for human survival, particularly this late in the ‘game’. Nevertheless, I intend to fight until my last breath. I hope that you will too.

Israel’s “Loyal” Druze move into Open Revolt

Israel’s small Druze community, long seen as “loyal” to the state, is on a collision course with the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu over a new law guaranteeing superior citizenship rights for Jews, according to analysts.

Israel has traditionally cited the Druze, a secretive religious sect whose men serve in the Israeli army, as proof that non-Jews can prosper inside a self-declared Jewish state.

However, recent days have seen an unprecedented outpouring of anger from large segments of the Druze community over a nation-state law passed last month by the Israeli parliament.

The new legislation has been widely criticised for making explicit the privileged status of the Jewish majority while omitting any reference to “democracy” or “equality”.

One Druze scholar, Rabah Halabi, said his community’s response had been like a mini-“intifada” – the word Palestinians used for two lengthy uprisings against the occupation.

“Much of the Druze community are in a state of shock,” he told Middle East Eye. “They thought that by proving their loyalty, they would be treated as equals. But now they are being forced to re-evaluate, to accept that this view was mistaken.”

Halabi, who has written a book on Druze identity, added: “Their illusions are being shattered. It looks like a process of awakening has begun that will leave both sides bruised.”

Protesters call for equality

The new law, which has a constitutional-like status, has angered the fifth of Israel’s population that are not Jewish, mostly descended from Palestinians who survived a campaign of ethnic cleansing in 1948. This Palestinian minority eventually received citizenship.

But unlike the Muslim and Christian communities, the 120,000-strong Druze sect in Israel has long been showcased as “loyal” and plays a key role in the army, especially in combat duties in the occupied territories.

Druze leaders have angrily pointed to the disproportionate sacrifices made by their community, including more than 420 Druze killed while in uniform.

The Druze also enjoy outsized influence in Israeli politics. Although comprising about 1.5 percent of Israel’s population, they have five legislators in the 120-member parliament, four of them in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition.

Unusually, the figurehead of the protests has been a retired and much-decorated Druze general, Amal Asad.

He led the speakers at a rally in Tel Aviv earlier this month, attended by some 60,000 Druze and Israeli Jewish sympathisers, including many former senior security officials.

The protesters demanded that the new Basic Law – one of a body that serves as Israel’s equivalent of a constitution – be annulled or amended to confer equal rights on all citizens.

Another key Druze figure, spiritual leader Sheikh Muwafaq Tarif, told the crowds: “Despite our unreserved loyalty, Israel doesn’t see us as equals.”

Crowds chanted “Equality! Equality!” and banners bore the slogan: “If we are brothers, we must be equals.”

Netanyahu blindsided

Druze legislators and Palestinian leadership organisations in Israel have separately petitioned the Israeli supreme court to overturn the legislation. The court is not expected to hear the cases until early next year.

Adalah, a legal rights group for the Palestinian minority, has described the law as having “apartheid characteristics” and noted that there is “no [other] constitution in the world that does not include the right to equality for all its citizens and residents”.

The Druze protests appear to have blindsided Netanyahu and his cabinet, even though the law was under consideration for nearly a decade.

Nonetheless, he has stood his ground. According to analysts, the law is the centrepiece of his efforts to win elections, expected in the coming months, as he tries to face down intensifying corruption investigations.

In a sign of his hardline approach, Netanyahu walked out of a meeting held shortly before the rally when Druze leaders – including Asad, Tarif and several mayors – refused to accept a compromise that would have offered special benefits to the Druze while keeping the law unchanged.

Wahib Habish, mayor of the Druze town of Yarka in the Galilee, who attended the meeting, told the Israeli media afterwards: “We can’t be bought off with benefits and rhetoric on closing gaps.”

Amal Jamal, a politics professor at Tel Aviv University and a Druze resident of Habish’s town, said Netanyahu’s strategy was to stoke “internal divisions” in Druze society.

“He has no intention of backing down,” he told MEE. “He hopes to dismiss the protests by saying: ‘If the Druze can’t agree among themselves, how is it possible for us to find a solution?’”

Secretive religious sect

The Druze are a secretive religious sect that broke away from Islam some 1,000 years ago. For protection, they chose to live in a mountainous region of the Middle East that is today split between Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

Scholars have noted that, as a survival strategy, the Druze traditionally preferred to ally with whoever was in power.

Some Druze communities in the Galilee supported Zionist forces during the 1948 war that founded Israel on the ruins of the Palestinians’ homeland. A few years later, the Druze leadership in Israel signed a pact with the state, agreeing that the community’s men would be conscripted for three years into the army.

In return, Israel recognised the Druze as a “national” group, rather than as a religion, separating them from the rest of the Palestinian minority.

Complicating the picture, a much smaller Druze population fell under Israeli rule in 1967 when Israel occupied the Golan Heights, part of Syria. The 25,000 Druze in the Golan have mostly stayed loyal to Syria and refused Israeli citizenship. They are not drafted.

‘Brainwashed’ at school

Jamal said sections of Israeli Druze society were increasingly wondering whether they had paid a “double price” for their agreement to conscription.

“Not only were the Druze discriminated against like other Arab citizens, but they sacrificed their lives on the battlefield too,” he noted. “Look at it this way, the Druze are not just second-class citizens, they are second-class Arabs.”

As part of the agreement, Israel introduced a separate school system for the Druze in the 1970s, which has encouraged them to view their military service as a “covenant of blood” with the Jewish people.

Dalia Halabi, herself Druze and the executive director of Dirasat, a policy research centre in Nazareth, said the Druze education system was among the worst in Israel for matriculation rates. Instead, Israel had used the schools to “brainwash” Druze children.

“The Druze are taught to fear other Arabs, not only their neighbours in the Galilee but in the wider region,” she said. “They are encouraged to believe that they would be vulnerable and alone without the protection of the Israeli army.”

Refusal movement growing

Israel has long trumpeted the Druze’s military service as proof that it is possible for non-Jewish minorities to integrate.

Druze analysts consulted by MEE, however, noted that for many years there had been an intensifying split within the Druze community on the issue of military service that the new Basic law had brought to a head.

A refusal movement among young Druze men has become more prominent over the past decade, as have complaints that successive Israeli governments failed to make good on promises to give the Druze equal rights.

Druze communities are generally as overcrowded and poorly resourced as other Palestinian communities in Israel, noted Dalia Halabi: “Some 70 percent of Druze lands were confiscated by the state, despite our communities’ ‘loyalty’. They did not get a better deal than other Palestinian communities.”

Rabah Halabi, who teaches at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, pointed out that the loss of their farmland left many Druze men dependent on Israel’s extensive security economy.

More than a quarter are recruited after army service as security guards, prison wardens or border policemen, the latter a paramilitary force operating inside Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, he said.

“For a substantial section of Druze youth, army service is the only way to ensure a career. It is primarily an economic issue for them.”

Army officers resign

The new Basic Law has inflamed these existing tensions by enshrining privileges for Jewish citizens in a range of key areas, including immigration rights, access to land, and in housing and budgets. It also downgrades Arabic, stripping it of its status as an official language.

In an unprecedented move for a Druze leader, Asad, the general leading the protests, warned on social media that the Basic Law risked laying the foundations for “apartheid”. He called the measure “evil and racist”.

The groundswell of anger was apparent too at a recent awards ceremony attended by Avi Dichter, a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence service and one of the architects of the law. He needed protection as Druze protesters publicly confronted him, denouncing him as a “traitor” and “Nazi”.

Several Druze army officers have resigned and others have threatened to stop serving, sparking fears of mass insubordination.

Druze leaders have so far refused to cooperate with a special ministerial committee set up by Netanyahu to advance a solution for the Druze, as well as a tiny Circassian community and sections of the Bedouin that also serve.

It seems likely to propose extra benefits on an individual basis for Palestinian citizens who serve in the army.

Jamal, of Tel Aviv University, said: “There are many Druze who have invested in this so-called ‘historical bond’ and do not want to lose their special status.

“But at the same time they can’t accept the deal Netanyahu is offering of perks for army service. They don’t want to look like they have been bought off with money, to seem like mercenaries.”

‘We’re not going anywhere

Unless one side backs down, the Druze community now looks set for a major clash with the government for the first time in the country’s history.

A recent poll indicated that 58 percent of Israeli Jews support the law, though a similar number expressed sympathy for Druze concerns.

Ayelet Shaked, the justice minister, has already warned of “an earthquake” on the political right if the courts dare to annul the law.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has appeared in no mood for compromise. After his meeting with Druze leaders broke up in acrimony, his officials implied that General Asad and his supporters were disloyal.

Channel 2 TV quoted a source close to Netanyahu stating, apparently in reference to Asad and his followers: “Whoever doesn’t like it [the Basic Law], there’s a large Druze community in Syria, and they’re invited to found the state of Druzistan there.”

Dalia Halabi observed: “Netanyahu is fanning the flames because he assumes the Druze will agree to whatever he says. He thinks we now have no option but to be loyal.”

But Mano Abu Salha, aged 58 from Yarka, and among those who attended the mass demonstration in Tel Aviv, told MEE that Netanyahu would be proved wrong.

He said: “We didn’t come from Syria. We are living on our historic lands and we’re not going anywhere. We are the native population. Netanyahu better realise that we are staying put and will fight for our rights.”