Category Archives: Hate Speech

We’re All in This Together!

In 2020, health care workers could do no harm.

We praised their vast medical skills and knowledge. We banged our pots and pans for them and hung signs to profess our eternal gratitude. Well… maybe not exactly eternal. In 2021, you see, we’re dismissing their medical knowledge and our pots and pans have been replaced with pitchforks and torches.

The message to our “health care heroes” is simple: get the jab or else. Never mind that you are literally health care workers, we get to decide what medicines should be injected into you. And if you don’t like it, you’ll be fired — and you’ll deserve it. And once you’ve been fired for exerting your medical knowledge and protecting your bodily sovereignty, you may even be denied unemployment insurance. Good luck being homeless, you ignorant Trump lovers!

Never mind that just last year we genuflected in awe before your medical expertise. Today, we’ll publicly condemn you as unworthy of your scrubs. For example, here are just two excerpts from countless “letters to the editor” all across the Land of the Free™:

“These workers are dishonoring their profession by neglecting patient safety and showing their ignorance of basic scientific facts. I have confidence that this group of people will not get their shots after the vaccines win full approval from federal regulators and will join other anti-vaxxers in spreading dangerous COVID variants.”

“If you don’t believe in medical science and the safety practices of the profession, then a career in medicine is not for you.”

Now, I have proven over and over that “basic scientific facts” and “medical science” are both tenuous concepts when viewed through the lens of current corporate propaganda. I won’t rehash that now but you can click here and here for two recent articles of mine. What also should be alarming is how easily programmable we’ve become.

The powers-that-be required us to support the “health care heroes” narrative in 2020. So we did with obedience and gusto. The narrative in 2021 is all about the jab. And boy, have we delivered! Most Americans not only lined up for a shot without knowing what was being done to them. They also became unpaid cheerleaders, pubic relations workers, and enforcers for Big Pharma and government mandates.  After all, we’re all in this together… right?

Reminder: This is what happens in a culture addicted to propaganda and fake news…

The post We’re All in This Together! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Kneeling against Racism: Solidarity in EURO 2020 Should Not be “Controversial”   

Another football ‘controversy’ has started when football players participating in the ongoing ‘UEFA Euro 2020’, kneeled down during national anthems to protest racism, a serious problem that has plagued football stadiums for many years.

Yet, while some players chose to kneel down, others opted not to, offering flimsy excuses as “players weren’t ready”, and “politics should stay out of football”. Racism in sports is real, though it cannot be separated from racism within society. In fact, the reactions to the moral stances taken by some players were reflections of how rightwing, populist and chauvinistic movements wield such massive influence over various European societies, to the extent that these movements often define mainstream political sensibilities.

For example, the French national team, comprising largely black and Muslim French players, came under attack led by right wing politicians and media outlets to the point that, on June 15, the entire team decided not to take a knee at the start of their matches, likely fearing racist repercussions.

In the French example, racism in sports prevailed over the anti-racism sentiments. Worse, the country’s highest football association, the French Football Federation (FFF) does not even acknowledge the necessity to discuss the issue. FFF president, Noel Le Graet, was quoted as saying that racism “does not exist”, following an incident last September during the Marseille-Paris Saint Germain game, when the Brazilian Neymar was called a  ‘monkey motherf—er’ during a scuffle.

Not only are racist incidents in football games on the rise and well-documented in France and elsewhere, the ‘monkey’ slur is particularly popular among European football fans who, sometimes in groups, carry out what is known as ‘monkey chanting’, which specifically target black and other dark skin players. When the despicable practice in Italy finally received national attention, an Italian court dismissed the case as ‘unfounded’, and fans who were caught ‘monkey chanting’ on camera were ‘unconditionally acquitted.’

This in mind, it was unfortunate that only half of the Italian team took a knee during their game against Wales on June 20, and eventually, they decided not to kneel down at all in a later game. It is telling that, while racism in sports continues to prevail, anti-racist gestures are considered unnecessary and divisive.

The truth is that football, like any other sport, is a reflection of our societies, our unities and divisions, our economic privileges and socio-economic inequalities, our strong communal bonds and, yes, our racism. Instead of attempting to fully understand and, when necessary, alter these relationships, some conveniently opt to ignore them altogether.

Assertions such as ‘sports and politics must not mix’ are not only wishful thinking – as they ignore the fundamental premise that sports are a direct expression of reality – they are also underhanded as they are meant to divert attention from core issues that should concern everyone.

This misleading logic falls within the same category of the phrase “all lives matter” in response to the legitimate outcry for racial justice under the banner, “black lives matter”. The latter is meant to illustrate – in fact, challenge – racism and violence, which disproportionately target black people in the United States specifically because of their skin color; while the former, although technically accurate, is meant to delude and undermine the urgency of confronting systemic racism.

When American football player, Colin Kaepernick, kneeled down in 2016 to protest racial injustice, he did mean to be disruptive, not to ‘disgrace’ American ‘values’ and ‘symbols’, but to force millions of people out of their comfort zone to contend with far more consequential questions than winning or losing a football match. His statement was an act of protest against the mistreatment of black communities across the US. As a black man with access to media platforms, it was his moral duty to speak out. He did. But that wholly symbolic, non-violent act was perceived by many in government, media and society as a treasonous one, which ultimately cost the athlete his career.

The entire episode, which reverberated across the world and the violent, often racist, responses to it were all political, unwittingly proving, once more, that the relationship between politics and human rights, on the one hand, and sports, on the other, are impossible to separate. Interestingly, those who insisted that Kaepernick has violated the sanctity of sports have no qualms with other, essentially political acts throughout football: the national anthem, the endless display of flags, the nationalist chants, of soldiers being honored for their services in various wars and, at times, of air force fighting jets flying overhead, intoxicating the crowds with the might and power of the US military. Why are nationalistic politics acceptable while a single black man kneeling down to shed light on the plight of the innocent victims of police brutality is perceived to be an act of treason?

Whether it is convenient or not, sports is rife with political symbols and is a reflection of existing realities: inequalities, racism and more. It can also be a source of harmony and unity. In fact, sometimes it is, as was the heartwarming exchange between Portuguese international player, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Iranian footballer, Ali Daei, when, on June 24, Ronaldo  equalized the international goal record of Daei. It can also be a reflection of rooted socio-political ailments, such as racism.

Racism is a political disease, like cancerous cells spreading across the body, or body politic of society. It has to be stopped, on and off the field. While taking the knee will not end racism, it is meant to serve as a conversation starter, a moral stance by players and a meaningful gesture of camaraderie and humanity.

The post Kneeling against Racism: Solidarity in EURO 2020 Should Not be “Controversial”    first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Putting Lipstick on a Pig”: Why Washington is Fawning over Israel’s New Government

When former US President Barack Obama used an old cliché to denigrate his political opponent, the late US Senator, John McCain, he triggered a political controversy lasting several days.

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,” Obama said at a campaign event in 2008. The maxim indicates that superficial changes have no bearings on outcomes and that modifying our facade does not alter who we really are.

American politicians are an authority on the subject. They are experts on artificial, rhetorical and, ultimately, shallow change. Once again, Washington’s political make-up artists are busy at work.

Since the dramatic ousting of his former mentor, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s new Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, is now being presented as the alternative to Netanyahu’s right-wing, chauvinistic and rowdy political style. However, for this to happen, more makeup is required.

Much can be said about Bennett and his party of ultra-nationalists and right-wing extremists, Yamina.

Yamina is a decidedly racist political party. Their meager seven seats at the Israeli Knesset (parliament) were garnered through their constant appeal to the most violent and racist constituencies in Israel, whose oft-repeated chant “Death to the Arabs” is a daily reminder of their sinister political discourse.

Bennett is often cited for this famous statement from 2013: “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that”. Yet, there is more to the man’s politics than such an abhorrent declaration. Since Israeli leaders do not perceive any form of Palestinian resistance to be legitimate and, in their eyes, Palestinians are either terrorists or potential terrorists, consider the following ‘solution’ offered by Bennett to deal with the problem of ‘Palestinian terrorism’.

As Israel’s Minister of Education in 2015, Bennett proposed the building of a ‘deterrence’ wall, one which “demands that incitement be ended and that terrorists are shot dead before they have a chance to hurt innocent people. It means that a terrorist who is shot will be dead and never walk again. It means that Israel remains in control of its homeland forever, unmoved by terrorism.”

So why does the Biden Administration want us to believe that Bennett is different?

Immediately following his inauguration, President Joe Biden was the first world leader to call and congratulate Bennett on the new post. This act carries a deeper symbolic meaning when compared to the fact that it took Biden a whole three long weeks to phone Netanyahu, following the former’s own inauguration to the White House in January.

A close aide to Israel’s new prime minister explained the nature of the amiable phone conversation between Biden and Bennett in an interview with the Axios website. “The White House wants to have close and regular consultation and engagement with Bennett and his team based on candid exchange of views, respect for differences, a desire to work toward stability and security,” the Israeli source was quoted as saying.

Aside from the emphasis on candor and ‘respect’ with reference to the US-Israel future relationship, there has also been an equal and constant emphasis on the need for privacy in dealing with differences between the two countries. “Unlike its predecessor,” the Times of Israel reported with reference to Netanyahu, the Bennet government “would voice its criticism (of Washington) in private.” For months, the US had pleaded with Netanyahu to tone down his attacks on Washington, to no avail.

Now that Bennett is in charge, he is clearly ready to play along. And why should he not? He is eager to present himself as the antithesis of Netanyahu. By making such a ‘concession’, he would surely be expecting Washington to reciprocate. For Bennett, it is a win-win.

Bennett understands that US politics towards Israel is not determined by the attitude of Israeli leaders. For example, in comments made last May, Biden laid to rest any suggestion that the US will hold Israel accountable during his term in power. There is “no shift in my commitment, commitment to the security of Israel. Period. No shift, not at all”. If this solid pledge was made when boisterous Netanyahu was still in power, no change whatsoever should be expected, now that the supposedly agreeable Bennett is Israel’s new prime minister.

American politicians are fawning over Bennett and his main coalition partner and future Prime Minister, Yair Lapid. They are eager to turn a new page, and move forward past Netanyahu’s tumultuous years. Bennett is expected to visit the US in July, while Lapid has already been invited to visit Washington by US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. Meanwhile, a large Israeli military delegation headed by Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Aviv Kohavi, should already be in the US to discuss various subjects, including Iran, Hezbollah and to ‘negotiate’ yet more US gifts to Israel in the form of military hardware.

The US is keen on rebranding its relationship with Israel, not because Israel has changed, but because Washington has suffered repeated humiliation at the hands of ousted Netanyahu. Under Netanyahu, the US found itself often accused of not doing enough for Israel. Even Obama’s $3.8 billion annual military aid package did not spare him the repeated Israeli verbal assaults. Biden is willing to do whatever it takes to avoid that sordid scenario.

Biden’s doctrine on Israel and Palestine is simple. He does not want to make an actual commitment to relaunching the peace process, for example, nor does he want to be placed in a position where he is forced to make demands from, let alone put ‘pressure’ on Israel. Since Biden has little or no expectations from Israel, Bennett seems willing to play the role of the accommodating and sensible politician. He would be foolish not to do so, for, per his own political ‘vision’, he merely wants to manage the conflict and prolong the occupation while, like his predecessor, continue to promote his own version of the deceptive notion of ‘economic peace’.

While the Americans and the Israelis are busy engaging in the ever-familiar ritual of ‘putting lipstick on a pig’, the Palestinians remain irrelevant in all of this, as their political aspirations continue to be discounted, and their freedom delayed.

The post “Putting Lipstick on a Pig”: Why Washington is Fawning over Israel’s New Government first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Jerusalem protests: The mob “breaking faces” learned from Israel’s establishment

Inside the Israeli parliament and out on the streets of Jerusalem, the forces of unapologetic Jewish supremacism are stirring, as a growing section of Israel’s youth tire of the two-faced Jewish nationalism that has held sway in Israel for decades.

Last week, Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the far-right Religious Zionism faction, a vital partner if caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands any hope of forming a new government, issued a barely veiled threat to Israel’s large Palestinian minority.

Expulsion, he suggested, was looming for these 1.8 million Palestinians, a fifth of the Israeli population who enjoy very degraded citizenship. “Arabs are citizens of Israel – for now at least,” he told his party. “And they have representatives at the Knesset [Israeli parliament] – for now at least.” For good measure, he referred to Palestinian legislators – the elected representatives of Israel’s Palestinian minority – as “our enemies sitting in the Knesset”.

Smotrich’s brand of brazen Jewish racism is on the rise, after his faction won six mandates in the 120-member parliament in March. One of those seats is for Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the neo-fascist Jewish Power party.

Ben Gvir’s supporters are now in a bullish mood. Last month, they took to the streets around the occupied Old City of Jerusalem, chanting “Death to Arabs” and making good on promises in WhatsApp chats to attack Palestinians and “break their faces”.

For days, these Jewish gangs of mostly youngsters have brought the lawless violence that has long reigned largely out of sight in the hills of the occupied West Bank into central Jerusalem. This time, their attacks haven’t been captured in shaky, out-of-focus YouTube videos. They have been shown on prime-time Israeli TV.

Equally significant, these Jewish mobs have carried out their rampages during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.

Arson attacks

The visibility and premeditation of this gang violence has discomfited many Israelis. But in the process, they have been given a close-up view of how appealing the violent, anti-Arab doctrines of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane – the ideological inspiration behind Jewish Power – are proving with a significant section of young Jews in Israel.

One, sporting a “Kahane was right” badge, spoke for her peers as she was questioned on Israeli TV about the noisy chants of “May your village burn down” – a reference to so-called “price-tag” arson attacks committed by the Israeli far-right against Palestinian communities in the occupied territories and inside Israel.

Olive groves, mosques, cars and homes are regularly torched by these Jewish extremists, who claim Palestinian lands as their exclusive biblical birthright.

The woman responded in terms she obviously thought conciliatory: “I don’t say that it [a Palestinian village] should burn down, but that you should leave the village and we’ll go live in it.”

She and others now sound impatient to bring forward the day when Palestinians must “leave”.

Machinery of oppression

These sentiments – in the parliament and out on the streets – have not emerged out of nowhere. They are as old as Zionism itself, when Israel’s first leaders oversaw the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from most of their homeland in 1948, in an act of mass dispossession Palestinians called their Nakba (catastrophe).

Violence to remove Palestinians has continued to be at the core of the Jewish state-building project ever since. The rationale for the gangs beating up Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem are the actions pursued more bureaucratically by the Israeli state: its security forces, occupation administrators and courts.

Last week, that machinery of oppression came under detailed scrutiny in a 213-page report from Human Rights Watch. The leading international human rights group declared that Israel was committing the crime of apartheid, as set out in international law.

It argued that Israel had met the three conditions of apartheid in the Rome Statute: the domination of one racial group over another, systematic oppression of the marginalised group, and inhumane acts. Those acts include forcible transfer, expropriation of landed property, the creation of separate reserves and ghettos, denial of the right to leave and return to their country, and denial of the right to a nationality.

Only one such act is needed to qualify as the crime of apartheid but, as Human Rights Watch makes clear, Israel is guilty of them all.

Dragged out of bed

What Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups have been documenting is equally visible to the gangs roaming Jerusalem. Israel’s official actions share a common purpose, one that sends a clear message to these youngsters about what the state – and Israel’s national ideology of Zionism – aims to achieve.

They see Palestinian land reclassified as Jewish “state land” and the constant expansion of settlements that violate international law. They see Palestinians denied permits to build homes in their own villages. They see orders issued to demolish Palestinian homes, or even entire communities. And they see Palestinian families torn apart as couples, or their children, are refused the right to live together.

Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinians with impunity, and drag Palestinian children out of bed in the middle of the night. They man checkpoints throughout the occupied West Bank, restricting the movement of Palestinians. They fire on, or “arrest”, Palestinians trying to seek work outside the closed-off ghettos Israel has imposed on them. And soldiers stand guard, or assist, as settlers run amok, attacking Palestinians in their homes and fields.

All of this is invariably rubber-stamped as “legal” by the Israeli courts. Is it any surprise, then, that growing numbers of Israeli teenagers question why all these military, legal and administrative formalities are really necessary? Why not just beat up Palestinians and “break their faces” until they get the message that they must leave?

Uppity natives

The battlefront in Jerusalem in recent days – characterised misleadingly in most media as the site of “clashes” – has been the sunken plaza in front of Damascus Gate, a major entrance to the walled Old City and the Muslim and Christian holy places that lie within.

The gate is possibly the last prominent public space Palestinians can still claim as theirs in central Jerusalem, after decades in which Israeli occupation authorities have gradually encircled and besieged their neighbourhoods, severing them from the Old City. During Ramadan, Damascus Gate serves as a popular communal site for Palestinians to congregate in the evenings after the daytime fast.

It was Israeli police who triggered the current explosive mood in Jerusalem by erecting barriers at Damascus Gate to seal the area off at the start of Ramadan. The pretext was to prevent overcrowding, but – given their long experience of occupation – Palestinians understood the barriers as another “temporary” measure that quickly becomes permanent, making it ever harder for them to access the Old City and their holy sites. Other major gates to the occupied Old City have already been effectively “Judaised”.

The decision of Israeli police to erect barriers cannot be divorced from a bigger context for Palestinians: the continuing efforts by Israeli authorities to evict them from areas around the Old City. In recent weeks, fresh waves of armed Jewish settlers have been moving into Silwan, a Palestinian community in the shadow of al-Aqsa Mosque. They have done so as Israel prepares to raze an entire Palestinian neighbourhood there, using its absolute control over planning issues.

Similarly, the Israeli courts have approved the eviction of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, another neighbourhood under belligerent occupation close to the Old City that has been subjected to a long-running, state-backed campaign by Jewish settlers to take it over. Last month, Jerusalem officials added insult to injury by approving a plan to build a memorial to fallen Israeli soldiers in the midst of the Palestinian community.

The decision to close off the Damascus Gate area was therefore bound to provoke resistance from Palestinians, who fought police to take down the barriers. Police responded with tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon.

Those scenes – of uppity natives refusing to be disappeared back into their homes – were part of the trigger that brought the Jewish gangs out onto the streets in a show of force. Police largely let the mob rampage, as youths threw stones and bottles and attacked Palestinians.

Tired of half measures

The sight of Jewish gangs roaming central Jerusalem to hurt Palestinians has been described as a “pogrom” by some progressive US Jewish groups. But the difference between the far-right and the Israeli state in implementing their respective violent agendas is more apparent than real.

Smotrich, Ben Gvir and these street gangs are tired of the half-measures, procrastination and moral posturing by Israeli elites who have hampered efforts to “finish the job”: clearing the native Palestinian population off their lands once and for all.

Whereas Israeli politicians on the left and right have rationalised their ugly, racist actions on the pretext of catch-all “security” measures, the far-right has no need for the international community’s approval. They are impatient for a conclusion to more than seven decades of ethnic cleansing.

And the ranks of the far-right are likely to swell further as it attracts ever-larger numbers of a new generation of the ultra-Orthodox community, the fastest-growing section of Israel’s Jewish population. For the first time, nationalist youths from the Haredi community are turning their backs on a more cautious rabbinical leadership.

And while the violence in Jerusalem has subsided for the moment, the worst is unlikely to be over. The final days of Ramadan coincide this year with the notorious Jerusalem Day parade, an annual ritual in which Jewish ultra-nationalists march through the besieged Palestinian streets of the Old City chanting threats to Palestinians and attacking any who dare to venture out.

Turning a blind eye

Human Rights Watch’s detailed report concludes that western states, by turning a blind eye to Israel’s long-standing abuses of Palestinians and focusing instead on a non-existent peace process, have allowed “apartheid to metastasize and consolidate”.

Its findings echo those of B’Tselem, Israel’s most respected human rights organisation. In January, it too declared Israel to be an apartheid regime in the occupied territories and inside Israel, towards its own Palestinian citizens.

Despite the reluctance of US and European politicians and media to talk about Israel in these terms, a new survey by B’Tselem shows that one in four Israeli Jews accept “apartheid” as an accurate description of Israel’s rule over Palestinians. What is far less clear is how many of them believe apartheid, in the Israeli context, is a good thing.

Another finding in the survey offers a clue. When asked about recent talk from Israeli leaders about annexing the West Bank, two-thirds of Israeli Jews reject the idea that Jews and Palestinians should have equal rights in those circumstances.

The mob in Jerusalem is happy to enforce Israel’s apartheid now, in hopes of speeding up the process of expulsion. Other Israelis are still in denial. They prefer to pretend that apartheid has not yet arrived, in hopes of easing their consciences a little longer.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Jerusalem protests: The mob “breaking faces” learned from Israel’s establishment first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Charlie Hebdo and His Neighbours

French Secular State, Judiciary and Education on Trial

The October 16, 2020, slaying of French civics teacher, Samuel Paty, drew intensely impassioned responses from the French state, members of the society and, specifically, the Muslim immigrant community, the teacher having shown a naked caricature of the Prophet.  Displaying this image from the infamous Charlie Hebdo magazine crossed a “red line” for faithful Muslims. Therefore, the conflict between the Muslim community (3.3% of the population) and the dominant French society invoking the firmly held principle of secularism and separation of church (religion) and state mushroomed.  However, such a heated conflict elicits many questions.

  • Does the principle of secularism, laïcité, an apparent absolute in French society, serve the interests of all people equally whom it purports to benefit? Is laïcité applied with justice and consistency?
  • How did the state handle the murder? How should the state handle the murder?
  • What is the role of the state Ministry of Education and the role of the teacher? Do they create a positive learning environment that will lead to full, productive inclusion of all students equally in French society?
  • For what reasons are minority, ghettoized students being humiliated in schools? Who benefits?

Chronology

On October 16, 2020, M. Samuel Paty, a civics teacher in a middle school in France, fell victim to a brutal murder caught in a conflict between the French practice of secularism and the rage of fundamentalist vengeance. For his having shown Charlie Hebdo cartoons, one being a depiction of the Prophet with genital exposure, religious Muslims were outraged for their children attending that school.  Abdoullakh Anzorov, a Chechen youth from outside that school, exacted the ultimate vengeance with Paty’s beheading.  This act being not an isolated incident, it is important to trace the escalation.

  • In November 2011, the magazine Charlie Hebdo was firebombed for printing satirical material targeting Sharia and the Prophet.
  • On January 7, 2015, following the display of the image later used by Samuel Paty from the magazine Charlie Hebdo, two attackers killed and wounded 23 people in the offices of that magazine, thereby exacting a horrifying revenge for the publication.
  • On May 3, 2015, a Draw Mohammed contest drew gunfire from two shooters, leaving a security guard wounded and the two attackers dead in Garland, Texas.
  • In early October 2020, Samuel Paty showed Charlie Hebdo cartoons in a mixed class wherein Muslim students are registered.
  • There was a strong community reaction: parents lodge complaints; one mosque produces a video condemning the actions of the teacher, soon to be closed down for six months for criticising Paty.
  • On October 16, 2020, M. Samuel Paty was savagely beheaded in the street with a cleaver by a Chechen immigrant, Abdoullakh Anzarov, 18, not a student in the school.
  • Community citizens were arrested following the murder for alleged complicity in the act after social media postings.
  • French citizens rallied in support of Paty and the government position.
  • Samuel Paty, the “quiet hero” according to Macron, was awarded posthumously the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest award, for “representing the face of the Republic” within days in patriotic fervour. “We will not give up cartoons,” he said.
  • The Muslim community complains that Islamophobic affronts increase. On October 22, 2020, two Muslim women are stabbed publicly in the tension after the incidents, ascribed to the friction following M. Paty’s murder.
  • The escalation continued: The Muslim organisation Baraka City and the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), a charity and a community organisation which compiles information on alleged acts of anti-Muslim hatred in the country, both came under attack by the French Interior minister, M Gérald Darmanin, who threatened to shut them down.
  • Macron began implementing policies to acculturate Muslims to a more “French Islam” with cooperation from some clerics.
  • In early February, Macron’s government debated and passed articles on a bill entrenching republican values supported by the French Communist Party (PCF) and the socialist Unsubmissive France (LFI) to challenge “separatism” in the wake of Muslim “radicalism.” Associations, guaranteed in prior laws of laïcité, can be dissolved and amendments can be made by government decree to uphold these republican principles.
  • National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, Macron’s most threatening opposition, called for “war legislation,” thereby using the crisis to ramp up the competition.

Secularism

The principle and practice of laïcité, a social model in law for France since 1905, guarantees the rights of religious freedom for religions and individuals thereof, while maintaining the secular state’s distinct separation from religious influence and the power of any clergy.  Not to be defined by atheism, it advocates secularity, a view based on “this-world” terms, entrenching the right of freedom of speech. Thus, the law, dating from 1905, allowed, even encouraged, the naked caricature as a teaching aid in support of the lesson directed at all students, including Muslim. For most, laïcité is to be an absolute principle.

However, Dr. Alain Gabon, professor at Virginian Wesleyan University, has called Macron on his response by itemising the president’s abrogation of the entrenched law which he purports to be protecting. In fact, Gabon accuses him of enhancing separatism by treating Islam as a distinct threat beyond other religions, hence, separately. However, officials of the French Council of Muslim Faith have signed a “Charter of Principles” outlining terms and conditions that would pacify Islam according to the ideals of the Republic.  He writes:

…besides the extreme violations of freedom of religion and the brutalisation of Islam, the charter is also a glaring violation of French laïcité – a principle the Macron government nonetheless claims to uphold. Based on the 1905 law on the separation of church and state, French laïcité includes three sacred principles that are not open to interpretation: freedom of conscience and religion, the separation of church and state, and equal treatment by the state of all religions. Macron is trampling on all three pillars.

Islam will be a special case before the law.

Inclusion is necessary

What is the message to the youth? With this, they may sup at the trough of a statist hegemony as re-educated Muslims, their practice dictated not from the authority of their community leaders but of a government department, as marginalisation becomes official – hardly a prescription for peace and harmony, or laïcité.  Neo-colonialism is not dead. As Khalid Hajji, a recognized professor of humanities, has written:

My long experience of working with Muslim youth in Europe has shown me that violence among them is largely due to the fact that they cannot recognise themselves in the values of the countries where they live, rather than because of religious fervour… Religion is often only a demarcation line in their attempts to negotiate their sense of identity in today’s difficult European context…. A criminal or a terrorist is not only the product of Islamic culture, but also of the French republic – of its schools, its migration policies and its social fabric.

His warning must be heeded. However, the conflict continued after the firebombing, after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, after the attack in Garland, Texas, after the execution of Samuel Paty, after the restrictions on Muslim organisations, after the assault on Muslim women, and promises of “war legislation.” Now, after the state’s intervention creating separateness of the Muslim community, the state must give protection as it flaunts its own law that should protect the community.  It’s a conundrum. This unfolding narrative has become a meme, a continuing stand-off between ideological republicanism vs. the principles of a minority community.

Political utility

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” Churchill said.  In an outpouring of nationalism inspired by grief, horror and indignation, Macron rose magnificently to the occasion conferring posthumous honours on the victim of the execution. The nation rallied.  The enemy was named: radical Islam, terrorist, separatism.  While Macron never used the term, Islamo-gauchisme became a meme in the press lumping “leftism” with Islam as a threat, timely in the era of Yellow Vests. Contradicting the secularist laws of the first decade of the twentieth century, laws were drafted and passed even to the extent that any association may be punished for an act of one of its members in contradiction to individual human rights.  The government assumed powers of decree in the fight against the common enemy taking a step to the right.  Surprisingly, the Communist Party of France and the socialist LFI of Mélonchon supported Macron in the nationalist frenzy.  Macron was the warrior supreme for all republicans, a strong role with an election coming in 2022.

Of course, his opposition was not silent.  Calling radical Islam a “warlike ideology,” National Rally leader, Marine Le Pen has called for “war legislation” to compete with her rival, for her battle is not only with Islam but with Macron whom she would best.

A common enemy unifies people. While the Yellow Vest protests have underscored the economic and financial crises of capitalism as they rally against austerity and privilege, a gasoline tax and inequities, the traumatised French population gathered en masse in unified nationalism.  They confronted the Muslim enemy, alleged radical separatism which, in some aspersions, is somehow leftist Islamo gauchisme.  What, then, is left of solidarity of the Arab working class with the general population? They have been dismissed with a word in the current rightward trend. The religious rights of Muslims need to be included. This is not limited just to Muslim students but to Arab workers who compose 3.3% of the French population.

One must empathize with the young, for this is the troubled ground on which they are to be nurtured.  While they may not be victims in this fury, these innocents, it all began with a lesson designed for them.  They deserve more respect.

My teaching experience

Having taught many Muslim youths in middle-class Ontario schools, I see them as I see all students – a wonderful mix of characters engaged in school life.  They were not separate, but engaging and respectful, even with an unusual role I played.

Following 1987, upon the Ontario government’s having included sexual orientation in the Bill of Rights, I became program director and implementer of the Anti-Homophobia Action Committee for my board. Because my home school was strongly composed of Muslim students, I was warned by colleagues, “You can’t do that with these kids.”  I did.  Furthermore, as the teacher in charge, I was uncompromisingly “out,” presenting the students with assemblies on human rights and hate crimes.  Happily, as the “out” gay teacher, I had never a sideways glance, rude remark, snigger or any slight from any of those Muslim youths.  They deserved the respect they gave. No, the Charlie Hebdo image would not have been welcome in my classroom.

It’s universal: no student must be humiliated and marginalised.  The consequences may be catastrophic.  As Ontario’s Ministry of Education prescribed as my career began, the teacher must act as a “kind, firm, judicious parent.”

What must teachers do?

A “kind, firm and judicious parent”?  I cannot find one of those qualities in those cartoons, for school must become a locus of learning and growth to prepare the productive citizen. Admittedly, a middle-class Ontario school is some distance from a Parisian banlieue; however, the universal mandate is that all students must be safe, welcome and secure in the educational establishment. Alienation must be avoided, for that will bring disaster for these kids of whose perilous journeys to the West I have only hints.  The singular function of the school must be graduation, a source of dignity and pride in their new country.

The far, far better lesson must be grounded on Martin Luther King’s admonition in his speech in the Riverside Community Church on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated.  “Be neighbourly.”

Compare the two, Charlie vs. Martin. Who benefits?  Cui Bono?

Laïcité has value

While this short work may be thought to be an attack on the original principles of French secularism, it is not.  Of course, ideas must be discussed openly on freedom of speech in class – with sensitivity to create civil dialogue, mandated from ministries of education.  I maintain that the cartoons did not have to be shown, perhaps mentioned. Who in France would not have known about them? Such images are the red line for that already marginalised community which must not be used as a political tool. Reasonable accommodation with respect for the young must be for any teacher the fundamental moral principle.

Need a lesson on freedom of speech? How about Julian Assange to whom France will not give asylum?

Furthermore, I applaud the separation of religion and state when it is done fairly and equitably, in the spirit of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité when applied with respect, especially to youth who are so easily alienated from authority. They are our future, and we can’t afford not to.  I recommend the policy in more countries and jurisdictions, East and West, even my own Province of Ontario where the Roman Catholic Schools, and only that religious group’s schools, are funded publicly.  I say remove it.

• First published in Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post Charlie Hebdo and His Neighbours first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Fake Lower Class Coup, Real Upper Class Bigotry, Near  Social Collapse

A nation more seriously divided than in the 1960s when movements against war and racism pulled families and communities apart and drove some to drugs, drink, and worse, approaches a greater and more threatening social dissolution. When more than 74 million people can be reduced to “white supremacists” by alleged liberals with the same ease that past supposed conservatives were led to see a communist fiend behind every supporter of unity among people we are indeed in a time of all American hate crimes, thought crimes and worse. Those labels are being flung about by one or another bunch of hateful bigots, loving humanitarians or usually, both.

A unique occupier of the highest office in the national corporation was able to blunder, bumble and buy his way into the most egocentric and blatantly honest performance of what America really is as opposed to the fantasy drummed into our heads in what passes for our education in consumption mythology received at day care centers, grammar schools and the nation’s leading universities. Probably the most honest president in American history thus characterized as a liar by consciousness control because he speaks whatever little he thinks and is understandable to tens of millions who have no idea what the hell their government is doing other than ripping them off, his incredible egomania threatened minority rule by making it all too clear how rich, egotistical, murderous and dumb American rule is on the global stage. His victory was immediately attacked by ruling powers because of the threat he represented by exposing the reality of America as the egocentric brutal global force it is instead of the mythological land of the free and the brave reduced to murdering foreigners and consigning millions of citizens to poverty and waste only due to evil Russians or Chinese or Iranians while manipulating good people into the need for creating salvation for suffering immigrants who really represent cheap labor and greater profits for capital while poverty-stricken Americans grow in number by the microsecond.

The loud, boisterous and at moments truly violent demonstration protesting the rubber stamping of victory by acknowledging one of the worst aspects of fake democracy, the electoral college – previously opposed by the same sectors now genuflecting before this sacred aspect of our sacred democracy – has been transformed into an attack on all things sacred to Americans. This religious terminology is being used by agnostics, atheists, the allegedly sophisticated and the terminally dumb to describe what was threatened by this mob of disgruntled, confused and often dangerous to furniture as well as life demonstrators.

Given the near hysteria of ruling power expressed through its servant professional media class you would think they assaulted Wall Street or the handful of billionaires who dominate politics and economics in our “sacred” democracy, but, no, they just broke into the capital and mostly occupied themselves as many Americans do every day: taking selfies and carrying on like wasteful consumers. Mind management had it that “white supremacist “police were in league with the “white supremacist” invaders and even after it was learned that a “white supremacist” police officer had been murdered by the “white supremacist” mob and that a “white supremacist” woman had been murdered by the “white supremacist” police, this narrowing of a dreadfully critical social problem to one of identities continues the consciousness-controlling propaganda that wealth and class play no role in anything of substance.

There may be a massive demonstration by upper class feminists to protest the murder of the woman trumpist who was said to have voted for Obama in the previous election, before she became a “white supremacist”, but be advised not to hang by your lip waiting for that.

Some of the mob that broke away from the much larger crowd at Trump’s tortured logic speech which was said to have created the incident, (you know, the way Russia and China meddle in our business and politics) were armed and this may have been the most shocking part of the event enabling the programming hysterics to turn a seething mob into a bigger seething mob. Americans are the most armed population in the world, but the overwhelming majority of the legal gun bearers are not preparing to hold up a convenience store or murder a neighbor, though that certainly occupies lots of time and action among citizens of our “sacred” democracy. Actually these armed citizens are programmed to help the weapons market mostly to protect themselves and their families from the most fiendish menace ever known to humanity: Other Americans!

That weapons market is in the “sacred” constitution, according to some less than sacred constitutional scholars, but one man’s diverse profit is another woman’s diverse loss. Or vice versa, now that sexual equality in the market means instead of being limited to watching muscular men in their underwear beating the living crap out of one another on TV, we can watch muscular women in their underwear beating the living crap out of one another on TV. Isn’t our “sacred” democracy wonderful in its diversity?

Meanwhile, at the class bigotry mall where some dine on farm to table delicacy and others on taco pizza burgers, the fractured society of haves, and have-nots suffer a poverty of information and a wealth of ridiculous propaganda to keep their/our minds off real democracy in blind support of the atrocity of minority rule that passes for it by teaching that voting in an election and then going to sleep until the next one is what majority rule is all about. At a time when the nation is driven apart as never before the obvious ruling “democratic” strategy is to set more people against one another and thereby further prevent them from coming together and creating actual majority rule. That’s something that never existed for a moment in this nation’s history where the closest thing to democracy occurs in very small communities and even then most of the electorate doesn’t vote for whoever wins or loses.

The fear-mongering and hysterical over-reactions to individuals while remaining unconscious to a system infinitely more malevolent to people and nature will continue as the capitalist pandemic threatens far more than private profit in the creation of massive public loss. That loss is experienced by all the people save for the tiny minority of multi-millionaires and billionaires who grow richer daily and are now a diverse as never before mixture of people of color, no color, some color, multi-color, tri-color but essentially part of the tiny minority in control of a massive majority still being turned against one another for being people of color, no color, some color, etc., and kept from noticing we are the majority and will be ruled by a tiny minority until we realize what we have in common.

The fate of our nation and humanity will be lost if we don’t rise above these truly racist and bigoted rules of the rich, forced into our minds to keep them in charge and us blaming one another for being helpless. We need to learn how bi-partisan the ruling parties are, both owned by the rich and, save for a tiny handful, totally dedicated to survival of the system that makes some rich beyond imagination but most of us poorer in material, spiritual, psychological but most especially political economic reality.

We need to end the provoked war against one another and if we are to attack anyone, it should be the mass murdering thieves who preside over this fake democracy. Which is mostly why those 74 million are hardly “white supremacists” but people seriously wanting a better world and more democratic government that performs for all the people and not just some of them, which is what most of the 81 million who voted for the other system servant want as well. They/we need to start communicating with one another without the treacherous filters of the consciousness controllers and mind managers of corporate anti-social media, as well as their imitator flunkies on what passes for social media but is all too often an echo of the worst fantasy and supernatural idiocy from ruling class central.

As difficult as it may be, we need to start listening to the people and not simply those alleged to be speaking for the people, and then acting to create responsible government that looks out for all of us and not just some. That means a social revolution that doesn’t have us close to killing one another, which is what current nonsense about alleged coups and vendettas will lead us to if we don’t stop it before it’s too late. Less than five percent of Americans exercise near total economic power, political control and true supremacy over more than 95 percent of us. Surrounding government buildings with armed guards is the policy of that minority but presently supported by far too many of the misguided. We need to wake up, in the present tense, and become a guided, cooperative, truly democratic population demanding that the common, public good comes before any private profit before those supremacist private forces destroy us all, with or without identity labels or slogans that too often deny reality when what we need is to change it, radically.

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“Nazi Satan Death Cults” and other Mass Distractions

Recently, Dissident Voice contributor, the never-compromising class- and labor-blogger, Michael K. Smith, took on a dragon of the  progressive left whose slaying really seems long overdue. Writing in his typically potent style, Smith hammered out the following:

How many times do we need to request a meaningless ‘denunciation’ of white supremacy? We, on what passes for a left, are supposed to be critics of corporate media, so why the dog-like obedience to its idiotic framing on this non-issue?…

Let us have no more Southern Poverty Law Center-style ‘studies’ of how right-wing fascists are poised to take over the country, which they’ve been robotically repeating since the 1970s.

Non-stories about ‘hate-group terror’ do indeed fill the corporate media—and, yes, a few real ones too. This has been so since the 1980s when sheared, pale youth spewing semi-literate vitriol filled day-time TV on a weekly basis — where did Geraldo/Oprah/Sally Jesse find these people, I always asked myself.

History Channel-Nazis and Hollywood skinheads do indeed horrify and fascinate, and they always will. That’s a good, ingrained impulse, surely. But it’s also why people like Morris Dees and his Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) have been able to scare literally hundreds of millions of dollars from rich, northeastern liberals over the last fifty years. As a result, Dees and his group have been called ‘everything that’s wrong with liberalism today.’

A Canadian version of Smith’s piece would have mentioned our own SPLC: the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. Just days before Smith’s piece, the self-described ‘monitor of Canadian hate’ provided the corporate media some of the most “idiotic framing on this non-issue” I’ve ever seen framed. See the slab of a quote below which the Global News network saw fit to print from the group.

The context here is what CAN gleaned from the social-media accounts of a white guy being investigated for murdering a Muslim man in Ontario the month previous. Among other things, CAN found:

… he followed individuals associated with the national socialist black metal scenes, we are talking neo-Nazi metal. From there, we found his YouTube account, we found that he posted a video that’s associated with this chant that’s associated with this Nazi Satanist ideology, and we looked back on his other social media profiles and found that he used very specific language that would indicate that he was an adherent, or at least extremely well-versed, in the ideology of this Nazi death cult.

What is “Nazi Satanist ideology”, you ask? CAN nor the reporter tells you. What’s a “Nazi death cult”? Same thing. Nothing. Certainly, concerned Canadians would like to know things like how many death cults are out there, whether they’re here in Canada, etc., but, again, no details — and, no, this “chant” business isn’t explained either.

How do we know this isn’t all just word play designed to produce certain mental effects? We don’t, and that’s what makes uncritical reporting from corporate media seem sensationalist and deceptive.

Global News also pushed out a claim that appears on CAN’s site about Canada having a whopping 300 ‘far-right extremist’ groups. This would be news to most — including CSIS, Canada’s FBI, because it would be astounding if it were true. One research report that looked through the SPLC’s own list of around a thousand hate-groups in the US concluded it to be essentially a fraud designed to scare the public—I haven’t been able to find any details about the contents of CAN’s list anywhere online; a red flag for an objective reporter and political leaders, surely (just this week, the list was mentioned by the leader of Canada’s progressive party).

Now, I don’t disbelieve the accused killer has some alarming internet habits (nor that CAN does some good work), but the complete lack of push-back from Global News as well as its failure to seek an outside source (a law professor? CSIS spokespeople?) clearly had to do with what the corporate media has always done since at least the days of William Randolph Hearst: provoking fear from the public so they spend more attention on the media-spectacle and less on capitalism.

That this type of advocacy takes the public’s focus away, as Smith argues, is frustrating enough. But on top of it, just days after Smith’s piece, CAN received a $268,000 grant from Trudeau’s Liberal Party. The federal grant followed a corporate one of $10,000 from the Bank of Montreal just weeks after the murder of George Floyd. Both were surely intended to divert attention away from the economic oppression each is deeply invested in and likely a waste of taxpayer-funds that could be spent on things like race-relations education or de-escalation training for cops.

Even calling CAN “liberal” seems to be overly generous. As Dissident Voice contributor Yves Engler has documented, CAN apparently failed to condemn a horrific Al Quds rally in Toronto last year in which innocent Palestinian-rights protesters were hounded by 50 to 100 members of anti-Islam groups, including the notorious Jewish Defense League (which the FBI labels a terrorist organization). Interestingly enough, among the harassing protesters was something called the Soldiers of Odin, a motorcycle gang who CAN does label a hate group. On most days at least.

This likely wasn’t loafing on the job. CAN’s chair Bernie Farber has a history of defending Israeli apartheid going back to the 1980s when he led a Zionist lobbying group, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC).  His former CJC partner Len Rudner is also part of CAN. Counterpunch even wrote back in 2007 that Farber is somewhat of an originator of the now well-known conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism — Not one of our proudest exports, if true.

Unsurprisingly then, he’s also called support for BDS or the use of  “apartheid” to describe what’s happening in the oPt as signs of “anti-Semitism.”

The inconsistencies don’t stop there. In 2018, he led a push to remove a statue of John A. Macdonald stating that, due to him espousing “legalized racism” and having ‘degraded’ indigenous peoples, he shouldn’t receive “any honours”, let alone statues. In addition, Farber’s given seminars on the genocide and ‘betrayal by colonialist ideals’ experienced by Canada’s First Nations. Fair enough. But such sensitivity toward indigenous rights and reconciliation should strike some as slightly incongruous considering his previous attempt to ban pro-Palestinian activists from participating in Toronto’s Gay Pride parade. Or, his defense of notorious anti-Muslim activist Daniel Pipes. Or, his opposition to York University students protesting Israel’s 2009 Operation Cast Lead, a three-week-long assault in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed, some with white phosphorous.

For progressives, emphasizing racial issues over class struggle has been controversial since it began in the late sixties. Both should be pursued without cannibalizing one another. After all, one can point to numerous examples of big business, past and present, stoking up racial tensions among workers in order to pursue a divide-and-conquer labor strategy.

Further, highlighting the problem of hate groups screams of a middle-class concern, one which working people can’t afford to elevate above the structural economic unfairness they deal with daily.

Smith’s argument that ‘white supremacist terror’ has become a distraction for the benefit of the oligarchs has plenty of merit. The near-constant and symbolic denunciations it receives from Trudeau’s Liberals and Woke Capital helps bear this out as does the SPLC’s hoovering up of donation funds that could’ve been spent in minority communities.

And merely speaking out against white-supremacist gangs shouldn’t inspire self-righteousness or automatically make you a leftist. SPLC and CAN prove this. Leaning into serious racist structures like those found in Israel and elsewhere does. Until we see this from CAN, the SPLC, etc., corporate media’s attention and our tax dollars should be spent elsewhere.

The post "Nazi Satan Death Cults" and other Mass Distractions first appeared on Dissident Voice.

White Supremacy Sanctions Internal and External Colonialism

Introduction

Regularly, the media has reported the dire effects of European dominance on the communities of a disenfranchised minority: the public execution of African-Americans by police, the epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in Canada, the shadow of residential schools in North America, the legacy of red-lining, the impact of the murders of the oil-rich Osage County Indians in Oklahoma, the victimization of native lobster fisherman in Nova Scotia, and the Tulsa race massacre of 1921. None of these things would have been if they were not fueled by a racist ideology. We will explore the connection between racism and imperialism as it played out in the United States.

  1. Why would racist ideology intensify after the slaves were freed?
  2. Why was the Monroe Doctrine insufficient for American capitalism, such that oceans had to be crossed at the turn of the twentieth century?
  3. How did white supremacist theories of racial hierarchy support the aggression of imperial capitalism?
  4. How and by whom was the deception of “spreading democracy and civilization” used? What war crimes might be charged today to the aggressors?
  5. How did American foreign policy in the East lay the groundwork for Pearl Harbor?

My reading of three books1 worked as complementary texts which raised historical questions about the function of race in imperial capitalism, and in combination,  gave me answers to these questions.

Why would racist ideologies begin after the slaves were freed?

Tracing the intellectual roots of racism in The Condemnation of Blackness, Khalil Gibran Muhammad explores the Darwinian theories of race regarding inferior genetics and the cultural biases of the late 19th century and early 20th century America, those in the academic world of prestigious universities.   On the surface we might think that racist ideology would co-extensively appear with racist practices at the same time the slaves first were brought over. But it was only after the Civil War that they became fully developed.  The reason was the fear of what African Americans might do politically. After the Civil War, a Harvard scientist, Nathaniel Southgate Shaler, wrote that the Black people were “a danger greater and more insuperable than any of those that menace the other great civilized states of the world” (Muhammad, p. 15). Therefore, the newly emancipated African American had to be scrutinized and evaluated for fitness in citizenship.  Such scrutiny would demand newly minted scientific methods of analysis to demonstrate that inherited qualities enhanced “criminality…alongside disease and intelligence, as a fundamental measure of black inferiority” (Muhammad, p. 20).  Such a practice would lead eventually even to the measurement of the volume of skulls as with the Darwinian studies of Samuel George Morton, repeated even as recently as 1989 and touted by Philippe Rushton in a TV debate with David Suzuki on CBC in Canada.  Contributions made to this Anglo-Saxon narrative of civilization entrenched the imperial European supremacist views derived from its self-admiring historiography and political vanities.  The trajectory was clear: German to Anglo-Saxon to American — emancipation did not ensure equity.

Within the United States what were the purposes of creating a racial hierarchy? Divide and conquer

Still within the United States, as the varying races of the European stock had the challenge of unifying its branches, the Celts and the Slavs were granted grudging acceptance.  However, the African was simply excluded.  Muhammad, in The Condemnation of Blackness, identifies the hierarchy of races in the Eurocentric world by citing W.E.B. Du Bois who condemns the social stratification of the Anglo-Saxon, Teuton, Celt, Slav, yellow Asian, brown Indian, but “with the Negroes of Africa we come to a full stop, and in its heart the civilized world with one accord denies that these come within the pale of nineteenth-century Humanity” (Muhammad, p. 25).  However, it is this qualitative gradation of races that becomes the moral validation for the explosion of American imperialism onto foreign shores and for its burgeoning market capitalism, while being touted as necessary for the advance of civilization.

Capitalist imperialism needs racism in order to spread

Both James Bradley in The Imperial Cruise and Stephen Kinzer in The True Flag document the imperial expansion of the Spanish-American War. But having been established by the slavery of European mercantilism, the wealth accumulation of American capitalism was becoming increasingly hemmed in with the closing of the West at the end of the nineteenth century. However, the Aryan urge for its sense of rightful dominance refused to be limited, and so the American imperial era was born with McKinley and Roosevelt’s reaching beyond the strictures of the Monroe Doctrine, now becoming a global doctrine of security and democracy.

Westward Ho and Southward Ho: Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico

As documented in The True Flag by Stephen Kinzer, the destinies of Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico, would fall to the brutal wiles of men such as Henry Cabot Lodge, the expansionist icon, wielding his more-than-significant weight upon the fantasies of imperial buckaroos such as Theodore Roosevelt.  As Lodge charged, the Enlightenment principle, the “consent of the governed,” offering “a great lack of definite meaning,” must be supplanted, for “to abandon the islands or to leave them now would be a wrong to humanity…[as he] would regard their loss as a calamity to our trade and commerce, and to all our business interests, so great that no man can measure it…” (Kinzer, p. 165). The capitalist priority was clear.

Filipino resistance to the imperial hand

So, it came to pass, with the killing of a Filipino by Private William Grayson on February 4, 1899, that within twenty-four hours, three thousand Pacific Negroes, with the soldiers so erroneously using the n-word, (Bradley, p. 102) lay dead; being dark and indigenous earned that degrading American appellation even for these non-Africans.  Because even with tens of thousands killed, they refused American kindness as the killing, the slaughters, the concentration camps, and the waterboarding were carried out by such barbarians as Jake Smith in deeply criminal aggression.  Of course, justified back home by racial ideology, Roosevelt was promising “our earnest effort is to help these people upward along the stony and difficult path that leads to self-government” (Bradley, p. 124).  The pancake maquillage of paternalistic munificence was applied heavily under the imperial stage lights. At the Minnesota State Fair Roosevelt claimed “our duty toward the people living in barbarism is to see that they are freed from their chains, and we can do it only by destroying barbarism itself” (Kinzer, p. 206). Lodge would get his wish.

Imperialism by Proxy: the Japanese

In Asia, the supremacist operation took a different turn as the Chinese Open-Door Policy became threatened with such inconveniences as the Boxer Rebellion, the Chinese Boycott of 1905 and Russian interests.  Although control of Hawaii, the Philippines and Guam were firm, what was needed was a proxy, not only superior technically and militarily, but inherently superior. The love-in began between Japan and the United States for direct action would have been impossible in a region complicated by Russian, French, German, American and Japanese incursions. Because America was amassing capital from the growth of agricultural and industrial strength, it had to find opportunities to grow in foreign lands; capitalism stagnant is capitalism moribund. Following its victories, as Stephen Kinzer states, “Americans were eager for the adventure of conquest. They had been convinced that the stability of their economy, and of the United States itself, depended on taking foreign lands” (Kinzer, p. 201). Threatened by competition in the East especially from Czarist Russia, an alliance, with utmost discretion, was consolidated between Japan and the United States.

The ideological construction of a hierarchy of races was foundational in the nurturing of the proxy. Bradley clarifies:

To Roosevelt, the Japanese were the champions of Anglo-Saxon civilisation in North Asia and an antidote to the degraded ‘Chinks’ and slovenly Slavs. Roosevelt was convinced…that the Japanese…were ‘a wonderfully civilized people…entitled to stand on absolute equality with all the other peoples of the civilized world’  (Bradley, p. 208).

After May 28, 1905, the Naval Battle of Tsushima destroyed the Russian Navy. Reverend Robert MacArthur of New York City’s Calvary Baptist Church, offering his religious insights, intoned to his faithful, “The victory of the Japanese is a distinct triumph for Christianity.  The new civilization of Japan is largely the result of Christian teaching” (Bradley, p. 236).  With its victory, Japan, in this Darwinian evolution of societies, now spiritually, socially and technically becomes worthy of being the proxy warrior for American capitalism, the honorary Aryan. The Japanese had been groomed to affect their Asian Monroe Doctrine from thirty years earlier as the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere. The American diplomat General Le Gendre stated when guiding the Japanese Foreign Ministry, “One must act courageously for the purpose of pushing forward the flag of the rising Sun in Asia and for the sake of the expansion of our empire” (Bradley, pp. 187-8).  The deputy was expected to serve the interests of the master, but he learned more than the master bargained for.  This unholy alliance of mutual self-interest, reciprocal flattery and unintended consequences turns ugly, culminating in Pearl Harbour and Nagasaki.

Global imperialism

However, those others—the “pacific negroes” (Bradley, p. 97)—anywhere, must duly play their role in gratitude and subservience. At the time, Senator Orville Platt [of the Platt Amendment] called Western Pacific expansion, “the law of our national growth…the great law of our racial development,” (Bradley, p. 98). The newspaper, the Baltimore American, called upon “the same old law of the survival of the fittest.  The weak must bend to the strong and today the American race is the sturdiest, the noblest on earth” (Bradley, p. 99).  Such is an idea that would plague the 19th and 20th centuries in years to come.

As James Bradley states, quoting the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Lewis H. Morgan (1818-1881) in The Imperial Cruise, “The Aryan family represents the central stream of progress, because it produced the highest type of mankind, and because it proved its intrinsic superiority by gradually assuming control of the earth” (Bradley, p. 33).  The white man had a right to the globe through his inherent superiority. The rights of the indigenous peoples were to be subordinate.

Conclusion: The Fate of Rome

Warnings are so often dismissed. So, after the Patriot Act and the endless wars of conquest, the “full spectrum dominance,” the ruin and death as imperial capitalism takes its toll in the name of bringing democracy, I quote the words of Moorfield Storey.  On June 15, 1898, as the House of Representatives were debating the annexation of Hawaii, the founding president of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, stood on the steps of Faneuil Hall in Boston and announced, “Let us govern any considerable body of men without their consent, and it is but a question of time how soon this Republic shares the fate of Rome!” (Kinzer, p. 15)

• First published in Planning Beyond Capitalism

  1. The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America, Kahlil Gibran Muhammad, (2019); The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire, Stephen Kinzer, (2008); and The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War, James Bradley, (2010).

The post White Supremacy Sanctions Internal and External Colonialism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

It is the Equalities Commission, not Labour, carrying out Political Interference

I recently published in Middle East Eye a long analysis of last week’s report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission into the question of whether the UK Labour party had an especial antisemitism problem. (You can read a slightly fuller version of that article on my website.) In the piece, I reached two main conclusions.

First, the commission’s headline verdict – though you would never know it from reading the media’s coverage – was that no case was found that Labour suffered from “institutional antisemitism”.

That, however, was precisely the claim that had been made by groups like the Jewish Labour Movement, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Board of Deputies and prominent rabbis such as Ephraim Mirvis. Their claims were amplified by Jewish media outlets such as the Jewish Chronicle and individual journalists such as Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian. All are now shown to have been wrong, to have maligned the Labour party and to have irresponsibly inflamed the concerns of Britain’s wider Jewish community.

Not that any of these organisations or individuals will have to apologise. The corporate media – from the Mail to the Guardian – are continuing to mislead and misdirect on this issue, as they have been doing for the best part of five years. Neither Jewish leadership groups such as the Board of Deputies nor the corporate media have an interest in highlighting the embarrassing fact that the commission’s findings exposed their campaign against Corbyn as misinformation.

Breaches of procedure

What the report found instead were mainly breaches of party protocol and procedure: that complaints about antisemitism were not handled promptly and transparently.

But even here the issue was not really about antisemitism, as the report indicates, even if obliquely. Delays in resolving complaints were chiefly the responsibility not of Corbyn and his staff but of a party bureaucracy that he inherited and was deeply and explicitly hostile to him.

Senior officials stalled antisemitism complaints not because they were especially antisemitic but because they knew the delays would embarrass Corbyn and weaken him inside the party, as the leaked report of an Labour internal inquiry revealed in the spring.

But again, neither the media nor Jewish leadership groups have any interest in exposing their own culpability in this false narrative. And the new Labour leadership, under Keir Starmer, has absolutely no incentive to challenge this narrative either, particularly as doing so would be certain to revive exactly the same kind of antisemitism smears, but this time directed against Starmer himself.

Too hasty and aggressive

The corporate media long ago styled Labour staff who delayed the complaints procedure to harm Corbyn as antisemitism “whistleblowers”. Many of them starred in last year’s BBC Panorama programme on Labour in which they claimed they had been hampered from carrying out their work.

The equalities commission’s report subtly contradicts their claims, conceding that progress on handling complaints improved after senior Labour staff hostile to Corbyn – the “whistleblowers” very much among them – were removed from their posts.

Indeed, the report suggests the very opposite of the established media narrative. Corbyn’s team, far from permitting or encouraging delays in resolving antisemitism complaints, too often tried to step in to speed up the process to placate the corporate media and Jewish organisations.

In an example of having your cake and eating it, the commission castigates Corbyn’s staff for doing this, labelling it “political interference” and terming these actions unfair and discriminatory. But the unfairness chiefly relates to those being complained against – those accused of antisemitism – not those doing the complaining.

If Labour had an identifiable problem in relation to antisemitism complaints, according to the report, it seems to have occurred mostly in terms of the party being too hasty and aggressive in tackling antisemitism, in response to relentless criticism from the media and Jewish organisations, rather than being indulgent of it.

Again, no one in the media, Jewish leadership organisations, or the new Labour leadership wants this finding to be highlighted. So it is being ignored.

Flawed approach

The second conclusion, which I lacked the space to deal with properly in my Middle East Eye piece, relates more specifically to the commission’s own flawed approach in compiling the report rather than the media’s misrepresentation of the report.

As I explained in my earlier piece, the commission itself is very much an establishment body. Even had it wanted to, which it most certainly did not, it was never going to stick its neck out and rubbish the narrative presented by the establishment media.

On procedural matters, such as how the party handled antisemitism complaints, the equalities commission kept the report as vague as possible, obfuscating who was responsible for those failings and who was supposed to benefit from Corbyn staff’s interference. Both issues had the potential to fatally undermine the established media narrative.

Instead, the commission’s imprecision has allowed the media and Jewish organisations to interpret the report in self-serving ways – ways convenient to their existing narrative about “institutional antisemitism” in Labour.

Scouring social media

But the report misleads not only in its evasion and ambiguity. It does so more overtly in its seemingly desperate effort to find examples of Labour party “agents” who were responsible for the “problem” of antisemitism.

It is worth pondering what it would have looked like had the commission admitted it was unable to find anyone to hold to account for antisemitism in Labour. That would have risked blowing a very large hole in the established media narrative indeed.

So there must have been a great deal of pressure on the commission to find some examples. But extraordinarily – after five years of relentless claims of “institutional antisemitism” in Labour, and of organisations like the Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Jewish Labour Movement scouring through Labour members’ social media accounts – the commission is able to muster sufficient evidence against only two individuals.

Two!

Both are found responsible for “illegal harassment” of Jewish people.

In those circumstances, therefore, it is important to critically examine just what evidence exists that these two individuals exhibited antisemitic attitudes or harassed Jews. Presumably, this pair’s behaviour was so egregious, their antisemitism so unmistakable, that the commission felt it had no choice but to single them out and hold the party responsible for failing to punish them summarily (without, of course, exhibiting at the same time any “political interference”).

I won’t test readers’ patience by examining both examples. In any case, I have dealt with one of them, Ken Livingstone, London’s former mayor, at length in previous blog posts. They can be read here and here, for example.

Outward appearances

Let us focus instead on the other person named: a minor Labour party figure named Pam Bromley, who was then a local councillor for the borough of Rossendale, near Bolton.

First, we should note that the “harassment” she was deemed to have carried out seems to have been limited to online comments posted to social media. The commission does not suggest she expressed any hatred of Jews, made threats against any Jews individually or collectively, or physically attacked anyone Jewish.

I don’t know anything about Bromley, apart from the handful of comments attributed to her in the report. I also don’t know what was going on inside her head when she wrote those posts. If the commission knows more, it does not care to share that information with us. We can only judge the outward appearance of what she says.

One social media post, it is true, does suggest a simplistic political outlook that may have indicated an openness to anti-Jewish conspiracy theories – or what the commission terms a “trope”. Bromley herself says she was making “general criticisms about capitalism”. Determining antisemitic conduct on the basis of that one post – let alone allowing an entire party of 500,000 members to be labelled “institutionally antisemitic” for it – might seem more than a little excessive.

But notably the problematic post was made in April 2018 – shortly after Corbyn’s staff wrestled back control of the complaints procedure from those hostile to his project. It was also the same month Bromley was suspended from the party. So if the post was indeed antisemitic, Corbyn’s Labour lost no time in dealing with it.

Did Bromley otherwise demonstrate a pattern of posting antisemitic material on social media that makes it hard to dispute that she harboured antisemitic motives? Were her comments so obviously antisemitic that the Labour party bureaucracy should have sanctioned her much sooner (even if at the time Corbyn’s staff had no control over the disciplinary process to do so)?

Let us examine the two comments highlighted by the commission in the main section of the report, which they deem to constitute the most clear-cut examples of Bromley’s antisemitism.

Raw emotions

The first was posted on Facebook, though strangely the commission appears not to know when:

Had Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party pulled up the drawbridge and nipped the bogus AS [antisemitism] accusations in the bud in the first place we would not be where we are now and the fifth column in the LP [Labour Party] would not have managed to get such a foothold … the Lobby has miscalculated … The witch hunt has created brand new fightback networks … The Lobby will then melt back into its own cesspit.

The strong language doubtless reflects the raw emotions the antisemitism claims against Corbyn’s supporters provoked. Many members understood only too well that the Labour party was riven by a civil war and that their socialist project was at stake. But where exactly is the antisemitism in Bromley’s tirade?

In the report, the commission says it considered the reference to a “fifth column” as code for Jews. But why? The equalities commission appears to have placed the worst possible interpretation on an ambiguous comment and then advanced it as an “antisemitic trope” – apparently a catch-all that needed no clarification.

But given what we now know – at least since the leaking of the internal Labour report in the spring – it seems far more likely Bromley, in referring to a “fifth column”, was talking about the party bureaucracy hostile to Corbyn. Most of those officials were not Jewish, but exploited the antisemitism claims because those claims were politically helpful.

Interpreted that way – and such an interpretation fits the facts presented in the leaked internal report – Bromley’s comment is better viewed as impolite, even hurtful, but probably not antisemitic.

Joan Ryan, an MP who was then head of Labour Friends of Israel – part of the lobby Bromley is presumably referring to – was not Jewish. But she was clearly very much part of the campaign to oust Corbyn using antisemitism as a stick to beat him and his supporters with, as an Al-Jazeera undercover documentary exposed in early 2017.

Ryan, we should remember, was instrumental in falsely accusing a Labour party member of an “antisemitic trope” – a deception that was only exposed because the exchange was secretly caught on film.

Internecine feud

Here is the second comment by Bromley highlighted by the commission. It was posted in late 2019, shortly after Labour had lost the general election:

My major criticism of him [Corbyn] – his failure to repel the fake accusations of antisemitism in the LP [Labour Party] – may not be repeated as the accusations may probably now magically disappear, now capitalism has got what it wanted.

Again, it seems clear that Bromley is referring to the party’s long-standing internecine feud, which would become public knowledge a few months later with the leaking of the internal report.

Here Bromley was suggesting that the media and anti-Corbyn wing of the party would ease up on the antisemitism allegations – as they indeed largely have done – because the threat of Corbyn’s socialist project had been ended by a dismal election result that saw the Tories gain a commanding parliamentary majority.

It could be argued that her assessment is wrong, but how is it antisemitic – unless the commission believes “capitalism” is also code for “Jews”?

But even if Bromley’s comments are treated as indisputably antisemitic, they are hardly evidence of Corbyn’s Labour party indulging antisemitism, or being “institutionally antisemitic”. As noted, she was suspended by the party in April 2018, almost as soon Corbyn’s team managed to gain control of the party bureaucracy from the old guard. She was expelled last February, while Corbyn was still leader.

Boris Johnson’s racism

It is instructive to compare the certainty with which the commission treats Bromley’s ambiguous remarks as irrefutable proof of antisemitism with its complete disregard for unmistakably antisemitic comments from Boris Johnson, the man actually running the country. That lack of concern is shared, of course, by the establishment media and Jewish leadership organisations.

The commission has repeatedly rejected parallel demands from Muslim groups for an investigation into the ruling Conservative party for well-documented examples of Islamophobia. But no one seems to be calling for an investigation of Johnson’s party for antisemitism.

Johnson himself has a long history of making overtly racist remarks, from calling black people “piccanninies” with “watermelon smiles” to labelling Muslim women “letterboxes”.

Jews have not avoided being stigmatised either. In his novel 72 Virgins, Johnson uses his authorial voice to suggest that Jewish oligarchs run the media and are able to fix an election result.

In a letter to the Guardian, a group of Jewish Corbyn supporters noted Johnson’s main Jewish character in the novel, Sammy Katz, was described as having a “proud nose and curly hair”, and he was painted “as a malevolent, stingy, snake-like Jewish businessman who exploits immigrant workers for profit”.

Nothing in the equalities commission’s report on Labour comes even close to suggesting this level of antisemitism. But then again, Johnson has never argued that antisemitism has been politically weaponised. And why would he? No one, from the corporate media to conservative Jewish leadership organisations, seems to be taking any serious interest in the overt racism demonstrated by either him or his party.

The post It is the Equalities Commission, not Labour, carrying out Political Interference first appeared on Dissident Voice.

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

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

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

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

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

‘Monopoly gatekeeper’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Censorship by stealth

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

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

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

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

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

Wrong kinds of speech

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

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

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

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

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

Separate digital rights

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

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

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

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

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

‘Flood the internet’

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

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

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

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

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

Willing allies

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

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

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

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

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

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

News agencies shut down

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wiped off the map

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

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

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

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

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

Out of the shadows

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

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

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

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

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

• First published in Middle East Eye

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