It would be impossible for Palestinians not to revel in six prisoners carrying out a daring escape from one of Israel’s most secure and modern jails. Israel may be working overtime to demonise the six men as “terrorists“, but for Palestinians, they are among its finest and bravest foot soldiers.
They are prisoners of war, most of whom were serving long sentences after they tried to liberate their homeland by killing Israeli soldiers or settlers – those seen to be implementing and enforcing Israel’s decades-old occupation.
All Palestinians can identify with the plight of these men. Imprisonment is a rite of passage for much of the male Palestinian population; estimates are that many hundreds of thousands have passed through Israel’s jails over the past five decades.
Many are in jail awaiting trial, as were two of the six escapees. Others are in administrative detention – jailed without trial or even being told what charges are levelled against them. Inmates’ rights are serially abused. They are kept in overcrowded cells, have little contact with their families, and are often beaten or tortured.
In the summer, footage emerged – redolent of the abuses committed by the US army at Abu Ghraib in Iraq – of mass beatings of Palestinian inmates at Ketziot prison in Israel’s south in 2019. No action was taken even after the video leaked, presumably because this kind of thing – if rarely seen – is entirely routine. It confirms what Palestinian prisoners have long been saying.
And most Palestinian political prisoners are held in jails inside Israel, outside the occupied territories – the six fugitives broke out of Gilboa prison, in northern Israel – in flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions and Israel’s obligations under the laws of war. As a result, family visits are often difficult, if not impossible.
Humiliation for Israel
Every Palestinian will glory in Israel’s humiliation. Guards failed to spot the prisoners gradually widening a hole in the drainage system in their cell over many months. The six men moved undetected past a sleeping guard, and they planned a sophisticated getaway – seemingly assisted – that foiled a police manhunt hot on their tail.
But the celebrations in Palestinian communities across the region, and far beyond, relate not just to the jailbreak. Every day the prisoners remain free – and four were still at large on Friday, after two were reportedly caught in Nazareth – is another hammer blow against the occupation. That is not just the way Palestinians see it. It is how Israel’s officials and much of the public understand it too.
The six did not just escape from an Israeli maximum-security prison. They jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. They broke out of the small prison that is Gilboa into the much larger prison for Palestinians that is their homeland under occupation.
Every minute the men remain at large, Israel’s occupation is defied. Every minute they can’t be found, Israel’s system of control is defeated. Palestinians are reminded that freedom may ultimately be possible; that the occupation is not invincible.
Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian militant faction to which five of the men belonged, has urged Palestinians not to speak of this as an escape but as an “act of liberation”. This is precisely why Israel is determined that, as soon as possible, the men are returned behind visible bars – or maybe killed in a shootout, a fate that often befalls those who defy Israel. The point of its occupation is to crush any hope, any sense that freedom can be attained.
Hierarchy of confinement
In fact, like Dante’s circles of hell, Israel has created a hierarchy of confinement for Palestinians. The more they resist the fate intended for them by Israel – to be dispossessed and erased from their homeland – the more harshly Israel constrains them.
Prison is the ultimate punishment. But as is so often pointed out, Gaza is also a giant detention camp, the largest open-air prison in the world. The coastal strip, run by Hamas, is surrounded by an electronic perimeter fence, and besieged by the army and navy on all sides.
Over in the land-locked West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas, formally the Palestinian president but in practice the unelected head of a few cantons in its midst, has won minor privileges for his own population through good behaviour.
By serving as Israel’s security sub-contractor – remember his infamous words saying “security coordination” with Israel was “sacred” – Abbas has managed to slightly loosen the chains of confinement. There are fewer Israeli checkpoints, and less of an Israeli army presence, in the small areas of the West Bank not being plundered by settlers.
But Israel’s furious reaction to the jailbreak, as well as the fugitives’ limited options in the face of this backlash, were a reminder of deeper realities. The occupied West Bank was put under immediate military closure – the cell door slammed shut – in a familiar move of Israeli collective punishment.
The six men are from Jenin and its immediate environs. The small Palestinian city in the northern West Bank is only a stone’s throw from Gilboa prison. They could have expected to be hidden there, if they could have reached it. In another act of collective punishment – a war crime – Israel arrested several of their relatives.
Given Abbas’s “security coordination” with Israel, however, the fugitives may prefer to stay out of the West Bank. Abbas has noticeably avoided expressing any support himself for the men. He recently met Israel’s defence minister, Benny Gantz, in a bid to revive a long-stalled “peace process” that served in the past only to perpetuate, and provide cover for, the occupation.
Israel’s intelligence agencies are constantly eavesdropping on Palestinian communications, and they operate an extensive network of collaborators in the occupied West Bank. Or as the Haaretz military affairs correspondent Amos Harel put it with revealing frankness: “With the possible exception of a number of totalitarian regimes, the West Bank is subject to as comprehensive and intensive intelligence coverage as anyplace on earth.”
The fugitives’ best hope of remaining out of Israel’s clutches may be leaving their homeland and crossing the border into Jordan. Amman would find it hard to return them, given their status as heroes and Jordan’s concerns about inflaming passions among its own large Palestinian refugee population.
But making such an escape would be no mean feat. Israel already has tight security along the Jordan Valley.
Underscoring the paradoxes of the occupation, Israel seems most concerned that the fugitives may try to break into Gaza. It has reportedly beefed up patrols around the perimeter. The coastal enclave may be an open-air prison, and has been under 15 years of Israeli blockade, but it is one where, uniquely, the Palestinian inmates have some degree of control inside the walls of their massively overcrowded, resource-poor, polluted cell.
Israel’s sanctions are mostly at arm’s length. It keeps the inmates on a near-starvation diet, and intermittently – when they start to riot – it sends in missiles or soldiers as the equivalent of punishment beatings.
The final option for the men is to stay inside Israel. Already, the Israeli media is hinting to its readers that the fugitives were aided, and sheltered, by Israel’s Palestinian minority, a fifth of the population who have very degraded citizenship. These Palestinians are the remnants of the native population who were otherwise expelled from their lands during the new state of Israel’s ethnic cleansing operations in 1948.
Some of Gilboa’s guards have been interrogated on the assumption that the prisoners received inside help. That is one way of seeking to diminish their achievement in escaping from an Israeli maximum-security jail. But it is also a finger of accusation pointing at Israel’s 1.8 million Palestinian citizens.
The Druze are a very small sect among the Palestinian minority whose young men are, uniquely for the minority, conscripted into the Israeli army. Afterwards, most end up with few opportunities apart from working in low-paying security jobs, often as prison guards.
Israeli authorities have every interest to shift the blame onto one or more of these guards for the jailbreak, if it means their own incompetence or complacency can be taken out of the spotlight.
Heroes three times
What happens next will be difficult for Israel, whatever the outcome. The six escapees are now heroes to the Palestinian public three times over. They originally made personal sacrifices to join the military resistance to the occupation and risk their lives. They carried out a bold and rare prison escape under the very noses of Israeli authorities. And now they are on the run, and most have so far evaded capture, despite Israel using every one of the many means at its disposal.
They have rapidly become symbols of the plight of every Palestinian – and what every Palestinian aspires to achieve through defiance.
Inspired by the six men’s actions, Israeli political prisoners have already rioted to stop efforts by Israel to collectively punish them over the prison break and move them to different jails. They are also threatening a mass hunger strike next week over new forms of collective punishment in response to the jailbreak, including cancelling already limited family visits. Hamas could fire rockets into Israel if matters escalate.
Support among the Palestinian public is likely to be rock-solid, and discontent – both against Israel and against Abbas as Israel’s security contractor – could easily explode across the region, in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and among Palestinian citizens in Israel. Some Palestinians responded to a Hamas call for a “day of rage” in support of the prisoners on Friday, and there were warnings that an uprising could be imminent.
On the other hand, the new right-wing government of Naftali Bennett, after more than a decade of rule by Benjamin Netanyahu, is vulnerable to claims by his rival that both the jailbreak and the failed manhunt are evidence of dangerous incompetence on his watch.
For many of Bennett’s own supporters, the preferred outcome would doubtless be the fugitives’ execution while on the run. Alon Eviatar, a former Israeli intelligence officer, spoke bluntly of either catching or killing them. The latter outcome would be seen by much of the Israeli public as reasserting “deterrence” and as fitting “justice” for men widely reviled.
Most Israelis want a forceful message sent to Palestinians: that resisting their imprisonment – whether in a small jail such as Gilboa or in the bigger jail of the occupation – is futile.
For a while longer, however, Palestinians will be able to exult in the idea that resistance might actually achieve something after all.
Jonah Goldberg and Michael Ledeen have much in common. They are both writers and also cheerleaders for military interventions and, often, for frivolous wars. Writing in the conservative rag, The National Review, months before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Goldberg paraphrased a statement which he attributed to Ledeen with reference to the interventionist US foreign policy.
“Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business,” Goldberg wrote, quoting Ledeen.
Those like Ledeen, the neoconservative intellectual henchman type, often get away with this kind of provocative rhetoric for various reasons. American intelligentsias, especially those who are close to the center of power in Washington DC, perceive war and military intervention as the foundation and baseline of their foreign policy analysis. The utterances of such statements are usually conveyed within friendly media and intellectual platforms, where equally hawkish, belligerent audiences cheer and laugh at the war-mongering muses. In the case of Ledeen, the receptive audience was the hardline, neoconservative, pro-Israel American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
Predictably, AEI was one of the loudest voices urging for a war and invasion of Iraq prior to that calamitous decision by the George W. Bush Administration, which was enacted in March 2003.
Neoconservatism, unlike what the etymology of the name may suggest, was not necessarily confined to conservative political circles. Think tanks, newspapers and media networks that purport – or are perceived – to express liberal and even progressive thought today, like The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN, have dedicated much time and space to promoting an American invasion of Iraq as the first step of a complete US geostrategic military hegemony in the Middle East.
Like the National Review, these media networks also provided unhindered space to so-called neoconservative intellectuals who molded American foreign policy based on some strange mix between their twisted take on ethics and morality and the need for the US to ensure its global dominance throughout the 21st century. Of course, the neocons’ love affair with Israel has served as the common denominator among all individuals affiliated with this intellectual cult.
The main – and inconsequential – difference between Ledeen, for example, and those like Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, is that the former is brazen and blunt, while the latter is delusional and manipulative. For his part, Friedman also supported the Iraq war, but only to bring ‘democracy’ to the Middle East and to fight ‘terrorism’. The pretense ‘war on terror’, though misleading if not outright fabricated, was the overriding American motto in its invasion of Iraq and, earlier, Afghanistan. This mantra was readily utilized whenever Washington needed to ‘pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall’.
Even those who genuinely supported the war based on concocted intelligence – that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction, or the equally fallacious notion that Saddam and Al-Qaeda cooperated in any way – must, by now, realize that the entire American discourse prior to the war had no basis in reality. Unfortunately, war enthusiasts are not a rational bunch. Therefore, neither they, nor their ‘intellectuals’, should be expected to possess the moral integrity in shouldering the responsibility for the Iraq invasion and its horrific consequences.
If, indeed, the US wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan were meant to fight and uproot terror, how is it possible that, in June 2014, an erstwhile unknown group calling itself the ‘Islamic State’ (IS), managed to flourish, occupy and usurp massive swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territories and resource under the watchful eye of the US military? If the other war objective was bringing stability and democracy to the Middle East, why did many years of US ‘state-building’ efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, leave behind nothing but weak, shattered armies and festering corruption?
Two important events have summoned up these thoughts: US President Joe Biden’s ‘historic’ trip to Cornwall, UK, in June, to attend the 47th G7 summit and, two weeks later, the death of Donald Rumsfeld, who is widely depicted as “the architect of the Iraq war”. The tone struck by Biden throughout his G7 meetings is that ‘America is back’, another American coinage similar to the earlier phrase, the ‘great reset’ – meaning that Washington is ready to reclaim its global role that had been betrayed by the chaotic policies of former President Donald Trump.
The newest phrase – ‘America is back’ – appears to suggest that the decision to restore the US’ uncontested global leadership is, more or less, an exclusively American decision. Moreover, the term is not entirely new. In his first speech to a global audience at the Munich Security Conference on February 19, Biden repeated the phrase several times with obvious emphasis.
“America is back. I speak today as President of the United States, at the very start of my administration and I am sending a clear message to the world: America is back,” Biden said, adding that “the transatlantic alliance is back and we are not looking backward, we are looking forward together.”
Platitudes and wishful thinking aside, the US cannot possibly return to a previous geopolitical standing, simply because Biden has made an executive decision to ‘reset’ his country’s traditional relationships with Europe – or anywhere else, either. Biden’s actual mission is to merely whitewash and restore his country’s tarnished reputation, marred not only by Trump, but also by years of fruitless wars, a crisis of democracy at home and abroad and an impending financial crisis resulting from the US’ mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately for Washington, while it hopes to ‘look forward’ to the future, other countries have already staked claims to parts of the world where the US has been forced to retreat, following two decades of a rudderless strategy that is fueled by the belief that firepower alone is sufficient to keep America aloft forever.
Though Biden was received warmly by his European hosts, Europe is likely to proceed cautiously. The continent’s geostrategic interests do not fall entirely in the American camp, as was once the case. Other new factors and power players have emerged in recent years. China is now the European bloc’s largest trade partner and Biden’s scare tactics warning of Chinese global dominance have not, seemingly, impressed the Europeans as the Americans had hoped. Following Britain’s unceremonious exit from the EU bloc, the latter urgently needs to keep its share of the global economy as large as possible. The limping US economy will hardly make the substantial deficit felt in Europe. Namely, the China-EU relationship is here to stay – and grow.
There is something else that makes the Europeans wary of whatever murky political doctrine Biden is promoting: dangerous American military adventurism.
The US and Europe are the foundation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which, since its inception in 1949, was almost exclusively used by the US to assert its global dominance, first in the Korean Peninsula in 1950, then everywhere else.
Following the September 11 attacks, Washington used its hegemony over NATO to invoke Article 5 of its Charter, that of collective defense. The consequences were dire, as NATO members, along with the US, were embroiled in their longest wars ever, military conflicts that had no consistent strategy, let alone measurable goals. Now, as the US licks its wounds as it leaves Afghanistan, NATO members, too, are leaving the devastated country without a single achievement worth celebrating. Similar scenarios are transpiring in Iraq and Syria, too.
Rumsfeld’s death on June 29, at the age of 88, should serve as a wake-up call to American allies if they truly wish to avoid the pitfalls and recklessness of the past. While much of the US corporate media commemorated the death of a brutish war criminal with amiable non-committal language, some blamed him almost entirely for the Iraq fiasco. It is as if a single man had bent the will of the West-dominated international community to invade, pillage, torture and destroy entire countries. If so, then Rumsfeld’s death should usher in an exciting new dawn of collective peace, prosperity and security. This is not the case.
Rationalizing his decision to leave Afghanistan in a speech to the nation in April 2021, Biden did not accept, on behalf of his country, responsibility over that horrific war. Instead, he spoke of the need to fight the ‘terror threat’ in ‘many places’, instead of keeping ‘thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country’.
Indeed, a close reading of Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan – a process which began under Trump – suggests that the difference between US foreign policy under Biden is only tactically different from the policies of George W. Bush when he launched his ‘preemptive wars’ under the command of Rumsfeld. Namely, though the geopolitical map may have shifted, the US appetite for war remains insatiable.
Shackled with a legacy of unnecessary, fruitless and immoral wars, yet with no actual ‘forward’ strategy, the US, arguably for the first time since the inception of NATO in the aftermath of World War II, has no decipherable foreign policy doctrine. Even if such a doctrine exists, it can only be materialized through alliances whose relationships are constructed on trust and confidence. Despite the EU’s courteous reception of Biden in Cornwall, trust in Washington is at an all-time low.
Even if it is accepted, without any argument, that America is, indeed, back, considering the vastly changing geopolitical spheres in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Biden’s assertion should, ultimately, make no difference.
Ben & Jerry’s decision to suspend its operations in the occupied Palestinian West Bank is an event that is proving critical to Palestinian efforts, which ultimately aim at holding Israel accountable for its military occupation, apartheid and war crimes.
By responding to the Palestinian call for boycotting apartheid Israel, the ice cream giant has delivered a blow to Israel’s attempts at criminalizing and, ultimately, ending the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
What differentiates Ben & Jerry’s decision to abandon the ever-growing market of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank from previous decisions by other international corporations is the fact that the ice cream company has made it clear that its move was morally motivated. Indeed, Ben & Jerry’s did not attempt to mask or delude their decision in any way. “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” a statement by the Vermont, US-based company read on July 19.
Expectedly, the Israeli government was infuriated by the decision, especially as it comes after years of a well-funded, state-sponsored, global campaign to discredit, demonize and altogether outlaw the BDS movement and any similar initiatives that aimed at boycotting Israel.
For years, the Israeli government has viewed the boycott movement as a real, tangible threat. Some Israeli officials went as far as perceiving the ‘delegitimization’ resulting from the boycott campaign as the primary threat faced by Israel at the present time. Well attended conferences were held in Las Vegas, Brussels, Jerusalem and elsewhere, hundreds of millions of dollars raised, fiery speeches delivered, while politicians and ‘philanthropists’ lined up at many occasions, vowing their undying allegiance to Israel and accusing anyone who dare criticize the ‘Jewish State’ as ‘antisemitic’.
However, Israel’s biggest challenge was, and remains, its near complete reliance on the support of self-serving politicians. True, those ‘friends of Israel’ can be quite helpful in formulating laws that, for example, falsely equate between criticizing Israel and antisemitism, or render the act of boycott illegal, and so on. In fact, many US states and European parliaments have bowed down to Israeli pressure to criminalize the BDS movement and its supporters, whether in the realm of business or even at the level of civil society and individuals. All of this is amounting to very little.
Additionally, Israel doubled down on its attempts to control the narrative in mainstream media, in academia and wherever the anti-Israeli occupation debate proved to be consequential. Through a Kafkaesque, and often bizarre logic, Israel and its supporters deliberately misinterpreted the IHRA definition of antisemitism, applying it at every platform where criticism of Israel or its Zionist ideology is found. The reckless Israeli dialectics was, sadly – albeit predictably – embraced by many of Israel’s Western benefactors, including US, Canada and Italy, among others.
Yet, none of this has ended or even slowed down the momentum of the Palestinian boycott movement. This fact should hardly come as a surprise, for boycott movements are fundamentally designed to circumvent governmental control and to place pressure on politicians, state and corporate apparatuses, so that they may heed the calls of civil society. Thus, the more Israel attempts to use its allies to illegalize, delegitimize and suppress dissent, the more it actually fuels it.
The above is the secret of the BDS success and Israel’s very Achilles’ heel. By ignoring the boycott campaign, the movement grows exponentially; and by fighting it, using traditional means and predictable language, it grows even faster.
In order to appreciate Tel Aviv’s unsolvable quandary, just marvel at this odd response, which was offered by top Israeli officials in response to Ben & Jerry’s decision. Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, warned the British company that acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, of “severe consequences”, threatening that Israel will take “strong action”, most likely referring to legal action.
But what was truly strange was the language used by Israeli President, Isaac Herzog, who accused Ben & Jerry’s of participating in “a new form of terrorism”, namely, “economic terrorism”. On July 21, Herzog vowed to fight “this boycott and terrorism in any form”.
Note how the Israeli response to the continued success of the Palestinian boycott movement remains confined in terms of options and language. Yet on the legal front, most attempts at indicting BDS activists have repeatedly failed, as the recent court rulings in Washington demonstrate. On the other hand, the act of accusing an ice cream company of ‘terrorism’ deserves some serious examination.
Historically, Israel has situated its anti-Palestinian propaganda war within a handful of redundant terminology, predicated on the claim that Israel is a Jewish and democratic State, the security and very existence of which is constantly being threatened by terrorists and undermined by anti-Semites.
The above mantra may have succeeded in shielding Israel from criticism and tarnishing Israel’s victims, the Palestinians. However, it is no longer a guarantor of international sympathy and solidarity. Not only is the Palestinian struggle for freedom gaining global traction, but the pro-Israeli discourse is finally discovering its limitations. By calling an ice cream company ‘terrorist’ for simply adhering to international law, Herzog has revealed the growing lack of credibility and absurdity of the official Israeli language.
But this is not the end of Israel’s problems. Regardless of whether they are branded successful or unsuccessful, all BDS campaigns are equally beneficial in the sense that each campaign kickstarts a conversation that often goes global, as we have seen repeatedly in the past. Airbnb, G4S, and SodaStream, are but a few of many such examples. Any global debate on Israel’s military occupation and apartheid is a BDS success story.
That said, there is one strategy that will surely end the BDS campaign, and that is ending the Israeli occupation, dismantling the racial system of apartheid and giving Palestinians their freedom as enshrined and protected by international law. Alas, this is the only strategy that Israeli officials are yet to consider.
I was asked to appear on What’s Left?, a podcast put on by three fellows, all identifying as socialist, and all concerned about the shut down of critical thinking, the shuttling of alternative narratives and censoring of plain old questioning paradigms and authorities of any ilk. Their concern covers why questioning the scientism of today’s Corona Craziness is somehow verboten, or why we can’t discuss what the Lockdowns do and do not do, or worse, how the censoring of medical treatments (like ivermectin) — life saving ones — by mass media, left media and by so-called leftists has killed thousands.
They have a more far-ranging repertoire, and in these various podcasts, they take on sacred cows and traditional paradigms coming from “the left.” What is Left; i.e. What’s Left, is something that has been tackled here at DV:
A great idea — self-reflective, rhetorical, didactic — turned into a regular twice-a-month discourse with a guest (many times) and these three dudes — Eduardo, Kenny and Andy. Sometimes it’s just the three of them grappling with modernity and history, the collision of left with consumerism, how capitalism is a disease but one we live with or under. Many times, the shows are awakenings, as the three of them come at the respective topics from very defined and diverse backgrounds. Connotation versus denotation, and then all the heralded processed of analytical thinking, and discourse and debate (they do not always agree on issues or spins).
There is a refreshing openness to what the three do, and how many times the topics are picked out of a bucket one week while then the three go about researching each topic to bring some construction to the podcast. They lean into discovery, and how their own more or less generalized collective social justice ethos dovetails into the realities of Xenophobia, Colonizing minds, collective delusion, and, yes, why leftists in general have a slew of topics they just will not venture toward, or worse, topics for which leftists will not entertain multiple discourses and perspectives around, albeit, what we see now, a cancelling, or censoring of discussion and debate, de facto or overtly pronounced. Like a house of cards, lies and ameliorating toward some cherished false balance or invented purity come tumbling down.
Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. Not respecting anyone, he ceases to love, and having no love, he gives himself up to the passions and coarse pleasures, in order to occupy and amuse himself, and in his vices reaches complete bestiality, and it all comes from lying continually to others and to himself.
— Zosima makes this speech to Fyodor Pavlovich in Book II: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov
Here, recent shows:
JUL 17, 2021 — Biden’s Sleight of Hand in Afghanistan
JUL 10, 2021 — Abolish the Police! I Mean, Defund the Police! Never mind, Fund the Police!
JUN 19, 2021 — Secret Societies and the New World Order
JUN 13, 2021 — What is the New World Order?
Even Kenny was interviewed a while back on the show — What’s Left? interviews Kenny Zepeda on his journey from Guatemala to the United States and from liberal reformist to socialist revolutionary. Previous What’s Left? Episodes Kenny on revolts in Chile and Latin America, Kenny on Climate Change Nicaragua and Fake Socialism, What’s Left? Kenny Z.: The Revolutionary Road
Their first episodes dealt with myriad of issues — beginning August 2018
Sacrificing Everything for Nike
Prison Strike 2018!
Interview with a Pro-Capitalist Anarchist
What’s Left of Abortion Rights?
Is the U.S. Turning to Fascism?
As teachers, Andy and Eduardo have been dealing with lockdowns and Zoom doom rooms for educating (sic) youth. They are dealing with fellow teachers who have taken the Covid-19 pill that has turned them into Covidians.
They are concerned about the censorship of leftists who might question the bioweapon theories, or promulgate them, citing USA DARPA and other nefarious actors in higher ed, industry, etc.
I am of the opinion that people have the right to decide whether to accept vaccines or not, especially since these are experimental vaccines … My concern is I know there are risks but we don’t have access to the data … We don’t really have the information we need to make a reasonable decision.
— Dr. Robert Malone, “Inventor of mRNA Interviewed About Injection Dangers“
Now, I will give readers the entire interview I did with them, via email, here, to give the reader a decent look at three very different men and their narratives, their avocations, their work now, and what makes them tick as socialists-Marxists.
They have moved into the Fourth Industrial Revolution to what is a new world order.
For me, I was asked to handle the ungainly topics of Covid-19 as a bioweaponized monster, possibly put into the world intentionally by USA, and then 5G and 6G, what that means to public and environmental health, and then tying in the militarization of space as part and parcel of the pogrom.
Now, I believe Andy at first gravitated to me because I am an unapologetic communist, and that is a refined term in some sense since I’m not espousing a communism that has been bastardized by USA, by the media, even by some history.
Tolerance is another buzzword, and for all those gigs I worked where I questioned the management, the deans, the presidents, provosts, the managers, the editors, et al, well, this country is propaganda central, wink and a nod, smoke and mirrors, and triangulating those who doubt the goals of management and the leadership — triangulating us out of the discussion, the discourse, hence, the death of critical debate/thinking/questioning.
Now, I don’t see on What’s Left?, 163 episodes, a deep look at some of these shenanigans, in the world, and not just Rogue State USA. Israel.
That in a nutshell is the death knell:
Here, a far-ranging discussion on Israel and on the Covid program:
Listen to Julianne Romanello, Gilad Atzmon, and Jason Bosch go deep into “ideological and spiritual thoughts that have turned our world into an open air prison.” This sort of show, well, scrubbed, and right along the lines of looking at this concept of “chosenness, and then at the work of Leo Strauss, Athens & Jerusalem, Noahide fundamentals, the origin of Zionism and many other crucial topics most intellectuals insist to avoid…”
These are the times, but they were the times for me a long time ago, when I was 13, questioning cruise ships knocking over coral reefs, or bulldozers destroying the Sonora, or the Vietnam War narratives, and it just continued every place I ended up as a worker: the people “in power” are lunatics, for the most part. On one level, sure, let’s do some trauma informed care, but in the end, this society’s underbelly — USA, Canada, UK, Europe and Australia — has to be questioned!
Education, since all of us are educators, that is, with the What’s Left? reference, is amazingly entrenched in indoctrination and deadening of critical thinking:
And, the narrative around Israel and what’s happening globally, well, that is shut down all the time:
Microsoft, Google join Whatsapp lawsuit vs. Israeli spyware developer
Stuxnet: The Israeli-American Computer Virus That Started Cyber-Warfare
Snowden: Israeli technology may have helped Saudis kill journalist
Israeli Spying on US, Perfecting 24/7 Surveillance Tech
Why did Microsoft fund an Israeli firm that surveils West Bank Palestinians?
Israel Launches Internet “Command Center” to Monitor Social Media
Julian Assange exposed the crimes of powerful actors, including Israel
Israel advocate Ravich named to senior intelligence post, planned US-Israel cyber project against BDS
ADL to Build Silicon Valley Center to Monitor & Fight “Cyberhate” [Video]
Israel is Training U.S. Police
Check out more here — If Americans Knew and Palestine News:
The American Federation of Teachers, all those colleges and universities, and K12 ordering everyone to get an mRNA experimental treatment (sic), they will use the tools of oppression, from Google to Israel’s hacking and tracking and ripping up tools. Andy did a live event, with social distancing (sic), even masks, outside, with parental permission, on circuits. The honchos at his school in the Mission District of San Francisco came down hard on him. We know the feeling, Andy, we being the royal “we.”
Paul Haeder: What is “What’s Left?” and how did it come about?
Eduardo: Oh, golly… I think, for me, it started back in 2017 in the aftermath of the “Unite the Right rally” in Charlottesville as I was attempting to politically make sense of the times and debate a childhood friend of mine on a public social platform. I had watched many Oxford debates before and wanted to do something similar. I really thought my friendship was on the line. Fortunately, Andy had come along at that time and shared with me he was interested in taking our own café political discussions online. So, we had a long conversation about the idea of “What’s Left?” and its intention. Something we both agreed on early on was to have open, honest discussions about our personal politics and ideas. We wanted to create a space for alternative points of view that challenged the mainstream Left. We had noticed there was a growing tribalistic way of thinking on the Left that seemed to cancel all deviant political discourse. Hence, “What’s Left?” came into being.
Andy: Eduardo and I started “What’s Left?” 3 years ago. For me, I had been politically frustrated at not having an outlet for discussing my own political ideas and thoughts that came up as events happened. At the same time, I watched YouTube channels on groups of friends who would get together and review movies or video games. They seemed to have fun doing that and I approached Eduardo about trying to do the same thing but with politics. I have always enjoyed talking with Eduardo and I trusted him to be passionate and honest about his beliefs (just as I was trying to be). It has been both rewarding and fun despite YouTube’s censorship nonsense.
Kenny: I joined the show a couple years ago. I first joined Andy and Eduardo in a conversation about the events unfolding in Nicaragua in 2018. From then on, I participated as an occasional contributor regarding Latin America related topics until I was approached to contribute on a weekly basis.
PH: “What’s Left?” is composed of three hosts. Can each of you share your background?
Kenny: I’ve been a restaurant worker and a manager at a small mom and pop restaurant in San Francisco, CA. most of my working age life. I grew up in Guatemala until the age of 12 when we emigrated to California. Much of what has informed my road to Marxism has to do with lived experiences such as migration from Guatemala to the U.S. A , my father’s dealing with immigration and eventual deportation, attending public school in San Francisco, entering and dropping out of UC Berkeley, growing up around sex work, growing up in a U.S. backed military dictatorship in Guatemala among other things. The search for answers that actually make sense has shaped my life and led me to Marxism.
Eduardo: I was a “cross cultural kid” having lived in México with all of my tías/tíos, abuelitos and primos, then as I got older went to public school in San Francisco, CA. I would study in San Francisco then spend my rather long summers back home. It was an atypical Latino experience of back and forth. I cannot say I had the common undocumented Latino experience for most families in the USA. I mean most families are not crossing the border over skies multiple times a year. So, it shapes one in a way. But I would say my 18 years as a Jehovah’s Witness had the most impact in my life. I would read forbidden literature late into the wee hours, be curious of all things deprived of me and learned never to trust ANY person, organization or ideology claiming to be the “right way.” I will say it fulfilled my desire to be of service to others. It was just an awful sort of service of conversion. Although, I did teach many illiterate people how to read over that time. I found another way to fulfill that void when I witnessed the massive anti-war protests of 2003 and joined the school walkouts. From there it was joining many Lefty movements and campaigns, such as supporting progressive candidates. I think my skills as an organizer and activist of rallies and protests, though, were sharpened by Occupy Wall Street and protests against GMO companies. Those experiences have influenced the way I think and do things. If I had to label myself, I would say I am anarchist-leaning-syndicalist-Leftist-libertarian. If you have an issue with that mouthful, too bad.
Andy: I am a school teacher in San Francisco (who lives in Oakland). I have been teaching science (physics and chemistry) for over 20 years. I have been a Marxist for that long as well. I have been in socialist organizations and active in my union over that time. Currently, while still active in my union, I am pretty much a solo communist trying to find a political community to work with. “What’s Left?” has been a big part of rebuilding that community.
PH: What for you are some of the more compelling topics and issues you all have covered?
Andy: I think the one episode that stands out for me is our interviews with Eric Lerner (part 1 and part 2) challenging the notion of the Big Bang as a theory that explains our current universe. This was such a surprising issue for me and uprooted a core premise of my beliefs in an area that caught me completely off guard. At the same time, it explained the nagging sense I had that there was some real problems with these things like dark matter and dark energy. So these episodes, for me, symbolize the way my world has been continually shifted and uprooted as I take this political journey with Eduardo and Kenny. It also symbolizes my attempt to use truth as my North Star, not ideology.
Eduardo: Oh, there are so many. But I think I’ll go with what has recently changed me in many ways. The topics around the Internet of Things with Alison McDowell, and, what I call “my COVID journey”, the reopening schools debate as well as the vaccines. It’s been a rollercoaster and re-traumatising being rejected and attacked on a personal level from friends on the Left who disagree with everything we have recently discussed. I also realize we have to discuss unpopular topics or say more than “We oppose Trump!”.
Kenny: For me, the show has been instrumental in processing and dissecting a number of topics, but most especially everything related to the pandemic. I’ve been particularly captivated by the fast encroachment of tech into our lives and the implications it will have for dissenting working class voices.
PH: What topics would you like to cover in the future on “What’s Left?”
Kenny: I’d love to continue covering relevant topics to fellow workers, in ways that are accessible and not elitist, in the hopes that we can spark interest in thinking outside the parameters chosen by our ruling class. I would definitely love to continue tracking the implementation of the techno-fascist world being built in the name of social justice with rhetoric of inclusion. I’d love to continue processing the implications of current events outside the mainstream manufactured narratives.
Andy: “What’s Left?” has really been a labor of love, and we have pretty much been able to interview the people and cover the subjects we want. I would say that I hope that it can increasingly become a locus of organizing for me as I try to build a community of parents, teachers, activists and even students who are prepared to join me in fighting the implementation of the 4th industrial revolution in education.
Eduardo: We have to continue covering on-the-ground workers’ experience and any significant mobilization. However, if it’s slow and there isn’t much going on currently, I’d like to delve into more labor history and revolutions. Hopefully that will inspire more workers to organize.
PH: Your channel has experienced a lot of censorship with YouTube taking many of your videos down and threatening you with “community strikes”. How has this affected your channel? How has it affected you personally?
Eduardo: The ruthless censorship of YouTube and big social media platforms is outrageous. I don’t understand how we can criticize China and North Korea for their censorship when we have it going on here as well. The recent strikes on our channel have been eye-opening. I just don’t get why it hasn’t been for others. I wish our channel could reach more people. Unfortunately, we started at a time when the play of algorithms has been used against us. On a personal level, sometimes it feels discouraging because I imagined we would reach more people. Andy and I discussed from the beginning, though, that our intention wasn’t to gain “followers” or “subscribers” for popularity contests. I just hope our political conversations reach more folks as we see people really relieved to have found us when they write to us on our blog. They feel connected and not so alone anymore.
Kenny: I suspect that regardless if we are straight up taken down, the algorithm gods will manage our content’s diffusion. In my perspective, this is only the beginning of the even more dystopian doctored sense of ‘reality”. YouTube’s censorship hasn’t affected me personally in any significant way. At least not now. I expected it in some form or another. It does shed some light into the fast approaching dystopian future. The censorship and political isolation in my community is another story.
Andy: YouTube’s censorship is bullshit. It has definitely been a disruption to getting our message out on YouTube, but from what I understand, even without the censorship, YouTube’s ‘algorithm’ has kept our channel in check. But, I think one good thing about it (if you can call it that) is that it has forced me to really challenge my beliefs in pushing me to speak my beliefs in the face of censorship or isolation. Of course, I want our channel to be seen by more people, but not at the expense of us staying true to our vision of “What’s Left?” is a place where people can speak honestly. So, I am going to stick with honesty and let YouTube decide for themselves if we can do so there. If not, I am content with the idea that we will find other places to have our discussions.
PH: Given the sort of culling of discussion and debate and information flow back and forth being by the elites, what would you tell students who might ask you why all the websites and podcasts and videos are coming down?
Andy: As a teacher, my political focus has always been on organizing and talking with other adults (co-workers and parents). The best way to help students organize is to be a model for them in my pursuit of getting us adults to wage a fight for our collective liberation. I have found this road a difficult one, but I do not think I can teach my students anything about the fight for our own liberation unless I engage in that pursuit with my fellow workers right now. I do talk with students who ask me about my beliefs but I rarely use the classroom as a vehicle for getting my politics out there, although I will facilitate discussions when they come up to see what students’ ideas are.
Eduardo: I think there are enough great episodes from Black Mirror to ease the conversation into the idea that we are increasingly approaching a dystopian future if we don’t organize to intervene. From there, I would share and facilitate discussions around the culling of our political freedom of speech. But I think it goes beyond the classroom. So many educators want to contain or effect change within the confines of the classroom. We have to organize together alongside them to create the change we want to see.
Kenny: I’m not a teacher/educator. I’ll sit this one out.
PH: If you were stuck with a stranger on an elevator and could only talk briefly, how would you describe the core of your political beliefs?
Kenny: I’m highly suspicious of power and strongly believe in the power of community. I think capitalism rewards antisocial behavior and it’s inherently coercive. Capitalism cannot be contained with legislative reform as advocated by liberal ideology. I think we live in a world technologically capable of sustaining organized human life and only a socialist revolution can and must take over the wealth workers create for the good of the masses and away from the truly privileged few. Capitalism, through its inherent violent and competitive nature, cannot bring about a world of peace and abundance for the masses. Only a revolution that suppresses wage slavery and other coercive and destructive mechanisms of capitalism can change the course of the cataclysm ahead of us. The profit motive must be obliterated out of production. What we produce must serve life, NOT profit.
Andy: I am a Communist. I believe the collective working class is the only force that can make a revolutionary change of our current system, Capitalism. Capitalism is the organized theft of our labor by a minority and is at the root of virtually all the problems we see in society today — war, racism, sexism, environmental destruction and the deep isolation and alienation all workers feel. The only way out of this is a socialist revolution that eliminates the profit motive for production and establishes worker’s rule through mass working class democracy.
Eduardo: I am an anarchist-syndicalist-Leftist-libertarian-anti-capitalist. I don’t claim to have the answers. I don’t know what is the best approach. I am skeptical of many things. But what I do know is that the current system that we are living in isn’t working for us. It’s detrimental and we are going to suffer greatly if we don’t put a stop to this system. I believe we have to organize as workers and see that the Leftist identity politics isn’t getting us anywhere. We can’t be shutting down or shutting out other people because of their political positions. We have to challenge them and we have to continue sorting it out together… but by working together.
PH: Are you a pacifist, and if so, why, and if not, then what, and why?
Eduardo: I want to say yes. I dream of a world where our revolution could be achieved in such a way. Unfortunately, I am struggling seeing how that could become possible. The capitalist class and all people with power have waged violence on us. They have started this fight and are willing to massively destroy us if we don’t defend ourselves. I still have a lot of conflicting feelings over this topic.
Kenny: “For the oppressor, peace is the absence of a response to their violence.” I think history has been sanitized to make us believe fundamental change arrives through Disneyfied slogans and appealing to the morality of the oppressor. Capitalism is inherently violent, and it attempts to have a monopoly of violence in the hands of the police/military and other coercive institutions. If we pretend to rattle the cage of power, we have to be ready to respond to the unleashing of the institutions built to protect a violent system. We have to be able to contend with their monopoly of violence. My mother taught me to exhaust all the means necessary to avoid violence, but she also taught me some abusers can only be pushed out of the way by punching them in the face when you must.
Andy: No. I believe we will ultimately need to be armed to liberate ourselves from Capitalism. A class war will be necessary and I do believe violence has a role in workers’ experience of liberation (such as anti-colonial struggles or anti-occupation resistance). We live in a system where two great classes are in opposition to each other (Capitalist and Worker), and we live under their violent boot every second of every day that Capitalism exists. This system will require violence to uproot it. The better we are organized, the less violence required, but we must recognize our struggle as a war if we are to understand both the stakes and the seriousness of the struggle we are engaged in.
PH: Where do you see the world in 20 years?
Andy: I believe in the possibility of working class revolution, but currently I don’t believe we will make it happen in time. I think Capitalism is headed to its 3rd global war which will embroil China, United States, Russia, Europe, and India as the major players in a life and death struggle to see who will control the globe (and secure maximum profits, resources and markets for itself). Unless stopped (and I believe working class revolution is the only way to stop this inevitability), we will have a war that will go nuclear and kill billions and likely destroy the world enough to push all of us back into feudal existence at best. I think some of the sci-fi depictions we see in “The Road” or “Mad Max” are pretty good descriptors of where things are headed. That’s what I see for us in the next 20 years unless we do something to stop it.
Kenny: I think we need a global workers’ socialist revolution with the most decisive battle happening in the economic north. The U.S., the world’s dominant hegemon, is being challenged and will continue to be challenged as it overextends itself. All empires suffer a violent end. The U.S. threatens to bring the entirety of organized human life down with it. Cooperation in capitalism is only a tenuous illusion. The illusion of cooperation will be exposed as the major powers come into a competitive clash under the pressures of dwindling resources and markets.
Eduardo: It’s unfortunate that I don’t think the world will get any better if we don’t do something about it now. My view is quite grim. Alison McDowell has been on our show many times and has shown us how fast the fourth industrial revolution is accelerating. I fear we are losing a part of ourselves, our humanity. But I think we each have to continue this lucha one step at a time.
PH: Define what it means to be a human?
Eduardo: To be human is to be of service, to think, to understand we are linked and interconnected. In the USA there is a strong selfish individualistic culture. Where I am from people live together communally as families and neighbors for years, if not forever. I fear we have lost that in many ways here. I think we can only come to an understanding by building those long-term relationships to understand such values as compassion, care and love beyond our immediate selves.
Andy: Being human means being free to both express yourself, be yourself and through that find out who you truly are. But humans are social, so society must be free to have free associations so that a community can likewise be free to find and express itself through the free participation of its individual members. At the root of being human is being free to be yourself and free to associate with whomever best fits your true self.
Kenny: Being human is the ability to understand processes beyond our individual survival. Being human is the ability to understand how our destinies are inter-connected with other life forms. Being human is the recognition that we are social beings and that our individual well being rests on the well being of our communities and our environment both locally and globally.
PH: What does community mean to you?
Kenny: Community is a pillar of humanity.
Eduardo: Bees come to mind. I mean I can think of many animal examples we could admire for their systems of communities. We can be more than that. I think we would not allow much of what is happening, such as the destruction of our environment, the occupation of lands and other profit-driven acts if we felt that pull and tie to one another. If we work together, if we think of all our comrades/companions, we would build a stronger and brighter future.
Andy: A community is a set of people I trust enough to be my true self with. A community is a collection of people who make worthwhile the sacrifice of my time and abilities to make that community stronger and more able to bring the best out of all of its members. A true community celebrates and strengthens its individual members and is strengthened and celebrated by the individuals who compose it.
PH: What have been some of your biggest influencers in your life to have gotten you where you are now? And, exactly where are you now?
Andy: Politically, my development as a Marxist who tries to blend my ideas (theory) with practice, I would say my friend, Brian Belknap, has been the most significant influence. Personally, there are many people I could cite, but I think I would put my decision to engage in counseling over the last 15 years as the most significant decision to help me integrate my current self with my past self and integrate my political self with my personal self. In terms of historical political influences, I would put the major ones as Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Rosa Luxemburg as the biggest influences who help me orient myself as I try to make my way in the confusing journey of trying to change the world.
Kenny: My mother has always advocated for the marginalized by putting her well being in harms ways. She influenced me by showing up for others and for justice. My mother inspired me to speak against inhumane and despicable acts and to side with the weak and abused while advocating for myself. Even though she never engages in theory, my mother has always been a communist in practice. A passionate enemy of maliciousness.
Eduardo: Oh so many… Noam Chomsky helped me make sense of world politics. How wars, greed and power trips make these empires run the world. Christopher Hitchens gave me a way to leave my former Jehovah’s Witness life. Subcomandante Marcos, from the Zapatista movement, was an inspiration early on and provided the hope that class/native action can happen. Though small, they have achieved something that you won’t find anywhere in the USA. I think these are the top three figures that have paved the way for me.
Note: We’d like to thank Paul Haeder for the opportunity to share our story and our thoughts on Dissident Voice. If you like what we have to say and want to talk to us on “What’s Left?” feel free to contact us at: what’s left?
At a 1969 Students for a Democratic Society conference, a 27-year old graduate of the University of Chicago’s Law School, Bernardine Dohrn, proposed:
The best thing that we can be doing for ourselves, as well as for the Panthers and the revolutionary black liberation struggle, is to build a fucking white revolutionary movement.
They keep insisting they don’t do it. But companies such as the Israeli NSO Group are global vendors for regimes, whatever stripe or colour, for surveillance tools to spy on those they deem of interest. The 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden that exposed the warrantless world of mass surveillance by entities such as the US National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ caused a global rush towards encryption. Governments, left groping in the dark, sought out private providers of surveillance devices in an unregulated market. Not only could they get effective spyware; they could do so at very affordable prices.
The NSO Group was one such provider. It sees its mission was a noble thing, marketing itself as a creator of “technology that helps government agencies prevent and investigate terrorism and crime to save thousands of lives around the globe.”
The company also emphasises their mission to target those “terrorists” and “criminals” who have gone dark. “The world’s most dangerous offenders communicate using technology designed to shield their communications, while government intelligence and law-enforcement agencies struggle to collect evidence and intelligence on their activities.” The group insists that its “products help government intelligence and law-enforcement agencies use technology to meet the challenges of encryption to prevent and investigate terror and crime.”
Forbidden Stories, a network of journalists with a mission “to protect, pursue and publish the work of other journalists facing threats, prison, or murder”, sees things differently. One of the topics that figures prominently in the ranks is the Pegasus project, a collective journalism effort of global proportion coordinated by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International’s Security Lab. Its primary purpose: to expose the depredations of the Pegasus spyware, the golden child of the NSO Group.
Pegasus is a rather vicious thing, enabling those deploying it to access a phone’s contents and remotely access its microphone and camera functions, turning into a surveillance device. It was given a gloss of notoriety in 2018 when it was revealed that Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz had been one of its victims. Abdulaziz claimed that communications with journalist Jamal Khashoggi, butchered by a Saudi squad of assassins in Istanbul in October 2018, were intercepted by the Saudi authorities because of the spyware. His lawyers argued that the hacking “contributed in a significant manner to the decision to murder Mr. Khashoggi.”
On July 18, Phineas Rueckert of Forbidden Stories revealed that some 180 journalists had been selected as targets by some 10 NSO customers across 20 countries. He begins with the Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, whose phone was “regularly infected with Pegasus” for almost three years. Ismayilova was baffled on realising how the security of her phone had been compromised. “I feel guilty for the messages I’ve sent. I feel guilty for the sources who sent me [information] thinking that some encrypted messaging ways are secure and they didn’t know that my phone is infected.”
Details are then supplied. Both Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International were given access to a leak of more than 50,000 records of phone numbers selected by NSO clients for surveillance reasons. The clients are a varied bunch, from those of the autocratic flavour – Bahrain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia – to the more democratic ones, such as India and Mexico. The NSO Group, in a letter to Forbidden Stories, claimed it could not “confirm or deny the identity of our government customers” for “contractual and national security considerations”. Rueckert admits that identifying instances where the specific phone number was compromised would be difficult short of actually analysing the device. But, with the assistance of Amnesty International’s Security Lab, “forensics analyses on the phones of more than a dozen of these journalists – and 67 phones in total – [revealed] successful infections through a security flaw in iPhones as recently as this month.”
The Pegasus project is significant for revealing the sheer scale of espionage. The Guardian, a participating media outlet, promises to reveal more details about targets that “include lawyers, human rights defenders, religious figures, academics, businesspeople, diplomats, senior government officials and heads of state.” At this writing, a rather juicy detail has come to light: the potential targeting of French President Emmanuel Macron by Morocco using Pegasus.
The NSO response to the Forbidden Stories report was snootily dismissive. The account was “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories that raise serious doubts about the reliability and interests of the sources.” The company ducks the issue by suggesting that the information gathered on the individuals in question could have been obtained via other services. “The claims that the data was leaked from our servers, is a complete lie and ridiculous since such data never existed on our servers.”
As for the murder of Khashoggi, old defences are resurrected. “We can confirm that our technology was not used to listen, monitor, track, or collect information regarding him or his family members mentioned in the inquiry. We previously investigated this claim, which again, is being made without validation.”
For an outfit such as the NSO Group, such rebuttals have proven to be meaningless. Twin lawsuits against NSO filed in Israel and Cyprus by a Qatari citizen and by Mexican journalists in 2018 revealed extensive evidence of the company’s complicity in illegal surveillance. NSO also failed to get the lawsuit by Abdulaziz dismissed, and was ordered to pay his legal costs, with the judge Guy Hyman calling the case “broad, especially in matters of the roots of constitutional values and fundamental rights”. In 2019, WhatsApp brought an action against the company, claiming that Pegasus had been used to target 1400 user accounts. For WhatsApp’s chief Will Cathcart, the Pegasus project reporting revealed “what we and others have been saying for years; NSO’s dangerous spyware is used to commit horrible human rights abuses all around the world and must be stopped.”
The Pegasus project has shed more light on the government revolt against encryption, one facilitated by private enterprise. Left unregulated, the NSO Group and its competitors can operate with vigilante disdain and amoral proficiency. David Kaye, former UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, has wisely called for a moratorium on the sale of such spyware, describing an industry “out of control, unaccountable and unconstrained in providing governments with relatively low-cost access to the sort of spying tools that only the most advanced state intelligence services were previously able to use”. Control, accountability and constraint have never quite featured in the NSO Group operations manual.
Exits of Netanyahu and Trump: chance to dial down Mideast tensions
The Iraqi geopolitical analyst, Ali Fahim, recently said in an interview with The Tehran Times: “The arrival of [newly elected Iranian President] Ebrahim Raisi at the helm of power gives a great moral impetus to the resistance axis.” Further, with new administrations in the United States, Israel, and Iran, another opportunity presents itself to reinstate fully the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement, as well as completely lift the US economic sanctions from Iran.
Let us wait and see after Raisi is in power in August 2021. It is a fact that, since the Trump administration pulled out of the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, tensions have been on the rise. One can legitimately suspect that the Trump pull-out had as its real intentions: first, to provoke Tehran; second to undo one of the only foreign policy achievements of the Obama administration, which was negotiated by John Kerry for the US. The Trump administration also used unfair economic sanctions on Iran as a squeeze for regime-change purposes. This was a complete fiasco: the Islamic Republic of Iran suffered but held together.
As far as military tensions in the region, there are many countries besides Syria where conflicts between Iran-supported groups and US-supported proxies are simmering, or full blown. The US does its work, not only via Israel in the entire region, but also Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Yemen, and presently Turkey in Syria. Right now conflicts are active in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Palestine, but something could ignite in Lebanon at any time.
Iran views itself as the lead supporter of the resistance movement, not only through its support for regional allies like Hezbollah and Bashar al-Assad, but also beyond the Middle-East, for Maduro in Venezuela. The upcoming Iranian administration does not hide its international ambition. For better or worse, Iran sees itself as a global leader of smaller nonaligned countries that are resisting US imperialism, be it Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon, or Venezuela. Even though Iran is completely different ideologically, it has replaced the leadership of Yugoslavia’s Tito or Cuba’s Castro. Both were not only Marxists but also leaders of the nonaligned movement during the Cold War, when the US and the USSR were competing to split the world in two. Now the dynamics have shifted because of China’s rising global influence, and the Iran Islamic Republic thinks it has a card to play in this complex geopolitical imbroglio.
In the US, Europe and Gulf States, Raisi has been categorized as a hardliner cleric and judge, but this gives Raisi more power than he will have as president. In Iran, major foreign policy issues are not merely up to the president to decide but a consensus process involving many. In the end such critical decisions are always signed off by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Khamenei has already indicated that he supports going back to the 2015 nuclear deal. During his electoral campaign, Raisi, who is close to Khamenei despite previous opposition, said that if elected he would uphold the 2015 landmark nuclear agreement.
Turkey’s President, Recep Erdogan, often behaves as a modern day Sultan. He is shrewd and extremely ambitious. He fancies himself to be the global leader, politically and militarily, of Sunny Islam. Under Erdogan, Turkey has flexed its military muscles, either directly or through Syrian proxies, not only in Syria, but also in Libya, as well as in Turkey’s support for Qatar in the small Gulf State’s recent skirmish with Saudi Arabia. Erdogan thinks he now has a card to play in Afghanistan. More immediately and strategically, the serious issue on Erdogan’s plate is called Idlib.
The problem of the pocket of Idlib has to be resolved, and unfortunately, for all the civilian population that has been and will be in the crossfire, it can only be solved by a full-on military operation, with troops from Bashar al-Assad and Russia. Turkey is, of course, adamant about keeping a military presence and influence within Syria to prevent a complete Assad victory. Time will tell, but the war of attrition has to end. For this to happen, Russia has to commit to face Turkey from a military standpoint. If Russia is ready for a direct confrontation with Turkey, then Bashar al-Assad’s troops, and Russian forces bringing mainly logistic and air support, should prevail.
What should make this easier is the fact Erdogan has overplayed his hand for quite some time. This includes his tense relationships with his supposed NATO allies, many of whom, including France, Greece and even Germany, would not mind having him out of NATO altogether.
There are important factors that explain, not only why Erdogan is quite popular with Turks, but also why his position could become precarious. Erdogan is playing on the Turkish nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire.
From one Empire to two others: the Sykes-Picot agreement
To understand better this imperial dynamic, we must go back to the middle of World War I, when the Ottoman Empire was allied with Germany. In 1916, the Sykes-Picot secret agreement effectively sealed the fate of post World War I Middle-East. This British-French agreement, in expectation of a final victory, was a de-facto split of the Ottoman Empire. In the resulting colonial or imperial zones of influence, a euphemism for an Anglo-French control of the region, the British would get Palestine, Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf area, while France would take control of Syria and Lebanon. More than 100 years later, the misery created by this imperialist deal lingers in the entire region, from Palestine, with the 1948 English-blessed creation of the Zionist state of Israel, to Iraq. France put in place two protectorates in Syria and Lebanon, in which the respective populations did not fare much better. Even today, French governments still act as if they have a say in Lebanese affairs.
The weight of history and the nostalgia of 600 years of rule in the Middle-East are why some Turks — especially Erdogan — feel entitled to an intrusive role in the region. The unfortunate story of the Middle-East has been to go from one imperialism to another. With the American empire taking over in the mid-1950s, the only competition during the Cold War became the USSR. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US had carte blanche. It became more blunt about the exploitation of resources, regime-change policies and its role as the eternal champion of the sacred state of Israel. Quickly, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar became the US’ best friends in the Arab world. I have called this alliance between the West, Israel and the oil-rich Gulf states an unholy alliance. It is still at play, mainly against Iran.
Since the collapse of the USSR, the US empire has tried to assert a worldwide hegemony by mainly two different approaches: support of autocratic regimes like those in the Gulf States, or pursuit of regime change policies to get rid of sovereign nations. This is what I have identified as engineering failed states: a doctrine at play in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Often, Islam soldiers of fortune — called at first freedom fighters as in Afghanistan, or the so-called Free Syrian Army — have mutated down the line into ISIS terrorists. Once the mercenaries developed independent ambitions, they served a dual purpose: firstly, as tools of proxy wars; secondly as a justification for direct military interventions by the empire and its vassals. Since the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq the bottom line results have been the same: death and destruction. Tabula rasa of Iraq, Libya and Syria, with countries left in ruins, millions killed, and millions of others turned into refugees and scattered to the winds. The numbers are mind boggling in the sheer horrors they reflect. According to the remarkable non-partisan Brown University Costs of War project, since the start of the US-led so-called war on terror, post September 11, 2001, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere the direct cost in people killed has been over 801,000. So far, the financial burden for US taxpayers has been $6.4 trillion.
Does Erdogan think he can do better than Alexander the Great with Afghans?
Apparently Erdogan’s imperial ambitions reach as far as the land of the Pashtuns. The Taliban already control about 85 percent of Afghanistan. While most NATO troops have either left or are in the process of doing so, Erdogan has volunteered Turkish troops to secure Kabul’s airport. Some in the Middle-East speculate, rightly or wrongly, that Erdogan plans to send to Afghanistan some of his available Syrian mercenaries, like those he has used in Libya. Even if this is rubber stamped by regional powers like Pakistan or Iran, which it won’t be, such a direct or proxy occupation will fail. If Turkish or Syrian mercenaries, or any other foreign proxies for that matter, try to get in the way of the Taliban, they will be shredded to bits.
Does Erdogan think he is a modern day version of Alexander the Great? This is plainly laughable! The Taliban are resuming control of Afghanistan, and that is the reality. Something Afghans agree upon is that they want all occupying foreigners out. This will include Turkish and Syrian mercenaries.
Post Netanyahu Israel: more of the same for Palestinians?
For the Palestinians living either in Gaza or in the occupied territories, one element that has changed in Israel is that Netanyahu is no longer in power. It would be naive to think that the new Israeli administration will be less Zionist in its support for Jewish settlers expanding their occupation of Palestinian land, but we might see a small shift, more like a pause in Israel’s bellicose behavior.
Lebanon on the brink: opportunity for Israel to attack Hezbollah?
Despite Lebanon’s dreadful political and economic situation, Israel would be ill advised to consider any military action. Hezbollah is a formidable fighting force of 70,000 men, who have been battle hardened for almost a decade in Syria. Vis a vis Iran, a direct aggression of Israel is even less likely. With Trump gone, it seems that Israel’s hawks have missed out on that opportunity. Furthermore, it would be borderline suicidal for the Jewish state to open up many potential fronts at once against Hezbollah, Hamas, and Bashar al-Assad’s army. All of them would have the backing and logistic support of Iran.
Once the 2015 nuclear agreement is in force again, with the Biden administration, the tensions in the region should significantly decrease. It is probable that in the new negotiations, Iran will request that all the US economic sanctions, which were put in place by the Trump administration, be lifted.
Neocolonial imperialism: a scourge that can be defeated
One thing about US administrations that has remained constant pretty much since the end of World War II is an almost absolute continuity in foreign policy. From Bush to Obama, Obama to Trump, and now Trump to Biden, it hardly matters if the US president is a Democrat or Republican. The cornerstone of foreign policy is to maintain, and preferably increase, US hegemony by any means necessary. This assertion of US imperial domination, with help from its NATO vassals, can be blunt like it was with Trump, or more hypocritical with a pseudo humanitarian narrative as during the Obama era.
The imperatives of military and economic dominance have been at the core of US policies, and it is doubtful that this could easily change. Mohammed bin-Salman‘s war in Yemen is part of this scenario. Some naively thought MBS would be pushed aside by the Biden administration. The clout of the Saudis remained intact, however, despite the CIA report on the gruesome assassination of a Washington Post journalist in Turkey. All evidence pointed to bin-Salman, but he was not pushed aside by his father. Under Biden, MBS is still Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, and de-facto autocratic ruler. The Saudis’ oil and money still have considerable influence in Washington.
The Saudis understand very well that, since the 1970s, their real geopolitical power has resided in the way they can impact global oil prices. They can still make the barrel price go up or down to serve specific geopolitical interests. For example, recently the Saudis tried to help the US regime change policy in Venezuela by flooding the global market to make oil prices crash. Saudi Arabia and its United Arab Emirates ally have used the black gold as an economic weapon countless times, and very effectively.
The great appetite of the Saudis for expensive weapons systems is another reason why they have a lot of weight in Washington and elsewhere. How can one oppose the will of a major client of the corporate merchants of death of the military-industrial complex?
History will eventually record the 20-year Afghanistan war as a defeat and perhaps the beginning of the end for the US empire that established its global dominance aspiration in 1945. People from countries like Yemen, Palestine, as well as Mali, Kashmir, and even Haiti, who are fighting against an occupation of their lands, respectively, by the imperial little helpers Saudi Arabia, Israel, France, India and the United Nations, should find hope in what is going on in Afghanistan. My News Junkie Post partner Dady Chery has explained the mechanics of it brilliantly in her book, We Have Dared to Be Free. Yes, occupiers of all stripes can be defeated! No, small sovereign nations or tribes should not despair! The 20-year US-NATO folly in Afghanistan is about to end. The real outcome is a victory of the Pashtuns-Taliban that is entirely against all odds. It is a victory against the most powerful military alliance ever assembled in history. Yemenites, Palestinians, Tuaregs, Kashmiris, Haitians and other proud people, fighting from different form of neocolonial occupations, should find inspiration from it. It can be done!
Many Palestinians believe that the May 10-21 military confrontation between Israel and the Gaza Resistance, along with the simultaneous popular revolt across Palestine, was a game-changer. Israel is doing everything in its power to prove them wrong.
Palestinians are justified to hold this viewpoint; after all, their minuscule military capabilities in a besieged and impoverished tiny stretch of land, the Gaza Strip, have managed to push back – or at least neutralize – the massive and superior Israeli military machine.
However, for Palestinians, this is not only about firepower but also about their coveted national unity. Indeed, the Palestinian revolt, which included all Palestinians regardless of their political backgrounds or geographic locations, is fostering a whole new discourse on Palestine – non-factional, assertive and forward-thinking.
The challenge for the Palestinian people is whether they will be able to translate their achievements into an actual political strategy, and finally transition past the stifling, and often tragic, post-Oslo Accords period.
Of course, it will not be so easy. After all, there are powerful forces that are keenly invested in the status quo. For them, any positive change on the path of Palestinian freedom will certainly lead to political, strategic and economic losses.
The Palestinian Authority, which operates with no democratic mandate, is more aware of its vulnerable position than at any other time in the past. Not only do ordinary Palestinians have no faith in this ‘authority’, but they see it as an obstacle in their path for liberation. It was unsurprising to see PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, and many of his corrupt inner circle, riding the wave of Palestinian popular revolt, shifting their language entirely, though fleetingly, from a discourse that was carefully designed to win the approval of ‘donor countries’, to one singing the praises of ‘resistance’ and ‘revolution’.
This corrupt clique is desperate, eager to sustain its privileges and survive at any cost.
If Palestinians carry on with their popular mobilization and upward trajectory, however, Israel is the entity that stands to lose most. A long-term Palestinian popular Intifada, uprising, with specific demands and under a unified national leadership, would represent the greatest threat to Israel’s military occupation and apartheid regime in many years.
The Israeli government, this time under the inexperienced leadership of current Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, and his coalition partner, future Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, is clearly unable to articulate a post-Gaza war strategy. If the political raucous and the bizarre power transition from former Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, to Bennett’s coalition is momentarily ignored, it feels as if Netanyahu is still holding sway.
Bennett has, thus far, followed Netanyahu’s playbook on every matter concerning the Palestinians. He, and especially his Defense Minister, Benny Gantz – Netanyahu’s former coalition partner – continue to speak of their military triumph in Gaza and the need to build on this supposed ‘victory’. On June 15, the Israeli army bombed several locations in the besieged Strip and, again, on June 18. A few more bombs, however, are unlikely to change the outcome of the May war.
It is time to convert our “military achievements (to) political gains,” Gantz said on June 20. Easier said than done; as per this logic, Israel has been scoring ‘military achievements’ in Gaza for many years, namely, since its first major war on the Strip in 2008-09. Since then, thousands of Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed and many more wounded. However, Palestinian resistance continued unabated and zero ‘political gains’ have actually been achieved.
Gantz, like Bennett and Lapid, recognizes that Israel’s strategy in Gaza has been a complete failure. Since their main objective is remaining in power, they are bound to the rules of the old game which were formulated by right-wing politicians and sustained by right-wing extremists. Any deviation from that failed stratagem means a possible collapse of their shaky coalition.
Instead of mapping out a new, realistic strategy, Israel’s new government is busy sending symbolic messages. The first message is to its main target audience, Israel’s right-wing constituency, particularly Netanyahu’s disgruntled supporters, that the new government is equally committed to Israel’s ‘security’, to ensuring a demographic majority in occupied Jerusalem as in the rest of Palestine, and that no Palestinian state will ever be realized.
Another message is to the Palestinians and, by extension, to the whole region whose peoples and governments rallied behind the Palestinian revolt during the May war, that Israel remains a formidable military force, and that the fundamental military equation on the ground remains unaltered.
By continuing its escalation in and around Gaza, its violent provocations in Sheikh Jarrah and the entirety of East Jerusalem, its continued restrictions on Gaza’s urgent need for reconstruction, Bennett’s coalition is engaging in political theater. As long as attention remains fixated on Gaza and Jerusalem, as long as Bennett and Lapid continue to buy time and to distract the Israeli public from an imminent political implosion.
The Palestinians are, once more, proving to be critical players in Israeli politics. After all, it was Palestinian unity and resolve in May that humiliated Netanyahu and emboldened his enemies to finally oust him. Now, the Palestinians could potentially hold the keys to the survival of Bennet’s coalition, especially if they agree to a prisoner exchange – freeing several Israeli soldiers captured by Palestinian groups in Gaza in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held under horrific conditions in Israel.
On the day of the last prisoner exchange, in October 2011, Netanyahu delivered a televised speech, carefully tailored to present himself as Israel’s savior. Bennett and Lapid would relish a similar opportunity.
It behooves Israel’s new leaders to exercise caution in how they proceed from this point on. Palestinians are proving that they are no longer pawns in Israel’s political circus and they, too, can play politics, as the past few weeks have testified.
So far, Bennett has proven to be another Netanyahu. Yet, if Israel’s longest-running prime minister ultimately failed to convince Israelis of the merit of his political doctrine, Bennett’s charade is likely to be exposed much sooner, and the price, this time, is sure to be even heavier.
These are early days for the self-styled ‘coalition of change’ in Israel, but it has already been presented with significant challenges in the form of the Jerusalem Flag March, the Evyatar outpost, and the Citizenship and Entry law. There is another one just around the corner.
This week, the High Court of Justice informed the new Minister of Education, Yifat Shasha-Biton, that she has three weeks to decide her position regarding one of the last acts of her predecessor, Yoav Gallant of Netanyahu’s government. Before leaving his post, Gallant made a final decision as Education Minister not to award the high-profile Israel Prize in computer science to a professor at the Weizmann Institute, Oded Goldreich.
Initially, Gallant vetoed the award of the prize back in April in the wake of a right-wing group ‘uncovering’ the academic’s alleged support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. In a follow-up to the veto, Gallant cast himself in the role of chief prosecutor in an investigation into the granting of the prize and Goldreich was summoned to a hearing whose function was to determine the answers to questions regarding petitions and open letters signed by him, his position regarding BDS and his activities in a group called Academia for Equality.
Professor Goldreich has been clear about his nuanced position regarding sanctions against Israel but former Minister Gallant did not do nuance. For him, the hearing had a straightforward purpose: to examine ‘whether the professor’s current renunciation of the boycott movement is sincere and whether the information he provided to the court and the state in this matter is correct.’ Goldreich’s legal representative confirmed his refusal to cooperate with a process that was ‘blatantly McCarthyist.’
Former Minister Gallant has history. He made headlines earlier this year for ordering the cancellation of a discussion in a school involving Hagai El-Ad, the director of human rights organization B’Tselem which had declared that Israel must now be considered an apartheid state. Gallant’s wider intention was to prohibit schools from inviting representatives of groups that discourage ‘meaningful service in the Israel Defence Forces’ and call Israel ‘false derogatory names.’
As an Israeli politician, Gallant is one of the more enthusiastic when it comes to attempting to shut down voices which are critical of Israeli policy. But with Gallant now sent into opposition, a declaration of a full-blown form of McCarthyism in Israel would be arguably premature. Gallant’s hearing was only a tribute act to the House Un-American Activities Committee and the new Education Minister has a real opportunity to signal a change of culture.
Shasha-Biton is well regarded but it won’t be easy. As a result of the Netanyahu years, there has been a substantial shift to the right in terms of what is acceptable to discuss in the public sphere. Direct censorship is uncommon in Israel but editorial selection, self-censorship and the mediation of Palestinian voices through Israeli journalistic ‘analysis’ result in compliant media organizations that readily provide platforms for far-right settlers, whilst moving down the news agenda anything relating to the daily reality of occupation.
Gallant’s activities were part of a trend that exists beyond the farce of the Israel Prize controversy and his own Orwellian interpretation of the job of Education Minister. Benjamin Netanyahu can be proud that, although dethroned, he bestowed upon the nation a significant legacy in the form of the delegitimization of liberal opinion. He achieved a toxification of the adjective ‘left-wing’ and his constant rhetoric referring to the dangers of the left was designed to stoke fear. His language trickled down to the street, tacitly encouraging the harassment of those who don’t conform, those considered traitors – even on the right. These are, of course, the problems of the privileged. In this land, it is still much harder to be a Palestinian than a progressive Israeli.
That said, beyond the influence of those in government, there is a layer of extra-parliamentary activity contributing to a climate of fear and intimidation and, yes, a nascent form of McCarthyism. It is worth taking stock here of some of the right-wing non-governmental organizations – sometimes described as ‘watchdogs’ or ‘think-tanks’ – which are active in the business of monitoring the left.
One of these, ‘grassroots Zionist movement’ Im Tirzu, claims to have played a direct role in the lobbying of Gallant in the case of Professor Goldreich. Im Tirzu is present on the usual range of platforms, but the website is particularly informative. The organization is dedicated to defending Zionism and exposing ‘widespread efforts to delegitimize Israel from within, whether it is in the form of BDS or subverting sovereign policies.’ A key activity is the group’s ‘Know the Anti-Israeli Professor’ project which produces and publishes files on academics worldwide, including one dedicated to Goldreich. In my book, if it looks like a blacklist and reads like one, then it probably is one.
Im Tirzu is not the only organization involved in monitoring individuals and the left in a broader sense and with challenging anything perceived as critical. Israel Academia Monitor is concerned with the activities of academics who ‘propound…false arguments that defame Israel.’ NGO Monitor focuses on ‘the anti-Israeli propaganda machine’ and the activities of NGOs such as B’Tselem ‘that claim to promote human rights.’ Honest Reporting is a website which exists to ‘combat ideological prejudice: in journalism and the media, as it impacts Israel.’ Ad Kan is a group specializing in ‘undercover work’ and infiltration, investigating ‘domestic organizations that discredit’ the name of the State of Israel.
These NGOs, together with the current squatter of Balfour and his lapdogs like Gallant, are part of an ideological front which has an interest in engendering an atmosphere of national paranoia. This has not disappeared with the formation of a new government. Highly political NGOs could be argued to be part and parcel of debate in a democratic society, but Israel is not a normal country after 50 plus years of a corrupting occupation, as ‘anti-Zionist’ NGOs such as B’Tselem and Yesh Din have pointed out. The wider culture of intimidation and blacklisting spawned by Netanyahu and these NGOs and the increasingly narrow boundaries of public discourse, reflect this fact.
It is not unpatriotic to be concerned about issues such as the occupation, and Professor Oded Goldreich has resisted the calls for public ‘renunciation’ in a show trial. Shasha-Biton has a decision to make which goes beyond the difference between her and Gallant, the new government and the old. At stake is not the integrity of the Israel Prize but the ability to express, or even hold, an oppositional opinion in the public arena in Israel. The likes of Gallant (and indeed Netanyahu, as we have learned) are ultimately accountable at the ballot box, but increasingly influential self-appointed watchdogs like Im Tirzu and Ad Kan operate freely. Unless there is an effort to transform the culture, they will continue to set the agenda through activities which identify, intimidate, and render vulnerable, those who think differently.
The new CEO fronting for America Inc. completed his first meeting among our Euro lapdogs – officially known as NATO – and had a more important meeting with Putin in which, according to media servants of market forces, he let him know who’s boss of the universe. Politely, of course, because even this glorified clerk understands the danger of provoking a world war which would spare few of us, if any. An unedited interview of the Russian president, available online if American authorities of freedom and democracy haven’t already removed it, clearly reveals the infantile ignorance of a network assailant posing as objective reporter and the often amused reactions of the Russian statesman and leader of a nation once hanging on the ropes under the abuse of global capital now a world power again and much of that due to his leadership. It, like so many other examples, glaringly highlights the descent of the American empire with little global power remaining but its ability to blow up earth and commit mass murder more effectively than any other nation. But it is also susceptible to almost as much horror as it might inflict on powerless nations by powerful nations now able to retaliate in kind, which we can all be thankful for since it’s the only thing stopping us from attempted greater slaughters than we already conduct which we sell as advancing the cause of peace and democracy.
While the corona virus has created a menace seemingly beyond what was already becoming obvious about the end of private profit domination of earth, it also unleashed the greatest outpouring of high, low and no IQ speculation, charges, countercharges and more surpassing past reactions at times of great crisis with moments of extreme fantasy bordering on dementia being experienced and practiced both by people of supposed expertise and higher education in the sciences to folks who may still dance under a full moon with their bodies covered in slime as a way to avoid cancer. Sadly, so far the slime-covered dancers are making about as much sense as the allegedly more critical gang.
The horrendous death toll inflicted by the virus is thought by many to be the work of a Chinese plot to exterminate everyone on earth but the Chinese and blame it on America, an American plot to exterminate everyone on earth but Americans and blame it on China, and assorted tales of twitness and omni-anti-social media to make those two sound relatively thoughtful. The fact that capitalism has transformed nature and made it far more easy to spread a lethal virus than to feed, clothe and shelter billions of people has escaped many, even some critics of capital who seem shocked that big pharma profits from illness. Hello? As does every and all other business entities and aspects of free market private profit pursuit which has less to do with evil individuals and far more to do with a corrupt debased system controlled by minorities at ever great cost to the majority. Dog food, bombs, broccoli, burgers, health food, high fashion, health care, garbage, death and every other aspect of life are all subject to market forces creating private profit at the mall, school, factory, lab, convenience store and all other venues where goods are exchanged by one and all except for those without enough market force, and they can just drop dead.
And this is only a small part of the dis-mis-cis mind attacks on the population to assure mass confusion that doesn’t notice billions the world over, and hundreds of thousands in America, unable to afford food, clothing, and shelter while a relatively tiny number increase their wealth to become the equal of gods while their subjects cringe at threats to what is called “our” democracy originating from people with little to no political economic power save to vote for candidates mostly bought, rented and leased by the richest of the rich who look down on them lined up at the polls, malls and battlefields from their wealth created mountain-top fortresses and smile at the blessings of capitalist democracy.
What’s a failing empire to do but continue failing, as in rushing to increase aid to Israel when a global majority has reacted in critical anger over its most recent abuse of the indigenous people whose land was taken on behalf of Europeans and the Palestinians were made to pay and are still paying for European atrocities? While the new American CEO leads a struggle to return to a form of social democracy that spreads a few more loans among the barely surviving and more taco-pizza-burgers to the fast food hungry while assuring that the system responsible for creating hunger is maintained and billions of American tax dollars continue to be rewarded to a colonial apartheid nation? And this while decent Americans in great numbers are enraged by the conditions of life of America’s indigenous people robbed of their land, culture and heritage long before Israel or the Middle East occupied any of the consciousness of Americans.
Like the humanitarian decency at the root of all Americans when reaching out to immigrant populations having the usual difficulties of discrimination inflicted first by their cheap labor exploiters and later by the native people whose jobs they take and at whose expense they frequently survive. Not to mention the difficulty of having to step over the bodies of Americans reduced to sleeping in the street while on our way to rescue an animal to save it from, um, having to sleep in the street. Are we confused? Does a snake have wings? Is a bluebird blue?
Of course, all of these systemic curses of inhumanity and often near madness can be written off as Russian and Chinese assault on our sacred democracy, enshrined in the constitution-bible, written by slave owners and others of the 1% who believed the common people should leave the important business of ruling to those with the most money, purchased knowledge and sanctification by those biblical gifts handed down – or up? – by an invisible force called god, or later, high finance.
The financialization of capitalism has cursed the world with worse contradictions than existed in the time of the system’s birth when Marx pointed out most of them. Now, money makes money without the production of anything but more money which may soon lead to much of humanity with indoor toilets eating bitcoins and excreting buttcoins while trying to live with junk filled oceans, overflowing sewers and forests turned to deserts while praying that nobody pushes the nuclear button. On the hopeful side, workers here and all over the world are acting up, unionizing and fighting for democracy in political economic dictatorships worshipped as democracies by Wall Street and its wholly owned subsidiary: the American government.
Time is growing short for Americans to get beyond symbolic challenges to capitalism that merely offer more profits by “branding” various movements with marketplace stature assuring that Gay Inc., Feminist Inc., Black Lives Matter Inc., and Latino-a-x Inc. do not, perish the thought, turn into American Democracy Inc. That is still to come and as always, we’d better hurry to join up with much of the world our media mind managers don’t tell us about but which is setting an example for everyone by opting for a system that puts the public good before private profit. So far, as expected, the American regime of warfare, petcare and egomaniacal behavior personified by Trump – which is why they had to get rid of him for exemplifying what the nation really is – has succeeded in keeping division, individual mental illness and group therapy uppermost in consciousness while social reality sinks more deeply into a massive sea of moral sewage.
The “memes” of an all too often me-me-me-me culture need to and will soon become a plural “we “encompassing all of us and leaving no one out. Capitalism cannot be saved but humanity must be, from the social pandemic of private profit first, humanity later, if ever. The viral brain surgery performed on our collective consciousness by our rulers is an aspect of capitalism and could not exist without market forces under minority and anti-democratic control. The sooner “we” understand that, the sooner “we” end pandemics and thought control on our way to real democracy in a collective human environment favoring the best for all and leaving no one out.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is as much American as he is Israeli. While other Israeli leaders have made their strong relationship with Washington a cornerstone in their politics, Netanyahu’s political style was essentially American from the start.
Netanyahu spent many of his formative years in the United States. He lived in Philadelphia as a child, graduated from Cheltenham High School and earned a degree in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. He then opted to live in the US, not Israel, when he joined the Boston Consulting Group.
Presumably for familial reasons, namely the death of his brother Yonatan, Netanyahu returned to Israel in 1978 to head the ‘Yonatan Netanyahu Anti-Terror Institute’. This did not last for long. He returned to the US to serve as Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1984 to 1988. At the time, Israel was ruled by a coalition government, which saw the rotation of two different prime ministers, Labor Party leader, Shimon Peres and Likud leader, Yitzhak Shamir.
Then, terms like ‘Labor’ and ‘Likud’ meant very little to most American politicians. The US Congress was, seemingly, in love with Israel. For them, Israeli politics was a mere internal matter. Things have changed in the following years, in which Netanyahu played a major role.
Even in the last three decades when Netanyahu became more committed to Israeli politics, he remained, at heart, American. His relationship with US elites was different from that of previous Israeli leaders. Not only were his political ideas and intellect molded in the US, he also managed to generate a unique political brand of pro-Israel solidarity among Americans. In the US, Netanyahu is a household name.
One of the successes attributed to Netanyahu’s approach to American politics was the formation of deep and permanent ties with the country’s burgeoning Christian fundamentalist groups. These groups, such as John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, used the support for Israel – based on messianic and biblical prophecies – as a point of unity and a stepping stone into the world of politics. Israel’s Netanyahu used them as reliable allies who, eventually, made up for the growing lack of enthusiasm for Israel among liberal and progressive circles across the US.
The Israel-evangelical connection may have seemed, at the time, a masterful stroke that could be attributed to the political ‘genius’ of Netanyahu. Indeed, it looked as if Netanyahu had guaranteed American loyalty to Israel indefinitely. This assertion was demonstrated repeatedly, especially as the fundamentalists came to Israel’s rescue whenever the latter engaged in war or faced any threat, whether imagined or fabricated.
As American politics shifted towards more populist, demagogic and conservative ideologies, the evangelicals moved closer to the centers of power in Capitol Hill. Note how Tea-party conservatism, one of the early sparks of the chaotic Trumpism that followed, was purportedly madly in love with Israel. The once marginal political camps, whose political discourses are driven by a strange amalgamation of prophecies and realpolitik, eventually became the ‘base’ of US President Donald Trump. Trump had no other option but to make the support for Israel a core value to his political campaign. His base would have never accepted any alternative.
A prevailing argument often suggests that Netanyahu’s mortal error was making Israel a domestic American issue. Whereas the Republicans support Israel – thanks to their massive evangelical constituency – the Democrats have slowly turned against Israel, an unprecedented phenomenon that only existed under Netanyahu. While this is true, it is also misleading, as it suggests that Netanyahu simply miscalculated. But he did not. In fact, Netanyahu has fostered a strong relationship with the various evangelical groups, long before Trump pondered the possibility of moving to the White House. Netanyahu simply wanted to change the center of gravity of the US relationship with Israel, which he accomplished.
For Netanyahu, the support of the American conservative camp was not a mere strategy to simply garner support for Israel, but an ideologically motivated choice, linking Netanyahu’s own beliefs to American politics using the Christian fundamentalists as a vehicle. This assertion can be demonstrated in a recent headline from The Times of Israel: “Top evangelical leader warns: Israel could lose our support if Netanyahu ousted.”
This ‘top evangelical leader’ is Mike Evans who, from Jerusalem, declared that “Bibi Netanyahu is the only man in the world that unites evangelicals.” Evans vowed to take his 77 million followers to the opposition of any Israeli government without Netanyahu. Much can be gleaned from this but, most importantly, US evangelicals consider themselves fundamental to Israeli politics, their support for Israel being conditioned on Netanyahu’s centrality in that very Israeli body politic.
In recent weeks, many comparisons between Netanyahu and Trump began surfacing. These comparisons are apt, but the issue is slightly more complex than merely comparing political styles, selective discourses and personas. Actually, both Trumpism and Netanyahu’s brand of Likudism – call it Netanyahu-ism – have successfully merged US and Israeli politics in a way that is almost impossible to disentangle. This shall continue to prove costly for Israel, as the evangelical and Republican support for Israel is clearly conditioned on the latter’s ability to serve the US conservative political – let alone spiritual – agenda.
Similarities between Trump and Netanyahu are obvious but they are also rather superficial. Both are narcissistic politicians, who are willing to destabilize their own countries to remain in power, as if they both live by the French maxim, Après moi, le déluge – “After me, the flood”. More, both railed against the elites, and placed fringe political trends – often marred by chauvinistic and fascist political views – at center stage. They both spoke of treason and fraud, played the role of the victim, posed as the only possible saviors, and so on.
But popular political trends of this nature cannot be wholly associated with individuals. Indeed, it was Trump and Netanyahu who tapped into, and exploited, existing political phenomena which, arguably, would have taken place with or without them. The painful truth is that Trumpism will survive long after Trump is gone and Netanyahu-ism has likely changed the face of Israel, regardless of Netanyahu’s next step.
Whatever that next step may be, it will surely be situated in the same familiar base of Netanyahu’s angry army of Israeli right-wing zealots and Christian fundamentalists in the US and elsewhere.