What Trump Means for American Jews

American Jews historically fought for civil rights for all but veered away when Israel began seizing Palestinian land. Now, the Trump presidency presents a challenge and an opportunity to steer back to universal principles, says Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

Before the year 1967, the political and social relationships of the American Jewish community were very different than today. Those relationships were based on simple and accurate logic. Jews in the United States were a minority. The U.S. had other minorities as well, most notably African-Americans, who also had a long history of being discriminated against.

Given these conditions, it made sense for the American Jews to make alliances with other U.S. minorities – a united front, so to speak – with the clear-sighted understanding that if one group’s rights were attacked, all of their rights stood in danger. The alliance proved beneficial, and many American Jews were involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

This era of mutually beneficial cooperation lasted until the year 1967. In that year the State of Israel, which had put forth the hubristic claim of being a “Jewish state” whose government had the right to speak for the world’s Jews, conquered territory from several of its neighboring states and then (1) refused to withdraw from most of that land, (2) began to move their own population into the conquered lands in violation of international law, and finally (3) began ethnically cleansing the conquered area of its non-Jewish population.

This process was so blatantly illegal and racist in nature that almost all American minority groups protested against it (the only notable exception being right-wing Cuban-Americans). Particularly strong protests came from African-Americans.

At that point American Jews had an important decision to make. Should they maintain a principled anti-racist position, which required standing apart from Israeli action and preserve their united front with other U.S. minority groups? Or should they abandon the united front strategy and cast their fortunes with their increasingly racist Israeli cousins?

Though it was predictably a tragic misjudgment, the American Jewish elite and most of the Jews of the time who followed their lead abandoned the anti-racist front, angrily turned away from those critical of Israeli behavior, and began supporting and rationalizing Israel’s war on the indigenous population (the Palestinians) of the lands they had conquered.

This situation has continued to the present day. And, during all this time, it seems never to have occurred to the American Jewish community that its bond with Israel has cost them exactly those domestic allies that they would need if hate groups – those who lump together Jews with other American minorities and detest them all – eventually found influence in Washington.

Enter Trump 

And now that is what appears to be happening. Donald Trump is president-elect. An article in Haaretz describes Trump’s worldview as “reactionary, nativist, chauvinistic, anti-foreigner, anti-immigrant and mainly anti-Muslim.” This  concoction is threatening to American Jews as well. One can see this by paying attention to some of the people Trump is now naming as advisers and cabinet appointees. People such as:

Steve Bannon – Trump’s “chief strategist.” Bannon is a leader in the so-called “white nationalist” movement and “the standard bearer” for racist, anti-immigrant positions. He is also an anti-Semite who, reportedly, does not want his children going to school with Jews.

Frank Gaffney – Trump is consulting with Gaffney on a range of national security appointments. The problem is that Gaffney’s view of the world is crazy. He is the founder of a think tank called the Center for Security Policy, which promotes such ideas as (1) President Obama is a “closet Muslim,” (2) the Muslim Brotherhood is “infiltrating the U.S. government at high levels,” and (3) Islamic religious law is “replacing American democracy.”

Jeff Sessions – Sessions is a senator from Alabama whom Trump wants to make Attorney General because, allegedly, he is “a world class legal mind.” He is also a known racist who, as a prosecuting attorney in Alabama, was denied a federal judgeship because of his racial insensitivity. What else can one expect from someone who thinks that “a white voting rights lawyer was a disgrace to his race.” The American Civil Liberties Union describes Sessions as “the senator with probably the most anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-child record in the Senate.

Gaffney and Sessions might not be as obviously anti-Semitic as Bannon, but one has to understand that there is a threat of their acting so, or condoning such action, by virtue of their overall hostility to minorities.

Two Consequences

Trump’s election and choice of advisers have had two important consequences for Jews:

— The evolving social situation in the United States is now creating pressure on its Jewish community to move back to that pre-1967 position of a united front – the position that says an attack on the civil rights of one U.S. minority group is an attack on all of them. The need for such a position is so obvious that even the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, has responded to it.

In a recent speech he declared, “We must stand with our fellow Americans who may be singled out for how they look, who they love, where they’re from or how they pray. … So I pledge to you … that if one day Muslim-Americans will be forced to register their identities, then that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim.”

Unfortunately, Greenblatt’s position is not a unanimous one among American Jewish leaders. As the Jewish commentator Peter Beinart points out, “American Jewry’s two most influential groups [AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations] no longer take moral responsibility for the country in which their members live.” That is because they have chosen to become promoters of Israeli, and not American, interests. “The result is that America’s most powerful Jewish organizations … judge American politicians by one standard: Do they support the Israeli government no matter what?”

— The Israeli government and its settler supporters have come out in full support of President-elect Trump, thus revealing a willingness to, at the very least, turn a blind eye to the evolving anti-Semitic trends within the new administration. While this might seem crazy, there is in fact a method to this madness.

Israeli journalist Yaron London explained this in a recent op-ed piece on Ynet: “a world view which supports white supremacy matches our [Israel’s] government’s interests.” Why so? Because “all forms of Zionism hold the perception that a certain extent of anti-Semitism benefits the Zionist enterprise. To put it more sharply, anti-Semitism is the generator and ally of Zionism. Masses of Jews leave their place of residence only when their economic situation and physical safety are undermined.”

A Second Chance

American Jews now have a rare opportunity. They can realize where their real interests lie and act accordingly.  And, as they always have, those interests lie in upholding the universal principles of civil and humanitarian rights. To not do so is to affirm their present alliance with a nation self-destructing on tribalism and racism.

The truth is that Zionism has turned out to be a tragic and potentially fatal mistake. Those who led the Jewish community to support Zionism tied the fate of the U.S. Jews to an apartheid political ideology that has isolated them from much that is decent and progressive in the world.

As problematic as it is, the ascendency of Donald Trump gives the American Jews a second chance to make the right choice, to join with their natural allies and fight for the equal rights of all groups. U.S. Jews should think long and hard about this, for it may well be that their second chance will also be their last chance.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.




Death of the ‘Two-State Solution’

Exclusive: For years, proposals for a “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – granting equal rights to all inhabitants – were called anti-Semitic. But Israel’s settlement building has now left no other rational choice, notes Jonathan Marshall.

By Jonathan Marshall

Donald Trump’s election victory raises many unanswered questions, but it also settles a few, starting with the fate of the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” In the words of Israeli Education Minister and Jewish Home Party leader Naftali Bennett, “The era of a Palestinian state is over.”

Lest anyone accuse the Israeli hardliner of wishful thinking, one need only recall candidate Trump’s insistence last spring that Israelis “really have to keep going” with settling the territories that they have occupied since 1967. Two months later, the Republican Party changed its 2012 platform to omit support for a Palestinian state and to condemn the “false notion that Israel is an occupier.”

Last week, a co-chair of the Trump campaign’s Israel Advisory Committee reaffirmed that the President-elect rejects Washington’s traditional view that Israel’s settlements are obstacles to peace and illegal under international law.

The so-called “two-state solution” — creation of a Palestinian national homeland comprising the West Bank and Gaza, and coexisting with Israel — has been a longstanding axiom of official U.S. policy, accepted as well by Israel and its unofficial lobbying arm, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Of late, however, the rise of extreme Jewish nationalists to power in Israel, the relentless expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, and Israel’s evident disinterest in peace negotiations have all but killed hopes for such a solution. In 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “There will be no withdrawals” from the occupied West Bank and “no concessions” to the Palestinians.

As Americans for Peace Now points out, “more than 40% of the West Bank is under the direct control of settlers or settlements and off-limits to Palestinians . . . Israel has taken hundreds of kilometers of the West Bank to build roads that serve the settlements, . . . dividing Palestinian cities and towns from each other, and imposing various barriers to Palestinian movement and access. . . Such settlements, and new settlement construction going on today, have the explicit goal of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem – which, in effect, means preventing the two-state solution.”

Many of Israel’s staunchest allies in the United States now concede this reality. Hillary Clinton, in a private email to one of her advisers, acknowledged in 2015 that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process had become a phony “Potemkin” spectacle. Secretary of State John Kerry warned publicly that Israeli settlement-building was “imperiling the viability of a two-state solution.”

Roger Cohen, the New York Times columnist and an ardent liberal Zionist, reported last month following a trip to Israel that the two-state idea is all but “clinically dead.” He explained: “The incorporation of all the biblical Land of Israel has advanced too far, for too long, to be reversed now.”

Many Israeli supporters of a two-state solution now publicly admit that bitter truth. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak accuses Netanyahu of engaging in a “messianic drive” toward “a single Jewish state, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.” For the current crop of right-wing leaders in Israel, the main question is whether to offer Palestinians citizenship within an expanded Israel or to remove them.

Palestinians also concede privately that their dream of a state is dead. Said noted Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki, “We, Israelis and Palestinians, live in a one-state reality.” Former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, declared bluntly, “there will be no alternative but one state. No alternative.”

What Path Forward?

If a Palestinian state is truly dead, Palestinians will need to give up their decades-old nationalist aspirations, a wrenching blow that many will find hard to accept. Israelis, in turn, will need to find room in a bi-national democratic state for millions of Palestinians — roughly equal in number to Jews — an even more wrenching adjustment that many will fight to the bitter end. Liberal Zionists have warned for years that refusal to accept a Palestinian state would force Israel to choose between remaining a democratic state or a Jewish state.

As former Prime Minister Barak put it, the “overarching ambition” of absorbing the occupied territories “is bound to culminate in either a single, binational state, which, within a generation, may have a Jewish minority and likely a Bosnia-like civil war, or else an apartheid reality if Palestinian residents are deprived of the right to vote. Both spell doom for the Zionist dream.”

An apartheid-like reality already exists for Palestinians, but many Israelis and their supporters publicly rationalize it as an unfortunate but temporary necessity during a transitional period that will end with a peace settlement. By putting off determination of the final status of the occupied territories, Israel can justify subjecting Palestinians to harsh military law, seizing their land, demolishing their homes, controlling their movements, and jailing them at will rather than granting them the rights afforded to Israeli citizens.

Israeli political scientist and former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti has been saying for years that “the whole notion of a Palestinian state . . . is a sham.” Israel has maintained the pretense of peace talks only “because it is self-serving,” he said. While talking about two states as a goal, Israeli governments continue funding the expansion of settlements. Palestinian officials, meanwhile, help enforce order in return for millions of dollars in international aid.

But if Israeli hardliners succeed in ending the fiction of a peace process and annex the territories, “then the Palestinian struggle will inevitably be transformed from one demanding independence into a movement demanding equal rights,” says James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. “If this is to be the case, we may well see the day when the Palestinian citizens of Israel will emerge . . . as the new leadership of a unified Palestinian community fighting for justice and equality.”

Such a fight will face tremendous opposition. In recent years, polls of Israeli adults show that nearly half believe Arabs should be expelled from Israel. Nearly eight in 10 believe Jews should receive preferential treatment compared to non-Jews. The Netanyahu government and Knesset are filled with overt racists. Last year, Netanyahu appointed as deputy defense minister a rabbi who asserted, “[Palestinians] are like animals, they aren’t human.”

The Israeli peace activist and public opinion analyst Dahlia Scheindlin doesn’t minimize the hurdles, but said Palestinians may be ready to fight for their rights within Israel. “Israeli racism [is] better than Israeli occupation,” she wrote, “and they probably feel [they] can live with it as long as there are democratic foundations to demand better. Maybe for them, Israeli rule cannot possibly make their status quo worse, but at least it offers the possibility of something many of them simply lack: citizenship.”

Democratic Rights

Some hope is offered by the fact that several notable right-leaning Israeli politicians favor granting Palestinians full democratic rights within a greater Israel, rather than subordinating them forever under the thumb of military occupation or Jim Crow-type segregation.

As New Yorker editor David Remnick observed a couple of years ago, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin — a member of the rightist Likud party — has “emerged as the most prominent critic of racist rhetoric, jingoism, fundamentalism, and sectarian violence, the highest-ranking advocate among Jewish Israelis for the civil rights of the Palestinians both in Israel and in the occupied territories.”

Rivlin visited an Arab town that had been the scene of an Israeli massacre in 1956 to apologize and “swear, in my name and that of all our descendants, that we will never act against the principle of equal rights, and we will never try and force someone from our land.” He also condemned racist fans of a Jerusalem soccer team who protested its signing of two Muslim players.

For such sentiments, not surprisingly, Rivlin has been called a “traitor,” “rotten filth,” and even “lying little Jew” by his Israeli haters.

But Rivlin is not alone. Moshe Arens, a former Likud leader, minister of defense and foreign affairs, and ambassador to the United States, supports giving Palestinians in the West Bank the right to vote in Israeli elections. The key to preserving Israeli democracy, he wrote in 2010, will be making them feel at home in the state of Israel, “enjoying not only equality of rights but also equality of opportunities.”

It will take a minor miracle to persuade the Israeli public to risk broadening their democracy to incorporate millions of Palestinians, but the longer the unsupportable status quo prevails, the less likely it becomes that any Israelis will enjoy the democratic and civil rights they have long known. Israel’s media is under assault from the government, leading Freedom House to downgrade its assessment of the country’s press from “free” to “partly free.” Israeli peace activists and NGOs face constant harassment and persecution. Rightist demonstrators routinely chant “Death to Arabs.”

Former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, a member of the Likud Party, recently declared, “The leadership of Israel in 2016 is busy with inflaming passions and causing fear between Jews and Arabs, between right and left and between different ethnic groups in order to survive in power.”

And Ilan Baruch, Israel’s former ambassador to South Africa, said, “Netanyahu is pushing Israeli democracy to the brink. . . This is the most right-wing government in the country’s history, which has no qualms about taking tactical and strategic steps in the media, education, and culture in order to ensure Netanyahu’s permanent rule. To do that, the government sows racist divisions . . . slanders and preaches hatred for the Other — be they Arab citizens of Israel, Palestinians, African refugees, or human rights activists.”

Still, with the pretense of a two-state solution shattered by Trump’s victory and Netanyahu’s open intransigence, supporters of Israeli democracy and Palestinian rights can finally begin an unblinkered discussion of how to achieve a genuine accommodation between those two peoples in a common land.

In the words of Sandy Tolan, author of the international bestseller The Lemon Tree, “Now, at least, there is an opportunity to lay the foundations for some newer kind of solution grounded in human rights, freedom of movement, complete cessation of settlement building, and equal access to land, water, and places of worship.  It will have to be based on a new reality, which Israel and the United States have had such a hand in creating. Think of it as the one-state solution.”

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic . Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews include “Can Obama Lecture Xi on Human Rights?” “How Arms Sales Distort US Foreign Policy,” “Hiding the Indonesia Massacre Files,” and “Pakistan’s Ticking Nuclear Time Bomb.”




Women Call for Israel-Palestine Peace

Though the Israel-Palestine conflict has been mostly off the mainstream media’s radar recently, this long-running crisis drew the attention this month of two women Nobel Peace Prize winners, reports Ann Wright.

By Ann Wright

On Oct. 5, two women Nobel Peace Laureates were at opposite ends of Israel, each working for peace in different ways.  One was walking in Israel with Israeli and Palestinian women with hopes for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the other sailed on the Women’s Boat to Gaza to challenge the Israeli blockade of the 1.8 million Palestinians trapped in the crowded Gaza Strip.

Mairead Maguire, the 1977 Nobel Peace Laureate from Northern Ireland who had sailed 1,000 miles in nine days with 13 women from 13 countries, was stopped in international waters by the Israeli military, taken into custody and brought to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod.

On the same day, Leymah Gbowee, the 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate from Liberia, was to the north, on the Israeli border with Lebanon and spoke at the beginning of a two-week “Walk for Hope” through Israel with approximately 5,000 Israeli and Palestinian women.

Gbowee also spoke at the closing ceremony of the walk on Oct. 19 in Jerusalem at a rally in a square near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence.

“If you cannot see hope, if you cannot see peace, then you are blind,” Gbowee said. “You must reject the narrative that war is the destiny of our children. War is easy, making peace is hard. But sisters, today you’ve made history! No one will be able to ignore your call for peace any more.”

In an interview with the Haaretz newspaper, Gbowee added: “Men try to demean women’s activism as if it isn’t important, as if it isn’t ‘the real stuff.’ But guns and bombs are not aimed only at men. Women suffer real pain — and we have real things to say. And women have the ability to come together and bridge our divides — and that is very real, very political and very powerful.”

Many other women’s voices from Israel and Palestine were heard at the Oct. 19 rally.

Women’s Power

Hind Khoury, an economist who was the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs in the Palestinian Authority and the delegate general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization to France from 2006 until 2010, said, “This is women’s power at it’s best. But will you last? Will you do the hard work? The hard part begins tomorrow — will you keep up the hope in our region that is plagued with violence and despair? The 50 years of rule over the Palestinian people, from cradle to grave, cannot go on. Our people are ready for peace. President Abbas is ready for peace. We women have come together to tell all our leaders to work towards a negotiated agreement.”

Fadwa Shear from Ramallah said, “We cannot count on men to create peace. We will have to do it by ourselves. We are political women calling on our leaders to reach a political agreement. I am very proud to be here.”

The voices of Israeli women were also heard. According to the Haaretz article, “Hadassah Froman, widow of Rabbi Menachem Froman, and her daughter-in-law Michal, who was pregnant when she was wounded in a stabbing attack by a Palestinian in January, 2016, both spoke at the demonstration. The two women, who live in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, were reportedly warmly welcomed by the crowd. ‘There is great energy here, and it can bring us to a new way, to change,’ said Hadassah Froman.

“As she held her infant daughter, Michal Froman added, ‘I believe that peace, as we want it to be, will come from a place where we can see what is possible and what is impossible. The right can be part of peace, too. Life will be better here if we stop seeing ourselves as the victims of terror or the victims of the occupation. We all have to get over this and begin to work hard.’”

Peace Reciprocity

The goal of working across religious and ethnic lines was echoed by Palestinians as well. Huda Abuarqoub, regional director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace and a resident of Hebron, said, “I came as a Palestinian woman from the Occupied Territories to say, enough is enough! It’s time for peace and security for both people. … You saw this morning how many Palestinian women joined you. I am here as Palestinian to say clear and loud — you have a partner!”israel2008map1

Hamutal Gouri, a women’s activist and a Women Wage Peace leader, ended the rally at Qasr al-Yahud, “Motherhood is not only the act of bearing and rearing our own children. Motherhood is a spiritual and ethical position of responsibility for the world and for future generations.”

Gouri told Haaretz, “The world does not need another peace plan. There are already many excellent plans.  What we need is true intent to make peace. And that is what we women are demanding from our leaders: determination and courage to engage in peace negotiations.”

Women Wage Peace, the organizer and sponsor of the “Walk for Hope,”  is a non-partisan women’s group founded in 2014 at the end of Operation Protective Edge, the 51-day Israeli attack on Gaza in which some 2,300 Palestinians and 72 Israelis (66 soldiers and six civilians) were killed.

Women Wage Peace calls for an agreement between Israel and Palestine that will be respectful, non-violent and accepted by both sides. Organizers say the group is funded mainly by small donations from Israel and abroad, as well as by the Women Donors Network in the United States.

The Palestinian Authority provided political and financial support to the walk including chartering buses, and purchasing water and hats with a dove logo that the women wore, many over their hijabs.

More than 2,500 Jewish and Arab Israeli women arrived on buses and were joined by more than 1,000 Palestinian women from the West Bank. Over the next week, Women Wage Peace will set up a “peace tent” at Qasr al-Yahud, the historic baptism site on the Jordan River.

Maguire’s Account

Regarding the 1,000 mile voyage of the Women’s Boat to Gaza, Mairead Maguire described what happened as the boat approached Gaza: “myself and all of the women who sailed on the Women’s Boat to Gaza have been arrested and are in detention in Israel. We were arrested, kidnapped illegally in international waters, and taken against our wish into Israel.

“This has happened to me before. We will be deported and, tragically, not allowed back to see our friends in Palestine and in Israel. This is totally illegal. As men and — as women from many countries, we uphold our freedom of movement in any part of our world. So, … work for the freedom and human rights, the lifting of the blockade against the people of Gaza and for the freedom for the Palestinian people and peace in the Middle East. We can all do this together. It is not a dream. And we are here in person because we care for human rights, for human dignity for the Palestinian people.”

While on the high seas on the voyage to Gaza on the Women’s Boat to Gaza, Maguire wrote: “As in Gaza, so too around our world, millions of children are suffering because of government policies of militarism and war and violence of armed struggles. This cycle of escalating violence must be broken, least it spin out of control. It is not too late, we can turn around from war to peace, from force to friendship, from hate to forgiveness and love, it is a choice. We are powerful each in our own way.  We can, when we believe passionately in love, change to a non-killing nonviolent world.”

As a participant with Mairead Maguire on the Women’s Boat to Gaza, I wish the Israeli government would have allowed the 13 women from 13 countries on our boat to join the “Walk for Hope,” but I guess that was too much to “hope” for!

Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel.  She also served in the US diplomatic corps for 16 years and resigned in 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.  She was the boat leader of the Zaytouna-Olivia, her fourth mission with the Gaza Freedom Flotilla coalition to challenge the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza.




The Open Wounds of Mideast Conflicts

Beyond Hillary Clinton’s insults about Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin — and finger-pointing about ISIS — foreign policy has gotten little attention in Campaign 2016 and that’s especially true about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

 By Dennis J Bernstein

Peace in Palestine and Palestinian statehood have barely surfaced in the 2016 Presidential election, although President Barack Obama has just approved a massive military aid package for Israel and Israel is expanding its settlements in Palestinian territory. In part, the silence is because both major party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have already professed their devotion to Israel.

But the festering wound of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a major source of violence in the Middle East, contributing to hostilities in Iraq and Syria, will not go away by being ignored, as Ali Abunimah, author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli/Palestinian Impasse and co-founder and director of the Electronic Intifada, explained in a Flashpoints interview.

Dennis Bernstein: Ali, welcome back to Flashpoints.

Ali Abunimah: Thank you Dennis. I’m happy to be back in one of my favorite places, and speaking for one of my favorite organizations, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, doing some incredible work. And I hope people are going to come out and support them.

DB: Well, I hope so too. And, again, the work that MECA does is more crucial than ever. Working to bring pure water, to do the significant life-saving work that they continue to do. There’s a lot going on in this world, Ali. And there’s a lot that you know a lot about. […] We hear once again the Iraqi army is poised to take back Mosul. They are armed, they are strong, And we’re already getting reports that they’re winning. You want to give us your initial response to when you hear the Iraqi forces, once again, have massed to take Mosul? How does that sound to you?

AA: Well, it sounds to me like in every one of these situations, the first and foremost victims are going to be defenseless civilians. And that’s what worries me, and concerns me the most. This plan to take Mosul has been in the works for a long time. It’s been announced a long time ago, and people in Mosul as people throughout Iraq and in Syria, are between a rock and a hard place. They have been given no choice about who they are going to get bombed or killed by.

DB: And there are a lot of people who are worried that this is just a part of this expanding war, that we see expanding into Syria. Nobody really knows where this is going to go. Do you want to put this in the context of Syria. And just to mention that Gorbachev just released a statement saying that he’s terrified that the situation is grave in terms of Syria. And relations between the U.S. and Russia are worse than they have ever been.

AA: Well, you have to kind of step back, and look at the big picture, in a way. I mean in the context of this election campaign, if you can call it that, there are revelations that are really quite shocking that are being completely glossed over because Trump is stealing all the headlines. But it’s been revealed that Hillary Clinton in a memo which was only leaked through WikiLeaks said flat out that ISIS was funded by two of the closest U.S. allies in the region, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and ISIS and other groups in Syria.

And on the other side you have Russia, which is supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad which has killed vast numbers of civilians, that is besieging eastern Aleppo and raining hell and fire on people there. And you have a war that only seems to be getting bloodier and more horrific.

And it seems to me any sensible person would say that the priority has got to be to stop the war. And the people who can do that, or the powers that can do that, are the United States and Russia who have the power to stop feeding their proxies with weapons, with money, and to bring an end to the bloodshed. And from that point there’s got to be some kind of political solution to this mess. Because otherwise the effort to fight until victory is simply going to destroy what’s left of Syria, and kill even more people than have already died.

That seems to me a sensible view, but at the same time people’s passions are so raised that if you try to say that the priority has to be to stop the war, and stop the bloodshed, that you are accused with siding with the dictator, or siding against the dictator, or supporting the atrocities that are happening, or opposing them.

What we do know is that the U.S. has been involved in fueling this war. Russia is involved, Iran is involved. And I am among those who are not convinced that more U.S. weapons, or more bombardment by the U.S., by Russia, or by any other country is going to produce better outcomes for people in Syria. So now, when you look at what Gorbachev said, or, indeed, what senior U.S. military officers have said, for the U.S. to take on, to have a more direct involvement in Syria would effectively mean a war with Russia.

And, I think we’re old enough to know how that sounds. A lot of people nowadays, a lot of younger folks that I talk to don’t have a memory of what it meant to live in the shadow of nuclear war, and so, maybe don’t hear that the same way people who lived through that era do.

DB: I think you’ve got a point there. I remember sort of hiding under my desk, and the biggest fear I had when we were doing those air raid drills was, my mom worked and I didn’t know where the hell that was. I didn’t know how I would ever find her, if the bomb fell. And we all grew up with that kind of fear. And here it is, for another generation of our kids. It’s terrifying. Ali, it looked like there was a moment when there was going to be a cease fire, and there was going to be a truce. It lasted for about two seconds and then it exploded into an even worse war. What happened?

AA: Well, I’m not claiming any expertise in this area but what I’m seeing is a cycle where the parties in Syria see this as a battle for… an existential battle. The regime sees a victory as an existential battle, as do many of its supporters. And those who have been under the horrific bombardments of the regime see it as an existential battle. In a situation like that, it’s not going to stop, unless those who are arming and financing and supporting these parties say “Enough.” Civil wars… this is one of the most horrific civil wars in modern times, if not in history.

And it’s not going to end by itself, unless the powers, particularly the United States and Russia, decide they’re going to end it. And so far they haven’t decided to do that. And there is a push to get the U.S. even more involved. And when we look at the results of U.S. involvement in Iraq, in Libya, throughout the world, for the past half century or more, in Southeast Asia, it’s hard to look at that and not just apprehend the prospect of another major U.S. military involvement with real fear and horror.

DB: I want to get deep into Palestine, but just one more question. I have to ask it. My listeners tend to get furious with me when I raise issues this way. But I have to ask you, do you have a preference, do you think Trump or Hillary Clinton is more capable of dealing… I don’t mean it to be a farcical question. It’s an important question, because they are the ones. Do you think either one is better than the other? … Long pause.

AA: Long pause. I will not be voting for either of them is what I can say. And I have been through enough cycles to know that the whole “lesser evil” argument is what has got us to this point. If voting for the lesser evil was a strategy then we would not be facing the horrendous choice right now, of Trump who is supported by some of the most nasty, extreme, fascistic and racist and white supremacist elements. Who is himself, very unpredictable. I don’t think anyone can know what he would do if he was president. I don’t think anything he says can be taken as a reliable indicator of what he’ll say or do tomorrow.

And Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, as these leaks show, is going to be the reliable candidate of the war industry, of the financial industry, of… if you just look at the way she makes policy. I mean, what these e-mails reveal on Palestine, for example, on Israel, is that it was all about… it’s like, we’re going to oppose the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement because that’s going to get us money from our donors.

She’s saying, in writing, in these e-mails, in memos she’s sending her staff, that Saudi Arabia is funding ISIS. And the Clinton Foundation is taking money from Saudi Arabia. And the Obama administration made like the biggest weapons deal in history with Saudi Arabia. They’ve sold $115 billion dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. Can I say with any conviction that that is the lesser evil? I honestly can’t.

DB: Alright, let’s turn our attention to the situation in occupied Palestine. That word occupied doesn’t often make it into the corporate press. But that’s exactly… it’s not only occupied, but it’s an expanding occupation. Some refer to it as an ethnic cleansing. Take your pick of terms. Apartheid, Israeli-style.

But, Ali, let’s take it in two parts. Why don’t you give us your sense, give us an update, where you see the situation on the ground now — is it worse after the last Israeli slaughter? Is it status quo? How would you evaluate the situation on the ground now?

AA: Well, that’s the big question. First of all, the word occupied, remember, didn’t even make it into the Democratic Party platform. There was a big fight about that, and you had Cornel West, and you had the members who were appointed by Bernie Sanders who were fighting to have the word occupied included in the platform. And Hillary’s appointees fought tooth and nail, successfully, to keep it out.

So, the situation throughout Palestine it is pretty grim. In Gaza, which is only a small part of the territory, but they just marked the population reaching 2 million. You know, it’s now been just over 2 years since the last mass Israeli slaughter in Gaza, and there’s been no accountability. The economic situation is a catastrophe. The siege is tighter than ever. And the construction, reconstruction has been more or less blocked to a… just to a trickle by Israel. And the conditions of life are unsustainable. You have the U.N. that keeps saying by 2020 Gaza will be unlivable. I mean, it’s already unlivable, if you listen to people who are there, in terms of not just the sustenance that people need to live and breathe, but the prospects.

I mean, the population there is overwhelmingly young. More than 51% under the age of 18, and people have no prospects. This is one of the most highly educated populations in the region, and young people go to the university, they do very well, and then there’s nothing for them to do. It has the highest unemployment rate in the world. And this is all created deliberately by Israel, endorsed by Barack Obama, endorsed by the European Union, with the complicity of the United Nations.

[…] And, you know, it’s been forgotten. There’s almost no mention of what’s happening in Gaza. In the West Bank, this month marks a year since a major upsurge in confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli occupation forces and settlers, which really was stoked by Israel’s increasingly aggressive incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque’s compound in Jerusalem. It’s repression of the population in East Jerusalem. That’s really, along with Hebron, being the epicenter of the upsurge in violence.

More than 250 Palestinians have been killed on the West Bank in the last year. Thirty Israelis have been killed. And many of the Palestinians have been killed without any pretext, without any reason, without any accountability. But certainly a significant number, I think over 100, were killed in the context of carrying out attacks mostly on Israeli occupation forces at checkpoints, in what have been described by all the human rights groups that have looked into it, as extrajudicial executions.

But the key point here is that most of those who have carried out such acts have been very young, unaffiliated. This is not directed by any groups. And I think that’s a manifestation of just the sheer hopelessness that many young Palestinians feel. That Israel has decided that they will live under permanent conditions of apartheid, with more and more of their land taken.

Palestinians in the West Bank are also under a kind of siege. It’s a bit different from Gaza but they are also being squeezed into smaller and smaller areas. And what’s the response of the U.S. government? What’s the response of Barack Obama, whom everyone thinks is so cool? You know, he’s leaving office, and look how cool he is, and we wish he could have another 8 years. And you hear this kind of thing from people.

Well, this is the president who signed the biggest military aid package to any country, from any country, in history. Thirty-eight billion dollars over the next 10 years of weapons for Israel, to maintain its occupation, to maintain its apartheid, perhaps to attack Gaza again, in the near future. And that is the reality we’re dealing with.

And then, you know, the irony, just the other day the State Department put out this very strong statement about a new Israeli settlement in the heart of the West Bank. The State Department said “This settlement is closer to Jordan than it is to Israel, and we strongly condemn this.” And people are saying “What do you mean? You just signed this unconditional give-away of 38 billion dollars, what do you expect from Israel? Why should they behave any differently?”

DB: Could you talk a little bit about the arrest and torture of resistors, particularly young people? Are young people continuing to be arrested and tortured, and suffer in this way?

AA: Yeah. You know, what’s also happened is that there has been a huge upsurge in arrests. Over 1,000 Palestinian children have been arrested by Israel in the past year. The number that are in custody currently is at the highest level in a long time. I think it’s over 200 that are currently in custody, including some children as young as 12. And thousands of Palestinians are currently, I think the number is close to 7,000, are in Israeli prisons. And more than 700 are held in what’s called administrative detention. This is detention without charge or trial, which is indefinitely renewable. And this is something that is a holdover from British colonial times.

And we’ve seen [hunger strikes] in the past years, you know, consistently, but this has intensified again in the last year, … Palestinians undertaking lengthy hunger strikes, against this administrative detention.

So, this is happening again, with complete silence from the rest of the world. I mean, you know, Israel is being praised every day as a liberal democracy. It is a liberal democracy that runs a gulag for a population living under this brutal occupation. It’s a liberal democracy, so-called, where Palestinians have no rights.

I mean, we have arrests now […] since we are in the [San Francisco] Bay area let’s call out Facebook […] who are complicit with Israel in censorship. But Israel itself arresting Palestinians, over 140 Palestinians arrested for so-called incitement, for saying things on Facebook. Just the other day a world renowned Palestinian astrophysicist Imad Barghouthi, who’s been in jail since the spring, was sentenced to seven months for incitement.

Now incitement can mean criticizing Israel, criticizing the occupation. And what the Israeli military prosecutors– because these are military courts– did was they introduced as what they called evidence the number of “likes” that his Facebook posts had received, the number of “likes” — the number of “shares”– as evidence against him. […] You know, all these folks who are talking about free speech and “Je suis Charlie” and all of this kind of stuff, when it comes to Israel’s crackdown on Palestinians even being able to express themselves on social media, there’s total silence.

But people are going to prison for it. There is the Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour who is in prison currently for a poem she wrote. The journalist Semite Dway who came out of six months in prison, again for things she wrote on Facebook. And these cases are not being talked about.

DB: I really don’t mean to harken back to the campaign, other than Trump’s main thing is he’s going to build a wall to keep out the dangerous Mexicans. We’ve seen a wall built on Palestinian land, big wall, tall wall. I guess you can see it from space. What has been the impact of that wall?

AA: Well, it’s been devastating. It’s cut through Palestinian lands, communities. It has not been about security. That’s been a lie. It’s been about annexing Palestinian land to Israeli settlements. But you know, here’s a dirty little secret the Israelis don’t boast about – they stopped building it. They never finished it, because it was too astronomically expensive. And Palestinians can get around it anyway. So, they never finished it even though it exists in large areas and has wreaked havoc around Palestinian towns and cities and lands.

But also another thing, the wall that Trump wants to build is not hypothetical. That wall is already there, I have been to different parts of the U.S./Mexico border to San Diego, to Arizona, to Nogales, and I’ve seen the Obama Wall. Let’s call it its real name–it’s the Obama Wall. A great amount of border militarization has been done by Obama, by the Democrats who always want to be in the position of outflanking the Republicans on the right and saying, “Look how good we are at deporting people. Look how good we are.”

And, in fact, the connections there are very strong because the Obama administration awarded a contract to Elbit Systems, the Israeli company that operates the surveillance systems along the Israeli walls. Obama awarded a contract of $140 million to Elbit Systems for what’s called a virtual wall, in Arizona. This is a system of radars and high tech surveillance of people’s movements.

And all of that is tested. Who are the guinea pigs for these technologies that Israel is selling in the United States to control Americans, to control Mexicans, to control others? The guinea pigs are Palestinians under occupation.

DB: They’ve become the model. You want to repress your rebelling population that you’ve been brutalizing for 50 years? Call on Israel, follow their…

AA: Absolutely, I mean the Israeli press has articles from time to time about–proud articles–about how these racists, repressive, right wing regimes in Europe, like Hungary, are really anti-Semitic regime, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant. How they are now turning to Israel to help them build walls to keep out refugees who are fleeing for their lives. So Israel has become, as Naomi Klein called it, “the world’s shopping mall” for these so-called homeland security technologies. And Israel is proud of it. It’s big business for them.

And that’s certainly true in the U.S. where we see this huge industry of U.S. police departments going over to Israel for training. And that’s become a big issue, also, in terms of the struggle against police brutality, and police racisms, police killings in this country. Because their attitude, if not always the exact techniques but certainly the attitude, is not to view citizens in this country, particularly in the big cities, as people who deserve safety and protection, like everyone else, but as a hostile enemy population that has to be controlled.

And that attitude is really being mutually reinforced. I don’t want to blame Israel for it because that would be unfair to the United States which really needs no lessons in racism from anyone else.

DB: You know, another parallel structure, that virtual wall that you’re talking about at the southern border cuts through a number of Indian tribes, and right through Indian land. And we now see a major battle in North Dakota for land rights, and for rights of sacred territory. I want to ask you, Ali, I have often heard a parallel structure between the plight of the Palestinians, and the plight of the Native Americans. What do you think about that struggle? Is that an inspiration for the Palestinian movement?

AA: Sure. I mean the parallel structure has a name and that’s settler colonialism. And this is a settler colonial country, as is Canada, Australia, all of these colonial extensions of Europe, and particularly Britain, of which Israel is one. They operated against the indigenous people in the same way, through treating them as if they were simply a nuisance that is on this land that God had given to the invaders.

I mean, it’s incredibly inspiring, and what has been important for me to learn is that we talk, often Native people, Indigenous people in North America are talked about as if they were wiped out, and their struggle is over. And I think it’s critical to recognize, and this is something I’ve had to learn, that they are here, and they are fighting, and they are struggling. And it’s not too late for there to be restitution to Native people. It’s not too late for their land to be protected, for land to be returned. These should all be live and active demands that we should support. And the struggle in North Dakota is one of many. I mean these struggles are going on all over North America.

I was in New Zealand in April, and friends there took me to visit an important Maori burial ground and sacred site, one of the last major areas of open land near Auckland, near Auckland airport. And, in fact, [it is] a world historic site because it’s the last place that humans arrived for permanent settlement about a thousand years ago. And they want to build track housing on it. So people there are fighting to protect that land. So this is a global struggle.

DB: …For Indigenous rights, for the rights of the people whose land it really is.

AA: Absolutely.

DB: Well, I guess the final question is, and it speaks right to your lecture. Can Israeli apartheid really be defeated? The other side of that question comes out of the right wing, out of Netanyahu, who says, “I don’t have a partner for peace.” But this isn’t about looking for a partner for peace, is it? This is about on the one hand, liberating land, the people’s’ land, and the other part it’s about the infringement, the expanding colonialism.

AA: You know, I’m going to say something and maybe talk about this more tomorrow and I’m going to say something right now that might sound a bit nuts, which is, I think it’s already been defeated. What could I possibly mean when…

DB: What’s been defeated?

AA: Well, the idea, and the legitimacy of it has been defeated.

DB: Of Israel?

AA: Of this system where Israel has a right to perpetually superior rights over the Indigenous people in Palestine. I think that’s already gone. No one can defend it anymore. And nobody is really trying except for the hard-core ultra-Zionists, who are trying to make that case. So now I think the struggle is really about shifting the balance of power. Because Israeli apartheid is a reality. It’s a discredited idea. But it’s a hard reality and so it’s really about fighting to shift the balance, to replace it with something that looks like justice. But I think we’ve already won the war of ideas, in that sense.

DB: So, then what comes next?

AA: Well, what comes next is what I think we’re all struggling for which is a decent life, of justice, equality, protection, economic democracy, which I think is fundamental. Because just having political rights, like we can all go and vote on November 8th, right? Most people can go for it if you’re not disenfranchised. But there’s no economic democracy in this country. So that’s why many of us say “Well, it doesn’t make a difference, who I vote for.” So, economic democracy is something we have to struggle for here, as in Palestine. And, I can’t pretend I have all the answers for that, but that’s why I want to be part of this making mix.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.




Israel’s Abnormal ‘Normal’ with its Neighbors

Israel often acts as if a simmering state of war with its Muslim neighbors is the only possible future, while occasionally playing off one nation against another, a “normal” that is not normal, says ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar

By Paul R. Pillar

It has long been generally regarded, and properly so, to be in everyone’s best interests if Israel had normal relationships with its regional neighbors. Normal relations are a condition for commerce and mutual prosperity. Normal relations are the stuff of peace rather than of the repeated wars that have been fought between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

We rightly applauded Anwar Sadat when he negotiated a peace treaty and established diplomatic relations with Israel, and we rightly criticized other Arab states for ostracizing Egypt itself after Sadat’s initiative. Even small instances of Arab ostracism of Israel get criticized today, as when an Egyptian judo athlete refused to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand after a match at the Olympics.

Israel could have had full and normal relations with its Arab neighbors long ago. Many years have passed since most Arab governments in effect accepted Zionism. A peace initiative by the Arab League, offering full normalization of Arab relations with Israel in return for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee issue, has been on the table since 2002.

The Arab governments later reaffirmed the offer and indicated additional flexibility regarding the acceptability of land swaps when drawing a final boundary between Israel and a Palestinian state. Israeli leaders, despite saying some favorable things about the initiative, have in effect ignored it, preferring to cling to all of the conquered Palestinian territory with a continued occupation.

But although these have been the Israeli priorities, the possibility of full and normal relations with the neighbors has at least been out there as a potential carrot, to add to whatever other incentives there might be for Israel to get off its destructive path of indefinite occupation.

Sunnis vs. Shiites

More recently, as an editorial in the New York Times observes, there has been de facto development of ties, in the absence of full diplomatic relations, between Israel and some Sunni Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. There also has been a warming of relations with Egypt, a relationship that had mostly been a cold peace since Sadat’s time.

As the editorial correctly notes, such developments reflect how the political status of the Palestinians is not a top priority for most Arab governments, and indeed it has long had to compete with more parochial concerns of those governments. But the plight of their Palestinian brethren still is a salient issue for most Arabs, as is the status of holy places that are among the issues that would have to be resolved in any Israeli-Palestinian final agreement.

The principal author of the Arab League peace initiative, the late Saudi King Abdullah, made clear that he was especially interested in the status of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem and was willing to accept whatever resolution of other issues was acceptable to the Palestinians themselves.

The kind of de facto and semi-secret relationships that have been developing are the wrong kind of Israeli-Arab relations. They are not in the best interests of the United States or of anyone else. Far from being a basis for peace and prosperity, they are themselves based on conflict, regional divisions, authoritarianism, and the threat or use of force.

With regard to Egypt, the warming of ties with the regime of strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has to do with el-Sisi’s harsh internal crackdown and especially his bashing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is related to his willingness to cooperate with Israel in bashing the Brotherhood’s Hamas cousins in the Gaza Strip.

With regard to the Gulf Arab monarchies, the dealings with Israel have to do with the determination of those regimes to expand their regional influence and to pursue their rivalry with Iran. That determination has become so strong in the Saudi case that it has led to the reckless aerial assault and consequent humanitarian disaster in Yemen — a situation that has gotten so bad that a bipartisan group of U.S. congressmen is urging the Obama administration to delay a major sale of arms to the Saudis.

More Conflict

In short, the recently developing Israeli ties with these authoritarian Sunni Arab regimes are a matter of more regional conflict and instability, not more peace and prosperity.

Two comments about current Israeli incentives follow. One is that there is even less interest than before (if that is possible) on the part of the Netanyahu government in taking up the Arab League initiative or taking any other steps toward making peace with the Palestinians. If Israel is at least partially shaking off its regional isolation while still clinging to all the occupied territory and not even making a move toward relinquishing it, then the determination of that government to live forever by the sword is only strengthened.

These developments also underscore the Israeli government’s incentive to stoke conflict with, and fear of, Iran as much as possible. It was the Israeli government’s interest in keeping Iran as a perpetual bugbear that underlay its posture toward the nuclear agreement with Iran — a posture that never made sense as far as the nuclear issue itself was concerned, given that the agreement severely restricts and monitors the very nuclear program about which the Israeli government had been sounding so many cries of alarm.

The scaremongering about Iran serves not only as a distraction from Israeli-relevant issues and a rationale for extraordinary U.S.-Israeli ties, but also as the basis for isolation-breaking relations with the Gulf Arabs.

So the prospects for any progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace are as dim as they have been in a good while. The right-wing Israeli government is not feeling pressure to get off its destructive path. On the Palestinian side, it is not a matter of, as the Times editorial incorrectly suggests, the Palestinians having no more “interest in serious peace talks” than Israel does.

Very few Palestinians want to live under the Israeli occupation, and the great majority of Palestinians recognize that serious peace talks are needed for the occupation to end. But the only tolerated Palestinian interlocutor, the Palestinian Authority, has become a sclerotic auxiliary to the occupation and has long passed its “best if used by” date.

Credible secular alternatives languish in Israeli jails. (Marwan Barghouti, call your office, if you can.) The Hamas alternative, which seems poised to win municipal elections in the West Bank in October], will no doubt be the target of the same Israeli rejection of popular sovereignty that it has been when winning free elections in the past.

The gloomy prognosis is not an excuse to avoid the issue. The plight of the Palestinians is partly a matter of denial of basic human and political rights. It also has been, as the editorial correctly notes, “a source of regional tension for decades.”

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)




What Israel’s Actions Have Wrought

Israel’s repression of the Palestinians is often rationalized by the historical abuse of the Jews, but Israel’s misconduct is having the disturbing effect of stirring up new anti-Semitism, observes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

It has been 71 years since the end of the Holocaust. Initially, the world took that horror as a serious lesson, and the international community created laws against acts of genocide. Those who, even after the public revelation of the Nazi killing fields, still held anti-Semitic opinions kept them to themselves, and as time passed, this particular form of bigotry seemed to be fading away.

And, indeed, that might have been its fate if it weren’t for the strange fact that some of the victims of anti-Semitism, in this case a subset of the Jews known as Zionists (those devoted to the founding of a Jewish state), proved susceptible to catching the disease of their oppressors. The Zionists took up their own form of virulent bigotry against Palestinians, and in reaction, this encouraged a new round of anti-Semitism.

It is a complicated history, but here are some of the particulars that stand out: Israel, created in 1948 in response to anti-Semitism in general and the Holocaust in particular, became the “Jewish state.” Its Zionist leaders were dedicated to the “ingathering” of all Jews into one national entity. And, before you knew it, they were attempting to ethnically cleanse Palestinians and other non-Jews from the land under Israel’s control so as to make room for this “ingathering.”

Such behavior on the part of Zionist Jews was much too reminiscent of their own historical victimization. It created a vigorous anti-Zionist reaction, not only among the Palestinians, but also among increasing numbers of enlightened Jews and others of good will. However, it also created fertile ground for isolated anti-Semites to come out of the closet, as it were, and again become publicly active.

Indeed, we now have the situation where the more anti-Palestinian the Israelis become, the more anti-Semitism they engender. Of course, the Zionists (mistaking longevity for permanence) have always claimed that anti-Semitism is an eternal quality of the Christian West, as if it were something genetic. This is nonsense, but it does allow them to maintain the claim that anti-Semitism would be an ever-growing and threatening reality regardless of their own bigoted behavior.

U.S.-Based Case Study

As an example of the kind of anti-Semitism popping up these days in the United States we can consider the case of the African-American assistant professor of rhetoric and composition Joy Karega at Oberlin College. Dr. Karega seems to be the type of personality prone to understanding the world in terms of conspiracy theories.

Unfortunately, those who understand a complex world in terms of oversimplified plots are not rare. If you are interested in learning how such a mindset can slip easily into bigotry I recommend Stephen Bronner’s The Bigot: Why Prejudice Persists (Yale University Press, 2014)

As Joy Karega’s case makes clear, having a higher education is no guarantee against such distorted thinking. Dr. Karega has recently used Facebook and Twitter to make her theories publicly known. As it turns out, she sees Jews at the center of many such conspiracies.

For instance, according to Dr. Karega, “Rothschild”-inspired manipulators control banks, media and the U.S. government. She blames U.S.-Israeli conspiracies for the 9/11 attacks, the downing of the Malaysian airliner over the Ukraine, and terrorist attacks in France. Again, according to Dr. Karega, the “Rothschild-led banksters” are “staving off the coming global deflationary depression [by] implementing the World War III option.” While most would rightly dismiss these views as, to put it politely, less than well thought out, Dr. Karega claims they fall within the categories of “contested and controversial” knowledge.

Much of the debate resulting from these postings revolves around issues of free speech and academic freedom. Because Dr. Karega put forth her views on social media, she is covered by the First Amendment right of free speech. There is nothing illegal about what she said or how she said it. The First Amendment, however, is like an insurance policy that only partially covers you. It protects a person from government censorship. However, there are no First Amendment rights vis-a-vis nongovernmental institutions such as Oberlin College.

Yet there is still the issue of “academic freedom.” Initially, Oberlin College’s president, Marvin Krislov, characterized Dr. Karega’s statements as falling within the realm of “academic freedom” and therefore beyond the Oberlin’s ability to control. I am not sure that academic freedom is the correct category to use in this case. Apparently, Dr. Karega has made none of these conspiracy statements in Oberlin classrooms or within her published scholarly work or at academic conferences. So in what way are her social media posts “academic”?

Even if academic freedom is not applicable here, one can take the position that, as long as she maintains a strict division between these personal opinions and her academic work, Oberlin’s administration should not care about or act on what Dr. Karega says on Facebook or Twitter. That is probably President Krislov’s preferred position, but, alas, he and his school are being forced in a different direction.

In the West, including the U.S., the issue of anti-Semitism is still a highly sensitive one. For many it is seen as one of the worst examples of dangerous bigotry. That is certainly the case for those members of university and college boards of trustees – to say nothing of donors – who happen to be Jewish and/or Zionist. Oberlin is not immune to this fact.

And so, the college’s president has quickly come under pressure from the Oberlin’s trustees to get rid of Dr. Karega because she is an anti-Semitic embarrassment. On the other hand, she is popular with the college’s black student body, and they, sensitive to different African-American-centered issues, are pressuring not only for retaining her, but for her guaranteed tenure.

President Krislov, caught between these two forces, has placed Dr. Karega on paid leave (thus removing her from the classroom) and retreated to the position that Oberlin is “required to follow established academic procedures when addressing questions regarding an individual faculty member.” In the face of this move, Dr. Karega is “deferring to her lawyer.”

In the meantime, President Krislov asserts that “our community will address the issues raised in this situation by honoring the essence of liberal arts education at Oberlin by interrogating assertions with facts and deep, critical thinking from multiple viewpoints.”

This is a good idea, particularly when it comes to the allegations of fact inherent in Dr. Karega’s conspiracy theories. A campus-wide open debate that allows accurate knowledge to be brought to bear about how banking, media and government work, what happened on 9/11, and how the Malaysian airliner was shot down, etc. ought to be able to debunk Dr. Karega’s “controversial and contested” knowledge while also showing up the flaws, foibles and often the downright corrupt way many government and corporate officials can act.

In the end, Dr. Karega will probably be bought out of Oberlin and most probably not get another academic job. However, she may make a good living, at least for a while, on the speaker’s circuit. It is unlikely that her case will settle the debate over academic freedom, anti-Semitism, and opposition to Israel’s criminal behavior.

Institutional Bigotry

Putting Joy Karega’s fate aside, let us also ask about the state of mind of those Zionist Jews who are ever on the watch for anti-Semites and see in Joy Karega proof that the State of Israel is still necessary to Jewish survival.

Keep in mind that instances of anti-Semitism of the sort displayed in the Karega case are isolated and do not reflect the actions of organized or institutionalized forces. They are indeed offensive and deserve to be condemned, but they do not threaten the rights of Jews as citizens of the United States.

Also, in the opinion of this writer, the charge that such cases reflect a dangerous anti-Jewish atmosphere on college campuses is wildly exaggerated.

On the other hand, as noted at the beginning of this analysis, much of this sort of anti-Semitism has been encouraged by the actions of yet another sort of bigotry that is organized and institutionalized. That is the bigotry inherent in the ideology of Zionism and the practice of ethnic cleansing by the Israeli state. This sort of bigotry does threaten the rights, and often the lives, of Palestinians living under Israeli rule.

Zionists who decry the anti-Semitism of Dr. Karega should be called out for holding obvious double standards. The protections they demand from anti-Semitic bigotry are protections they should also demand for non-Jews against Israeli bigotry. But most do not do this. They find hypocrisy a necessary cover for their own biases.

Yet by dissembling in this fashion they actually create an environment that gives license to folks like Joy Karega while simultaneously undermining the foundation upon which a college like Oberlin is built – the principles of “interrogating assertions with facts and deep, critical thinking from multiple viewpoints.”

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.




When Boats Brought Hope to Gaza

Israel continues to cut off the 1.8 million people of Gaza from receiving relief supplies from sea, an illegal blockade that will be challenged again this year by the Women’s Boat to Gaza, writes retired Col. Ann Wright.

By Ann Wright

For years, Israel has blocked international ships from reaching the isolated people of Gaza, thus denying the 1.8 million embattled Palestinians maritime contact with the rest of the world and the hope that comes from knowing that they have the support of many people across the globe.

With all of the tragedy that surrounds Gaza, including the 50 Israeli military strikes on the Palestinian territory last weekend, we need to remember the exhilaration of the people of Gaza one day in August 2008 when two small international boats arrived to show that the Gazans were not forgotten.

After that, four other shipments reached Gaza along with European land caravans, called “Viva Palestina” that travelled into Gaza through the border with Egypt. However, after Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 war on Gaza, Israel forcefully intercepted ships headed for Gaza.

On May 31, 2010, Israel reacted to a flotilla of ships challenging the blockade by launching a military attack on the six boats that killed nine activists on the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara. Since then, other challenges to the naval blockade have been prevented from taking to sea (Greece 2011) or stopped illegally in international waters, the passengers kidnapped and the boats taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod and the passengers to prison on charges of entering Israel illegally and eventually deported. 

The latest challenge to the Israeli blockade of Gaza will be the Women’s Boats to Gaza that will sail in mid-September to again demonstrate that we do care about the people of Gaza.

A Tale of Hope

Greta Berlin, co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement, reminds us of the joy of the people of Gaza when the first international boats in 40 years arrived in the Gaza City port in August 2008 by providing the words of Gamaal Al Attar, who wrote:

The sun was shining on August 23, 2008, and everyone in Gaza was waking up in order to get ready for the D Day. It is the day everyone in Gaza has been waiting for a long time; a day we will feel like there some people in the world who care for our suffering. A day we will feel that we belong to the human race, and our brothers and sisters in humanity care for our daily struggles. Scouts from different scout groups had signed up to be in the welcoming committee on the fishing boats. So, we headed directly to the main port of Gaza at 08:00, and, together with policemen who are there to secure the crowds, we boarded the boats and started the trip to the open sea.

Hours of waiting in the boats made everyone seasick, and, by noon, most of our hope flew away with the wind. It looked like the two boats were not coming. We were screwed. All the dreams and feelings that there was someone who cared for us got smaller and smaller as time went on.  Jamal El Khoudari (the coordinator for the campaign) spoke at a press conference that the boats had gotten lost and made some excuse. I and the other scouts in Gaza did not want to listen to excuses. The people of Gaza wanted them here now.

The smiles that were on every single face by the morning, the joyful people in the port waiting at sunrise, and the hope of seeing someone who would care for us changed to a huge disappointment. By noon, nearly everyone had left the port and gone back home.

On the way back home, I saw Gaza looking darker than ever, and a small tear escaped from my eye. ”It looks like there is no one who cares for us,” A boy scout told me. I opened my mouth to tell him that this wasn’t true, but I could not find a word to say.

Just like all the scouts, I went home, took a shower, and tried to rest after a long day under heavy sun. All of us were seasick and sick in our hearts as well. I lay on my bed to sleep and forget about humankind. I set my head on my pillow and thought.  “We are on our own, and nobody cares.”

The Boats Arrive

Then my mum came to my room with a smile on her face, ”Jamal, the boats are visible on TV.” Mum said. So I jumped from my bed and asked her, ”When?” She said, “It is just breaking news.” I can’t remember how, when, or why I found myself on a bus going back to the port with the scouts. I can’t remember how we managed to be together again going to the Port of Gaza. We all jumped on board different fishing boats and sailed to the open sea again.

There, on the horizon, I saw three elements: A beautiful sunset, the SS Liberty, and the SS Free Gaza. On the east side of the Port, more and more people from Gaza were gathering. This time, their disappointed faces were not there. We could hear the people laughing high and delighted as they strained to catch sight of the boats.

In a couple of minutes, those of us on the fishing boats came closer to the Free Gaza, and I saw the peace flag hanging up, and Maria Del Mar Fernandez waving a Palestinian flag and shouting. Suddenly, I saw many kids taking off their t-shirts and jumping into the sea, swimming to the Free Gaza. My small boat got me closer to the boats, and as my feet touched the deck, it gave me a shock. My mind was blown away as I forget every single suffering I had in my life under Israel’s blockade. I moved over to someone who was so calm and a bit away from all the media.

”Hey, welcome to Gaza.” I said with a smile.

I kept repeating these words and getting happier with every handshake. By the side of the cabin, I saw a muscled guy with Tattoos on his arms and a nice cap. ‘’Is he the captain?’’ I wondered. After shaking his hand, I kept speaking to him, and within moments, we became friends. He was this nice Italian guy who had left Italy searching for justice and truth whose name was Vittorio Utopia Arrigoni. I shared the Palestinian flag with him, and we started waving to the media and the tens of thousands of people who came to see the boats in our small port.

For a short period, the boats orbited the port; then it was time to evacuate the boats and to greet our guests on land in Gaza. We scouts stood in a line and saluted the new Palestinians who had come from across the globe with one message, ”Stay Human”.

I will never forget all the small and big hands that came out from the crowds to shake hands with the activists. I can’t forget how tanned the people were after that very long waiting day in the port, but also I can’t forget the spirit in the crowd after those heroes landed on the shore. I remember I went home that day with a charged battery for life and hope.

The two boats weren’t necessarily bringing supplies to the people of Gaza, but they brought what is more important, They brought enough hope for over 1.5 million people who live under the blockade that someday we would be free.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army and retired as a Colonel. She was a US diplomat for 16 years and resigned in March 2003 in opposition to Bush’s War on Iraq.  She was a passenger in the 2010, 2011 and 2015 Gaza Freedom Flotillas.  She is on the steering committee of the US campaign for the Women’s Boat to Gaza and on the International Steering committee.




GOP Ups Ante on Clinton’s Israel Pander

By inserting Israel-first promises in the Republican platform, GOP regulars challenge Donald Trump’s America-first policies and open a possible bidding war with Hillary Clinton over pandering to Israel, as Chuck Spinney explains.

By Chuck Spinney

The so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in my opinion, has always been a distraction to buy time for the Israelis to formally annex most of the West Bank to Israel. Much like Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, annexation of this territory will be tangled up in the unexamined question of controlling access to scarce water resources.

This posting builds on my posting of last April, “The Palestinian Question: Why the Two-State Solution is Kaput.” My aim was to explain how the central and generally ignored goal of controlling access to the West Bank’s water resources water is shaping Israel’s long-term settlement policies. That posting described how issues relating to control of these water resources go a long way toward explaining the “facts-on-the-ground” pattern of accelerating settlement growth in Area C of the now defunct Oslo Accord, which comprises about 60 percent or the West Bank.

Ensuring fair and equitable access to the water resources of the West Bank and the River Jordan’s watershed is a necessary although not a sufficient condition for an equitable solution to the complex Palestinian Question. That is true regardless of whether that solution takes the form of a two-state solution or a single-state bi-national solution.

However, the momentum of developments, in terms of the interaction between weak and vacillating U.S. policies and the accelerating rate of Israel’s settlement growth in Area C, is leading inexorably to an Israeli annexation of Area C. Annexation will necessarily be accompanied by a Gazification of the Palestinian enclaves making up Areas A and B, and a perpetually unfair access to the West Bank’s water resources.

Haaretz, Israel’s leading left-of-center newspaper, recently carried a report entitled, “About Face on U.S. Foreign Policy: GOP Platform to Drop Support for Two State Solution,” This report was first published in the Jewish Insider, and it informs the reader that the draft Republican platform rejects the “false notion” that Israel is occupying the West Bank. The draft language also includes:

“Support for Israel is an expression of Americanism, and it is the responsibility of our government to advance policies that reflect Americans’ strong desire for a relationship with no daylight between America and Israel.”

And the language goes on to recognize that “the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (‘BDS’) is anti-Semitic in nature and seeks to destroy Israel.”  It calls for federal legislation “to thwart actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with Israel, or persons or entities doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories, in a discriminatory manner.”

Whether Donald Trump will buy into such a blatant subordination of American interests to those of Israel is as yet an unanswered question. But the language puts Israel into political play in the 2016 presidential election. This creates a potential for a bidding war that could land Ms. Clinton in an awkward position.

To date, a cynical political strength of Ms. Clinton’s campaign is that a large number of pro-Israeli Republican neocons in the national security establishment are flocking to her campaign. This crossover creates an appearance if not the reality of bestowing on Ms. Clinton an enhanced national security gravitas, at least among the Beltway establishment and mainstream media.

Her control of the Democratic platform committee has already enabled Ms. Clinton to defeat platform language criticizing Israel’s occupation policies. Watch this video; note particularly the reference to the BDS by a Clinton stalwart.

Despite the Democratic platform committee’s stuffing of the Palestinian Question, the draft Democratic platform says nothing comparable to the Republican language. That silence may not go far enough to placate Hillary’s neocon crossovers. So, Ms. Clinton may come under pressure to strengthen her already strong pro-Israel stance in an effort to outbid the Republicans in the war to win the anti-Trump Republican voters.

But in so doing, Clinton may drive Sanders’s supporters into throwing up their hands in disgust and staying home in November or voting for the Green or Libertarian candidates. How this supposed “lesser of two evils” triangulates her way out of this cul de sac will be a fascinating spectacle in the Roman circus passing for a presidential election.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Yes, Hillary Clinton Is a Neocon.“]

Chuck Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon who was famous for the “Spinney Report,” which criticized the Pentagon’s wasteful pursuit of costly and complex weapons systems. [This article appeared previously at http://chuckspinney.blogspot.com/2016/07/draft-republican-platform-effectively.html]




Chicago Police Adopt Israeli Tactics

From the Archive: Recent cases of white police killing unarmed black men raise concern that some U.S. police are applying counter-terrorism tactics, including some learned at Israeli academies, retired JAG Major Todd E. Pierce wrote in 2015.

By Todd E. Pierce (Originally published on Dec. 11, 2015)

After more than a year of stonewalling and what some might call obstructing justice, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued an apology for the horrific execution of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason van Dyke. Laquan McDonald was the black 17-year-old who was shot 16 times by the police officer on Oct. 20, 2014. The video showing the shooting was only released by Chicago officials when they were ordered to do so by a judge in late November 2015.

But apology or not, the underlying substantive issue is that the summary execution of McDonald was the sort of atrocity that one would expect to see in what the U.S. once called “police states.” In fact, one can imagine a death squad execution in El Salvador in the 1980s looking very similar on video to McDonald’s slaying.

“Police state” is a term which has fallen into disuse since 9/11 with the adoption of so many similar practices by the so-called “democracies” in their domestic policies. The term generally was applied to Fascist or Communist governments and described a country where the police and the military exercised martial law over citizens or military occupation powers that uses military force to control a civilian population.

Sometimes these arbitrary powers were enforced by summary executions, depending on how much the authorities could get away with in their “extreme measures.” This was the practice in countries such as Nazi Germany; Pinochet’s Chile; El Salvador and Guatemala during the Cold War; to a lesser degree, apartheid South Africa; and military occupied territories such as Tibet, Israeli-occupied Palestine, and Eastern Europe under the Soviet Union.

But Chicago isn’t under martial law or military occupation, is it? Nor is it an apartheid state, with apartheid enforced by domestic martial law and military force, is it? To a normal civilian-oriented mind, one would think it is not under military occupation or martial law.

Seeking Israeli Training

Yet, under Mayor Emanuel, a former Israeli Defense Force (IDF) volunteer, and Garry McCarthy, the now former Chicago Police Superintendent (Emanuel fired him Dec. 1, 2015), it seems that parts of Chicago were treated as if they were occupied territory under police or paramilitary rule.

That is, under arbitrary martial law, just like the repressive martial law regime of the IDF in the occupied territory of Palestine. Martial law or occupation law is arbitrary as it is not law, but is the manifestation of the occupying military commander’s “will.”

How could this be in the civilian government of Chicago? In part, because Police Superintendent McCarthy and the City of Chicago sought out and received training by Israeli occupation forces in “counter-terrorism” policing, that is, “pacifying” a population through aggressive intelligence gathering and the application of military force. Counter-insurgency is the term used for when this doctrine is applied by military forces.

This collaboration between Israel and U.S. police agencies, including Chicago, emerged after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. Since then, by one count, at least 300 high-ranking sheriffs and police from cities both large and small have received counter-terrorism training in Israel. For instance, in January 2003, 33 senior U.S. law enforcement officials from Chicago and other major American cities flew to Israel for sessions on “Law Enforcement in the Era of Global Terror.”

[One of the Israeli-trained police officials was Dallas Police Chief David Brown, who oversaw the police response to last Friday’s killing of five police officers and the decision to use a remote-controlled bomb to kill the shooting suspect.]

In 2009, Israel’s Midwest Consulate General co-sponsored “an intensive seminar” in Israel for senior Chicago police officials “on intelligence-led policing techniques.”

Chicago Police Superintendent McCarthy was a key participant in this Israeli training. The Israel Trade & Economic Office of the U.S. Midwest Region invited police officials to “Join Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy & the Midwest Delegation to the Israel Homeland Security International Conference 2012, and be a part of an international gathering of public security officials and private technology companies.”

In 2012, these “security officials” got to “experience demonstrations of breakthrough technologies from Israel” and “tour security infrastructure at the Old City of Jerusalem,” a city under Israeli military occupation. It wasn’t made clear if the “demonstrations of breakthrough technologies from Israel” would extend to live subjects in occupied Jerusalem.

In November 2014, Chicago’s McCarthy “led a delegation of senior law enforcement officials to Israel” as part of a training mission “to engage directly with their Israeli counterparts to discuss best practices, unique strategies, and new technologies in a range of law enforcement areas,” according to the same Israeli trade office.

“The visit also aimed to build a foundation for enhanced collaboration between the Chicago Police Department and the State of Israel.” Included in the delegation was the Executive Director of Cook County’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Office, the Chief of Staff of the Chicago Police Department, as well as police officials from other large American cities. [The itinerary of the delegation is explained more here.]

In other words, over more than a decade, senior Chicago police officials have been studying Israel’s militarized police practices for how best to maintain a repressive military control over an occupied population living under permanent, strict martial, or occupation, law.

An Occupation Mentality

Why this matters is that Israel doesn’t have a domestic civilian policing model but instead applies a counter-insurgency policing model intended for a population under military occupation, or otherwise considered as hostile under martial law.

This policing model is being sold by Israel’s government to gullible or authoritarian-leaning U.S. police officials as a legitimate domestic policing model when, in fact, it is a military model of the sort used by militaristic, authoritarian regimes, customarily referred to as “fascist.”

What many people fail to understand about Israel and the IDF is that since 1967, now going on half a century, the Palestinian civilians who “fell into [Israeli] hands” when the IDF conquered Palestinian territory have been kept in strict and harsh military captivity of the sort the U.S. condemned when the former Soviet Union did the same to its captive peoples.

This pattern continues even though the Israeli occupation has been repeatedly declared illegal under international law. Chicago police being trained by Israeli security police and occupation forces is analogous to, and merits the same condemnation as, a U.S. city sending its officials to receive “police” training from Soviet security police who maintained military occupation of Eastern Europe in the 1950s-1960s. Or to North Korea today.

But in this case, there is also the issue of colluding with Israeli occupation authorities in an illegal occupation. These U.S. police officials are put in what should be the awkward position of aiding and abetting illegality.

Of course, one killing by a Chicago police officer, though similar to some of the killings by the IDF of civilians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and far below the scale of killing of the periodic “mowing the grass” that Israel undertakes in Gaza every couple of years, does not mean that illegal military occupation tactics are being practiced in Chicago. Or does it?

Secret Interrogations

In isolation, no. But while Chicago police have always had the reputation of being simply a rival gang to the many other gangs in Chicago’s history, under Rahm Emanuel’s regime, it has come to resemble an occupying military force down to a “secret interrogation facility,” as reported by Britain’s Guardian newspaper in August 2015: “At least 3,500 Americans have been detained inside a Chicago police warehouse described by some of its arrestees as a secretive interrogation facility, newly uncovered records reveal.”

The Chicago Police Department maintained that the warehouse was not a secret facility “so much as an undercover police base operating in plain sight.” But, as the Guardian reported, people were shackled and held for hours or even days without access to attorneys in violation of the U.S. Constitution, but the sort of detention permitted of Palestinians under IDF occupation.

A Chicago civil rights activist said he was abducted by masked officers, shackled and held on false charges, “with no food, no water, no access to the outside world” at the behest of “covert operations.” In other words, he simply disappeared.

Another former “detainee,” Charles Jones, was told in the interrogation room that he would be allowed a phone call once booked and processed. But he said his requests for legal counsel were repeatedly denied during the six-to-eight hours he was held at Homan Square.

“The only reason you’re brought to Homan and Fillmore is to extract information,” Jones said, referring to the cross streets of the facility.

“The police probably feel they need those covert operations because that’s the only way to get the intel they need instead of doing the good work  the hard work. . . . It’s easy to just go grab someone, throw ’em somewhere no food, no water, no access to the outside world, intimidating and threatening ’em,” he said.

That is similar to intelligence-driven techniques used in counter-insurgency warfare. Several ex-Homan Square detainees told the Guardian that their detentions “were out of proportion to their alleged crimes, if any but calibrated to pressure them into becoming informants.” This, in fact, is just like what U.S. forces did in occupied Iraq and Israeli forces do in Occupied Palestine. Indeed, that is what occupying armies do.

According to The Guardian, while the police data is incomplete, the disclosures “suggest an intensification of Homan Square usage under Emanuel. Approximately 70% of the Homan Square detentions the Chicago police acknowledge thus far have occurred under the current mayor.”

At the time of The Guardian article, then-Police Superintendent McCarthy was attending a meeting on violence and policing in Washington and was unavailable for comment.

After The Guardian’s initial Homan Square exposé in February 2015, protests were held and local politicians called for investigations. But Rahm Emanuel was not among the concerned officials even though he was running for re-election in part on a platform of police reform. Instead, Emanuel took ownership of the unorthodox operation and “defended his police,” claiming, “we follow all the rules” at Homan Square and calling the reporting “not true.”

Israeli Comparisons

To Mayor Emanuel and former Superintendent McCarthy, it seemed, affluent sections of Chicago’s North Side are to Chicago’s South and West sides what Tel Aviv is to Occupied Palestine’s Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Emanuel and McCarthy seemed to have imported the Israeli military occupation ideology that just as Palestine must be kept “under the heavy heel of Israeli military occupation,” so must Chicago’s poorer areas be kept under the heavy heel of the Chicago police, acting as a paramilitary occupation force.

That Emanuel bears responsibility for all that has taken place in regard to the McDonald execution is shown in his role in making the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the civilian agency that investigates allegations of excessive force by police, irrelevant.

The Chicago Tribune published an examination that found that of the 409 police shootings since IPRA was created in September 2007, only two allegations against police officers were deemed credible. (Emanuel has been mayor since May 16, 2011.)

In December 2015, in announcing that former federal prosecutor Sharon Fairley would take charge of the IPRA after the resignation of her predecessor, neither Emanuel nor Fairley addressed how IPRA would improve “its woeful track record in investigating shootings,” as the Chicago Tribune described it.

Instead, Fairley stated: “the mission of IPRA will remain the same: thorough, fair and timely investigation of police officer misconduct.” Absurdly, that seems to be a statement asserting that nothing would change, allowing the police to continue operating with a sense of entitlement as they run roughshod over a population they are supposed to protect.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago police officials under Emanuel stopped participating in meetings with the IPRA to discuss officer shootings, “a change that came with the knowledge of the mayor’s office.” Will that remain the same?

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch was asked whether the federal investigation would extend to the mayor’s and state’s attorney’s offices. Notwithstanding Emanuel’s alleged role in shutting down police participation with the IPRA, Lynch said the investigation would focus on the Police Department’s practices.

That’s not all that remarkable when one considers that the U.S. Justice Department and President Barack Obama declared they would take no action on the issue of “war on terror” torture by U.S. government officials involving the CIA and the military. As President Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Emanuel seems to fall under a similar protective shield of impunity.

What is remarkable is that the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus “called for Lynch to expand her probe to include IPRA and the state’s attorney’s office, but it left out the mayor’s office.” That is remarkable because Mayor Emanuel appears to be the person who gave impunity for civil rights violations to Chicago police officers to the degree that they felt legally immune in summarily executing Laquan McDonald.

A Family History

If Mayor Rahm Emanuel seems to have brought a Fascist sensibility to Chicago and the police force, it can be said it’s part of a family tradition. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Emanuel “is the son of a Jerusalem-born pediatrician who was a member of the Irgun (Etzel or IZL), a militant Zionist group that operated in Palestine between 1931 and 1948.”

In addition, according to Emanuel’s father, Benjamin, his son “is the namesake of Rahamim, a Lehi combatant who was killed” and was obviously a close friend or seen as a martyr. Both Lehi and the Irgun were terrorist organizations, not only in the eyes of the British and the Arabs in pre-Israel Palestine, but in the eyes of their fellow Jews, whom they also attacked.

Furthermore, the clandestine terror squads considered themselves Fascist organizations, not only in their tactics but in their ideology which had aligned them with Mussolini’s Italy and other inter-war European Fascist parties.

In The Road to Power: Herut Party in Israel, author Yonathan Shapiro describes Irgun as the military wing of the Betar Movement. The two groups jointly published a paper, Die Tat. Shapiro writes: “Betar activists were swept up by the radical-right nationalism then at its height in Europe.”

This was shown in the Betar press in Poland, where the Yiddish-language Betar-Irgun paper Die Tat was sympathetic to radical-right parties. The paper ran a series of articles in late 1938 and early 1939 entitled “The Third Europe,” which Shapiro says “was the overall name given to radical-right movements such as the Nazis in Germany, the Fascists in Italy, the Iron Guard in Romania, and the Franco camp in Spain, and so forth.”

One article in the series explained that Hitler’s attempted putsch in 1923 derailed “the German leadership from its track of havlagah – the same term that Zionist leaders used for their policy of moderation in their dealings with the Arab nationalist movement in Palestine.” The implication was that the Jewish radical right had to do something similar to break the Jewish leaders from moderation in Palestine.

Another Die Tat writer who was based in Tel Aviv argued that anti-Semitism wasn’t “an integral part of Naziism, which in the final analysis was a version of Fascism,” of which he approved. In an editorial entitled, “Hitler and Judaism,” a few weeks later, “the paper wrote that it did not reject Hitler’s views, not even on the race issue. It only objected to the campaign that ‘in practice’ he was waging against the Jewish people, and its desire to establish an independent state.”

Lessons of Terror

In 1942, Menachem Begin arrived in “Eretz-Israel,” as Irgun members referred to Palestine. He was “offered command of the Irgun and leadership of Betar.” Begin refused leadership of Betar on the grounds that Ze’ev Jabotinsky, though dead, remained head of Betar, and Jabotinsky as the irreplaceable leader of Betar “came to symbolize the idea of the absolute leader.”

Begin, the future founder of Likud and prime minister of Israel, was his “pupil and successor,” who shared the view of other Fascist parties that “believed in the principle of the omnipotent leader.” These were the Fascist ideas that Rahm Emanuel’s father imbibed and celebrated in his youth, and shared with his Lehi friend, Rahamim.

The distinction between the Irgun and Lehi was that the Irgun later called a truce with the British during World War II when it finally became apparent to them that Hitler represented a threat to Zionist interests, whereas Lehi saw Great Britain as much or more of the enemy than Hitler. Lehi continued terrorist attacks against Britain throughout the war.

Whatever the elder Emanuel’s political thoughts are today, he seemed to retain his youthful Fascist-style contempt for Arabs as he commented when Rahm was named President Obama’s Chief of Staff: “Obviously he’ll influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn’t he? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to be mopping floors at the White House,” as reported in the New York Times.

None of this is to suggest that Rahm Emanuel shares any of the Fascist ideas of his father’s youthful associates in the Irgun or of his father in his youth. But if Rahm Emanuel is going to preside over secret interrogation and detention centers as the Mayor of Chicago and is responsible for a police force learning and using Fascist-style police tactics, people may begin to notice a resemblance to the youthful Benjamin Emanuel and the ideology his Irgun associates.

Emanuel’s Style

True to form in some people’s eyes after the court-ordered release of the video revealing the murder of Laquan McDonald  Mayor Emanuel didn’t actually take responsibility for the cover-up except to acknowledge the obvious with his statement that it “happened on my watch.” He didn’t explain how the murder was swept under the carpet for over a year so, as some allege, it wouldn’t interfere with his reelection.

NPR  reported, “Emanuel acknowledged there is an underlying ‘trust problem’ that Chicago needs to address,” and “the city now needs to begin the process of healing and restoring trust and confidence in the police department. … Emanuel says supervision and leadership in the police department failed, and he promises to address ‘the thin blue line’ and ‘the code of silence,’ in which police officers ignore, deny and cover up the bad actions of a colleague.”

However, as mayor, Emanuel bore ultimate responsibility for “supervision and leadership” of the police department and it wasn’t the “thin blue line” that maintained the “code of silence” for over a year. It was the Mayor’s Office.

Also, with Israel making its counter-insurgency police training a major export to U.S. police forces and with American cities such as Chicago eager to adopt that training, it is little wonder that minorities increasingly feel they are under repressive military-style occupation in their communities. They have good reason to feel that way since the police are getting training from a country that is expert at keeping a conquered people under an open-ended military occupation.

By contrast, the police of Scotland have offered a very different strategy to a delegation of top American police officials by demonstrating “the art of firearm-free policing.” As The New York Times reported, “Most British police officers are unarmed, a distinction particularly pronounced … in Scotland, where 98 percent of the country’s officers do not carry guns. Rather than escalating a situation with weapons, easing it through talk is an essential policing tool.”

The American police officials appeared dumbfounded by the concept of operating without weapons and pressed their Scottish counterparts with questions about how many Scottish police officers have been wounded or killed in the line of duty.

Bernard Higgins, an assistant chief constable who is Scotland’s use-of-force expert, responded that his officers do take punches often but the last one killed died in 1994 from a stabbing. “There is poverty, crime and a ‘pathological hatred of officers wearing our uniform’ in pockets of Scotland, he said, but constables live where they work and embrace their role as ‘guardians of the community,’ not warriors from a policing subculture,” according to the Times.

Higgins added, “We police from an absolute position of embracing democracy.”

Todd E. Pierce retired as a Major in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps in November 2012. His most recent assignment was defense counsel in the Office of Chief Defense Counsel, Office of Military Commissions. In the course of that assignment, he researched and reviewed the complete records of military commissions held during the Civil War and stored at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. 




Needed: An EU Push on Palestine Peace

As the European Union displays more disunion with Brexit and threats of other exits, a renewed E.U. push for an Israel-Palestine peace accord could give Europe a needed sense of mission, suggests ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

A common theme in commentary about implications of the Brexit vote last week is that both the European Union and Britain will be so preoccupied with sorting out whatever will be Britain’s new relationship with Europe that they will have a deficit of energy and attention to devote to other matters.

Paul Scham of the Middle East Institute applies this thought to diplomacy aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, writing that “it seems unlikely that the EU will be willing or able to focus on Israeli-Palestinian issues for the foreseeable future.” He expects that members of the Israeli government are feeling relieved about that. He no doubt is right on that last point; the Israeli government does not want any diplomacy aimed at ending the occupation of Palestinian territory, and it has been fighting hard to defeat the recent initiative by the French on the subject.

But although the general idea of limited time and attention is valid, there is more that the Europeans can, and should, do in making progress on other diplomatic matters, and on the Israeli-Palestinian matter in particular. Look beyond the discombobulation resulting from the British vote and one can see that the initial reactions to the shock of last Thursday probably have underestimated the ability of the Europeans to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Moreover, it will sink in over the coming weeks that Britain might never actually leave the E.U. Boris Johnson (the Conservative Party figure who was a lead supporter of the “Leave” campaign) has good reasons to be waffling the way he has since the vote.

European statesmen also will be able to understand that it is in the best interests of the European project for them not just to sit and stew about the little Englanders. Now more than ever, with doubts being voiced about the future of that project, there is a need for activity that will restore a sense of commonality and momentum to Europe.

The E.U. needs good projects that will show that Europe as a collective enterprise is robust enough that something like the Brexit business will not screw up everything else. Vigorous diplomacy aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one such project.

As a candidate for E.U. efforts it has several attractions. The need for progress on the subject is as evident as it has always been — on multiple grounds, including justice, human rights, stability, and the curbing of extremism. The United States is, despite some encouraging evolution of attitudes in recent years, still hamstrung by its internal politics and for that reason unlikely to function effectively as a fair-minded outsider.

Looking ahead past the U.S. presidential election does not give basis for hope that the United States will play such a role any better than it is now. With the United States self-crippled on the issue, the European Union is the next best actor to step into the role.

The E.U. already has been involved in diplomacy about the Israeli-Palestinian issue, including as a member of the so-called quartet along with the United Nations, United States, and Russia. And now with the initiative of France, one of the most important E.U. members, there is a ready-made current diplomatic vehicle for the E.U. as a whole to help drive.

So get out of the funk about Brexit and get going on this, Europe; you have an opportunity to do yourself good when you especially need it while also doing good about a problem on another continent that has caused grief for decades.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)