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Israeli/Palestinian Peace Talks: Dead on Arrival

Israeli/Palestinian Peace Talks: Dead on Arrival by Stephen Lendman So-called peace talks are fake. They're a sham. They've always been this way. Decades of talks were...

Study Links High Stakes Testing to Higher Incarceration Rates

Jaisal Noor, TRNN Producer: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.The School-to-Prison Pipeline Exposed, a new study that's thus far...

EU Guidelines on Israel: Part II

EU Guidelines on Israel: Part II by Stephen Lendman A previous article discussed them in detail. They're largely old wine in new bottles. They're more bark...

The Murder of Trayvon Martin and Racist America

The racist murder of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin as he walked the streets of the Florida town in which his father lived (a/k/a ‘home’) is...

The Grand Scam: Spinning Egypt’s Military Coup

Every coup d’état in history begins with a military General announcing the overthrow and arrest of the country’s leader, the suspension of the constitution,...

Don’t Fall for Wal-Mart’s Latest Hypocrisy

Last month, amid the flap enveloping disgraced celebrity chef Paula Deen, Wal-Mart put on a face of corporate responsibility. “We are ending our relationship with Paula Deen Enterprises and we will not place new orders beyond those already committed,” its official statement read.

Millions Against Monsanto: On the Road to Victory

   By Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association, July 18, 2013  " The harder they come the harder...

What’s So Scary About Rolling Stone’s Boston Bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev Cover?

In a week filled with realizations that "wait, this country is still inherently racist from the moment it wakes up to the moment it...

Communal tensions in Burma continue

  By ...

‘Russia likely to give asylum to Snowden’

A demonstrator holds up a picture of Edward Snowden during a demonstration in support of him in Paris on July 7, 2013.Russia will most...

Don’t Judge a Magazine By Its Cover

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/dont_judge_a_magazine_by_its_cover_20130717/ Posted on Jul 17, 2013 ...

Travesty in "Post-Racial" America: the Zimmerman Verdict

Black America and people of good will of all races watched in utter dismay as the jury in the George Zimmerman Trial issued its...

Targeting Free Expression in Israel

Targeting Free Expression in Israel by Stephen Lendman During previous Knesset session proceedings, MKs Ofir Akunis and Faina Kirshenbaum legislation to limit NGO funding was defeated. Last...

The War on Public School Teachers

The U.S. working class was slow to respond to the hard times it faced during and after the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Finally, however,...

Zimbabwe: Voting for Progress

Zimbabwe’s upcoming elections, scheduled to take place on July 31st, will go a long way to determining the future of the country. On the...

Boy Scouts shun obese members as controversy continues

Boy Scouts hoping to attend the organization’s National Scout Jamboree will have to pass a physical fitness test before joining in the activities, leaving...

The Hidden History of the Korean War (1950-1953)

by Jay Hauben The controversial book, The Hidden History of the Korean War by I. F. Stone was originally published in 1952 during the...

Separation of School and State

The common school is the institution which can receive and train up children in the elements of all good knowledge and of virtue...

Schools Drop Federal Lunch Menu: Costly, Students Still Hungry

Unfortunately for public school districts across the country, First Lady Michelle Obama’s preferred lunch plan has proven to be a costly fiasco. The new menus...

The Coup in Egypt

Abdullah Al-Arian is assistant professor at Wayne State University. His research interests include Islamic social movements, globalization and the Muslim world, and United States...

Vilifying Alice Walker Irresponsibly

Vilifying Alice Walker Irresponsibly by Stephen Lendman Walker's a Georgia sharecropper family daughter. She's the youngest of eight children. At Atlanta's Spellman College, she was one...

The British Labour / Israel Dinner Date

As the British Labour party leadership desperately tried to contain the fallout from the Falkirk fixing scandals last week, with allegations flying around that...

Why Do Charities Want to “Normalize” Israeli Apartheid?

Calls to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people are gathering momentum. Words such as “boycott” and “apartheid” are no longer...

EPA’s Abandoned Fracking Study One Retreat of Many

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/epas_abandoned_fracking_study_one_retreat_of_many_20130707/ Posted on Jul 7, 2013 ...

The NSA and That 1970s Show

The Obama administration and the NSA have claimed domestic spying on Americans is necessary to prevent ‘terrorist’ attacks. From 1970 to 2013 approximately 3,500...

China urges dialogue among Egyptians

China has called on all political sides involved in the ongoing dispute in Egypt to settle their differences through dialogue, saying Beijing respects the...

Egypt’s Army calls for unity

An Egyptian army armored personnel carrier is positioned outside the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo during the swearing-in ceremony of chief justice Adli Mansour...

Egypt’s MB calls for peaceful protest

A supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is seen at the Rabaa al-Adawyah district of Cairo on July 4, 2013. Egyptâ„¢s Muslim Brotherhood...

Breast Milk Scandal Strikes Aptamil Manufacturer Danone, Accused of Misleading Mothers

Danone’s formula milk sales increase in Turkey. (image baby bottle via Shutterstock.com) The multi-national food giant Danone has been accused of misleading mothers with a...

The State of Dissent in America: Flex Your Rights

When we occupied Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, during the Autumn of 2011, we often marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill to express...

The Obama Kerry Hagel Regime: Selling Death and Buying Assassins in the Middle East,...

Introduction As President Obama enters his second term with a new Cabinet, the foreign policy legacy of the past four years weighs heavily on their...

If a Petition Can Force Morsi From Office, Why Can’t the Same Remove Obama?

Kurt Nimmo Infowars.com July 1, 2013 Egypt’s Tamarod Campaign is an unprecedented petition drive calling for the impeachment of Mohamed Morsi. Tamarod...

NObama! South Africans prepare to protest Obama visit

by The Nobama Camapaign The NObama Coalition Johannesburg held a press conference June 22 to announce plans to protest Obama’s visit to South Africa. On June...

South Africans Slam US "Plunder" and "Atrocities" as Obama Arrives

Protesters carry placards as they protest against the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama in Pretoria, June 28, 2013.(Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters)"No You Can't!"...

South Africans Slam US "Plunder" and "Atrocities" as Obama Arrives

Protesters carry placards as they protest against the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama in Pretoria, June 28, 2013.(Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters)"No You Can't!"...

Mayor Linda versus Mandela

The unprecedented coverage of Nelson and Winnie Mandela's New York City tour displayed the power of the mass media and showed that it can...

Israeli Propaganda, With Warts

Out of a sense of duty to CounterPunch readers, I went to a press screening for “Israel: a Home Movie” that opens at the...

Mayor Linda versus Mandela

The unprecedented coverage of Nelson and Winnie Mandela's New York City tour displayed the power of the mass media and showed that it can...

EDL fake video of UK scientist slammed

The far-right EDL has made a fake, mocked up video of the iconic scientist Stephen Hawking.The far-right fascist group, English Defence League (EDL) has...

Smearing Alice Walker

In the comments section of a recent online article in the right wing New York Jewish publication, Algemeiner, not to be confused with the...

UK claims Syrian army obstacle to peace

British Foreign Secretary William Hague claims the Syrian armyâ„¢s successful offensive against foreign-backed militants is the biggest obstacle to peace in the country. "What is...

Trafficking in Lies about Syria

Trafficking in Lies about Syria by Stephen Lendman Media scoundrels substitute lies for truth and full disclosure. They violate core journalistic ethics doing so. They threaten...

The ISO, Caterpillar and Democratic Accountability

I was dismayed to see a spat over Angelina Jolie’s surgery quickly degenerate into an idiotic war, with the International Socialist Organization (ISO) issuing...

Bill Moyers: The American Legislative Exchange Council Is Hard at Work Privatizing America, One...

A national consortium of state politicians and powerful corporations, ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council — presents itself as a “nonpartisan public-private partnership”.

James Gandolfini and the Sopranos

The Sopranos, Tony, and James Gandolfini. For me, a huge pile of contradictions. I loved the show: exemplary writing, compelling characters, and Gandolfini was...

India backs Iran presidency of UN forum

India has voiced support for Iranâ„¢s presidency over the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament, saying it is an honor to hold talks under the presidency...

Local Gov’ts Reeling Under ObamaCare Costs

John MerlineInvestor’s Business DailyJune 20, 2013 When Regal Entertainment Group (RGC) in April blamed ObamaCare for...

Dispatch From Rio

Rio de Janeiro For anyone fortunate to be in Brazil Sunday night, the raucous and peaceful outpouring of an estimated 250,000 street protestors was indeed...

‘Mozambican gunmen kill 6 soldiers’

This picture taken on March 8, 2012 shows the RENAMO (former Mozambican rebel movement) headquarters in the northern Mozambique city of Nampula,(file photo)Mozambican gunmen...

Workers Struggles: The Americas

  18 June 2013 ...

President Bashar Al-Assad: Fighting Terrorism in Syria. Rebuilding in the Wake of the Crisis....

President Bashar al-Assad gave the following interview to the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper: Interviewer: Mr President, how do you view the situation in your...

Pakistan shuts university after attacks

Pakistani police officers and volunteers gather at the wreckage of a bus destroyed in a bomb blast in Quetta on June 15, 2013. Pakistan's...

Pakistan shuts university after attacks

Pakistani police officers and volunteers gather at the wreckage of a bus destroyed in a bomb blast in Quetta on June 15, 2013. Pakistan's...

Protest and Resistance against America’s Police State: What’s Your Breaking Point to Take Action?

When Edward Snowden reached his breaking point, the world saw the truth about the vast extent of spying by the NSA on Americans and...

‘West must rethink Iran policies’

Iran pres. poll necessitates change in Westâ„¢s Iran policy: ExpertPeople line up to cast their ballots in Iran's presidenital election. (File photo)The Western governments...

Kuwait dissolves parliament

Kuwaitâ„¢s constitutional court has dissolved the countryâ„¢s loyalist-dominated parliament, ordering fresh elections, official sources say. The official Kuwait News Agency said on Sunday that the...

UK, Overseas Territories sign tax deal

British Prime Minister has signed a deal with British Overseas Territories, widely seen as international tax havens, to take a series of actions to...

Sri Lankan government to limit provincial powers

  By ...

Sri Lankan government to limit provincial powers

  By ...

Physicians Brand Gitmo a "Medical Ethics Free Zone"

A "feeding chair" in the Guantanamo medical wing where hunger-striking detainees are force fed. (Photo: Sgt. Brian Godette, Army 138th Public Affairs Detachment)As a...

Reform and Revolution at Left Forum 2013

This year’s Left Forum, held from 7 to 9 June at Pace University in lower Manhattan, was a rather impressive conference, one that arguably...

Physicians Brand Gitmo a "Medical Ethics Free Zone"

A "feeding chair" in the Guantanamo medical wing where hunger-striking detainees are force fed. (Photo: Sgt. Brian Godette, Army 138th Public Affairs Detachment)As a...

Who Killed the Syrian Peace Talks? The Rebels have been Defeated. Is the War...

The long awaited Syrian peace talks – instigated by power brokers Russia and the United States – had already passed their initial due date,...

Who Killed the Syrian Peace Talks?

The long awaited Syrian peace talks – instigated by power brokers Russia and the United States – had already passed their initial due date,...

The Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons

For some years an international campaign has been gradually building — ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The goal is a treaty...

Mongolia, Canada, Israel & the United States

Ulan Bator: When you get out of the plane and enter the Chinngis Khan Airport just outside of Ulan Bator, you quickly realize that...

Campaigners cynical about G8 tax deal

Campaigners seeking global action to tackle tax-dodging by major companies internationally have expressed their frustration at the chances of the G8 leaders agreeing concerted...

UK: Syria successes impact Geneva conf.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague claims the recent battlefield accomplishments by Syrian army forces against foreign-backed militants undermines chances of a planned conference on...

UK: Syria successes impact Geneva conf.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague claims the recent battlefield accomplishments by Syrian army forces against foreign-backed militants undermines chances of a planned conference on...

Al Sharpton: A Lucrative Career Built on Hate and Racial Conflagration

Twenty-five years ago the Tawana Brawley case enflamed race relations in America and catapulted Al Sharpton into the national limelight. But Sharpton’s race demagoguery...

Soldier Reprimanded Over Promotion Party Featuring Chick-fil-A Sandwiches

A U.S. Army soldier was disciplined after he hosted a party for his promotion to the rank of master sergeant and served Chick-fil-A sandwiches...

Al Sharpton: A Lucrative Career Built on Hate and Racial Conflagration

Twenty-five years ago the Tawana Brawley case enflamed race relations in America and catapulted Al Sharpton into the national limelight. But Sharpton’s race demagoguery...

Soldier Reprimanded Over Promotion Party Featuring Chick-fil-A Sandwiches

A U.S. Army soldier was disciplined after he hosted a party for his promotion to the rank of master sergeant and served Chick-fil-A sandwiches...

Marching to Jerusalem

46 years ago this month, Israel seized East Jerusalem, the home of many significant holy sites for Muslims, Christians and Jews, as well as...

The Unfolding Monsanto Saga: Europe Rejects GMO Crops; America Seeks Labeling

It’s a scandal. Monsanto has just announced it’s giving up on most of Europe: people there don’t want GMO food. In America, the struggle is...

The Monsanto tipping point has been reached: We shall overcome global food injustice (GMO)

Mike Adams Natural News June 4, 2013 Monsanto is now in full retreat against a global grassroots rejection of its poisons and...

The People of the World Demand the Liberation of Jerusalem

The Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ) is proud to announce our preliminary program for marches around the world on Friday, 7th June 2013, to...

How a London court Repudiated Zionist Abuse of the Anti-Semitism Charge

Taunting and tainting opponents with the charge of anti-semitism is a long-standing Zionist ploy, familiar to everyone involved in the Israel-Palestine issue. As their...

The Oslo Illusion: The Historical Accords between Palestine and Israel

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Israeli government. Officially...

South Korea joins Japanese ban on U.S. wheat imports after shocking GMO contamination announcement...

Mike AdamsNatural NewsJune 3, 3013 News about the GMO contamination of U.S. wheat crops seems to...

Australian meat workers fight 20 percent pay cut

  By ...

US Attorney General Eric Holder Personally Approved Obama’s Secret Effort to Seize Email and...

US Attorney General Eric Holder personally approved the Obama administration’s secret effort to seize email records of Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2010....

The Merchants of Shame

Two weeks ago my restorative slumber was rudely aborted by the shattering opening chords of “Search and Destroy” by the Stooges, the ringtone I...

"Off the Record" Meetings with DOJ Exposes Deep Subservience of DC Press Corps

While some news outlets are lining up to attend a series of "off the record" media briefings with the Department of Justice, others are...

A Big Win for Seattle Teachers

On Monday, May 13, Seattle Schools Superintendent Jose Banda announced that “High schools may opt out of MAP in 2013-14.” This announcement was greeted...

Monsanto website downed as Anonymous claims hack

Hackers from the Anonymous collective claimed to have infiltrated the website for the biotech giant Monsanto, which has been the subject of recent international protests.

The “Measures of Academic Progress” (MAP) Test in American High Schools

On Monday, May 13, Seattle Schools Superintendent Jose Banda announced that “High schools may opt out of MAP in 2013-14.” This announcement was greeted...

An Endless “Peace Process” for Palestine

The United States balances its endless war of terrorism with the institution of an endless “peace process” for Palestine, a process valuable for its...

Slave Labor, Wal-Mart and Wahhabism: Bangladesh in turbulence

<!--Nile Bowie-->Nile Bowie is a political analyst and photographer currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. ...

UK group raps Israeli dates mislabeling

Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has called for an investigation into a British supermarket chainâ„¢s complicity in the sale of dates illegaly produced in the...

‘Monsanto is the metaphor for genetic manipulation, food chain control’

In order to take full control of the global food chain the world’s largest owner of patents on seeds Monsanto is lobbying, bribing, suing...

Monsanto’s GMO Killer Seeds: Profits Above Human Health

On May 25, more than two million people marched against Monsanto Worldwide. They did so in dozens of countries worldwide. They had good reason.They...

‘Monsanto is the metaphor for genetic manipulation, food chain control’

<!--William Engdahl-->William Engdahl is an award-winning geopolitical analyst and strategic risk consultant whose internationally best-selling books have been translated into thirteen foreign languages. ...

‘Monsanto is the metaphor for genetic manipulation, food chain control’

<!--William Engdahl-->William Engdahl is an award-winning geopolitical analyst and strategic risk consultant whose internationally best-selling books have been translated into thirteen foreign languages. ...

Marching in Chicago: Resisting Rahm Emanuel’s Neoliberal Savagery

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/marching_in_chicago_resisting_rahm_emanuels_neoliberal_savagery_20130524/ Posted on May 24, 2013 ...

Local Police Under Siege

To residents of Sharpsburg, North Carolina, Chief Wayne Hathaway was more than just a law enforcement officer. To the people of this small town...

Local Police Under Siege

To residents of Sharpsburg, North Carolina, Chief Wayne Hathaway was more than just a law enforcement officer. To the people of this small town...

Local Police Under Siege

To residents of Sharpsburg, North Carolina, Chief Wayne Hathaway was more than just a law enforcement officer. To the people of this small town...

The Growing Global Challenge to Monsanto’s Monopolistic Greed

(Photo: Monsanto via The New York Times) The common problem we face is the power of concentrated wealth and monopolistic corporate interests. This has created...

Al-Wefaq halts talks with Bahrain regime

The Bahraini opposition bloc al-Wefaq has suspended talks with the regime due to the Persian Gulf kingdomâ„¢s deliberate "delay and absence of positive response." The...

Al-Wefaq halts talks with Bahrain regime

The Bahraini opposition bloc al-Wefaq has suspended talks with the regime due to the Persian Gulf kingdomâ„¢s deliberate "delay and absence of positive response." The...

CIA Troublemaking in Caucasus

Wayne Madsenstrategic-culture.orgMay 21, 2013 It is clear that Russia’s arrest and expulsion of two...

Should Palestine switch from the shekel to Bitcoin?

<!--Max Keiser-->Max Keiser, the host of RT's ‘Keiser Report,’ is a former stockbroker, the inventor of virtual specialist technology and co-founder of the Hollywood...

It's Time to Step Up and Help the Workers of Bangladesh

May 20, 2013  | ...

From Reactive to Proactive: The World Social Forum and the Anti-/Alter-Globalization Movement

Given the prevailing research interest on the transition from anti- to alter- globalization, this paper examines where the World Social Forum is situated in...

Corporations Are Stealing Billions in Tax Breaks, While the Confused, Screwed Citizenry Turn On...

As global capital becomes ever more powerful, giant corporations are holding governments and citizens up for ransom – eliciting subsidies and tax breaks from...

CIA Troublemaking in Caucasus

It is clear that Russia’s arrest and expulsion of two CIA agents who were trying to recruit members of the Russian intelligence service fighting...

Global Capital and the Nation State

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/global_capital_and_the_nation_state_20130520/ Posted on May 20, 2013 ...

Church of Scotland edits Israel report

Church of Scotland report challenging Jews "divine right" to Palestinian homeland unchanged The Church of Scotland's revised report 'The Inheritance of Abraham?' has now been...

Church of Scotland edits Israel report

Church of Scotland report challenging Jewsâ„¢ Ëœdivine rightâ„¢ to Palestinian homeland unchangedThe Church of Scotland's revised report 'The Inheritance of Abraham?' has now been...

Letter From Birmingham Jail

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/letter_from_birmingham_jail_20130518/ Posted on May 18, 2013 ...

Purchase power: App allows votes against Monsanto, for GMO labeling

A new app aims to become an engine for consumer activism, helping users spend money on products from companies they share causes with, boycotting...

Purchase power: App allows votes against Monsanto, for GMO labeling

A new app aims to become an engine for consumer activism, helping users spend money on products from companies they share causes with, boycotting...

The Korean Atrocity: Forgotten US War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

 At a Quebec City celebration of the 70th anniversary of World War II’s Battle of the Atlantic last weekend, Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, Steven...

“Mom, they did bad things to me”: Insider at OKC airport shares shocking info...

Andrew W. Griffin Red Dirt Report May 17, 2013 While the IRS is getting a lot of bad publicity these days in light...

Challenging the US Economic Power Sturcuture: Popular Resistance Percolates Throughout the Land

Every week we are inspired by the many people throughout the country who are doing excellent work to challenge the power structure and put...

“Cuban Democracy” versus “American Democracy”

Arnold August is a political scientist an author, journalist and lecturer living in Montreal, Canada (Quebec). He is the author of Democracy in Cuba and...

US obstructing global disarmament: Iran

Iranâ„¢s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Araqchi says the United Statesâ„¢ opposition and lack of commitment to various international disarmament conventions are obstacles to advancing...

Chomsky blamed for Hawking no-show

U.S. linguist Noam ChomskyIsraeli regimeâ„¢s media outlets are blaming U.S. linguist Noam Chomsky for British physicist Stephen Hawkingâ„¢s withdrawal from Israel's Presidential Conference in...

Wagner opera canceled in Germany after Holocaust scenes send spectators to hospital

A retelling of Richard Wagner's opera 'Tannhäuser' set in Nazi Germany was cancelled on opening night after ten audience members in a Dusseldorf theater...

Mr. Yuk Yuk

Should We Kill Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? The Death of Truth Horrific Details Emerge in Cleveland Kidnapping Case Obama Did It for the Money Stephen Hawking Boycotts Israel The Children Are...

Benghazi Frenzy

Should We Kill Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? The Death of Truth Horrific Details Emerge in Cleveland Kidnapping Case Obama Did It for the Money Stephen Hawking Boycotts Israel The Children Are...

The Caddie

Should We Kill Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? The Death of Truth Horrific Details Emerge in Cleveland Kidnapping Case Obama Did It for the Money Stephen Hawking Boycotts Israel The Children Are...

Radio Advertisers Seeking to ‘Exclude Rush and Hannity’ Shows, Report Says

Top Radio Advertisers Said to Be Excluding Limbaugh and Hannity Shows Email   Print   Share Posted on May 8, 2013 youtube.com An advertising boycott enacted in...

'Huge progress' rebuilding Somalia

6 May 2013 Last updated at 19:29 ET Suicide bombs remain a constant threat in Somalia Continue reading the main story Recipe for success In pictures: Vaccinating Somalia Handbags...

US Sponsored Terror: Syria Teeters on Obama’s “Red Line”

Spokesmen of the Assad government recently accused foreign-backed militants of launching scud missiles containing chemical weapons in the city of Aleppo, killing dozens. Witnesses claim to have seen powder emanate from the rocket, causing those who inhaled the substance to suffocate or require immediate medical attention. An unnamed chemical weapons expert cited by Al-Jazeera claimed that the causalities were not consistent with Syria’s reputed stockpile of chemical agents, stating, “If it’s a chemical warfare agent, it’s not working very well.” Syria’s ambassador to the UN, Bashar Ja’afari, called on the UN Secretary-General to form an independent technical mission to investigate the use of chemical weapons by terrorist groups operating in Syria.

While on his first state visit to Israel, Barack Obama cast doubt and expressed deep scepticism toward the Assad government’s version of events, stating that if the government did indeed use chemical weapons, then it meant a “red line” had been crossed. Obama vowed not to make further announcements until concrete facts were established. What this essentially means is that Obama is now in a position to act on his statements and intervene more boldly and directly than the United States has already been doing since the beginning of the conflict. Additionally, NATO personnel have also indicated that they are prepared to employ a wide range of operations. US-European Command Admiral James Stavridis recently told media that the alliance was “prepared, if called upon, to be engaged as we were in Libya.”

Those who have critically monitored the situation from the beginning are under no illusions. The way in which mainstream media sources have covered the Syrian conflict, perhaps more so than any other topic in recent times, shows unequivocally how certain content providers have moved in step with the foreign policy of the Western and Gulf states who have enabled insurgent groups and provided diplomatic cover for opposition politicians who represent their economic and strategic interests. The Obama administration’s policy toward Libya and Syria eyes the same familiar endgame as what the Bush administration sought in its foreign policy adventures. The fact that many of those on the left who campaigned against Iraq and Afghanistan are now generally silent, or even supportive of Obama’s agenda, is proof that his policies have been packaged far more intelligently for mainstream consumption. The reality is that Syria is “Shock and Awe” by other means.

There are a myriad of reasons why Bashar al-Assad must go in the eyes of policy makers in Washington and Tel Aviv, and the destruction of his tenure could not have been possible without the financial muscle of Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s wretchedly opulent Sunni Monarchs. These glittering kingdoms of disaster-capitalism are not only responsible for supplying weapons and cash; a major incentive of theirs is exporting the Wahhabist and Salafist ideologies that many of Syria’s imported jihadists subscribe to, a warped and primal interpretation of Islam that has fueled the sectarian nature of the Syrian conflict and deepened social divisions to their most dangerous point – in a country that was once renowned for its tolerance of religious diversity. These Gulf kingdoms, which are more-or-less given a trump card to commit deplorable human rights violations institutionally, are also responsible for propping up the political arm of their militant foot soldiers, and that comes in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Syria’s opposition coalition, which is itself entirely a creation of foreign powers, has recently elected its own interim prime minister – enter, Ghassan Hitto, a virtually unknown political novice with a US passport and a computer science degree from Purdue University. Hitto is an Islamist Kurd with strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has politically dominated the Syrian National Council since its creation, in addition to organizing tactical elements of the insurgency. The backbone of the Brotherhood’s relationship with the medieval monarchies of the Persian Gulf is grounded in a firm opposition to Shi’a Islam, as extolled by clerical leaders in Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah; Assad himself is also an Alawite, an offshoot of Shi’a Islam. It should be clear enough by now how enflaming sectarian divisions in the region was a prerequisite for those bank-rolling the insurgency, aimed at demolishing the secular Syrian state.

Several high-profile members of Syria’s opposition coalition boycotted the vote for interim prime minister, citing what they viewed as a foreign-backed campaign to elect Hitto. Kamal Labwani, a veteran opposition campaigner, was reported as saying, “We don’t want what happened in Egypt to happen in Syria. They hijacked the revolution.” Those who abstained from the vote accuse Hitto of being a puppet of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that the SNC’s decisions were being dictated from the outside. Walid al-Bunni, another senior figure in the opposition, stated, “The Muslim Brotherhood, with the backing of Qatar, have imposed their prime minister candidate. We will keep away if the coalition does not reconsider its choice.” Let’s just get this straight – Assad, a leader whose presence today is a testament to the fact that he continues to enjoy majority popular support, is considered to have lost his legitimacy. On the other hand, Hitto, a man with no political experience who received 35 votes out of 49 ballots cast during a Syrian National Coalition meeting, is supposed to be legitimate representative of the Syrian people?

These realities can only be interpreted as the boot of the so-called “International Community” squashing the face of the Syrian people, imposing on them a man who does not represent them, but the business interests of multinational corporations who seek to plant their flags in the soil of a post-Assad Syria. Let’s not humor ourselves by thinking John Kerry, William Hague, Laurent Fabius or Qatari Emir Khalifa Al Thani actually care about the people of Syria. However many casualties the Syrian conflict has incurred thus far can be attributable to the influx of foreign funds, foreign arms, and foreign fighters. It would be intellectually dishonest to deny that the tactics of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian Arab Army have also caused widespread civilian causalities and suffering. It is an enormous challenge for a state military to quell unconventional insurgencies of the sort carried out by militants in Syria when these battles take place in densely populated residential areas.

One should not cynically credit Syrian government forces with intentionally killing their own people; this does not serve the purposes of the state in anyway. Civilian deaths that have occurred as a result of government forces engaging the insurgency should more accurately be seen as a heinous by-product of a foreign campaign to topple the Syrian government. While the foreign ministries of Western capitals cite politically charged death-toll statistics to justify their campaign against “Assad the Butcher”, it is absolutely unconscionable that Paris and London have called for lifting the Syrian arms embargo, and for vowing to arm militant groups with or without the consent of the EU. Apparently some seventy thousand people have been killed in Syria according to the United Nations, and these cited European states, which allegedly are so concerned about terrorism, want to dump more guns into Syria – this is madness.

Western states want to install proxy leaders who will grovel to their multinationals and swallow IMF medicine, Gulf states seek unfettered hegemony in their own backyards, and they all want to see the Shi’a resistance smashed to pieces. Following the news of chemical weapons being used in Syria, the most immediate conclusion of this observer is that foreign-backed militants, who have used every opportunity to call for more material and support, employed the use of a smuggled chemical weapon of poor quality to bring about direct military intervention in their favor. Right on cue, Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain are frothing at the mouth, urging President Obama to “take immediate action” and consider deploying troops. Graham was quoted as saying, “If the choice is to send in troops to secure the weapons sites versus allowing chemical weapons to get in the hands of some of the most violent people in the world, I vote to cut this off before it becomes a problem.” There is no surer sign of a pathological mind than when one credits others with the blood on their own hands.

Nile Bowie is an independent political analyst and photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com

Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Saffron Monks” Stalk Streets With Machetes — Mass Slaughtering...

Myanmar

In Southeast Asia’s Myanmar, already 20 are reported dead in the latest genocidal violence carried out by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Saffron monk” political movement. CNN’s, “Armed Buddhists, including monks, clash with Muslims in Myanmar,” reports that:

Buddhist monks and others armed with swords and machetes Friday stalked the streets of a city in central Myanmar, where sectarian violence that has left about 20 people dead has begun to spread to other areas, according to local officials.

The article also added that:

In the western state of Rakhine, tensions between the majority Buddhist community and the Rohingya, a stateless ethnic Muslim group, boiled over into clashes that killed scores of people and left tens of thousands of others living in makeshift camps last year.

Most of the victims were Rohingya.

“The ongoing intercommunal strife in Rakhine State is of grave concern,” the International Crisis Group said in a November report. “And there is the potential for similar violence elsewhere, as nationalism and ethno-nationalism rise and old prejudices resurface.”

Image: Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Saffron Monks” are committing genocide in Myanmar.

The West has both created this movement and is silently supporting it, hoping to disrupt and ultimately drive out extensive Chinese interests found at the epicenter of the violence.

CNN’s citing of the corporate-financier funded “International Crisis Group,” which has supported and engineered similar strife elsewhere around the world, including Egypt in 2011, is particularly foreshadowing. And as in previous spates of recent violence, Aung San Suu Kyi has once again allowed opportunities to call on her own supporters to stand down, slip by in silent complicity.

Rakhine state is the site of an expanding Chinese presence, including a port and the terminal of a trans Sino-Myanmar pipeline and logistical network leading to China’s Yunnan province. The violence unfolding in Rakhine over the past months appears to be the execution of the well-documented US “String of Pearls” containment strategy versus China, and mirrors similar violence being carried out by US proxies in Pakistan.


Suu Kyi’s “Saffron Monks”

Similar violence in September of last year revealed the name of one of the leading “monks.” AFP’s September 2012 article, “Monks stage anti-Rohingya march in Myanmar, refers to the leader of these mobs as “a monk named Wirathu.”

However, this isn’t merely “a monk named Wirathu,” but “Sayadaw” (venerable teacher) Wirathu who has led many of “democratic champion” Aung San Suu Kyi’s political street campaigns and is often referred to by the Western media as an “activist monk.”

In March 2012, Wirathu had led a rally calling for the release of so-called “political prisoners,” so designated by US State Department funded faux-NGOs. Wirathu himself was in prison, according to AFP, for inciting hatred against Muslims, until recently released as part of an amnesty, an amnesty US State Department-funded (page 15, .pdf) Democratic Voice of Burma claims concerned only “political prisoners.”

Image: Real monks don’t do politics. The “venerable” Wirathu (front, left) leads a rally for “political prisoners” loyal to Aung San Suu Kyi’s “pro-democracy” movement in March, 2012. Wirathu himself has been often portrayed as an “activist monk” and a “political prisoner” who spent years in prison. In reality, he was arrested for his role in violent sectarian clashes in 2003, while Suu Kyi’s “pro-democracy” front is actually US-funded sedition. Wirathua has picked up right where he left off in 2003, and is now leading anti-Rohingya rallies across the country.

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Human Rights Watch itself, in its attempt to memorialize the struggle of “Buddhism and activism in Burma” (.pdf),  admits that Wirathu was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to 25 years in prison along with other “monks” for their role in violent clashes between “Buddhists and Muslims” (page 67, .pdf). This would make Wirathu and his companions violent criminals, not “political prisoners.”

While Western news agencies have attempted to spin the recent violence as a new phenomenon implicating Aung San Suu Kyi’s political foot soldiers as genocidal bigots, in reality, the sectarian nature of her support base has been back page news for years. AFP’s recent but uncharacteristically honest portrayal of Wirathu, with an attempt to conceal his identity and role in Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Saffron” political machine, illustrates the quandary now faced by Western propagandists as the violence flares up again, this time in front of a better informed public.

Image: An alleged monk, carries an umbrella with Aung San Suu Kyi’s image on it. These so-called monks have played a central role in building Suu Kyi’s political machine, as well as maintaining over a decade of genocidal, sectarian violence aimed at Myanmar’s ethnic minorities. Another example of US “democracy promotion” and tax dollars at work.

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During 2007′s “Saffron Revolution,” these same so-called “monks” took to the streets in a series of bloody anti-government protests, in support of Aung San Suu Kyi and her Western-contrived political order. HRW would specifically enumerate support provided to Aung San Suu Kyi’s movement by these organizations, including the Young Monks Union (Association), now leading violence and calls for ethnic cleansing across Myanmar.

The UK Independent  in their article, “Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned,” mentions the Young Monks Association by name as involved in distributing flyers recently, demanding people not to associate with ethnic Rohingya, and attempting to block humanitarian aid from reaching Rohingya camps.

The Independent also notes calls for ethnic cleansing made by leaders of the 88 Generation Students group (BBC profile here) – who also played a pivotal role in the pro-Suu Kyi 2007 protests. “Ashin” Htawara, another “monk activist” who considers Aung San Suu Kyi,  his “special leader” and greeted her with flowers for her Oslo Noble Peace Prize address earlier this year, stated at an event in London that the Rohingya should be sent “back to their native land.”

The equivalent of Ku Klux Klan racists demanding that America’s black population be shipped back to Africa, the US State Department’s “pro-democratic” protesters in Myanmar have been revealed as habitual, violent bigots with genocidal tendencies. Their recent violence also casts doubts on Western narratives portraying the 2007 “Saffron Revolution’s” death toll as exclusively caused by government security operations.

While in late 2012 the Western media attempted to ignore the genocidal nature of Suu Kyi’s “Saffron Monks,” now it appears that more are catching on. The International Business Times published recently an article titled, “Burmese Bin Laden: Is Buddhist Monk Wirathu Behind Violence in Myanmar?” stating:

The shadow of controversial monk Wirathu, who has led numerous vocal campaigns against Muslims in Burma, looms large over the sectarian violence in Meikhtila.

Wirathu played an active role in stirring tensions in a Rangoon suburb in February, by spreading unfounded rumours that a local school was being developed into a mosque, according to the Democratic voice of Burma. An angry mob of about 300 Buddhists assaulted the school and other local businesses in Rangoon.

The monk, who describes himself as ‘the Burmese Bin Laden’ said that his militancy “is vital to counter aggressive expansion by Muslims”.

He was arrested in 2003 for distributing anti-Muslim leaflets and has often stirred controversy over his Islamophobic activities, which include a call for the Rhohingya and “kalar”, a pejorative term for Muslims of South Asian descent, to be expelled from Myanmar.

He has also been implicated in religious clashes in Mandalay, where a dozen people died, in several local reports.

The article also cites the Burma Campaign UK, whose director is attempting to rework the West’s narrative in Myanmar to protect their long-groomed proxy Suu Kyi, while disavowing the violence carried out by a movement they themselves have propped up, funded, and directed for many years.

Like their US-funded (and armed) counterparts in Syria, many fighting openly under the flag of sectarian extremism held aloft by international terrorist organization Al Qaeda, we see the absolute moral bankruptcy of Myanmar’s “pro-democracy” movement that has, up until now, been skillfully covered up by endless torrents of Western propaganda – Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize and recent “Chatham House Prize” all being part of the illusion. And just like in Syria, the West will continue supporting and intentionally fueling the violence while attempting to compartmentalize the crisis politically to maintain plausible deniability.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Western Proxy

In “Myanmar (Burma) “Pro-Democracy” Movement a Creation of Wall Street & London,” it was documented that Suu Kyi and organizations supporting her, including local propaganda fronts like the New Era Journal, the Irrawaddy, and the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) radio, have received millions of dollars a year from the Neo-Conservative chaired National Endowment for Democracy, convicted criminal and Wall Street speculator George Soros’ Open Society Institute, and the US State Department itself, citing Britain’s own “Burma Campaign UK (.pdf).”

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/1c/Rendition_of_Myitsone_Dam.jpg

Image: The Myitsone Dam, on its way to being the 15th largest in the world until construction was halted in September by a campaign led by Wall Street-puppet Aung San Suu Kyi, a stable of US-funded NGOs, and a terrorist campaign executed by armed groups operating in Kachin State, Myanmar.

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And not only does the US State Department in tandem with Western corporate media provide Aung San Suu Kyi extensive political, financial, and rhetorical backing, they provide operational capabilities as well, allowing her opposition movement to achieve Western objectives throughout Myanmar. The latest achievement of this operational capability successfully blocked the development of Myanmar’s infrastructure by halting a joint China-Mynamar dam project that would have provided thousands of jobs, electricity, state-revenue, flood control, and enhanced river navigation for millions. Suu Kyi and her supporting network of NGOs, as well as armed militants in Myanmar’s northern provinces conducted a coordinated campaign exploiting both “environmental” and “human rights” concerns that in reality resulted in Myanmar’s continual economic and social stagnation.

The ultimate goal of course is to effect regime change not only in Myanmar, but to create a united Southeast Asian front against China. The unqualified “progress” the US claims is now being made in Myanmar moves forward in tandem with Myanmar’s opening to Western corporate-financier interests.

As reported in June, 2011′s “Collapsing China,” as far back as 1997 there was talk about developing an effective containment strategy coupled with the baited hook of luring China into its place amongst the “international order.” Just as in these 1997 talking-points where author and notorious Neo-Con policy maker Robert Kagan described the necessity of using America’s Asian “allies” as part of this containment strategy, Clinton goes through a list of regional relationships the US is trying to cultivate to maintain “American leadership” in Asia.

Image: (Top) The “Lilliputians” though small in stature were collectively able to tie down the larger Gulliver from the literary classic “Gulliver’s Travels.” In the same manner, the US wants to use smaller Southeast Asian nations to “tie down” the larger China. (Bottom) From SSI’s 2006 “String of Pearls” report detailing a strategy of containment for China. While “democracy,” “freedom,” and “human rights” will mask the ascension of Aung San Suu Kyi and others into power, it is part of a region-wide campaign to overthrow nationalist elements and install client regimes in order to encircle and contain China.

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The US backing of puppet-regimes like that of  Thailand’s Thaksin Shinawatra, his sister Yingluck, or Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, installing them into power, and keeping them there is central to projecting power throughout Asia and keeping China subordinate, or as Kagan put it in his 1997 report, these proxy regimes will have China “play Gulliver to Southeast Asia’s Lilliputians, with the United States supplying the rope and stakes.” Two of these “Lilliputians” are Yingluck Shinawatra and Aung San Suu Kyi, the rope and stakes are the street mobs and disingenuous NGOs funded by the US State Department to support their consolidation of power.

It is essential to look past the empty rhetoric of “democracy,” “human rights,” and “progress” used to justify foreign-funding and meddling to install servile autocrats like Thailand’s Thaksin, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, or even Malaysia’s proxy dictator-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim, and see the greater geopolitical game at play. It is also essential to expose the disingenuous organizations, institutions, and media personalities helping promote this global corporate-fascist agenda.

With Suu Kyi’s movement now being exposed as violent, sectarian-driven mobs rather than the “pro-democracy” front it was claimed to be by its sponsors in the West, it remains to be seen whether well-meaning people worldwide turn their backs on this carefully crafted hoax and the corporate-financier interests that created it – and instead seek genuine causes that abandon political struggle for pragmatic solutions.

Rosa Parks Syndrome in Palestine

The same week President Obama honored Rosa Parks Parks’ 100th birthday, Israel announced two newly segregated bus lines for Palestinian workers traveling to Israel from the West Bank. The “Palestinian only” buses were introduced after Israeli settlers complained that fellow Palestinian passengers posed a “security risk.”

The timing of Israel’s announcement set the internet abuzz with moralizing references to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Jim Crow. If only Palestinians could produce their own Rosa Parks. More sophisticated Palestine analysts observed that for Palestinians, segregation is already routine. Israeli society functions thanks to a complex web of segregated highways, neighborhoods, and educational institutions. Potential Palestinian “Martin Luther King Jr.’s”cycle in and out of Israeli jails.

Of course, President Obama avoids Jim Crow/Israel analogies. His administration continues to oppose international efforts to recognize Palestinian self-determination and the itinerary for Obama’s upcoming Israel trip resembles a POTUS version of Birthright. His first activity is a photo op with missile battery. Obviously, a spell of liberal indignation over bus segregation and a brief flurry of Rosa Park’s references will not translate into US policies shifts on Israel/Palestine. But in this faux-outrage, there is something valuable to be learned about the shortcomings of liberalism and its failure to fully comprehend both the plight of Palestinians and America’s own history of racial oppression.

As Samir Sonti pointed out in Jacobin last week, contemporary liberals sanitize the movement for black liberation as a fundamentally individual struggle for “civil rights,” stripped of its working class roots, revolutionary goals, and strong ties to organized labor.

For liberals, racial oppression is an uncomfortable concept because it lays the blame for inequality at the feet of society at large and implicates the very legitimacy of liberal institutions. For that reason, Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered more for his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott — with its modest goals of bus integration — than for his Poor People’s Campaign and his deeper indictment of American society.

Liberals who generally support Israel, but find themselves cringing when Israeli politicians make racist remarks, seize on incidents like Israeli bus segregation because it packages the conflict in digestible terms. This impulse does signal some empathy for the Palestinian plight. But it also smacks of triumphalism. Realizing African American civil rights, we are told, is the landmark achievement of 20th century liberalism — a hard but necessary journey. When we chastise Israel for segregating buses there is a clear subtext: America has come so far from the days of Jim Crow and our little sibling in the Middle East has some catching up to do.

But Palestinians know that bus segregation is merely a cosmetic feature of their oppression. Commuter discrimination amounts to a red herring. The separate buses are only significant for how they reflect on the general ideological predicament of Israeli society. In fact, many of the Palestinian workers who actually ride the buses welcome the segregation. The new routes are more direct and save the Palestinians from having to endure harassment from settlers.

The perspectives of Palestinian laborers fail to register with liberals, who are desperate to recast Palestinian oppression as an individualistic struggle for civil rights. For them, Palestinian oppression is comfortably framed as “inequality before the law,” a condition easily remedied by extending the largess of the Jewish state. This limited understanding works to reinforce the primacy of Israel — its courts, government, and military — as flawed but ultimately legitimate liberal institutions capable of reform.

If the problem is primarily a problem of civil rights, an issue of inequality rather than oppression, then the solution must be new laws, better courts ,and more sensitive politicians. This is a very comfortable position for liberals because it forecloses far reaching criticism of Israeli society at large and quashes difficult questions about the very foundation of that state.

By sidestepping the question of oppression and dismissing the potential for restructuring Israeli society, liberals do not pause to consider the claims of Palestinians. The age-old Palestinian demand for the “right of return” is considered inconceivable because it would undermine the very nature of the Jewish state. Palestinians are encouraged to set aside their historic grievances and embrace the existing “facts on the ground.” The liberal view holds that by working within the system Palestinians can overcome inequality. It does not leave much room for, in MLK’s words, “radically restructuring society itself.”

The same tendency infects the liberal civil rights mythos. In the push for a color blind society, any system-wide attempts to reach equal racial outcomes are cast outside the mainstream. The ultimate watchdog of American liberalism, the U.S. Supreme Court, is poised to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, one of the lone vestiges of a transformative approach to racial equality. For liberals, contemporary racism is the fault of a few bad apples and any push to fundamentally alter the distribution of resources is considered in poor taste.

Rosa Parks is cast as an ordinary woman, fed up with the indignity of her commute, rather than a lifelong activist with revolutionary aspirations and ties to the American Communist Party. Thus, the sanitized perception of Rosa Parks enables people like Mitch McConnell to bask in the achievement of civil rights alongside President Obama.

As liberalism fails to offer compelling solutions to racial inequality, a growing chorus of voices on the Left are shining a light on persistent Jim Crow-like segregation in American society. Under the “New Jim Crow” one in three black men are destined to go to prison and blacks are ten times more likely than whites to be incarcerated for drug crimes.

Critical race theorists like Charles Lawrence III have long anticipated this reconfiguration of racial castes. Lawrence III warned that the dominant individualistic understanding of racial inequality would prove inadequate to reverse centuries of oppression: “Racial equality [should be seen] as a substantive societal condition rather than as an individual right.” Yet radical solutions to persistent racial inequality — more aggressive affirmative action, slavery reparations, dismantling the criminal justice system as we know it, legalizing drugs that are the overwhelming cause of black incarceration — all fall beyond the purview of liberal criticism.

Liberals bring this same limited scope to their understanding of Israel/Palestine and their range of solutions for the conflict exposes grave ideological contradictions. Of course, Palestinians deserve equal rights, liberals proclaim, but fundamental questions about the very nature of Israel and its foundation remain taboo. Those who oppose the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state are quickly labeled anti-semites.

Liberals balk at racism within Israeli society but the roots of that racism go unexamined. Religion and State should be kept separate, say the liberals, but theocratic and overtly racist Israeli political parties continue to grow. For the foreseeable future Israeli politics will increasingly ruffle liberal sensibilities, but the liberal frame will continue to view Palestinian oppression as an understandable, if regrettable, blip in Israel’s democratic journey.

Where Are Progressives in the Fight To Save Public Schools?

This week, here was Paul Krugman’s assessment of the current policy agenda governing the nation’s public schools:(Pics by John Lawhead)

“We have the illusion of consensus, an illusion based on a process in which anyone questioning the preferred narrative is immediately marginalized, no matter how strong his or her credentials.”

Except, Krugman wasn’t writing about education policy, actually. He was writing about the nation’s run up to the Iraq War ten years ago. “Support for the war,” Krugman recalled, ” became part of the definition of what it meant to hold a mainstream opinion. Anyone who dissented, no matter how qualified, was ipso facto labeled as unworthy of consideration.”

Krugman compared the type of “groupthink” that preceded the war in Iraq to the current false consensus driving our nation’s flawed economic policy. But he may as well have been writing about the nation’s education policy as well.

For years, federal education policies have been characterized by a “Washington Consensus” that public schools are effectively broken and only a market based reform agenda will fix them.

People calling themselves “progressives” have tended to unite with conservative Republicans in this consensus – even while they chose to fight tooth-and-nail on other issues.

But the Washington Consensus on education was indeed illusionary. And now that the real intentions of the reform agenda are starting to play out on the ground, there are signs that progressives are making the fight for public schools another front in a broader grassroots struggle agains corporate hegemony.

Education Consensus Was A Collusion

In the 2012 elections, veteran education reporter Jay Mathews of The Washington Post. noted that whenever education was the focus, Republican and Democratic candidates “have been happily copying each other.”

The general shared agenda held that schools were in need of broad, top-down “reform” driven by stricter standards, high-stakes testing, and competitive charter schools – in short, a free-market perspective adopted from the business world that would base decisions on “objective data” gathered through testing and competitive ratings to weed out “bad” teachers and schools.

Although this agenda has been mostly driven by the federal government, it has gradually been implemented by most states too, as evidenced by the widespread adoption of test-based school and teacher evaluations and the rapid increase in the numbers of charter schools nationwide.

Like the “groupthink” Krugman noted above, education policy has been a consensus without diversity and without the input of skeptics.

A recent op-ed appearing in Education Week described perfectly how this “illusion of consensus” has been maintained over the years.

Declaring, “greater cooperation across political and ideological lines is badly needed in education,” Capitol Hill insider Jack Jennings described how he “put together an advisory group of people with different opinions” to determine whether the federal school policy known as No Child Left Behind was meeting its goal of increasing student achievement, especially for “historically low-performing groups of students.”

This panel was replete with the usual suspects we see time and again from The Very Serious People in America’s political class: a couple of respectable higher ed folks, an economist, and a preponderance of Beltway belief tank operatives.

There was no one who worked day-to-day in public schools – no district administrators, no school principals, and no classroom teachers in a leadership position. There were no representatives from school boards or parent organizations. No one from the civil rights or social justice community.

But the supposed magic of this panel was that it was “Bipartisan” – that is, if you think having two conservatives, a “nonpartisan,” and a decidedly centrist Democrat (Jennings himself) constituted “political diversity.”

Nevertheless, Jennings declared the panel’s work an unmitigated “success” because it showed that NCLB – a policy now held in such exceptional disrepute, states go to incredible lengths to become exempt from it – had achieved some modest achievement gains.

The panel’s success, of course, was all due to this unbelievable level of “cooperation and compromise.”

If Jennings and other Beltway insiders really wanted more of a consensus view, they should have populated their panel with the kind of diversity that comprised the Commission on Equity & Excellence  which recently concluded that instead of achieving modest gains, federal policies for education have resulted in “schools in high poverty neighborhoods…getting an education that more closely approximates schools in developing nations.”

What Jennings’ tale of reaching “across the aisle” illustrated is that education policy-making among our leadership has been not so much a Washington Consensus as it has been a Washington Collusion.

Writing in Jacobin, Micah Uetricht observed that when the subject is education policy, “Democrats have swallowed the Right’s free market orthodoxy whole.”

Uetricht elaborated:

High-stakes standardized testing, merit pay for teachers, school closures, privatization and union-busting through charter school expansion, blaming teachers and unions for the dismal state of poor urban schools, an unshakable faith in the free market as the Great Liberator of the wretched, over-regulated student masses – all proposals and ideas [are] embraced and promoted by much of the Democratic Party, including President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

But a change is in the wind.

Chicago Teachers Strike:  When Progressives Woke Up?

Uetricht applied his analysis of the Democratic sellout on education to the reform agenda in Chicago, What he found:

Chicago has long been one of the principal testing grounds for neoliberal education reform. Mayor Richard M. Daley, a Democrat from a Democratic political family in that most Democratic of big cities, and Duncan, then CEO of CPS, crafted Renaissance 2010, a program begun in 2004 which pushed closures and ‘turnarounds’ of neighborhood schools and replacing them with nonunion, publicly funded charters, and is largely the basis for the Race to the Top program Duncan currently oversees as Secretary of Education.

Rahm Emanuel and the Board of Education – which includes billionaire hotel heiress and Democratic Party power player Penny Pritzker – have continued this push, particularly around school closures. Currently on the table is a proposal to close 100 unionized neighborhood public schools around the city and replace them with 60 nonunion charters – a move that would simultaneously decimate the union’s membership, redirect public money to privately-run charters that lack basic mechanisms for public accountability, slash teachers’ salaries and benefits, and cause massive disruption in the poor black and brown neighborhoods where the majority of closures would take place.

“The shift towards the destruction of public education through the embrace of the free market was well-known among Chicago teachers,” Uetricht noted.

But then something changed. Instead of entrusting the Democratic Party to “sway back” towards supporting a more progressive agenda, the Chicago Teachers Union decided to take a “more confrontational stance.”

That more controversial tone led to a teacher strike. The strike was strongly backed by Chicago voters and parents,  and the teachers eventually won the day by framing their demands on students’ basic education needs rather than obscure market-speak about “effective” schools and “value added” teaching.

The concessions teachers won “included textbooks for all students on the first day of school, 600 new teachers in the arts and physical education, and mandatory recall of laid-off veteran teachers (rather than replacing them with young, inexperienced, cheaper teachers) when positions become available. Teacher evaluation based on standardized testing was negotiated to its legal minimum, 30 percent – contrasting with the Obama administration’s push under Race to the Top to increase the proportion of teacher evaluations based on standardized tests.”

What happened in Chicago – where people on the ground took control of the narrative and made it about fighting the free market assault on the common good – is now spreading to other communities.

Education’s Progressive Pushback Is Spreading

A notable example of resistance to the corporate takeover of public schools is the campaign in Bridgeport, Connecticut to oust Paul Vallas as interim school superintendent.

Vallas is the granddaddy of free-market education reform resulting in more privatization of public schools. After stints in leading school reform campaigns in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New Orleans, Vallas left in his wake school systems that had been massively “reformed” but still, somehow, are in need of more reform, necessitating more “churn” in school closures and competitive charter schools – a hallmark of market-based reform. How this can be touted as a great success is indeed only possible in “illusionary consensus world.”

What happened in Bridgeport is that progressives got wind of this nonsense and decided it smelled pretty bad. After Vallas was hired as interim superintendent, people on the ground noticed not only was his track record troubling, he also didn’t legally meet the qualifications for the office.

What ensued was a grassroots push-back led in part by the progressive Connecticut Working Families Party. The campaign consisted of an online petition, knocking on doors, a staged sidewalk rally, and a retired teacher flown in from Chicago to testify about Vallas’ past transgressions.

The teacher, Gloria Warner, said, “It just makes me sick to hear that Paul Vallas is trying to do to this city what he did to Chicago. While Paul Vallas was wasting billions of taxpayer dollars, and making hundreds of thousands for himself, I had to spend my hard earned money to buy materials so that I could do my job.”

And parents have spoken up:

JoAnn Kennedy, a parent of two students at Bridgeport’s Bassick High School said, “Every day I sees the mess that is going on. Teachers are afraid to speak up. No teaching is going on. We need leadership that puts students first.”

Another Bridgeport parent, also a board member, Sauda Baraka said, “I expect a Bridgeport superintendent to have the required state certifications . . . with less emphasis on testing and more emphasis on providing school buildings with the necessary support to ensure student success.”

And parent and board member Maria Pereira said “I am not convinced that Paul Vallas is doing the best job for our students. He has a long record of privatizing schools, and turning tax dollars over to corporations, and I am deeply troubled with his decision to repeatedly violate CT State laws by awarding over $13,000,000 in no bid contracts.”

Although Vallas’ illegal contract ended up getting approved, by a consensus-dominated board, there is ample evidence that the community is energized to continue to press the case.

A Movement Grows In Brooklyn

Similar to Bridgeport, citizens in New York City have mobilized against school privatization efforts. According to the local education blog, Gotham News, “The [Mayor] Bloomberg administration has relied heavily on co-location, the practice of allowing one school to open in another school’s building, to open new schools. Its critics say the arrangement breeds unnecessary tension and takes resources away from existing schools.”

As colocations have redirected resources from neighborhood schools to privately operated charter schools – which frequently benefit from donations from foundations endowed with Wall Street money – more neighborhood schools experienced overcrowding and adverse conditions that interrupted students’ learning.

One colocation proposal in particular, at the Brownsville Academy High School in Brooklyn, drew stiff resistance. The colocation – which called for placing a K–5 elementary charter school in the same building as a “last chance” high school, with students “ranging from ages 17 to 21″ – would privatize the public space of a school that was A-rated according to the DOE and was valued by the students for having small class sizes and more personal attention.

When a governing panel hand-picked by the mayor approved the Brownsville colocation, Jason Lewis, for the Village Voice, reported that students from the school “stayed until 11 p.m. pleading with the panel to reconsider. They were trying to figure out why the panel would potentially disrupt one of the city’s rare high-performing transfer high schools to co-locate an elementary school.”

The approval of the Browsnville colocation and others, despite objections from citizens, prompted Lewis to observe, “Anyone who fought against the recent round of co-locations can now rest assured that they never had a say.”

But the Brownsville school community was determined to have a say. According to a report from another NYC education news blog, School Book, “Dozens of Brownsville students fought the co-location with the help of the group New York Communities for Change. Arthur Schwartz, an attorney, filed the suit on the students’ behalf, arguing that co-locating another school in the building would violate the rights of special-needs students who would lose the individualized attention needed in the classroom.

The lawsuit, combined with grassroots activism fomented by the NYCC group, pressured the DOE to rescind the colocation.

But the opposition to colocations isn’t satisfied with one victory. On the contrary, “To actually have them withdraw their proposal for Brownsville Academy, it means a lot,” said Amelia Adams, deputy director New York Communities For Change, in the Village Voice. “It builds momentum. We see this as an opportunity to continue organizing so that colocations aren’t rammed down people’s throats.”

A House Of Cards About To Collapse

The progressive awakening to mistaken education policies driven by the Washington Collusion is not limited to Bridgeport and New York. Nor is it confined to the issues of school leaders and colocations.

Across the country, there is a growing resistance to the emphasis on high-stakes testing that provides the infrastructure supporting market-based education policy, from school closures and ratings to teacher evaluations and merit pay.

FairTest, website for The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, recently reviewed the spreading resistance:

A nationwide protest movement against the stranglehold of high-stakes testing on our schools has escalated to a rolling boil. Boycotts, opt-out campaigns, demonstrations, and community forums are among the tactics being pursued in cities such as Austin, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, Chicago, Denver and Providence. Meanwhile, the number of signers of the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing continues to grow.

Education historian Diane Ravitch has observed that the false consensus driving education policies is essentially a “house of cards” about to “come tumbling down.” When it does, it will be grassroots progressives who push it over.

© 2013 Education Opportunity Network

Jeff Bryant

Jeff Bryant is an associate fellow at Campaign for America's Future and editor of the recently launched Education Opportunity Network, a project of the Institute for America’s Future, in partnership with the Opportunity to Learn Campaign.

‘Forever’? Palestinians Decry ‘Endless’ US Support of Israel

What President Obama describes as a support for Israel that goes on "forever," many Palestinians see as a foreign policy that continually betrays hopes of a true and meaningful peace in the region.

Barack Obama with Shimon Peres and Binyamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion airport, Tel Aviv. (Photograph: Oliver Weiken/EPA) At a welcoming ceremony in his honor at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, President Obama told the crowd of Israeli officials on Wednesday that the U.S. would continue its commitment to the country, describing the relationship as 'eternal.'

As his first to Israel as president, Obama described the trip as an opportunity to "reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations" and "to restate America's unwavering commitment to Israel's security." Obama went on to say the alliance between the two countries would be "eternal".

Describing the scene, the Associated Press reported:

"It is forever," he said to applause as Israeli and U.S. flags fluttered in a steady breeze under clear, sunny skies.

The words Palestine or Palestinians, however, were not mentioned. And though Obama does have scheduled plans to visit the West Bank on Thursday, few in the region—especially those on occupied side of the militarized border that separates the West Bank and Gaza from Israel—believe that any meaningful progress will be made during the three-day visit.

On Tuesday, residents in the West Bank staged a protest in Ramallah to voice their opposition to Obama's policy of neglect when it came to Palestinian rights.

"We've heard Obama's promises in the past and saw his actions," said Omar Shehada, 24, an unemployed Ramallah resident. "Why should we expect that he's going to change now?"

And as Al-Jazeera reports:

Hopes for a new policy are low, with the White House having deliberately minimized expectations of any major breakthroughs, a reversal from Obama's first four years in office when aides said he would only visit Israel if he had something concrete to accomplish.

"Analysts say they don't expect any new action on Iran, or even Syria, in a trip that even the White House has indicated is meant to create a lot of publicity but not new policy," said Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington.

Workers have hung hundreds of US and Israel flags on lampposts across Jerusalem, as well as banners that boast of "an unbreakable alliance," but the apparent lack of any substantial policy push has bemused many diplomats and analysts.

However with both Netanyahu and Obama starting new terms, the visit could be seen as the American leader's endorsement of Israel's government, said Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian journalist and founder of Electronic Intifada.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Chicago, he said: "This visit coming just days after Israel swore in perhaps its most openly extreme government in its history...must be seen as the strongest staunchest endorsement of this extremist Israeli government's policies. That's the only message Palestinians and the broader world can take away from this visit."

Ahead of the visit, and tasked with being the voice of Palestinian frustration, independent Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouti told reporters on Tuesday that as the US continued to offer clear signals for its deference to Israeli interests, Palestinians were on the verge of throwing in the towel on 'the two state solution.'

"We are in an emergency situation," Barghouti said from Ramallah, where Obama will visit on Thursday to meet with President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmud Abbas. He criticized the international community, but "especially the United States" for its "passivity" when it came to legitimate talk of fostering peace in the region.

"We don't have time," Barghouti continued. "Either the settlements are stopped immediately... or you can kiss the two-state solution goodbye."

Further describing Bargouti's comments, Haaretz's Amira Hass reported:

He noted that he had personally been encouraged by Obama's election, which could not have happened without the success of the civil rights movement against segregation in the United States. He said he hoped that this president would be the one who could appreciate the nonviolent Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation and express his support for it. Maybe such a miracle will happen after he visits the Church of the Nativity, said Barghouti.

Every responsible Palestinian leader must tell Obama: Either construction of the settlements stops immediately or the death of the two-state solution should finally be declared, he said. After Obama's visit, the PLO must speed up the process of being accepted in the various UN bodies, and in particular should file a petition to the International Criminal Court over the settlements, he stressed. Demonstrations in the occupied territories should be intensified along with the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against Israel, such as those during the time of the apartheid regime in South Africa, said Barghouti.

On Tuesday, warning of possible "political collapse" of the West Bank economy, the Palestinian Authority issued a report calling on the international community for help to ease its financial crisis by pressuring Israel to release Palestinian-owned revenues held hostage since last year.

Putting these new developments in context this week, Professor of History and Arab Studies at Columbia University Rashid Khalidi, speaking on Democracy Now!, described that more than anything, US foreign policy in the region is a block on a path to peace, not a call for it.

"For the past 35 years," Khalidi said, the US role in Israel/Palestine has been "to exacerbate the conflict, to make it much worse, by, in effect, supporting an Israeli position which really wasn't directed at ending the conflict or at ending the occupation or at stopping settlement. By supporting that, in a variety of ways, we have made this thing infinitely more intractable."

Watch the full Democracy Now! interview with Khalidi here:

___________________________________

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Obama Won’t Bring Peace to Palestine

If US President Barack Obama wanted to move the Palestine/Israel issue along, he would need to demand that Israel free thousands of political prisoners it holds in violation of international law, end its violations of Palestinian human rights, lift the siege on Gaza or at the very least end the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians.US President Barack Obama at the Israel lobby group AIPAC’s conference in 2011. (AIPAC)

However, because the fear that retribution by Israel’s lobby will be swift and painful, none of these things will be said — much less demanded — even though they are well-documented and widely known. And so, President Obama’s planned trip to Israel will not offer any solution to the Palestine/Israel conflict.

The Israeli-Palestinian issue is, politically, a toxic wasteland that no US president in his right mind would want to clean up. It has become a vicious cycle of deceit and double standards, and it will contaminate any US politician who tries to clean it up. One may trust that President Obama, being fully aware of this, will avoid getting involved with this issue in his second term, just as he did in his first term.

Even if he does visit the West Bank city of Ramallah during his planned visit, there can be little doubt that Barack Obama will continue to stand behind Israel and place his real efforts elsewhere. It’s the cost of doing business.

Blank check

The official US stance on the Israeli-Palestinian issue is that it needs to be resolved within the framework of a two-state solution but without the US pressuring the parties to reach a resolution. The pressures placed upon politicians in the US by the Israel lobby have created a reality in which criticizing Israel constitutes political suicide.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, the Torquemada of the Israel lobby, stated recently on the satirical television program The Colbert Report that: “there are not many issues for which there is bipartisan support, the support for Israel is a true bipartisan issue” (“Obama’s Israel trip - Michael Oren,” 5 March 2013).

“Support for Israel” means a blank check. Understandably, Oren takes pride in this because it is an accomplishment for which his inquisition-style lobby has worked tirelessly. So much so, that the only vote on this issue that is acceptable in Washington is a vote that is aligned with Israel.

Reckless and destructive

The price of doing business in US politics is to applaud, encourage and pay for Israel to do whatever it wants, regardless how reckless and destructive it may be, and to ignore the plight of the Palestinians. This was true before the last Israeli elections, and now with the results of the Israeli elections clearly showing that Israelis have no interest in resolving the Palestinian issue, the president would have to go against Israeli electorate as well as the Israel lobby in the US, and all this to accomplish something no American president would even dare to articulate: peace and justice for Palestinians.

The naïve hope that Obama’s second term in office will be different than his first on this issue is just that, naïve. A just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian question will not come from an American president, nor will it come from an Israeli prime minister. The resolution of the conflict will come as a result of the fall of the Zionist state, not unlike the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

No substance at all

As student groups, churches, trade unions, civil society organizations and the movement calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel increase their pressure, Western governments who are now complicit in Israel’s crimes will inevitably be forced to halt their support for Israel.

This, along with the ongoing pressure from popular Palestinian resistance, disobedience and defiance of the laws that allow the Zionist occupation of Palestine to function, will bring about a democracy in Palestine, in place of the Zionist state.

But this will not come about of its own accord. People who care about Palestinians and Israelis and who care about justice and peace need to act vigorously and demand a democracy with full equal rights in Palestine/Israel. As for the president’s planned visit, we may expect, and we will surely see no substance at all.

© 2013 Electronic Intifada

Miko Peled

What’s It Going to Take to Get Men to Stop Raping Women?

From the Steubenville teens to Sean Hannity to Adam in "Girls," the conversation about consent is far from over

Activists boycott India's Republic Day celebrations following the gang rape and murder of a student in New Delhi on January 26, 2013.

March 14, 2013  |  

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“I wouldn’t say she was completely passed out but she wasn’t in any state to make a decision for herself.”  That’s what one of the witnesses in the Steubenville, Ohio, trial told police of the 16-year-old girl at the center of the case,  according to ABC News. Perhaps that witness was one of the three football players who have not been charged but are expected to testify for the prosecution in the trial, which began Wednesday.

Since it still needs to be said, not being “in any state to make a decision for herself” meets the legal definition for rape across the U.S. So here’s a question for that guy: What did he do to try to stop it?

According to the prosecutor’s opening statement Wednesday, these witnesses saw one of the defendants, Trent Mays, try to force oral sex on the girl, but her mouth wouldn’t open. They saw the other defendant, Ma’Lik Richmond, digitally penetrate the girl while she was passed out on a couch. Though the girls’ friends apparently tried to prevent her from continuing on with the boys, so far there’s been no indication the witnesses intervened with the boys who no one has disputed were capable of decision-making. And preliminary research shows that the intervention of such bystanders could make the difference in preventing rape.

Last week, an inexcusable torrent of abuse was  hurled at commentator Zerlina Maxwell after she appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show and sensibly pointed out that arming women is not effective rape prevention tactics, for multiple reasons. (“If firearms are the answer, then the military would be the safest place for women,” she said.) It was her message of “tell men not to rape” that seemed to most inflame the trolls. Hannity found it self-evidently ridiculous: “You think you can tell a rapist to stop doing what he’s doing? He’s going to listen to an ad campaign to stop?” He also said, “Knowing there are evil people, I want women protected, and they’ve got to protect themselves.”

It was a clash of ideas of who commits crimes in the world. For Hannity and his ilk, rape is committed by “evil people,” an immutable fact that can’t be educated away, that isn’t about social norms. For feminists who are weary of victim-blaming — including blaming women for not just shooting their rapists in the moment — and who have for decades been pushing against the idea that rape is only committed by strangers lurking in the bushes, this is tantamount to giving up the fight. Or, as Jessica Valenti recently  put it, you’re “saying that rape is  natural for men. That this is just something men  do. Well I’m sorry, but I think more highly of men than that.”

But the problem with saying “tell men not to rape” is that the majority of rapists probably won’t listen. That’s because the majority of them are repeat offenders who don’t care about consent. Research consistently shows that while any kind of man can be a rapist, not every man is one.

David Lisak, a leading forensic researcher who has done research on sex offenders in Boston and specializes in “undetected rapists,” has  written that such men, whose behavior falls into what’s still commonly called “date rape,” are “accurately and appropriately labeled as predators. This picture conflicts sharply with the widely-held view that rapes committed on university campuses are typically the result of a basically ‘decent’ young man who, were it not for too much alcohol and too little communication, would never do such a thing. While some campus rapes do fit this more benign view, the evidence points to a far less benign reality,” of serial offenders. He continued, “Prevention efforts geared toward persuading men not to rape are very unlikely to be effective. Lessons can be drawn from many decades of experience in sex offender treatment, which have demonstrated that it is extremely difficult to change the behavior of a serial predator even when you incarcerate him and subject him to an intensive, multi-year program.” He has argued that bystander programs tailored to specific contexts — say, a military base — hold more promise in stopping those predators in their track, by encouraging others to recognize the signs.

Falklands vote to remain part of Britain

Published time: March 12, 2013 04:10

Falkland islanders react after hearing the results of the referendum in Stanley March 11, 2013 (Reuters / Marcos Brindicci)

Falklanders have voted to remain a British Overseas Territory, following months of political tensions between Britain and Argentina over the fate of the islands. Three decades ago the two nations fought a short war over the disputed territory.

Islanders voted almost unanimously to remain under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, with 98.8-per cent of votes in favor. The ballot was decided during a two-day referendum with just three people, or 0.2 per cent, voting against.

The ballot asked one yes or no question: "Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?"

The referendum saw 92-per cent turnout from the 1,672 British citizens eligible to vote in the territory of about 2,900 people. International election observers monitored the vote despite Buenos Aires’ request for South American countries to boycott it.

A Falkland Islander gestures as he casts his vote at the Town Hall polling station in Stanley, March 10, 2013 (Reuters / Marcos Brindicci)

Following the vote, Foreign Secretary William Hague called on all nations to respect the result: "We have always been clear that we believe in the rights of the Falklands people to determine their own futures and to decide on the path they wish to take. It is only right that, in the 21st century, these rights are respected,” he was quoted as saying by the Telegraph.

Argentina, which calls the islands Las Malvinas, considers them to be part of its territory. The reinstatement of its sovereignty over them is enshrined in its constitution.

The Latin American country believes that Argentina inherited the territory from the Spaniards in 1767 before Britain took them over in 1833.

An attempt to reclaim sovereignty led London and Buenos Aires in to a short war in 1982. In two months of fighting, 255 British and about 650 Argentine were killed before Argentina surrendered.

Falkland islanders react after hearing the results of the referendum at the vote counting station in the Town Hall in Stanley, March 11, 2013 (Reuters / Marcos Brindicci)

In 2010, a British company began oil exploration near the archipelago, leading to an exacerbation of the conflict.

Political analyst Adrian Salbuchi argues that the Falklands are a hot spot for British interests, just like the Middle East.

“Britain is trying to legitimize its presence there because one of the key factors is oil. There are huge oil reserves in the ocean, but they are actually a part of the continental shelf, which even geologically and geographically belongs to Argentina. So they need to have all the legal trimmings in place as much as possible.”

In early 2013, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner sent a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron calling for negotiations that would lead to the return of the archipelago to Buenos Aires.

Cameron replied that the population of the islands supports the UK’s sovereignty, which was proven by the two-day vote.

Hamas Offers Amnesty to Palestinian Collaborators Spying for Israel

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item. Bio Yousef Alhelou, is a Palestinian freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Gaza-Palestine. His work has been featured in a variety of media outlets including BBC, GRN, CBC r...

Shocking New Evidence Reveals Depths of ‘Treason’ and ‘Treachery’ of Watergate and Iran-Contra

New evidence continues to accumulate showing how Official Washington got key elements of two major presidential scandals of the Nixon and Reagan administrations wrong.

March 10, 2013  |  

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A favorite saying of Official Washington is that “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” But that presupposes you accurately understand what the crime was. And, in the case of the two major U.S. government scandals of the last third of the Twentieth Century – Watergate and Iran-Contra – that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Indeed, newly disclosed documents have put old evidence into a sharply different light and suggest that history has substantially miswritten the two scandals by failing to understand that they actually were sequels to earlier scandals that were far worse. Watergate and Iran-Contra were, in part at least, extensions of the original crimes, which involved dirty dealings to secure the immense power of the presidency.

Shortly after Nixon took office in 1969, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover informed him of the existence of the file containing national security wiretaps documenting how Nixon’s emissaries had gone behind President Lyndon Johnson’s back to convince the South Vietnamese government to boycott the Paris Peace Talks, which were close to ending the Vietnam War in fall 1968.In the case of Watergate – the foiled Republican break-in at the Democratic National Committee in June 1972 and Richard Nixon’s botched cover-up leading to his resignation in August 1974 – the evidence is now clear that Nixon created the Watergate burglars out of his panic that the Democrats might possess a file on his sabotage of Vietnam peace talks in 1968.

The disruption of Johnson’s peace talks then enabled Nixon to hang on for a narrow victory over Democrat Hubert Humphrey. However, as the new President was taking steps in 1969 to extend the war another four-plus years, he sensed the threat from the wiretap file and ordered two of his top aides, chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, to locate it. But they couldn’t find the file.

We now know that was because President Johnson, who privately had called Nixon’s Vietnam actions “treason,” had ordered the file removed from the White House by his national security aide Walt Rostow.

Rostow labeled the file  “The ‘X’ Envelope” and kept it in his possession, although having left government, he had no legal right to possess the highly classified documents, many of which were stamped “Top Secret.” Johnson had instructed Rostow to retain the papers as long as he, Johnson, was alive and then afterwards to decide what to do with them.

Nixon, however, had no idea that Johnson and Rostow had taken the missing file or, indeed, who might possess it. Normally, national security documents are passed from the outgoing President to the incoming President to maintain continuity in government.

But Haldeman and Kissinger had come up empty in their search. They were only able to recreate the file’s contents, which included incriminating conversations between Nixon’s emissaries and South Vietnamese officials regarding Nixon’s promise to get them a better deal if they helped him torpedo Johnson’s peace talks.

So, the missing file remained a troubling mystery inside Nixon’s White House, but Nixon still lived up to his pre-election agreement with South Vietnamese President Nguyen van Thieu to extend U.S. military participation in the war with the goal of getting the South Vietnamese a better outcome than they would have received from Johnson in 1968.

Nixon not only continued the Vietnam War, which had already claimed more than 30,000 American lives and an estimated one million Vietnamese, but he expanded it, with intensified bombing campaigns and a U.S. incursion into Cambodia. At home, the war was bitterly dividing the nation with a massive anti-war movement and an angry backlash from war supporters.

Omar Barghouti on How to End Apartheid in Palestine

Inspired by the campaign to end South African apartheid, Palestinians are leading an international campaign to put economic and political pressure on Israel by boycotting Israeli products, divesting from Israeli companies and pushing for international sanctions on Israel. On this edition, Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti explains his people’s resistance, and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

Omar Barghouti’s speech was excerpted from a presentation by the Lannan Foundation.

Featuring:
Omar Barghouti, author and activist; Amy Goodman, co-host Democracy Now!

Washington’s “Expanded Battlefield Aid” to Syria Opposition Terrorists

The US State Department, and to a greater extent, US foreign policy itself, having exhausted completely their collective credibility, has attempted yet another “reset.” By bringing in John Kerry to pose as the next US Secretary of State, it is hoped global opinion will see US foreign policy in a new, more tolerant light. Kerry, however, has wasted no time attempting to simply resell verbatim the same failed, absurd policy US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton destroyed her career peddling, spinning, and covering up – as finalized in the case of Benghazi, Libya.

Image: US Secretary of State John Kerry talks with pro-Al Qaeda Mouaz al-Khatib, who heads the militant front set to receive an additional $60 million in US aid claimed to be “non-lethal.” The UK, and more astonishingly, France who is fighting terrorists in Mali created by a similar intervention in Libya in 2011, have announced similar plans to further aid and abet terrorists in Syria. 

….

The Washington Post’s piece, “U.S. announces expanded battlefield aid to Syrian rebels, but not arms,” rehashes the same tired, patently false narrative that has been used throughout the duration of the US-fueled Syrian conflict. The Washington Post reports:

The Obama administration will provide food and medicine to Syrian rebel fighters, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Thursday, announcing a cautious U.S. foray into front-line battlefield support that falls far short of the heavy weapons or high-tech gear the rebels seek.

“The stakes are really high, and we can’t risk letting this country — in the heart of the Middle East — be destroyed by vicious autocrats or hijacked by the extremists,” Kerry said following discussions among a group of Western and Arab nations that are funding, and in some cases arming, the fighters.

The United States will, for the first time, send supplies through the rebels’ central military headquarters, with U.S. advisers supervising the distribution of food rations and medical supplies, U.S. officials said. The shift is intended to give the U.S.-backed Syrian Opposition Coalition greater say over the aid, but it is also a test of the rebels’ ability to keep donated supplies out of the hands of extremists in their midst.

The Washington Post report is a verified lie. US assistance, cash, weapons, and covert military support had been ongoing in Syria since 2007 – in other words – before the current conflict even began. And the US has been providing this support not for moderates, but specifically and intentionally for the ideological foundation of Al Qaeda itself, the sectarian extremist Muslim Brotherhood, since the Bush administration.

Outright admissions by administration officials, Saudi and Lebanese officials working in tandem with the US, and US intelligence agents have outlined a criminal conspiracy that has now transcended two presidencies and provided the clearest example yet of  the corporate-financier driven “continuity of agenda” that truly guides Western foreign policy. This criminal conspiracy has also incurred a staggering list of egregious crimes against humanity, crimes we are reminded of daily by the very interests responsible for them, including the 70,000 alleged dead in the Syrian conflict so far.


Secretary John Kerry’s Narrative is a Verified Lie 

Secretary Kerry’s “desire” to keep weapons out of the hands of extremists is willfully disingenuous misdirection. It has been extremists the US has been, on record, purposefully propping up in Syria years before the conflict even began in 2011.

Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, in his 2007 New Yorker report titled, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?“stated explicitly that:

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

Hersh’s report would also include:

“the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria. The Israelis believe that putting such pressure on the Assad government will make it more conciliatory and open to negotiations.”

Hersh also reported that a supporter of the Lebanese pro-US-Saudi Hariri faction had met Dick Cheney in Washington and relayed personally the importance of using the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria in any move against the ruling government:

“[Walid] Jumblatt then told me that he had met with Vice-President Cheney in Washington last fall to discuss, among other issues, the possibility of undermining Assad. He and his colleagues advised Cheney that, if the United States does try to move against Syria, members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood would be “the ones to talk to,” Jumblatt said.”

The article would continue by explaining how already in 2007 US and Saudi backing had begun benefiting the Brotherhood:

“There is evidence that the Administration’s redirection strategy has already benefitted the Brotherhood. The Syrian National Salvation Front is a coalition of opposition groups whose principal members are a faction led by Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian Vice-President who defected in 2005, and the Brotherhood. A former high-ranking C.I.A. officer told me, “The Americans have provided both political and financial support. The Saudis are taking the lead with financial support, but there is American involvement.” He said that Khaddam, who now lives in Paris, was getting money from Saudi Arabia, with the knowledge of the White House. (In 2005, a delegation of the Front’s members met with officials from the National Security Council, according to press reports.) A former White House official told me that the Saudis had provided members of the Front with travel documents.”

At one point in Hersh’s report, it is even admitted that officials from US ally Saudi Arabia admitted to “controlling” the “religious fundamentalists.” The report states specifically:

“…[Saudi Arabia's] Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”

While Kerry, as did Clinton before him, and others throughout the Western establishment attempt to portray the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and its armed front, Al Qaeda, in Syria as an unforeseeable, unfortunate consequence of an equally unforeseeable, unfortunate conflict – it is clear that in 2007, such “consequences” were essential elements of a premeditated conflict the West had poured cash, weapons, and logistics into the creation of, along with its partners in the Middle East, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

Also in 2007, the Wall Street Journal would publish a report titled, “To Check Syria, U.S. Explores Bond With Muslim Brothers.” In this report, it was revealed that even in 2007, Syrian opposition groups were being created from whole-cloth by the US State Department and paraded around in front of Syria’s embassies in the West. The article begins with one such protest, stating:

On a humid afternoon in late May, about 100 supporters of Syria’s largest exile opposition group, the National Salvation Front, gathered outside Damascus’s embassy here to protest Syrian President Bashar Assad’s rule. The participants shouted anti-Assad slogans and raised banners proclaiming: “Change the Regime Now.”

Later in the article, it would be revealed that the National Salvation Front (NSF) was in contact with the US State Department and that a Washington-based consulting firm in fact assisted the NSF in organizing the rally:

In the weeks before the presidential election, the State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative, which promotes regional democracy, and NSF members met to talk about publicizing Syria’s lack of democracy and low voter turnout, participants say. A Washington-based consulting firm, C&O Resources Inc., assisted the NSF in its planning for the May 26 anti-Assad rally at the Syrian embassy, providing media and political contacts. State Department officials stress they provided no financial or technical support to the protestors.

And while the Wall Street Journal then, just as the US State Department and the Western media houses are now portraying the Syrian opposition as representing a wide range of interests across Syrian society, it was admitted then, just as it is plainly obvious now, that the sectarian extremist Muslim Brotherhood was in fact at the very center of the “uprising:”

One of the NSF’s most influential members is the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood — the decades-old political movement active across the Middle East whose leaders have inspired the terrorist groups Hamas and al Qaeda. Its Syrian offshoot says it has renounced armed struggle in favor of democratic reform.

It was evidently clear, even in 2007, that extremists would play a leading role in any future armed conflict to overthrow the Syrian government, and now, years later, that engineered conflict has been executed verbatim and to horrific consequence – consequences the West not only refuses to take responsibility for, but seeks to further compound with increased aid to the forces of armed sedition it itself created.

Absurdity of Kerry’s Narrative Only Outdone by Proposed Solution

The solution Kerry proposes is to flood Syria with more cash, equipment, training, weapons, and other aid, either directly, or laundered through proxies such as Al Qaeda’s chief financiers and arms providers, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Washington Post’s report states:

The goal of the new money is to counter the increasingly effective network of services provided by militants.

Unfortunately, the so-called “Syrian Opposition Coalition” handcrafted by the US, and founded in Doha, Qatar, is led by an extremist, Mouaz al-Khatib, who openly embraces Al Qaeda’s al-Nusra front in Syria, credited with some of the most heinous atrocities committed during the 2 year conflict, as well as systematic abuse, oppression, and subjugation in all areas along Syria’s border with NATO-member Turkey it controls.

In late 2012, al-Khatib demanded that the US reverse its decision to list al-Nusra as a foreign terrorist organization. Reuters quoted al-Khatib as saying:

“The decision to consider a party that is fighting the regime as a terrorist party needs to be reviewed. We might disagree with some parties and their ideas and their political and ideological vision. But we affirm that all the guns of the rebels are aimed at overthrowing the tyrannical criminal regime.”

The more recent Washington Post article, in fact, reaffirms al-Khatib’s support for extremists groups, stating:

Coalition chairman Mouaz al-Khatib angrily appealed for a humanitarian corridor to the besieged city of Homs and said the rebels are tired of Western complaints about extremists in their ranks. He argued that the real enemy is the Assad regime but said too many outsiders are worried only about “the length of a beard of a fighter.”

“No terrorists in the world have such a savage nature as those in the regime,” Khatib said in Arabic.

The Syrian opposition leader’s finger-jabbing anger was in marked contrast to Kerry’s clipped and measured tone. Kerry looked at Khatib without expression as the Syrian spoke.

And yet this US-created “opposition” movement, run by a leader openly embracing and defending Al Qaeda, will be the recipient of some $60 million in “non-lethal aid” and “training” to allegedly “undermine” Al Qaeda. The Washington Post indicated that France and the UK were even considering sending armored vehicles to the openly pro-Al Qaeda front.

The face-value absurdity of current Western foreign policy in the wake of a decade-long “War on Terror” that has left it bankrupt, thousands of its soldiers dead, tens of thousands more maimed or mentally ill, is perhaps so profoundly acute, it is hoped it is easier to instead believe US Secretary of State John Kerry’s repeated lies.

And astonishingly, even as French soldiers die fighting militants in Mali – armed, trained, and funded by NATO’s similar intervention in Libya in 2011, and allegedly still funded and armed by US, UK, and French ally Qatar – the Washington Post article indicates France will be eagerly making the same “mistake” in Syria, and will be further assisting terrorists there, including the training of rebel forces “outside Syria.”

The exhausted legitimacy of the West, punctuated by unhinged hypocrisy, and rapidly unraveling financial and military might, would seem a perfect opportunity for the United Nations to prove its relevance or legitimacy by condemning the purposeful expansion of an already intolerable proxy war initiated by Western interests. Instead, it remains silent, or worse yet, complicit in the premeditated, documented assault on Syria under the increasingly tenuous guise of “democracy promotion,” “revolution,” and “humanitarian concern.”

Nations existing outside the West’s unraveling international enterprise would do best to continue resisting, and increasingly condemning the overt state-sponsorship of terrorism that is destroying Syria. For the rest of us, we must identify the corporate-financier interests driving this agenda – interests we most likely patronize on a daily basis, and both boycott and permanently replace them to erode the unwarranted influence they have used to both plan and execute this assault on Syria’s people.

Rosa Parks: A Life

Rosa Parks: A Life

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Posted on Feb 27, 2013

By Gabriel Thompson

“The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks”
A book by Jeanne Theoharis

In 1960, Jet magazine sent a correspondent to interview Rosa Parks. Five short years had passed since Parks had famously refused to move to the back of the bus, with her arrest triggering a series of events—the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the elevation of Martin Luther King Jr. to the national stage—that would radically reshape the 20th century. But when the Jet reporter caught up with Parks she was living in Detroit, described as a “tattered rag of her former self—penniless, debt-ridden, ailing with stomach ulcers and a throat tumor, compressed into two rooms with her husband and mother.”

If the image is jarring, it is a testament to how little we actually “know” about one of the best-known women of American history. The boycott had been a remarkable victory, but it offered precious little relief for Parks. She had been fired for her activism and was supporting her husband, who had suffered a nervous breakdown and turned to drink under the stress of constant death threats. Though she had sparked the boycott and tirelessly traveled the country to raise funds in support, civil rights leaders in Montgomery, Ala.—unable to consider women equal partners in the struggle—never offered her a job. And so eight months after the city’s bus lines were integrated, Parks and her family, who had called Montgomery home for 25 years, fled to Detroit, never to return.

Such details clang against the conventional narrative of Parks. Applauded today by politicians of all stripes—this alone should arouse considerable suspicion—her life has become a sort of chicken soup for the American soul, a feel-good story that is short on details and heavy on sentimentality. Even the most pertinent fact, her radical and lifelong activism, is discarded in this telling. Instead, Parks is depicted as an apolitical figure approaching sainthood in her purity: humble, quiet and spontaneously moved to take a stand when confronted by a glaring injustice. If anyone has ever needed “extrication from a pile of saccharine tablets and moist hankies,” as Christopher Hitchens memorably remarked about George Orwell, it is Rosa Parks.

Nearly 60 years after the boycott, we now have our first scholarly biography of Parks. “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” written by Brooklyn College professor Jeanne Theoharis, seeks to reveal a character that “continues to be hidden in plain sight, celebrated and paradoxically relegated to be a hero for children.” Theoharis, who previously studied civil rights activism in the North, dives deep into the archives to return with a nuanced if somewhat plodding portrait of a dedicated activist who managed to be both an iconic figure and an everywoman of the civil rights movement.

To see long excerpts from “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” at Google Books, click here.

For a biographer, Parks is far from an ideal subject. A collection of her papers has been caught up in a legal fight and is now in the possession of Guernsey’s Auctioneers, where they sit in a Manhattan warehouse. (Unforgivably, the auction house has refused scholarly access to the documents.) There is also Parks’ own sense of decorum, which prevented many of her private feelings from finding public expression. “My problem is—I don’t particularly enjoy talking about anything,” she once admitted. During interviews she tended to carefully choose words and deflect attention, repeating the same stories when asked the same questions. “Finding and hearing Rosa Parks has not been easy,” Theoharis notes. When the book hits dead spots—and there are several—it is usually because the voice of Parks refuses to pop. As a black woman who cut her activist teeth in Alabama in the 1930s, she learned early on to say only what needed to be said. “Is it worthwhile to reveal the intimacies of the past life?” she wrote on a scrap of paper sometime after the boycott. “Would the people be sympathetic or disillusioned when the facts of my life are told?”

The facts of Parks’ political life took shape in a working-class family. Her grandfather was militant in his black pride. Born into slavery and beaten regularly as a child, he quite understandably held a “somewhat belligerent attitude toward whites.” After World War I, when Klan terror intensified, he would sit on the porch with his rifle, waiting almost happily for any invaders. Parks would join him on his vigil—“I wanted to see him kill a Ku Kluxer,” she recalled—but Klansmen were smart enough to stay away.


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US, EU may start training and equipping Syrian rebels

Published time: February 27, 2013 12:28
Edited time: February 27, 2013 06:10

Soldiers of the Free Syrian Army. (AFP Photo / Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

The US and Europe may begin equipping the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) with vehicles, body armor, night vision gear and binoculars, as well as military training. The decision is expected after a key conference on Syria in Rome.

Until now, Western countries’ official support to the forces fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad was limited to direct contact, logistical assistance and political backing.

Several top figures in the Obama administration, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former CIA chief David Petraeus pushed for closer engagement with the Syrian rebels last year, which would likely include arming them. 

The White House rejected the plan at the time, fearing that the arms would end up in the hands of Islamist forces like the Nursa Front group, which the US considers a terrorist organization. US officials said it was too difficult to fully vet the recipients of the proposed deliveries; that policy has now apparently changed.

The pending shift was hinted at on several occasions as new US Secretary of State John Kerry toured Europe recently. He pledged not to leave the Syrian opposition “dangling in the wind,” after meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague. The new US policy will likely be voiced after an international conference of the ‘Friends of Syria’ in Rome on Thursday.

A delegation from the exiled Syrian National Coalition will be attending the Rome conference, despite earlier threats to boycott it. The group reversed course and agreed to attend after a series of phone calls to the coalition leader Mouaz Khatib from top US officials.

European advocates said the Free Syrian Army should be provided with large supplies of munitions, including military vehicles, body armor and night vision goggles, as well as tactical and strategic training. This position is privately supported by Britain, France, Germany and Italy, a European official told the Washington Post on condition of anonymity.

London and Paris have pushed to lift an EU embargo on arms trades to Syria. However, the ban was prolonged until at least May, as some nations in the 27-member union have refused to lift it.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague (R) and US Secretary of State John Kerry (L). (AFP Photo / Ben Stansall)

The US appears more skeptical, and is reluctant to include body armor and training in the package, Washington sources told AP, though it would not oppose its European allies on the matter, sources said.

When asked Tuesday about the prospects for expanding US military support for the rebels, Kerry said he would not speculate on the outcome of the meeting with opposition leaders.

“We’re going to Rome to bring a group of nations together precisely to talk about this problem,” Kerry said. “I don’t want to get ahead of that meeting or ability to begin to think about exactly what will be a part of it.”

The Syrian opposition relies on arms smugglers from Turkey and Jordan, and raids on Syrian army depots, for weapons and ammunition; rebel groups with better financial standing and more ruthlessness end up with the best equipment. Most of the arms funneled to Syria went to hardline Islamists, according to a US assessment cited by the New York Time last October.

The Nusra Front, which is estimated to have some 5,000 fighters operating in Syria in small semi-independent groups, has to a large degree sidelined the relatively moderate Free Syrian Army. The groups remain at odds not only with the Assad government in Damascus, but also with each other, holding different visions for the future of Syria.

In an effort to boost the FSA and undermine the Nursa Front, Washington had Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries deliver arms to the FSA from Croatia, according to the New York Times. Rebels said that the shipment included anti-aircraft and armor-piercing weapons, mortars and rocket launchers.

Dead French Photographer was State Department-Funded — Embedded in Syria With Al Qaeda

 Further indication of the depraved nature of the West’s campaign against Syria, and the depraved nature of its institutions, methods, and faux-NGOs, vindicating a growing trend of ejecting Western “journalists” and NGO’s from an ever increasing number of nations, it is revealed that a French photographer recently killed in Syria was embedded with terrorist militants in Idlib, northern Syria, and was working on behalf of the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funded “Reporters Without Borders.”

The UK Daily Mail revealed in their article, “French photographer killed by flying shrapnel in Syria as rebels launch fresh offensive on police academy in Aleppo,” that:

A French photographer has been killed by flying shrapnel in Syria while covering operations of an armed opposition group.

The French government said today Olivier Voisin had been working for Reporters Without Borders near the northwestern city of Idlib.

Idlib, Syria, along with much of northern Syria is admittedly overrun by Al Qaeda. In fact, a recent  Washington Post article stated that northern Syria was so overrun with Al Qaeda, that Western nations along with its Arab partners have decided to ship weapons in from Daraa in southern Syria. Of course, Daraa too is a long-time hotbed for extremist activity, including Al Qaeda, years before the so-called “uprising” even began.

The Post article titled, “In Syria, new influx of weapons to rebels tilts the battle against Assad,” admits:

A surge of rebel advances in Syria is being fueled at least in part by an influx of heavy weaponry in a renewed effort by outside powers to arm moderates in the Free Syrian Army, according to Arab and rebel officials.

The new armaments, including anti-tank weapons and recoilless rifles, have been sent across the Jordanian border into the province of Daraa in recent weeks to counter the growing influence of Islamist extremist groups in the north of Syria by boosting more moderate groups fighting in the south, the officials say.

Despite the rampant extremism in the north, French photographer Olivier Voisin found himself amongst these very militants in the midst of what we are told are waves of “rebel gains.” Apparently these “gains” are being made at high costs.

Voisin’s organization, Reporters Without Borders, is a notorious faux-NGO that plays a pivotal role globally, undermining nations targeted by Western corporate-financier interests, working in tandem with US State Department-backed proxies in Iran, China, Russia, Sudan, and everywhere else Wall Street and London seek to plant their flag. In 2008, Reporters Without Borders received cash from the State Department-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) whose board of directors is a who’s who of warmongering Neo-Conservatives and corporate special interests.

While these corporate-financier interests constitute the antithesis of “human rights,” “human freedom,” and “democracy,” these very principles are used to leverage advantages and invoke public sympathy and support for subversion and regime change in targeted nations.

Reporters Without Borders also received cash from the Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Overbrook Foundation, and the US State Department’s Washington DC-based “Center for a Free Cuba.” It should be noted that the Sigrid Rausing Trust also provides funding for the International Crisis Group (ICG) (along with BP, Chevron, Shell, Deutsche Bank Group, and Morgan Stanley) who in part helped blueprint and cheerlead the violence that ultimately claimed Voisin’s life. In fact, the ICG includes amongst its board of directors, Kofi Annan who helped buy time for NATO militants to rearm and redeploy with a disingenuous “peace plan.”

And as Syria’s government and people fight against Al Qaeda militants coddled, armed, and funded  by NATO, admittedly based in Turkey side-by-side US-provided Patriot missile batteries, CIA agents, as well as French and British special forces, the Western corporate-media seems only able to condemn Voisin’s death along with unconfirmed, most likely fabricated accounts made by militants that Syria is firing “Scud missiles” into Aleppo. This, while confirmed, deadly car bombings bearing all of Al Qaeda’s hallmarks killed scores of civilians in Damascus, and was promptly excused, dismissed, and buried by the West. In fact, the US is blocking a UN resolution that would condemn the most recent Al Qaeda bombing in Damascus which claimed over 50 lives including school children.

The runaway depravity of the West, its governments, institutions, media, and faux-NGO’s are permanently disfiguring any potential concept of “international law” and has left the people of the West with a floundering legitimacy that will inevitably impact all other aspects of their life, not merely foreign policy. Criminal foreign policy is just one of many symptoms of a corrupt, corporate-financier dominated ruling oligarchy that has hijacked the institutions, charters, and social contracts that bind together a functional society. The solution is to boycott and ultimately replace these corporate-financier monopolies, by creating and cultivating local institutions that directly serve the interests of the people.

Historic Court Hearings: The BBC in the Dock for Manipulating Evidence and Providing Biased...

911

Deafening silence of the mainstream media. A historic law suit is in making. The BBC will be in the Dock in a British court accused of manipulating the news.

What is at stake is the BBC’s coverage of the 9/11 attacks.

On February 25, in the small town of Horsham in the United Kingdom, there will be a rare and potentially groundbreaking opportunity for the 9/11 truth movement. Three hours of detailed 9/11 evidence is to be presented and considered in a court of law where the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) will be challenged over the inaccurate and biased manner in which it has portrayed the events and evidence of 9/11.

Over the last 16 months, BBC has been challenged strongly by individuals in the UK over two documentaries that they showed in September 2011 as part of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, namely ‘9/11: Conspiracy Road Trip’ and ‘The Conspiracy Files: 9/11 Ten Years On’.

Formal complaints were lodged with BBC over the inaccuracy and bias of these documentaries, which, according to 9/11 activists, was in breach of the operating requirements of BBC through their ‘Royal Charter and Agreement’ with the British public.

This document requires BBC to show information that is both accurate and impartial. These complaints were supported by the US-based educational charity Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth), which submitted detailed scientific evidence to BBC to buttress the complaints. The evidence focuses in particular on the confirmed free-fall of WTC 7 and NIST’s 2008 admission of this fact. In addition, over 300 AE911Truth petition signers supported these complaints by sending letters to BBC, requesting that BBC show this evidence to the public.

Not a single mainstream media has acknowledged the court case. and it is highly unlikely that the proceeding will be the object of unbiased coverage.

Global Research will be covering this event alongside other alternative media.

We encourage people throughout the UK to attend these historic hearings.

9/11 Truth is fundamental in disarming “the war on terrorism” which is a fabrication.

And the BBC through its biased reporting, not to mention the manipulation of photographic evidence, has acted as an instrument of war propaganda. It is complicit in war crimes.

As a continuation of this process with the BBC, documentary film maker Tony Rooke has decided to take a personal stand on this issue. People in the United Kingdom are required to pay an annual TV licence fee which is used to fund BBC’s operations. Tony has refused to pay his TV licence fee on the basis of specific anti-terrorism legislation.

Section 15 of the UK Terrorism Act 2000, Article 3, states that it is offence to provide funds if there is a reasonable cause to suspect that those funds may be used for the purposes of terrorism. Tony’s claim is that BBC has withheld scientific evidence which demonstrates that the official version of the events of 9/11 is not possible and that BBC has actively attempted to discredit those people attempting to bring this evidence to the public. According to Rooke, by doing this, BBC is supporting a cover-up of the true events of 9/11 and is therefore potentially supporting those terrorist elements who were involved in certain aspects of 9/11 who have not yet been identified and held to account.

Rooke has been charged with a crime for not paying his TV Licence Fee. However, he has lodged a legal challenge to this charge and has now been successful in being granted an appearance in a Magistrate’s court, where he has three hours available to present his evidence to defend himself against the charge. Tony has put together a formidable team to support him in presenting the evidence, including the following two outstanding 9/11 researchers:

Tony Rooke has set the stage in the UK for not paying the TV Licence fee used to fund a media entity routinely involved in media disinformation and war propaganda.

These court hearings create awareness concerning media manipulation. and the need to boycott the BBC for its complicit  role in supporting US-NATO led “humanitarian” wars.

Evidence about 9/11 that will be presented by the various individuals above has rarely, if ever, been seen in any court of law in the United Kingdom, so this court case represents a unique and valuable opportunity for the 9/11 Truth movement.

The BBC has been on the defensive.

It has not made any statements in anticipation of the court hearings.

One expects that there will be attempts to block the presentation of evidence on procedural grounds.

Why is this important?

9/11 is the pretext to wage war and repeal civil liberties.

The BBC turn realities upside down. The Lie is portrayed as the Truth.

When the lie becomes the truth there is no turning backwards.

The Lie of the mainstream media including the BBC must be exposed for what it is and what it does.

September 11 has been used profusely by the US and its allies as a justification for waging a preemptive war without borders.

The so-called “War on Terrorism” is a lie.

Acts of war are heralded by the mainstream media as “humanitarian interventions” geared towards restoring democracy.

Military occupation and the killing of civilians are presented by the BBC as “peace-keeping operations.”

This system relies on the manipulation of public opinion.

Millions of people have been misled regarding the causes and consequences of September 11.

Exposing the BBC is an important step in reversing the tide and dismantling war propaganda which sustains a criminal military agenda.

The date and location of the hearing are as follows:

February 25th at 10:00 am

Horsham Magistrates’ Court [Court 3] The Law Courts Hurst Road

Horsham

West Sussex England RH12 2ET

Palestinians Disqualify U.S. as Peace Broker

palestine (2)

The “unbreakable alliance,” which will be confirmed by the upcoming visit of President Barak Obama to Israel , will disqualify the United States as an honest broker of peace in the Arab – Israeli conflict in Palestine , a Palestinian veteran peace negotiator says.

This “unbreakable alliance” will doom whatever hopes remain during Obama’s visit for the revival of the U.S. – sponsored deadlocked “peace process,” on the resumption of which depends the very survival of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ leadership, and explains as well the Palestinian frustration, low expectations, unenthusiastic welcome and the absence of celebrations for their most cherished among world celebrities, in a stark contrast to the euphoria that is sweeping Israel in waiting for what the U.S. and Israeli officials are describing as an “historic” visit.

On February 19, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office released the official blue, red and white logo that will be on all documents and signs during Obama’s visit late in March. The logo shows the words “Unbreakable Alliance” written in English and Hebrew under a combined Israeli and U.S. flags.

During his visit, Obama will become the first ever serving U.S. president to receive Israel’s presidential medal to honor the fact that he has “established the closest working military and intelligence relationship with Israel in the country’s history: Joint exercises and training, increased security assistance every year, unprecedented advanced technology transfers, doubling of funding for Israel’s missile defense system, and assistance in funding for the Iron Dome system,” according to Steven L. Spiegel in Huffington Post late last year.

Speaking exclusively to RFI Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestinian veteran peace negotiator and member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Israel’s partner in signing the defunct Oslo peace accords, said the first – term Obama administration “have just managed to buy more time for Israel” to “create facts on the (Israeli – occupied Palestinian) ground.”

“Our experience has been really tragic with this American administration,” which “started with such high hopes and tremendous promises,” but “they backed down so quickly it was incredible,” she added, to conclude: “The U.S. has disqualified itself as a peace broker.”

Therefore, “there are no plans to celebrate” Obama’s visit to Ramallah, because “they haven’t forgotten the part he played” in aborting the PLO’s efforts in 2011 to win the United Nations’ recognition of Palestine statehood as a full member and in opposing its UN recognition as a non – member observer state the next year, according to Shlomi Eldar in Al-Monitor on February 14. Still, to make a bad situation worse, Obama will convey the same message to Abbas during his upcoming visit, because “our position has not changed” neither to Palestinian statehood nor to Palestinian national reconciliation according to U.S. State Department spokeswoman Olivia Nuland on February 19.

Obama will visit on the backdrop of a two –year old simmering Palestinian – U.S. political crisis, which potentially could explode in the aftermath of his visit.

The U.S. subscription to the UN recognition of Palestinian statehood would establish irrevocably the prerequisite to make or break the only viable “two – state solution” for the almost century – old conflict, because it would confirm the 1967 borders as the basis for such a solution and, consequently, will for sure defuse the time bomb of the Israeli illegal settlement enterprise in the Palestinian occupied territories and pave the way for the resumption of negotiations. However neither Obama nor the U.S. is forthcoming and they continue to “manage” the conflict instead of seriously seeking to solve it.

Earlier this month, Israel in an unprecedented move boycotted the UN Human Rights Council because a year – long investigation by the council produced a report urging that “Israel must, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions. It must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the OPT (occupied Palestinian territories).” The report stated that about 250 settlements were established in the Israeli –occupied Palestinian West Bank where 520,000 settlers live now, which the report said could be subject to prosecution as possible war crimes.

Recently, Yacov Ben Efrat, the General Secretary of the Israeli DAAM Party, wrote in Challenge Magazine that when Obama arrives in the Israel – occupied Palestinian territories “he will see that his policy of appeasing the Israeli right has nearly killed the Palestinian (self- ruled) Authority” economically as well as politically, to conclude: “Having already experienced the Oslo accords, the Palestinians have already seen how the temporary becomes permanent, and there is no way they will accept this.”

“It’s plain and simple: Either the settlements or peace … even Obama won’t get us abandon this principle,” PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat was quoted as saying on February 14.

Should Obama decide to act accordingly, he may reinforce the “unbreakable alliance” with Israel to his convenience, from a Palestinian perspective. Otherwise, any initiative by Obama to resume the Palestinian – Israeli peace talks during his upcoming visit to the region will be doomed as a non – starter.

On this February 19, author Marvin Kalb wrote (http://www.brookings.edu/blogs): “Instead of opening his Mid-East diplomacy with a cutting critique of Israel’s cantankerous settlements policy, often considered the third rail of Israeli politics, … instead of allowing, even encouraging, a discomfiting coolness in Israeli-American relations, … the Israelis and the Palestinians might be engaging in serious, face-to-face negotiations on a peace treaty by this time.”

Releasing a $ 700 million of U.S. blocked Palestinian aid, using U.S. good offices to make Arab donors honor their pledges to them or convincing Israel to release the tax and customs revenue it collects on their behalf are not the kind of U.S. “carrots” that would open a breakthrough.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.* nassernicola@ymail.com

Israel’s Prisoner X

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.

Bio

Shir Hever is an economic researcher in the Alternative Information Center, a Palestinian-Israeli organization active in Jerusalem and Beit-Sahour. Researching the economic aspect of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, some of his research topics include the international aid to the Palestinians and to Israel, the effects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories on the Israeli economy, and the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel. His work also includes giving lectures and presentations on the economy of the occupation. His first book: Political Economy of Israel's Occupation: Repression Beyond Exploitation, has been published by Pluto Press.

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to another edition of The Hever Report with Shir Hever. He now joins us from Germany.

Shir's an economist who studies Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories for the Alternative Information Center.Thanks for joining us again.SHIR HEVER, ECONOMIST, ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER: Hi, Paul.JAY: So Prisoner X is in the news. What is that all about?HEVER: This is a very big scandal. Israel has imprisoned and actually made a person disappear. And what we see here: a person who is perhaps associated with the Israeli Mossad, perhaps not, that in 2010 was incarcerated, and he was not convicted in any crime. Nevertheless, he was disappeared from the media. It was completely illegal to write about his arrest and about the fact that he was in a very special cell in the Israeli prison. And he committed suicide—or so it is reported. There are severe doubts whether he was in a position that he could commit suicide. And only three years later, or two years later, we hear about this person, Ben Zygier or Ben Alon or Ben Allen (he had three different names, apparently), who was an Australian citizen but also an Israeli citizen, served in the Israeli army, and for some reason the Israeli secret police decided that they wanted this person to be completely erased. This sort of disappearance reminds us of maybe the junta regime in Argentina and other sort of totalitarian governments which allow themselves to make people disappear. And I think it's also worthy of mention that he was Jewish. And although this of course doesn't mean that he has any better rights or more than any other human being, but within the context of Israel that's interesting because it has happened before several times that Israel made Palestinians or Arab people disappear and have arrested them without giving any kind of information. But here we have a case of a Jewish citizen that has been arrested. I think—that has been made to disappear more than arrested.JAY: Now, my understanding is—now, there was a journalist (I'm not sure he was Australian or Israeli; I think Australian) that uncovered that supposedly this fellow was in Mossad and was part of a Mossad unit that was operating in Europe. I mean, is—the Guardian piece is about they seem to be taking that as correct information.HEVER: The only source, as far as I can tell, that Zygier was in the Mossad is based on testimonies of his friends, who said that he told them that he was in the Mossad. I can imagine that they're probably not lying. Maybe he said so. But it doesn't necessarily mean that he was a member of Mossad.But I think if this was really a case—let's speculate for a second—if this was really the case that he was a Mossad agent that was going to sell sensitive information or already sold sensitive information to an enemy state, then he would not have been made to disappear. Then, of course, there would be a public trial, and he would be branded as a traitor also in order to deter other spies from turning to the outside.JAY: But isn't part of the problem for the Israelis that he would have been conducting this spying with an Australian passport?HEVER: This is a very big issue. And what we've seen with the assassination of Mabhouh in Dubai that Israeli assassins (of course, we're not certain that they were Israeli—Israel never confirmed; but it's extremely likely that they were) have been using Australian passports, as well as passports from other countries, the U.K. and so on, and this could, of course, harm the relations between Israel and Australia. The interesting thing is that the Australian government, which originally to a story that was reported in the Australian television said that they haven't heard from Israel that an Australian citizen has been imprisoned, now have changed their story and now say that yes, they have been informed already in 2010 about his imprisonment. So at least from the point of view of the Australian government, it's quite clear that either they agreed to this, or Israel put a lot of pressure and made them to agree to this. By making Ben Zygier disappear, I don't think Israel is in any way protecting its relations with the Australian government. What I think is much more likely is that the sort of secret that Ben Zygier was about to reveal is a secret that embarrasses the Israeli government very much, a secret that doesn't expose Israel's Mossad operations in terms of its operative ability, but more likely he was talking about something moral or ethical that has bugged him, that bothered him on a personal level. And then, if that would have come out, that he wanted to tell this kind of information not for personal profit but because of a troubled conscience, this could have caused serious damage to the Israeli government. And this is something that makes more sense why they wanted to make him disappear. Netanyahu actually tried to convene an emergency conference of all the major editors of the major media channels in Israel to convince them to suppress the story. At the same time, the Israeli court issued a gag order making it illegal not only to say that there is a prisoner kept anonymously in the Israeli prisons, or that there was and he committed suicide; but even to report that there is a gag order, even that was illegal. And also, the military censor, which is usually in Israel a passive kind of institution that only accepts for review articles before they are published, has actually taken an active position and demanded that certain articles would be removed or would not be published in advance.JAY: And his family, which I think is mostly in Australia, I think—does he still have some family in Israel? But they haven't said a word about any of this, have they?HEVER: Now, according to the more recent reports, they have been informed of his death as early as 2010, and they reacted very badly, very hard, to hear of his death. And I think it's understandable on a personal level that they wouldn't want to be involved. I think if they would want to accuse the Israeli government of mishandling the case, abusing the rights of their family member, they also run a certain risk of being ostracized by the pro-Zionist community, like, for example, we've seen with Justice Goldstone and his report, the Goldstone Report, which criticized Israel's attack against Gaza in 2008-2009. Later, Goldstone was ostracized by the Zionist community in South Africa and suffered personal attacks because of his position.JAY: Alright. Thanks very much for joining us, Shir. We'll keep following this to see if there's any new breaks in the story.Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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Mike’s Blog Round Up

Herman Cain joins Fox News. "No, that’s a different one. I’ve got to go back, got all this stuff twirling around in my head." Remember that gem from November 2011, stumbling over a question about Libya? The question now: As embarrassingly and proudly ignorant (e.g., "Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan") as he seems to be, does he raise or lower the intellectual level of the network?

Take My Country Back: The SOTU rebuttal curse.

Just an Earth-Bound Misfit, I: Striking fear into Wall Street.

Echidne of the Snakes: The case for universal pre-school.

All Things Democrat: Another reason to boycott Facebook.

Round-up by Michael J.W. Stickings of The Reaction (@mjwstickings). I'll be here all week.

Send tips to mbru AT crooksandliars DOT com.

Osborne In Calls For International Action Against Tax Avoidance

George Osborne has renewed his call for international action in tackling tax avoidance and the so-called "profit shifting" by multinational giants as he unveils the next steps in his fight to reform global tax rules.

The need to overhaul tax laws, including the controversial transfer pricing rules that were written almost 100 years ago, will be highlighted to finance ministers at the G20 in Moscow in a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

osborne

George Osborne to is to unveil the next steps in the fight against global tax abuse

It comes as companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Starbucks faced a backlash after paying only minimal tax on large UK revenues.

The revelations in particular have hurt Starbucks, with many boycotting their shops and buying their hot drinks elsewhere.

In December, Starbucks said it will pay "somewhere in the range of £10 million" in UK corporation tax for each of the next two years.

The US coffee firm - valued at £25 billion - has generated more than £3 billion of sales in the UK since 1998 but it emerged in October it has paid less than 1% in corporation tax.

starbucks

Starbucks has said they will pay somewhere in the range of £10m each year

In the wake of the revelations, banking giant Barclays also announced it was to close its tax avoidance unit, which gave advice to large companies on how to avoid paying out tax.

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The chancellor will announce that Britain will chair a new transfer pricing group which will look at how to reform the system which allows profits to be diverted to parent companies or to lower tax jurisdictions, via royalty and service payments.

It is one of three groups set up by the OECD to look at the tax issues which will help the group prepare a "plan of action" to be put forward to the G20 in July.

Germany and the US and France also lead the other two groups, which will include looking at how to determine tax jurisdiction, particularly in the context of e-trading.

Osborne said: "Britain has cut its corporation tax rate by more than any other country in the G20 over the past two years, a message to the world that we are open for business that has seen companies return to Britain, and helping to create and secure thousands of jobs and millions in investment.

"But our commitment to the most competitive corporate tax system goes hand in hand with our call for strong international standards to make sure that global companies, like anyone else, pay the taxes they owe.

"That's why Britain, with Germany and France, asked the OECD to scrutinise the international rules, and we will together welcome their report to the G20 this weekend. The report shows this is an international issue that requires international action.

"It shows the global economy has changed massively over the last decade, but global tax rules have stood still for almost a century, and Britain will lead the international effort to bring them into the twenty first century."

clegg

Both Clegg and Osborne have called for global reform

Osborne wants to use Britain's presidency of the G8 in 2013 to push international progress on the reform of international tax rules, which were first developed by the League of Nations in the mid-1920s and remain essentially unchanged.

Nick Clegg also used a G8 trip to Africa to call for global action against tax-dodging firms earlier this week arguing that tackling abuses would bolster public support for increasing foreign aid.

He said: "Many of the difficulties that governments face in the developing world are becoming increasingly common in the developed world.

"For too long, the developed world ignored the way in which tax revenues, which rightfully belonged to developing countries, disappeared as people exploited different tax regimes, and made a mockery of governments in the developing world. We must work together to overcome it."

Quinoa: To Buy or Not to Buy… Is This the Right Question?

We’ve been hearing a lot about quinoa lately. While US consumers prize it as a delicious ‘super-food,’ there is growing anxiety about the impact of the quinoa boom in the Andes, and particularly Bolivia, the world’s top producing country. The media has focused primarily on the fact that global demand is driving up the price of quinoa, placing it beyond the reach of poor Bolivians—even of quinoa farmers themselves—leaving them to consume nutritionally vacuous, but cheap, refined wheat products such as bread and pasta. By this logic, some suggest, northern consumers should boycott the ‘golden grain’ to depress its price and make it accessible once again. 

Others point out that the impoverished farmers of Bolivia’s highlands are at long last getting a fair price for their crop—one of the few crops adapted to their arid, high altitude environment. In this view, global markets are finally “working” for peasants, and a consumer boycott would only hurt the hemisphere’s poorest farmers.

In short, the debate has largely been reduced to the invisible hand of the marketplace, in which the only options for shaping our global food system are driven by (affluent) consumers either buying more or buying less. It’s the same logic that makes us feel like we’ve done our civic duty by buying a pound of fair trade coffee. This isn’t to dismiss the many benefits of fair trade or other forms of ethical consumption, but the so-called quinoa quandary demonstrates the limits of consumption-driven politics. Because whichever way you press the lever (buy more/buy less) there are bound to be negative consequences, particularly for poor farmers in the Global South. To address the problem we have to analyze the system itself, and the very structures that constrain consumer and producer choices. Women weighing a bag of quinoa in a local market in Batallas, Bolivia. (Photo: Noah Friedman-Rudovsky for The New York Times)

 The rising demand for quinoa is indeed contributing to higher prices, which have tripled in the last six years. But even more troubling than the price impact on Bolivian quinoa consumption, is the impact on land use. Quinoa production is expanding at a break-neck pace in one of the most vulnerable ecosystems on the planet: the fragile soils and native pastures of the Bolivian high plateau (Altiplano). These lands were once carefully managed with fallow (rest) periods of eight years or more. Now many areas are in near-constant production, threatening to destroy the soil’s fertility. The llama herds that have provided manure to fertilize subsistence quinoa plots for millennia have dwindled to make way for large quinoa monocultures. Government programs are doling out tractors, and this mechanization is allowing for the cultivation of larger and larger fields.

In a public ceremony in early February, President Evo Morales presented 65 John Deere tractors to communities in the highland department of Oruro to promote the expansion of quinoa. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) announcement that 2013 would be named the International Year of Quinoa goes hand in glove with this big push for mechanization.

Meanwhile, sand storms are increasingly common in the southern Altiplano, an indicator of the progressive desertification of the region. Desertification—characterized by saline soils, loss of nutrients, erosion and decreasing yields—is triggered by the increased mechanization of farming practices, as well as a disruption of the delicate balance between pastoralism and agriculture. Whereas quinoa was once grown primarily on small hillside terraces, it is now moving into large areas formerly dedicated to llama grazing. In so doing, it is wiping out the high biodiversity of native pastures, shrublands (tholares) and wetlands (bofedales)—a diversity necessary for this system’s sustainability and resilience to climate change.

So while no one would argue that Bolivian farmers shouldn’t get a good price for their crop, these trends cannot be ignored—or left up to global market forces. Perhaps most tragic of all is that this boom (and booms are always followed by a bust) is leading the poorest, most vulnerable farmers to degrade their own environment—i.e. the material basis for their very survival and cultural identity—in the name of short-term food security.

Peasants everywhere tend to have an intimate and reciprocal relationship with the natural world—known in the Andes as Pachamama. When this relationship begins to break down, it’s usually because peasants have few or no options. What’s missing from most northern media accounts of quinoa is a discussion of what the range of possible options might look like—that is, beyond the two unsavory extremes of dismal poverty on the one hand, and environmental destruction (invariably leading back to dismal poverty) on the other.

One of the rarely discussed alternative paths is agrarian reform. Bolivia, like most Latin American countries, has a highly unequal distribution of land, with thousands of farmers eking out a living on tiny highland plots, while wealthy elites (including many foreign investors) control enormous lowland plantations, primarily dedicated to export-oriented soy and sugarcane. Over the last few decades, this inequality has generated waves of rural migrants from highland regions to the lowlands, including tropical coca-growing areas, and to the swelling outskirts of cities like La Paz and Santa Cruz. It’s also fed a growing landless movement, now organized as the Bolivian MST (landless worker movement), modeled on the Brazilian example. This movement is actively pushing the Bolivian government to make good on its agrarian reform promises, as a solution to rural poverty and degradation.

Another option—and these are not mutually exclusive—would be to rebuild local food markets that have been decimated by decades of nefarious U.S. aid and trade policies. Might we envision a future in which cheap, highly subsidized U.S. wheat products don’t pour into Bolivia, directly undercutting producers of Andean foods in their own markets? This would require, of course, the political will and capacity to regulate imports (admittedly, import dependence and dietary changes are difficult things to undo). It would also require support for small farmers not only in producing commodities for export but, more importantly, for producing a wide variety of plants and animals for domestic consumption, in a way that is suitable to local ecologies. This is actually something Andean peasants are spectacularly good at—having produced food for thousands of years in one of the most diverse and challenging environments on earth.

Bolivia has a number of laws in place (such as the recently passed Law for Mother Earth, Integrated Development and ‘Living Well’) demonstrating that political will exists on the part of President Evo Morales to promote food sovereignty and peasant production for local markets. But as University of California, Berkeley agroecologist Miguel Altieri notes: 

Discourse must now translate into action. A starting point would be to capitalize on the sustainable peasant production strategies that have stood the test of time—mobilizing indigenous knowledge and ancestral practices (use of animal manure, rotations and fallows, terrace construction, etc.) and spreading these experiences through horizontal, farmer to farmer exchanges.

So while there is no easy solution to the quinoa quandary—much less a solution driven by northern consumers—the issue has generated an important debate about our global food system. At its core, it’s a debate about which strategies are most effective for creating a just and sustainable food system. And consumption-driven strategies, while part of the toolbox for effecting change, are not the only tools. Only by facing the reality that we can’t consume our way to a more just and sustainable world—and examining the full range of political options and strategies—can we start coming up with real solutions.

Tanya Kerssen

Tanya Kerssen is the editor and writer for Food First's fastest growing e-mail list, Bulletin et Blog Souveraineté Alimentaire Africaine (African Food Sovereignty newsletter and blog). Tanya is also participating in growing Food First's tours program, Food Sovereignty Tours.

War Crimes and the Global War on Terrorism: US Arms Al Qaeda in Syria,...

America's Delusional Democracy. Don’t Mute Newt

AFP has reported that a recent NATO airstrike in Afghanistan has killed over 10 civilians in an all-too-familiar headline glossed over by the Western media in an exercise of both depravity and hypocrisy. RT’s article, “NATO airstrike kills 10 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children – officials,” notes in particular that up to 11,864 civilians were killed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2011, and that civilian deaths before 2007 were not even tracked by the UN.

Such facts reveal alarming hypocrisy as the UN keeps almost daily, inflated tallies of civilian deaths elsewhere, in particular, in nations like Libya and Syria where Western interests have been heavily involved in regime change and in dire need of manipulating public perception worldwide. The United Nations had in fact pieced together a dubious report crafted from “witness accounts” compiled not in Syria, or even beyond its borders in a refugee camp, but instead, in Geneva by “witnesses” supplied by the so-called Syrian “opposition.”

Worse yet, that UN report was co-authored by Karen Koning AbuZayd, a director of the US Washington-based corporate think-tank, Middle East Policy Council. Its board of directors includes Exxon men, CIA agents, representatives of the Saudi Binladin Group (Osama Bin Laden’s family business), former ambassadors to Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, US military and government representatives, and even the president of the US-Qatar Business Council, which includes amongst its membership, Al Jazeera, Chevron, Exxon, munitions manufacturer Raytheon (who supplied the opening salvos during NATO’s operations against Libya), and Boeing.

In other words, the very underwriters of the armed militancy that is consuming Syria are sitting along side the head of the UN commission producing reports portraying the Syrian government as guilty of “war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The hypocrisy does not end there. The pretense the US and NATO have used for over a decade to occupy, subjugate and slaughter the people of Afghanistan – in a conflict increasingly creeping over both Afghanistan’s borders with Pakistan and Iran – is supposedly to fight “terrorism.” Western interests have been allowed to fight this “war on terrorism” with impunity, and even without UN monitoring for years, while Syria was immediately condemned for fighting against Al Qaeda terrorists overtly flooding into their nation with NATO assistance.

Indeed, as NATO claims to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, it has already handed over the North African nation of Libya to Al Qaeda terrorists, specifically the the US State Department, United Nations, and the UK Home Office (page 5, .pdf)-listed terrorist organization, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The US in particular oversaw the rise of the Al Qaeda terror-emirate Benghazi, even having a US ambassador slain there by the very terrorists it had armed, funded, trained, provided air support for, and thrust into power.

These same terrorists have been documented extensively as spearheading the invasion of northern Syria via NATO-member Turkey, with NATO cash and weapons in cooperation with Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The glaring hypocrisy of so-called “international law” and “international institutions” is on full display. Nations like Russia, China, Iran, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil, and many others should give serious thought to peeling away from the United Nations, the compromised International Criminal Court, and other corrupt, Western-serving institutions that will, and in many cases already are, being turned against them, their interests, and national sovereignty.

For the people of the world, we must realize that these institutions were created for and by big-business special interests, and the legitimacy they are portrayed as having is a mere illusion created by the corporate media. We must begin identifying these special interests, boycotting and replacing them permanently at a local level. If it is peace we want, it is clear that the UN, NATO, and all institutions in between, sow only death and destruction amidst a myriad of hypocrisy, double standards, and immeasurable corruption, and we must move into the future without them.

Victory for Fair Trade and Food Workers’ Rights

FINLAND, Minn. - February 12 - United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI), the nation's largest wholesale distributor of organic, natural and specialty foods, will reinstate striking workers who had been permanently replaced at its Auburn, Wash., distribution warehouse, under an agreement reached Feb. 7 with members of Teamsters Local 117. According toSustainable Food News, UNFI agreed to a contract that calls for a 17.75-percent wage increase over five years.

“This is a victory for unions, for food workers everywhere, and for domestic fair trade,” said Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). “We simply cannot and will not allow labor exploitation and union-busing practices in the $35 billion organic sector. We’re proud of the organic consumers who responded to our boycott of UNFI’s private-label brands during the strike, and of the Washington State food co-ops who supported the strike and threatened to find alternative distributors unless UNFI agreed to treat workers fairly. We hope this will demonstrate to the Teamsters and other unions that U.S organic consumers are passionate about justice, as well as health and sustainability, and inspire the tens of thousands of non-union workers for industry giants such as UNFI, WFM and Trader Joe’s to organize themselves into trade unions for collective bargaining.”

According to a spokesperson for Teamsters Local 117, the campaign against UNFI, which included the boycott, 24-hour a day picket lines around the UNFI warehouse in Auburn, Wash., leafleting outside Whole Foods Market (UNFI’s biggest customer) retail stores, backlash from area food co-ops and bad press, including a widely-circulated article by Cummins and Dave Murphy, founder of FoodDemocracyNOW!, exposing the fact that UNFI was under investigation for 45 violations of federal labor law, struck fear in the hearts of UNFI management and brought them to the bargaining table.

The bitter strike began Dec. 10, seven months after the Teamsters contract had expired. UNFI promptly and permanently replaced 72 of the 168 workers and drivers who walked off the job.

A number of food co-ops, including Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets (PCC), the nation's largest consumer-owned retail grocer, and Central Food Co-op, also in Seattle, threatened to pull their business if UNFI didn’t return to the bargaining table. Olympia Food Co-op, in a show of solidarity with workers, suspended business with UNFI for one week, which cost the multi-billion company an estimated $100,000.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The OCA deals with crucial issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children's health, corporate accountability, Fair Trade, environmental sustainability and other key topics. We are the only organization in the US focused exclusively on promoting the views and interests of the nation's estimated 50 million organic and socially responsible consumers.

Victory for Fair Trade and Food Workers’ Rights

FINLAND, Minn. - February 12 - United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI), the nation's largest wholesale distributor of organic, natural and specialty foods, will reinstate striking workers who had been permanently replaced at its Auburn, Wash., distribution warehouse, under an agreement reached Feb. 7 with members of Teamsters Local 117. According toSustainable Food News, UNFI agreed to a contract that calls for a 17.75-percent wage increase over five years.

“This is a victory for unions, for food workers everywhere, and for domestic fair trade,” said Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). “We simply cannot and will not allow labor exploitation and union-busing practices in the $35 billion organic sector. We’re proud of the organic consumers who responded to our boycott of UNFI’s private-label brands during the strike, and of the Washington State food co-ops who supported the strike and threatened to find alternative distributors unless UNFI agreed to treat workers fairly. We hope this will demonstrate to the Teamsters and other unions that U.S organic consumers are passionate about justice, as well as health and sustainability, and inspire the tens of thousands of non-union workers for industry giants such as UNFI, WFM and Trader Joe’s to organize themselves into trade unions for collective bargaining.”

According to a spokesperson for Teamsters Local 117, the campaign against UNFI, which included the boycott, 24-hour a day picket lines around the UNFI warehouse in Auburn, Wash., leafleting outside Whole Foods Market (UNFI’s biggest customer) retail stores, backlash from area food co-ops and bad press, including a widely-circulated article by Cummins and Dave Murphy, founder of FoodDemocracyNOW!, exposing the fact that UNFI was under investigation for 45 violations of federal labor law, struck fear in the hearts of UNFI management and brought them to the bargaining table.

The bitter strike began Dec. 10, seven months after the Teamsters contract had expired. UNFI promptly and permanently replaced 72 of the 168 workers and drivers who walked off the job.

A number of food co-ops, including Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets (PCC), the nation's largest consumer-owned retail grocer, and Central Food Co-op, also in Seattle, threatened to pull their business if UNFI didn’t return to the bargaining table. Olympia Food Co-op, in a show of solidarity with workers, suspended business with UNFI for one week, which cost the multi-billion company an estimated $100,000.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The OCA deals with crucial issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children's health, corporate accountability, Fair Trade, environmental sustainability and other key topics. We are the only organization in the US focused exclusively on promoting the views and interests of the nation's estimated 50 million organic and socially responsible consumers.

On BDS, Academic Freedom and Democracy at Brooklyn College

Editors Note: Despite a campaign to silence them, philsophers Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti spoke at Brooklyn College last week. In an exclusive, The Nation presents the text of Butler's remarks.

Usually one starts by saying that one is glad to be here, but I cannot say that it has been a pleasure anticipating this event. What a Megillah! I am, of course, glad that the event was not cancelled, and I understand that it took a great deal of courage and a steadfast embrace of principle for this event to happen at all. I would like personally to thank all those who took this opportunity to reaffirm the fundamental principles of academic freedom, including the following organizations: the Modern Language Association, the National Lawyers Guild, the New York ACLU, the American Association of University Professors, the Professional Staff Congress (the union for faculty and staff in the CUNY system), the New York Times editorial team, the offices of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Brooklyn College President Karen Gould whose principled stand on academic freedom has been exemplary.Brooklyn College students protest in support of the upcoming BDS forum at their school. Some elected officials threatened to cut the college’s public funding if the event proceeded. The mayor said he can't think of anything "more destructive to a university and its students" than basing school funding on the political views of professors. (Photo: Reuven Blau/New York Daily News)

The principle of academic freedom is designed to make sure that powers outside the university, including government and corporations, are not able to control the curriculum or intervene in extra-mural speech. It not only bars such interventions, but it also protects those platforms in which we might be able to reflect together on the most difficult problems. You can judge for yourself whether or not my reasons for lending my support to this movement are good ones.   That is, after all, what academic debate is about. It is also what democratic debate is about, which suggests that open debate about difficult topics functions as a meeting point between democracy and the academy. Instead of asking right away whether we are for or against this movement, perhaps we can pause just long enough to find out what exactly this is, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and why it is so difficult to speak about this.

I am not asking anyone to join a movement this evening. I am not even a leader of this movement or part of any of its governing committee, even though the New York Times tried to anoint me the other day—I appreciated their subsequent retraction, and I apologize to my Palestinian colleagues for their error. The movement, in fact, has been organized and led by Palestinians seeking rights of political self-determination, including Omar Barghouti, who was invited first by the Students for Justice in Palestine, after which I was invited to join him. At the time I thought it would be very much like other events I have attended, a conversation with a few dozen student activists in the basement of a student center. So, as you can see, I am surprised and ill-prepared for what has happened.

Omar will speak in a moment about what the BDS movement is, its successes and its aspirations. But I would like briefly to continue with the question, what precisely are we doing here this evening? I presume that you came to hear what there is to be said, and so to test your preconceptions against what some people have to say, to see whether your objections can be met and your questions answered. In other words, you come here to exercise critical judgment, and if the arguments you hear are not convincing, you will be able to cite them, to develop your opposing view and to communicate that as you wish. In this way, your being here this evening confirms your right to form and communicate an autonomous judgment, to demonstrate why you think something is true or not, and you should be free to do this without coercion and fear. These are your rights of free expression, but they are, perhaps even more importantly, your rights to education, which involves the freedom to hear, to read and to consider any number of viewpoints as part of an ongoing public deliberation on this issue. Your presence here, even your support for the event, does not assume agreement among us. There is no unanimity of opinion here; indeed, achieving unanimity is not the goal.

The arguments made against this very meeting took several forms, and they were not always easy for me to parse. One argument was that BDS is a form of hate speech, and it spawned a set of variations: it is hate speech directed against either the State of Israel or Israeli Jews, or all Jewish people. If BDS is hate speech, then it is surely not protected speech, and it would surely not be appropriate for any institution of higher learning to sponsor or make room for such speech. Yet another objection, sometimes uttered by the same people who made the first, is that BDS does qualify as a viewpoint, but as such, ought to be presented only in a context in which the opposing viewpoint can be heard as well. There was yet a qualification to this last position, namely, that no one can have a conversation on this issue in the US that does not include a certain Harvard professor, but that spectacular argument was so self-inflationary and self-indicting, that I could only respond with astonishment.

So in the first case, it is not a viewpoint (and so not protected as extra-mural speech), but in the second instance, it is a viewpoint, presumably singular, but cannot be allowed to be heard without an immediate refutation. The contradiction is clear, but when people engage in a quick succession of contradictory claims such as these, it is usually because they are looking for whatever artillery they have at their disposal to stop something from happening. They don’t much care about consistency or plausibility. They fear that if the speech is sponsored by an institution such as Brooklyn College, it will not only be heard, but become hearable, admitted into the audible world. The fear is that viewpoint will become legitimate, which means only that someone can publicly hold such a view and that it becomes eligible for contestation. A legitimate view is not necessarily right, but it is not ruled out in advance as hate speech or injurious conduct. Those who did not want any of these words to become sayable and audible imagined that the world they know and value will come to an end if such words are uttered, as if the words themselves will rise off the page or fly out of the mouth as weapons that will injure, maim or even kill, leading to irreversibly catastrophic consequences. This is why some people claimed that if this event were held, the two-state solution would be imperiled—they attributed great efficacy to these words. And yet others said it would lead to the coming of a second Holocaust—an unimaginable remark to which I will nevettheless return. One might say that all of these claims were obvious hyperbole and should be dismissed as such. But it is important to understand that they are wielded for the purpose of intimidation, animating the spectre of traumatic identification with the Nazi oppressor: if you let these people speak, you yourself will be responsible for heinous crimes or for the destruction of a state, or the Jewish people. If you listen to the words, you will become complicit in war crimes.

And yet all of us here have to distinguish between the right to listen to a point of view and the right to concur or dissent from that point of view; otherwise, public discourse is destroyed by censorship. I wonder, what is the fantasy of speech nursed by the censor? There must be enormous fear behind the drive to censorship, but also enormous aggression, as if we were all in a war where speech has suddenly become artillery. Is there another way to approach language and speech as we think about this issue? Is it possible that some other use of words might forestall violence, bring about a general ethos of non-violence, and so enact, and open onto, the conditions for a public discourse that welcomes and shelters disagreement, even disarray?

The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement is, in fact, a non-violent movement; it seeks to use established legal means to achieve its goals; and it is, interestingly enough, the largest Palestinian civic movement at this time. That means that the largest Palestinian civic movement is a non-violent one that justifies its actions through recourse to international law. Further, I want to underscore that this is also a movement whose stated core principles include the opposition to every form of racism, including both state-sponsored racism and anti-Semitism. Of course, we can debate what anti-Semitism is, in what social and political forms it is found. I myself am sure that the election of self-identified national socialists to the Greek parliament is a clear sign of anti-Semitism; I am sure that the recirculation of Nazi insignia and rhetoric by the National Party of Germany is a clear sign of anti-Semitism. I am also sure that the rhetoric and actions of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are often explicitly anti-Semitic, and that some forms of Palestinian opposition to Israel do rely on anti-Semitic slogans, falsehoods and threats. All of these forms of anti-Semitism are to be unconditionally opposed. And I would add, they have to be opposed in the same way and with the same tenacity that any form of racism has to be opposed, including state racism.

But still, it is left to us to ask, why would a non-violent movement to achieve basic political rights for Palestinians be understood as anti-Semitic? Surely, there is nothing about the basic rights themselves that constitute a problem. They include equal rights of citizenship for current inhabitants; the end to the occupation, and the rights of unlawfully displaced persons to return to their lands and gain restitution for their losses. We will surely speak about each of these three principles this evening. But for now, I want to ask, why would a collective struggle to use economic and cultural forms of power to compel the enforcement of international laws be considered anti-Semitic? It would be odd to say that they are anti-Semitic to honor internationally recognized rights to equality, to be free of occupation and to have unlawfully appropriated land and property restored. I know that this last principle makes many people uneasy, but there are several ways of conceptualizing how the right of return might be exercised lawfully such that it does not entail further dispossession (and we will return to this issue).

For those who say that exercising internationally recognized rights is anti-Semitic, or becomes anti-Semitic in this context, they must mean either that a) its motivation is anti-Semitic or b) its effects are anti-Semitic. I take it that no one is actually saying that the rights themselves are anti-Semitic, since they have been invoked by many populations in the last decades, including Jewish people dispossessed and displaced in the aftermath of the second world war. Is there really any reason we should not assume that Jews, just like any other people, would prefer to live in a world where such internationally recognized rights are honored? It will not do to say that international law is the enemy of the Jewish people, since the Jewish people surely did not as a whole oppose the Nuremburg trials, or the development of human rights law. In fact, there have always been Jews working alongside non-Jews—not only to establish the courts and codes of international law, but in the struggle to dismantle colonial regimes, opposing any and all legal and military powers that seek systematically to undermine the conditions of political self-determination for any population.

Only if we accept the proposition that the state of Israel is the exclusive and legitimate representative of the Jewish people would a movement calling for divestment, sanctions and boycott against that state be understood as directed against the Jewish people as a whole. Israel would then be understood as co-extensive with the Jewish people. There are two major problems with this view. First, the state of Israel does not represent all Jews, and not all Jews understand themselves as represented by the state of Israel. Secondly, the state of Israel should be representing all of its population equally, regardless of whether or not they are Jewish, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.

So the first critical and normative claim that follows is that the state of Israel should be representing the diversity of its own population. Indeed, nearly 25 percent of Israel’s population is not Jewish, and most of those are Palestinian, although some of them are Bedouins and Druze. If Israel is to be considered a democracy, the non-Jewish population deserves equal rights under the law, as do the Mizrachim (Arab Jews) who represent over 30 percent of the population. Presently, there are at least twenty laws that privilege Jews over Arabs within the Israeli legal system. The 1950 Law of Return grants automatic citizenship rights to Jews from anywhere in the world upon request, while denying that same right to Palestinians who were forcibly dispossessed of their homes in 1948 or subsequently as the result of illegal settlements and redrawn borders. Human Rights Watch has compiled an extensive study of Israel's policy of "separate, not equal" schools for Palestinian children. Moreover, as many as 100 Palestinian villages in Israel are still not recognized by the Israeli government, lacking basic services (water, electricity, sanitation, roads, etc.) from the government. Palestinians are barred from military service, and yet access to housing and education still largely depends on military status. Families are divided by the separation wall between the West Bank and Israel, with few forms of legal recourse to rights of visitation and reunification. The Knesset debates the “transfer” of the Palestinian population to the West Bank, and the new loyalty oath requires that anyone who wishes to become a citizen pledge allegiance to Israel as Jewish and democratic, thus eliding once again the non-Jewish population and binding the full population to a specific and controversial, if not contradictory, version of democracy.

The second point, to repeat, is that the Jewish people extend beyond the state of Israel and the ideology of political Zionism. The two cannot be equated. Honestly, what can really be said about “the Jewish people” as a whole? Is it not a lamentable sterotype to make large generalizations about all Jews, and to presume they all share the same political commitments? They—or, rather, we—occupy a vast spectrum of political views, some of which are unconditionally supportive of the state of Israel, some of which are conditionally supportive, some are skeptical, some are exceedingly critical, and an increasing number, if we are to believe the polls in this country, are indifferent. In my view, we have to remain critical of anyone who posits a single norm that decides rights of entry into the social or cultural category determining as well who will be excluded. Most categories of identity are fraught with conflicts and ambiguities; the effort to suppress the complexity of the category of “Jewish” is thus a political move that seeks to yoke a cultural identity to a specific Zionist position. If the Jew who struggles for justice for Palestine is considered to be anti-Semitic, if any number of internationals who have joined thus struggle from various parts of the world are also considered anti-Semitic and if Palestinians seeking rights of political self-determination are so accused as well, then it would appear that no oppositional move that can take place without risking the accusation of anti-Semitism. That accusation becomes a way of discrediting a bid for self-determination, at which point we have to ask what political purpose the radical mis-use of that accusation has assumed in the stifling of a movement for political self-determination.

When Zionism becomes co-extensive with Jewishness, Jewishness is pitted against the diversity that defines democracy, and if I may say so, betrays one of the most important ethical dimensions of the diasporic Jewish tradition, namely, the obligation of co-habitation with those different from ourselves. Indeed, such a conflation denies the Jewish role in broad alliances in the historical struggle for social and political justice in unions, political demands for free speech, in socialist communities, in the resistance movement in World War II, in peace activism, the Civil Rights movement and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. It also demeans the important struggles in which Jews and Palestinians work together to stop the wall, to rebuild homes, to document indefinite detention, to oppose military harassment at the borders and to oppose the occupation and to imagine the plausible scenarios for the Palestinian right to return.

The point of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is to withdraw funds and support from major financial and cultural institutions that support the operations of the Israeli state and its military. The withdrawal of investments from companies that actively support the military or that build on occupied lands, the refusal to buy products that are made by companies on occupied lands, the withdrawal of funds from investment accounts that support any of these activities, a message that a growing number of people in the international community will not be complicit with the occupation. For this goal to be realized, it matters that there is a difference between those who carry Israeli passports and the state of Israel, since the boycott is directed only toward the latter. BDS focuses on state agencies and corporations that build machinery designed to destroy homes, that build military materiel that targets populations, that profit from the occupation, that are situated illegally on Palestinian lands, to name a few.

BDS does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of their national citizenship. I concede that not all versions of BDS have been consistent on this point in the past, but the present policy confirms this principle. I myself oppose any form of BDS that discriminates against individuals on the basis of their citizenship. Others may interpret the boycott differently, but I have no problem collaborating with Israeli scholars and artists as long as we do not participate in any Israeli institution or have Israeli state monies support our collaborative work. The reason, of course, is that the academic and cultural boycott seeks to put pressure on all those cultural institutions that have failed to oppose the occupation and struggle for equal rights and the rights of the dispossessed, all those cultural institutions that think it is not their place to criticize their government for these practices, all of them that understand themselves to be above or beyond this intractable political condition. In this sense, they do contribute to an unacceptable status quo. And those institutions should know why international artists and scholars refuse to come when they do, just as they also need to know the conditions under which people will come. When those cultural institutions (universities, art centers, festivals) were to take such a stand, that would be the beginning of the end of the boycott (let’s remember that the goal of any boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is to become obsolete and unnecessary; once conditions of equality and justice are achieved, the rationale for BDS falls away, and in this sense achieving the just conditions for the dissolution of the movement is its very aim).

In some ways, the argument between BDS and its opponents centers on the status of international law. Which international laws are to be honored, and how can they be enforced. International law cannot solve every political conflict, but political conflicts that fully disregard international law usually only get worse as a result. We know that the government of the state of Israel has voiced its skepticism about international law, repeatedly criticizing the United Nations as a biased institution, even bombing its offices in Gaza. Israel also became the first country to withhold cooperation from a UN review of its human rights practices scheduled last week in Geneva (New York Times, 1/29/13). I think it is fair to call this a boycott of the UN on the part of the state of Israel. Indeed, one hears criticism of the ineffectiveness of the UN on both sides, but is that a reason to give up on the global human rights process altogether? There are good reasons to criticize the human rights paradigm, to be sure, but for now, I am only seeking to make the case that BDS is not a destructive or hateful movement. It appeals to international law precisely under conditions in which the international community, the United Nations included, neighboring Arab states, human rights courts, the European Union, The United States and the UK, have all failed effectively to rectify the manifest injustices in Palestine. Boycott, divestment and the call for sanctions are popular demands that emerge precisely when the international community has failed to compel a state to abide by its own norms.

Let us consider, then, go back to the right of return, which constitutes the controversial third prong of the BDS platform. The law of return is extended to all of us who are Jewish who live in the diaspora, which means that were it not for my politics, I too would be eligible to become a citizen of that state. At the same time, Palestinians in need of the right of return are denied the same rights? If someone answers that “Jewish demographic advantage” must be maintained, one can query whether Jewish demographic advantage is policy that can ever be reconciled with democratic principles. If one responds to that with “the Jews will only be safe if they retain their majority status,” the response has to be that any state will surely engender an opposition movement when it seeks to maintain a permanent and disenfranchised minority within its borders, fails to offer reparation or return to a population driven from their lands and homes, keeps over four million people under occupation without rights of mobility, due process and political self-determination, and another 1.6 million under siege in Gaza, rationing of food, administering unemployment, blocking building materials to restore bombed homes and institutions, intensifying vulnerability to military bombardment resulting in widespread injury and death.

If we conclude that those who participate in such an opposition movement do so because they hate the Jews, we have surely failed to recognize that this is an opposition to oppression, to the multi-faceted dimensions of a militarized form of settler colonialism that has entailed subordination, occupation and dispossession. Any group would oppose that condition, and the state that maintains it, regardless of whether that state is identified as a Jewish state or any other kind. Resistance movements do not discriminate against oppressors, though sometimes the language of the movement can use discriminatory language, and that has to be opposed. However, it is surely cynical to claim that the only reason a group organizes to oppose its own oppression is that it bears an inexplicable prejudice or racist hatred against those who oppress them. We can see the torque of this argument and the absurd conclusions to which it leads: if the Palestinians did not hate the Jews, they would accept their oppression by the state of Israel! If they resist, it is a sign of anti-Semitism!

This kind of logic takes us to one of the traumatic and affective regions of this conflict. There are reasons why much of the global media and prevailing political discourses cannot accept that a legitimate opposition to inequality, occupation, and dispossession is very different from anti-Semitism. After all, we cannot rightly argue that if a state claiming to represent the Jewish people engages in these manifestly illegal activities, it is therefore justified on the grounds that the Jews have suffered atrociously and therefore have special needs to be exempt from international norms. Such illegal acts are never justified, no matter who is practicing them.

At the same time, one must object to some of the language used by Hamas to refer to the state of Israel, where very often the state of Israel is itself conflated with the Jews, and where the actions of the state reflect on the nature of the Jews. This is clearly anti-Semitism and must be opposed. But BDS is not the same as Hamas, and it is simply ignorant to argue that all Palestinian organizations are the same. In the same vein, those who wrote to me recently to say that BDS is the same as Hamas is the same as the Nazis are involved in fearful and aggressive forms of association that assume that any effort to make distinctions is naïve and foolish. And so we see how the conflations such as these lead to bitter and destructive consequences. What if we slowed down enough to think and to distinguish—what political possibilities might then open?

And it brings us to yet another outcry that we heard in advance of our discussion here this evening. That was BDS is the coming of a second holocaust. I believe we have to be very careful when anyone makes use of the Holocaust in this way and for this purpose, since if the term becomes a weapon by which we seek to stigmatize those with opposing political viewpoints, then we have first of all dishonored the slaughter of over 6 million Jewish people, and another 4 million gypsies, gay people, disabled, the communists and the physically and mentally ill. All of us, Jewish or not Jewish, must keep that historical memory intact and alive, and refuse forms of revisionism and political exploitation of that history. We may not exploit and re-ignite the traumatic dimension of Hitler’s atrocities for the purposes of accusing and silencing those with opposing political viewpoints, including legitimate criticisms of the state of Israel. Such a tactic not only demeans and instrumentalizes the memory of the Nazi genocide, but produces a general cynicism about both accusations of anti-Semitism and predictions of new genocidal possibilities. After all, if those terms are bandied about as so much artillery in a war, then they are used as blunt instruments for the purposes of censorship and self-legitimation, and they no longer name and describe the very hideous political realities to which they belong. The more such accusations and invocations are tactically deployed, the more skeptical and cynical the public becomes about their actual meaning and use. This is a violation of that history, an insult to the surviving generation, and a cynical and excited recirculation of traumatic material—a kind of sadistic spree, to put it bluntly—that seeks to defend and legitimate a very highly militarized and repressive state regime. Of the use of the Holocaust to legitimate Israeli military destructiveness, Primo Levi wrote in 1982, “I deny any validity to [the use of the Holocaust for] this defence.”

We have heard in recent days as well that BDS threatens the attempt to establish a two-state solution. Although many people who support BDS are in favor of a one-state solution, the BDS movement has not taken a stand on this explicitly, and includes signatories who differ from one another on this issue. In fact, the BDS committee, formed in 2005 with the support of over 170 organizations in Palestine, does not take any stand on the one state or two state solution. It describes itself as an “anti-normalization” politics that seeks to force a wide range of political institutions and states to stop compliance with the occupation, unequal treatment and dispossession. For the BDS National Committee, it is not the fundamental structure of the state of Israel that is called into question, but the occupation, its denial of basic human rights, its abrogation of international law (including its failure to honor the rights of refugees), and the brutality of its continuing conditions—harassment, humiliation, destruction and confiscation of property, bombardment, and killing. Indeed, one finds an array of opinions on one-state and two-state, especially now that one-state can turn into Greater Israel with separated Bantustans of Palestinian life. The two-state solution brings its own problems, given that the recent proposals tend to suspend the rights of refugees, accept curtailed borders and fail to show whether the establishment of an independent state will bring to an end the ongoing practices and institutions of occupation, or simply incorporate them into its structure. How can a state be built with so many settlements, all illegal, which are expected to bring the Israeli population in Palestine to nearly one million of its four million inhabitants. Many have argued that it is the rapidly increasing settler population in the West Bank, not BDS, that is forcing the one-state solution.

Some people accept divestment without sanctions, or divestment and sanctions without the boycott. There are an array of views. In my view, the reason to hold together all three terms is simply that it is not possible to restrict the problem of Palestinian subjugation to the occupation alone. It is significant in itself, since four million people are living without rights of mobility, sovereignty, control over their borders, trade and political self-determination, subjected to military raids, indefinite detention, extended imprisonment and harassment. However, if we fail to make the link between occupation, inequality and dispossession, we agree to forget the claims of 1948, bury the right to return. We overlook the structural link between the Israeli demand for demographic advantage and the multivalent forms of dispossession that affect Palestinians who have been forced to become diasporic, those who live with partial rights within the borders, and those who live under occupation in the West Bank or in the open air prison of Gaza (with high unemployment and rationed foods) or other refugee camps in the region.

Some people have said that they value co-existence over boycott, and wish to engage in smaller forms of binational cultural communities in which Israeli Jews and Palestinians live and work together. This is a view that holds to the promise that small organic communities have a way of expanding into ever widening circles of solidarity, modeling the conditions for peaceable co-existence. The only question is whether those small communities continue to accept the oppressive structure of the state, or whether in their small and effective way oppose the various dimensions of continuing subjugation and disenfranchisement. If they do the latter, they become solidarity struggles. So co-existence becomes solidarity when it joins the movement that seeks to undo the structural conditions of inequality, containment and dispossession. So perhaps the conditions of BDS solidarity are precisely what prefigure that form of living and working together that might one day become a just and peaceable form of co-existence.

One could be for the BDS movement as the only credible non-violent mode of resisting the injustices committed by the state of Israel without falling into the football lingo of being “pro” Palestine and “anti” Israel. This language is reductive, if not embarrassing. One might reasonably and passionately be concerned for all the inhabitants of that land, and simply maintain that the future for any peaceful, democratic solution for that region will become thinkable through the dismantling of the occupation, through enacting the equal rights of Palestinian minorities and finding just and plausible ways for the rights of refugees to be honored. If one holds out for these three aims in political life, then one is not simply living within the logic of the “pro” and the “anti”, but trying to fathom the conditions for a “we”, a plural existence grounded in equality. What does one do with one’s words but reach for a place beyond war, ask for a new constellation of political life in which the relations of colonial subjugation are brought to a halt. My wager, my hope, is that everyone’s chance to live with greater freedom from fear and aggression will be increased as those conditions of justice, freedom, and equality are realized. We can or, rather, must start with how we speak, and how we listen, with the right to education, and to dwell critically, fractiously, and freely in political discourse together. Perhaps the word “justice” will assume new meanings as we speak it, such that we can venture that what will be just for the Jews will also be just for the Palestinians, and for all the other people living there, since justice, when just, fails to discriminate, and we savor that failure.

© 2012 The Nation

Judith Butler

Judith Butler is a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature department at UC Berkeley. She is the author of several books on feminist theory, continental philosophy and contemporary politics.

On BDS, Academic Freedom and Democracy at Brooklyn College

Editors Note: Despite a campaign to silence them, philsophers Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti spoke at Brooklyn College last week. In an exclusive, The Nation presents the text of Butler's remarks.

Usually one starts by saying that one is glad to be here, but I cannot say that it has been a pleasure anticipating this event. What a Megillah! I am, of course, glad that the event was not cancelled, and I understand that it took a great deal of courage and a steadfast embrace of principle for this event to happen at all. I would like personally to thank all those who took this opportunity to reaffirm the fundamental principles of academic freedom, including the following organizations: the Modern Language Association, the National Lawyers Guild, the New York ACLU, the American Association of University Professors, the Professional Staff Congress (the union for faculty and staff in the CUNY system), the New York Times editorial team, the offices of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Brooklyn College President Karen Gould whose principled stand on academic freedom has been exemplary.Brooklyn College students protest in support of the upcoming BDS forum at their school. Some elected officials threatened to cut the college’s public funding if the event proceeded. The mayor said he can't think of anything "more destructive to a university and its students" than basing school funding on the political views of professors. (Photo: Reuven Blau/New York Daily News)

The principle of academic freedom is designed to make sure that powers outside the university, including government and corporations, are not able to control the curriculum or intervene in extra-mural speech. It not only bars such interventions, but it also protects those platforms in which we might be able to reflect together on the most difficult problems. You can judge for yourself whether or not my reasons for lending my support to this movement are good ones.   That is, after all, what academic debate is about. It is also what democratic debate is about, which suggests that open debate about difficult topics functions as a meeting point between democracy and the academy. Instead of asking right away whether we are for or against this movement, perhaps we can pause just long enough to find out what exactly this is, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and why it is so difficult to speak about this.

I am not asking anyone to join a movement this evening. I am not even a leader of this movement or part of any of its governing committee, even though the New York Times tried to anoint me the other day—I appreciated their subsequent retraction, and I apologize to my Palestinian colleagues for their error. The movement, in fact, has been organized and led by Palestinians seeking rights of political self-determination, including Omar Barghouti, who was invited first by the Students for Justice in Palestine, after which I was invited to join him. At the time I thought it would be very much like other events I have attended, a conversation with a few dozen student activists in the basement of a student center. So, as you can see, I am surprised and ill-prepared for what has happened.

Omar will speak in a moment about what the BDS movement is, its successes and its aspirations. But I would like briefly to continue with the question, what precisely are we doing here this evening? I presume that you came to hear what there is to be said, and so to test your preconceptions against what some people have to say, to see whether your objections can be met and your questions answered. In other words, you come here to exercise critical judgment, and if the arguments you hear are not convincing, you will be able to cite them, to develop your opposing view and to communicate that as you wish. In this way, your being here this evening confirms your right to form and communicate an autonomous judgment, to demonstrate why you think something is true or not, and you should be free to do this without coercion and fear. These are your rights of free expression, but they are, perhaps even more importantly, your rights to education, which involves the freedom to hear, to read and to consider any number of viewpoints as part of an ongoing public deliberation on this issue. Your presence here, even your support for the event, does not assume agreement among us. There is no unanimity of opinion here; indeed, achieving unanimity is not the goal.

The arguments made against this very meeting took several forms, and they were not always easy for me to parse. One argument was that BDS is a form of hate speech, and it spawned a set of variations: it is hate speech directed against either the State of Israel or Israeli Jews, or all Jewish people. If BDS is hate speech, then it is surely not protected speech, and it would surely not be appropriate for any institution of higher learning to sponsor or make room for such speech. Yet another objection, sometimes uttered by the same people who made the first, is that BDS does qualify as a viewpoint, but as such, ought to be presented only in a context in which the opposing viewpoint can be heard as well. There was yet a qualification to this last position, namely, that no one can have a conversation on this issue in the US that does not include a certain Harvard professor, but that spectacular argument was so self-inflationary and self-indicting, that I could only respond with astonishment.

So in the first case, it is not a viewpoint (and so not protected as extra-mural speech), but in the second instance, it is a viewpoint, presumably singular, but cannot be allowed to be heard without an immediate refutation. The contradiction is clear, but when people engage in a quick succession of contradictory claims such as these, it is usually because they are looking for whatever artillery they have at their disposal to stop something from happening. They don’t much care about consistency or plausibility. They fear that if the speech is sponsored by an institution such as Brooklyn College, it will not only be heard, but become hearable, admitted into the audible world. The fear is that viewpoint will become legitimate, which means only that someone can publicly hold such a view and that it becomes eligible for contestation. A legitimate view is not necessarily right, but it is not ruled out in advance as hate speech or injurious conduct. Those who did not want any of these words to become sayable and audible imagined that the world they know and value will come to an end if such words are uttered, as if the words themselves will rise off the page or fly out of the mouth as weapons that will injure, maim or even kill, leading to irreversibly catastrophic consequences. This is why some people claimed that if this event were held, the two-state solution would be imperiled—they attributed great efficacy to these words. And yet others said it would lead to the coming of a second Holocaust—an unimaginable remark to which I will nevettheless return. One might say that all of these claims were obvious hyperbole and should be dismissed as such. But it is important to understand that they are wielded for the purpose of intimidation, animating the spectre of traumatic identification with the Nazi oppressor: if you let these people speak, you yourself will be responsible for heinous crimes or for the destruction of a state, or the Jewish people. If you listen to the words, you will become complicit in war crimes.

And yet all of us here have to distinguish between the right to listen to a point of view and the right to concur or dissent from that point of view; otherwise, public discourse is destroyed by censorship. I wonder, what is the fantasy of speech nursed by the censor? There must be enormous fear behind the drive to censorship, but also enormous aggression, as if we were all in a war where speech has suddenly become artillery. Is there another way to approach language and speech as we think about this issue? Is it possible that some other use of words might forestall violence, bring about a general ethos of non-violence, and so enact, and open onto, the conditions for a public discourse that welcomes and shelters disagreement, even disarray?

The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement is, in fact, a non-violent movement; it seeks to use established legal means to achieve its goals; and it is, interestingly enough, the largest Palestinian civic movement at this time. That means that the largest Palestinian civic movement is a non-violent one that justifies its actions through recourse to international law. Further, I want to underscore that this is also a movement whose stated core principles include the opposition to every form of racism, including both state-sponsored racism and anti-Semitism. Of course, we can debate what anti-Semitism is, in what social and political forms it is found. I myself am sure that the election of self-identified national socialists to the Greek parliament is a clear sign of anti-Semitism; I am sure that the recirculation of Nazi insignia and rhetoric by the National Party of Germany is a clear sign of anti-Semitism. I am also sure that the rhetoric and actions of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are often explicitly anti-Semitic, and that some forms of Palestinian opposition to Israel do rely on anti-Semitic slogans, falsehoods and threats. All of these forms of anti-Semitism are to be unconditionally opposed. And I would add, they have to be opposed in the same way and with the same tenacity that any form of racism has to be opposed, including state racism.

But still, it is left to us to ask, why would a non-violent movement to achieve basic political rights for Palestinians be understood as anti-Semitic? Surely, there is nothing about the basic rights themselves that constitute a problem. They include equal rights of citizenship for current inhabitants; the end to the occupation, and the rights of unlawfully displaced persons to return to their lands and gain restitution for their losses. We will surely speak about each of these three principles this evening. But for now, I want to ask, why would a collective struggle to use economic and cultural forms of power to compel the enforcement of international laws be considered anti-Semitic? It would be odd to say that they are anti-Semitic to honor internationally recognized rights to equality, to be free of occupation and to have unlawfully appropriated land and property restored. I know that this last principle makes many people uneasy, but there are several ways of conceptualizing how the right of return might be exercised lawfully such that it does not entail further dispossession (and we will return to this issue).

For those who say that exercising internationally recognized rights is anti-Semitic, or becomes anti-Semitic in this context, they must mean either that a) its motivation is anti-Semitic or b) its effects are anti-Semitic. I take it that no one is actually saying that the rights themselves are anti-Semitic, since they have been invoked by many populations in the last decades, including Jewish people dispossessed and displaced in the aftermath of the second world war. Is there really any reason we should not assume that Jews, just like any other people, would prefer to live in a world where such internationally recognized rights are honored? It will not do to say that international law is the enemy of the Jewish people, since the Jewish people surely did not as a whole oppose the Nuremburg trials, or the development of human rights law. In fact, there have always been Jews working alongside non-Jews—not only to establish the courts and codes of international law, but in the struggle to dismantle colonial regimes, opposing any and all legal and military powers that seek systematically to undermine the conditions of political self-determination for any population.

Only if we accept the proposition that the state of Israel is the exclusive and legitimate representative of the Jewish people would a movement calling for divestment, sanctions and boycott against that state be understood as directed against the Jewish people as a whole. Israel would then be understood as co-extensive with the Jewish people. There are two major problems with this view. First, the state of Israel does not represent all Jews, and not all Jews understand themselves as represented by the state of Israel. Secondly, the state of Israel should be representing all of its population equally, regardless of whether or not they are Jewish, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.

So the first critical and normative claim that follows is that the state of Israel should be representing the diversity of its own population. Indeed, nearly 25 percent of Israel’s population is not Jewish, and most of those are Palestinian, although some of them are Bedouins and Druze. If Israel is to be considered a democracy, the non-Jewish population deserves equal rights under the law, as do the Mizrachim (Arab Jews) who represent over 30 percent of the population. Presently, there are at least twenty laws that privilege Jews over Arabs within the Israeli legal system. The 1950 Law of Return grants automatic citizenship rights to Jews from anywhere in the world upon request, while denying that same right to Palestinians who were forcibly dispossessed of their homes in 1948 or subsequently as the result of illegal settlements and redrawn borders. Human Rights Watch has compiled an extensive study of Israel's policy of "separate, not equal" schools for Palestinian children. Moreover, as many as 100 Palestinian villages in Israel are still not recognized by the Israeli government, lacking basic services (water, electricity, sanitation, roads, etc.) from the government. Palestinians are barred from military service, and yet access to housing and education still largely depends on military status. Families are divided by the separation wall between the West Bank and Israel, with few forms of legal recourse to rights of visitation and reunification. The Knesset debates the “transfer” of the Palestinian population to the West Bank, and the new loyalty oath requires that anyone who wishes to become a citizen pledge allegiance to Israel as Jewish and democratic, thus eliding once again the non-Jewish population and binding the full population to a specific and controversial, if not contradictory, version of democracy.

The second point, to repeat, is that the Jewish people extend beyond the state of Israel and the ideology of political Zionism. The two cannot be equated. Honestly, what can really be said about “the Jewish people” as a whole? Is it not a lamentable sterotype to make large generalizations about all Jews, and to presume they all share the same political commitments? They—or, rather, we—occupy a vast spectrum of political views, some of which are unconditionally supportive of the state of Israel, some of which are conditionally supportive, some are skeptical, some are exceedingly critical, and an increasing number, if we are to believe the polls in this country, are indifferent. In my view, we have to remain critical of anyone who posits a single norm that decides rights of entry into the social or cultural category determining as well who will be excluded. Most categories of identity are fraught with conflicts and ambiguities; the effort to suppress the complexity of the category of “Jewish” is thus a political move that seeks to yoke a cultural identity to a specific Zionist position. If the Jew who struggles for justice for Palestine is considered to be anti-Semitic, if any number of internationals who have joined thus struggle from various parts of the world are also considered anti-Semitic and if Palestinians seeking rights of political self-determination are so accused as well, then it would appear that no oppositional move that can take place without risking the accusation of anti-Semitism. That accusation becomes a way of discrediting a bid for self-determination, at which point we have to ask what political purpose the radical mis-use of that accusation has assumed in the stifling of a movement for political self-determination.

When Zionism becomes co-extensive with Jewishness, Jewishness is pitted against the diversity that defines democracy, and if I may say so, betrays one of the most important ethical dimensions of the diasporic Jewish tradition, namely, the obligation of co-habitation with those different from ourselves. Indeed, such a conflation denies the Jewish role in broad alliances in the historical struggle for social and political justice in unions, political demands for free speech, in socialist communities, in the resistance movement in World War II, in peace activism, the Civil Rights movement and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. It also demeans the important struggles in which Jews and Palestinians work together to stop the wall, to rebuild homes, to document indefinite detention, to oppose military harassment at the borders and to oppose the occupation and to imagine the plausible scenarios for the Palestinian right to return.

The point of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is to withdraw funds and support from major financial and cultural institutions that support the operations of the Israeli state and its military. The withdrawal of investments from companies that actively support the military or that build on occupied lands, the refusal to buy products that are made by companies on occupied lands, the withdrawal of funds from investment accounts that support any of these activities, a message that a growing number of people in the international community will not be complicit with the occupation. For this goal to be realized, it matters that there is a difference between those who carry Israeli passports and the state of Israel, since the boycott is directed only toward the latter. BDS focuses on state agencies and corporations that build machinery designed to destroy homes, that build military materiel that targets populations, that profit from the occupation, that are situated illegally on Palestinian lands, to name a few.

BDS does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of their national citizenship. I concede that not all versions of BDS have been consistent on this point in the past, but the present policy confirms this principle. I myself oppose any form of BDS that discriminates against individuals on the basis of their citizenship. Others may interpret the boycott differently, but I have no problem collaborating with Israeli scholars and artists as long as we do not participate in any Israeli institution or have Israeli state monies support our collaborative work. The reason, of course, is that the academic and cultural boycott seeks to put pressure on all those cultural institutions that have failed to oppose the occupation and struggle for equal rights and the rights of the dispossessed, all those cultural institutions that think it is not their place to criticize their government for these practices, all of them that understand themselves to be above or beyond this intractable political condition. In this sense, they do contribute to an unacceptable status quo. And those institutions should know why international artists and scholars refuse to come when they do, just as they also need to know the conditions under which people will come. When those cultural institutions (universities, art centers, festivals) were to take such a stand, that would be the beginning of the end of the boycott (let’s remember that the goal of any boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is to become obsolete and unnecessary; once conditions of equality and justice are achieved, the rationale for BDS falls away, and in this sense achieving the just conditions for the dissolution of the movement is its very aim).

In some ways, the argument between BDS and its opponents centers on the status of international law. Which international laws are to be honored, and how can they be enforced. International law cannot solve every political conflict, but political conflicts that fully disregard international law usually only get worse as a result. We know that the government of the state of Israel has voiced its skepticism about international law, repeatedly criticizing the United Nations as a biased institution, even bombing its offices in Gaza. Israel also became the first country to withhold cooperation from a UN review of its human rights practices scheduled last week in Geneva (New York Times, 1/29/13). I think it is fair to call this a boycott of the UN on the part of the state of Israel. Indeed, one hears criticism of the ineffectiveness of the UN on both sides, but is that a reason to give up on the global human rights process altogether? There are good reasons to criticize the human rights paradigm, to be sure, but for now, I am only seeking to make the case that BDS is not a destructive or hateful movement. It appeals to international law precisely under conditions in which the international community, the United Nations included, neighboring Arab states, human rights courts, the European Union, The United States and the UK, have all failed effectively to rectify the manifest injustices in Palestine. Boycott, divestment and the call for sanctions are popular demands that emerge precisely when the international community has failed to compel a state to abide by its own norms.

Let us consider, then, go back to the right of return, which constitutes the controversial third prong of the BDS platform. The law of return is extended to all of us who are Jewish who live in the diaspora, which means that were it not for my politics, I too would be eligible to become a citizen of that state. At the same time, Palestinians in need of the right of return are denied the same rights? If someone answers that “Jewish demographic advantage” must be maintained, one can query whether Jewish demographic advantage is policy that can ever be reconciled with democratic principles. If one responds to that with “the Jews will only be safe if they retain their majority status,” the response has to be that any state will surely engender an opposition movement when it seeks to maintain a permanent and disenfranchised minority within its borders, fails to offer reparation or return to a population driven from their lands and homes, keeps over four million people under occupation without rights of mobility, due process and political self-determination, and another 1.6 million under siege in Gaza, rationing of food, administering unemployment, blocking building materials to restore bombed homes and institutions, intensifying vulnerability to military bombardment resulting in widespread injury and death.

If we conclude that those who participate in such an opposition movement do so because they hate the Jews, we have surely failed to recognize that this is an opposition to oppression, to the multi-faceted dimensions of a militarized form of settler colonialism that has entailed subordination, occupation and dispossession. Any group would oppose that condition, and the state that maintains it, regardless of whether that state is identified as a Jewish state or any other kind. Resistance movements do not discriminate against oppressors, though sometimes the language of the movement can use discriminatory language, and that has to be opposed. However, it is surely cynical to claim that the only reason a group organizes to oppose its own oppression is that it bears an inexplicable prejudice or racist hatred against those who oppress them. We can see the torque of this argument and the absurd conclusions to which it leads: if the Palestinians did not hate the Jews, they would accept their oppression by the state of Israel! If they resist, it is a sign of anti-Semitism!

This kind of logic takes us to one of the traumatic and affective regions of this conflict. There are reasons why much of the global media and prevailing political discourses cannot accept that a legitimate opposition to inequality, occupation, and dispossession is very different from anti-Semitism. After all, we cannot rightly argue that if a state claiming to represent the Jewish people engages in these manifestly illegal activities, it is therefore justified on the grounds that the Jews have suffered atrociously and therefore have special needs to be exempt from international norms. Such illegal acts are never justified, no matter who is practicing them.

At the same time, one must object to some of the language used by Hamas to refer to the state of Israel, where very often the state of Israel is itself conflated with the Jews, and where the actions of the state reflect on the nature of the Jews. This is clearly anti-Semitism and must be opposed. But BDS is not the same as Hamas, and it is simply ignorant to argue that all Palestinian organizations are the same. In the same vein, those who wrote to me recently to say that BDS is the same as Hamas is the same as the Nazis are involved in fearful and aggressive forms of association that assume that any effort to make distinctions is naïve and foolish. And so we see how the conflations such as these lead to bitter and destructive consequences. What if we slowed down enough to think and to distinguish—what political possibilities might then open?

And it brings us to yet another outcry that we heard in advance of our discussion here this evening. That was BDS is the coming of a second holocaust. I believe we have to be very careful when anyone makes use of the Holocaust in this way and for this purpose, since if the term becomes a weapon by which we seek to stigmatize those with opposing political viewpoints, then we have first of all dishonored the slaughter of over 6 million Jewish people, and another 4 million gypsies, gay people, disabled, the communists and the physically and mentally ill. All of us, Jewish or not Jewish, must keep that historical memory intact and alive, and refuse forms of revisionism and political exploitation of that history. We may not exploit and re-ignite the traumatic dimension of Hitler’s atrocities for the purposes of accusing and silencing those with opposing political viewpoints, including legitimate criticisms of the state of Israel. Such a tactic not only demeans and instrumentalizes the memory of the Nazi genocide, but produces a general cynicism about both accusations of anti-Semitism and predictions of new genocidal possibilities. After all, if those terms are bandied about as so much artillery in a war, then they are used as blunt instruments for the purposes of censorship and self-legitimation, and they no longer name and describe the very hideous political realities to which they belong. The more such accusations and invocations are tactically deployed, the more skeptical and cynical the public becomes about their actual meaning and use. This is a violation of that history, an insult to the surviving generation, and a cynical and excited recirculation of traumatic material—a kind of sadistic spree, to put it bluntly—that seeks to defend and legitimate a very highly militarized and repressive state regime. Of the use of the Holocaust to legitimate Israeli military destructiveness, Primo Levi wrote in 1982, “I deny any validity to [the use of the Holocaust for] this defence.”

We have heard in recent days as well that BDS threatens the attempt to establish a two-state solution. Although many people who support BDS are in favor of a one-state solution, the BDS movement has not taken a stand on this explicitly, and includes signatories who differ from one another on this issue. In fact, the BDS committee, formed in 2005 with the support of over 170 organizations in Palestine, does not take any stand on the one state or two state solution. It describes itself as an “anti-normalization” politics that seeks to force a wide range of political institutions and states to stop compliance with the occupation, unequal treatment and dispossession. For the BDS National Committee, it is not the fundamental structure of the state of Israel that is called into question, but the occupation, its denial of basic human rights, its abrogation of international law (including its failure to honor the rights of refugees), and the brutality of its continuing conditions—harassment, humiliation, destruction and confiscation of property, bombardment, and killing. Indeed, one finds an array of opinions on one-state and two-state, especially now that one-state can turn into Greater Israel with separated Bantustans of Palestinian life. The two-state solution brings its own problems, given that the recent proposals tend to suspend the rights of refugees, accept curtailed borders and fail to show whether the establishment of an independent state will bring to an end the ongoing practices and institutions of occupation, or simply incorporate them into its structure. How can a state be built with so many settlements, all illegal, which are expected to bring the Israeli population in Palestine to nearly one million of its four million inhabitants. Many have argued that it is the rapidly increasing settler population in the West Bank, not BDS, that is forcing the one-state solution.

Some people accept divestment without sanctions, or divestment and sanctions without the boycott. There are an array of views. In my view, the reason to hold together all three terms is simply that it is not possible to restrict the problem of Palestinian subjugation to the occupation alone. It is significant in itself, since four million people are living without rights of mobility, sovereignty, control over their borders, trade and political self-determination, subjected to military raids, indefinite detention, extended imprisonment and harassment. However, if we fail to make the link between occupation, inequality and dispossession, we agree to forget the claims of 1948, bury the right to return. We overlook the structural link between the Israeli demand for demographic advantage and the multivalent forms of dispossession that affect Palestinians who have been forced to become diasporic, those who live with partial rights within the borders, and those who live under occupation in the West Bank or in the open air prison of Gaza (with high unemployment and rationed foods) or other refugee camps in the region.

Some people have said that they value co-existence over boycott, and wish to engage in smaller forms of binational cultural communities in which Israeli Jews and Palestinians live and work together. This is a view that holds to the promise that small organic communities have a way of expanding into ever widening circles of solidarity, modeling the conditions for peaceable co-existence. The only question is whether those small communities continue to accept the oppressive structure of the state, or whether in their small and effective way oppose the various dimensions of continuing subjugation and disenfranchisement. If they do the latter, they become solidarity struggles. So co-existence becomes solidarity when it joins the movement that seeks to undo the structural conditions of inequality, containment and dispossession. So perhaps the conditions of BDS solidarity are precisely what prefigure that form of living and working together that might one day become a just and peaceable form of co-existence.

One could be for the BDS movement as the only credible non-violent mode of resisting the injustices committed by the state of Israel without falling into the football lingo of being “pro” Palestine and “anti” Israel. This language is reductive, if not embarrassing. One might reasonably and passionately be concerned for all the inhabitants of that land, and simply maintain that the future for any peaceful, democratic solution for that region will become thinkable through the dismantling of the occupation, through enacting the equal rights of Palestinian minorities and finding just and plausible ways for the rights of refugees to be honored. If one holds out for these three aims in political life, then one is not simply living within the logic of the “pro” and the “anti”, but trying to fathom the conditions for a “we”, a plural existence grounded in equality. What does one do with one’s words but reach for a place beyond war, ask for a new constellation of political life in which the relations of colonial subjugation are brought to a halt. My wager, my hope, is that everyone’s chance to live with greater freedom from fear and aggression will be increased as those conditions of justice, freedom, and equality are realized. We can or, rather, must start with how we speak, and how we listen, with the right to education, and to dwell critically, fractiously, and freely in political discourse together. Perhaps the word “justice” will assume new meanings as we speak it, such that we can venture that what will be just for the Jews will also be just for the Palestinians, and for all the other people living there, since justice, when just, fails to discriminate, and we savor that failure.

© 2012 The Nation

Judith Butler

Judith Butler is a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature department at UC Berkeley. She is the author of several books on feminist theory, continental philosophy and contemporary politics.

‘Illegal’ To Force Graduate Cait Reilly To Work For Free In Poundland

University graduate Cait Reilly has won her Court of Appeal claim that requiring her to work for free at a Poundland discount store was unlawful.

Three judges in London ruled that the regulations under which most of the Government's back-to-work schemes were created are unlawful and quashed them. The Department for Work and Pensions has not been given leave to appeal, but has said that, regardless, it will appeal to the Supreme Court.

Miss Reilly, 24, from Birmingham, and 40-year-old unemployed HGV driver Jamieson Wilson, from Nottingham, both succeeded in their claims that the unpaid schemes were legally flawed.

cait reilly

Cait Reilly, who has won her case at the Court of Appeal

Their solicitors said later the ruling means "all those people who have been sanctioned by having their jobseekers' allowance withdrawn for non-compliance with the back-to-work schemes affected will be entitled to reclaim their benefits".

Lord Justice Pill, Lady Justice Black and Sir Stanley Burnton made the ruling.

Reilly described her two weeks at Poundland as "a complete waste of time".

She said: "The experience did not help me get a job. I wasn't given any training and I was left with no time to do my voluntary work or search for other jobs.

"The only beneficiary was Poundland, a multimillion-pound company. Later I found out that I should never have been told the placement was compulsory.

"I don't think I am above working in shops like Poundland. I now work part time in a supermarket. It is just that I expect to get paid for working.

"I hope the Government will now take this opportunity to rethink its strategy and do something which actually builds on young unemployed people's skills and tackles the causes of long-term unemployment.

"I agree we need to get people back to work but the best way of doing that is by helping them, not punishing them.

"The Government ought to understand that if they created schemes which actually helped people get back into work then they wouldn't need to force people to attend."

The Government must now table new regulations in accordance with the court's ruling.


Briefcase Michael
Now looks like unpaid labour will continue under new regulations. A short-term, technical victory. :-( #workfare

Miss Reilly was first forced to participate in a scheme known as the "sector-based work academy" in November 2011.

She was told that if she did not carry out the work placement she would lose her jobseeker's allowance and for two weeks she stacked shelves and cleaned floors.

cait reilly

Cait Reilly, outside the Court of Appeal where she was met by supporters

Wilson, a qualified mechanic, was told that he had to work unpaid, cleaning furniture for 30 hours a week for six months, under a scheme known as the Community Action Programme.

He objected to doing unpaid work that was unrelated to his qualifications and would not help him re-enter the jobs market.

He refused to participate and as a result was stripped of his jobseeker's allowance for six months.

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Minister for employment Mark Hoban said in a statement: "The court has backed our right to require people to take part in programmes which will help get them into work.

"It's ridiculous to say this is forced labour. This ruling ensures we can continue with these important schemes.

"We are however disappointed and surprised at the court's decision on our regulations. There needed to be flexibility so we could give people the right support to meet their needs and get them into a job.

"We do not agree with the court's judgment and are seeking permission to appeal, but new regulations will be tabled to avoid any uncertainty.

"Ultimately the judgment confirms that it is right that we expect people to take getting into work seriously if they want to claim benefits."


Len McCluskey
Unite was right to boycott #Workfare. We need an economy based on jobs and growth which gives people sustainable and secure employment.

Ellie Mae O'Hagan
I don't really understand how the #workfare verdict is a victory against unpaid labour when mandatory work activity will continue?

Alex Andreou
#Workfare programmes do not end the “something for nothing” culture. They elevate it to the corporate level.

After the ruling Public Interest Lawyers, who represent Ms Reilly and Mr Wilson, said the Court of Appeal's unanimous decision was a "huge setback for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), whose flagship reforms have been beset with problems since their inception".

They said, "until new regulations are enacted with proper parliamentary approval, nobody can be compelled to participate on the schemes".

Solicitor Tessa Gregory, said: "Today's judgment sends Iain Duncan Smith back to the drawing board to make fresh regulations which are fair and comply with the court's ruling.

"Until that time nobody can be lawfully forced to participate in schemes affected such as the Work Programme and the Community Action Programme.

"All of those who have been stripped of their benefits have a right to claim the money back that has been unlawfully taken away from them."

cait reilly

Cait Reilly speaks to reporters outside the Court of Appeal

Gregory said: "The case has revealed that the Department for Work and Pensions was going behind Parliament's back and failing to obtain Parliamentary approval for the various mandatory work schemes that it was introducing.

"It also reveals a lack of transparency and fairness in the implementation of these schemes.

"The claimants had no information about what could be required of them under the back-to-work schemes.

"The Court of Appeal has affirmed the basic constitutional principle that everyone has a right to know and understand why sanctions are being threatened and imposed against them."

Louise Connacher, Director at Lupton Fawcett Lee and Priestly Solicitors in Leeds told HuffPost UK that the key issue was not one of human rights, but of fairness. "People did not understand what their options were, and what was compulsory or not.

"So these regulations no longer apply, void and have no effect. So if someone is in Poundland they can down tools immediately, and walk out.

The other effect is that the people have not gone on these schemes and not been paid their benefits, can claim the benefits they should have had. That's over two years worth of people who can demand their benefits back now. And Mr Duncan Smith has to rethink."

poundland

Cait Reilly had to leave her voluntary work at a local museum and work unpaid at the Poundland store in Kings Heath, Birmingham

Tanya de Grunwald, founder of the graduate jobs blog Graduate Fog told HuffPostUK that Miss Reilly had "become the poster girl for interns everywhere, who feel they have no voice and no rights".

"Hundreds of thousands of young jobseekers empathise with her, whether they've worked for low or no pay as part of a government scheme or through a privately arranged unpaid internship.

"We congratulate her on her hard-won success - it is enormously significant in the fight for young people to be paid a fair wage for their labour."

TUC general-secretary Frances O'Grady said: "This blows a big hole through the Government's workfare policies.

"Of course voluntary work experience can help the jobless, and it is right to expect the unemployed to seek work.

"But it is pointless to force people to work for no pay in jobs that do nothing to help them while putting others at risk of unemployment.

"This policy is about blaming the jobless, not helping them. Ministers should now abandon this misguided approach, and instead guarantee real jobs for the long-term unemployed, especially the young."

THE JUDGMENT

The Court Of Appeal's judgment said that the challenge was to the lawfulness of the 2011 Government regulations made by Ian Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, under sections of the Jobseekers Act 1995.

Lord Justice Pill said he was "unable to conclude that the statutory requirement for the regulations to make provision" for back-to-work schemes "of a prescribed description" had been met.

He ruled: "The statutory requirement is that the prescribed description is in the regulation."

Declaring the regulations unlawful, the judge said they must be quashed since their central purpose was to impose "requirements" on jobseeker allowance claimants and sanctions for failing to comply.

Agreeing with Lord Justice Pill, Sir Stanley Burnton said: "I emphasise that this case is not about the social, economic, political or other merits of the Employment Skills and Enterprise Scheme.

"Parliament is entitled to authorise the creation and administration of schemes that ... are designed to assist the unemployed to obtain employment, and provided that the schemes are appropriate for that purpose, it is not easy to say what objection there could be to them.

"Parliament is equally entitled to encourage participation in such schemes by imposing sanctions, in terms of loss of jobseeker's allowance, on those who, without good cause refuse to participate in a suitable scheme.

"This appeal is solely about the lawfulness of the regulations made by the Secretary of State in purported pursuance of the powers granted by the 1995 Act as amended.

"Furthermore, like Lord Justice Pill, I recognise that there are considerable advantages in there being a large measure of flexibility in designing and administering a statutory scheme.

"However any scheme must be such as has been authorised by Parliament."

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Posted on Feb 11, 2013

A union in New Zealand got fast food chains such as McDonald’s and Starbucks to raise their workers’ wages by 50 percent; Palestinian books don’t indoctrinate children against Jews after all; and perhaps, rather than fear Massive Online Open Courses, we should embrace this opportunity for cheap widespread online education. These discoveries and more below.

On a regular basis, Truthdig brings you the news items and odds and ends that have found their way to Larry Gross, director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication. A specialist in media and culture, art and communication, visual communication and media portrayals of minorities, Gross helped found the field of gay and lesbian studies.

How Fast Food Workers Super-Sized Their Pay in New Zealand
Recent strikes at Walmart and fast food restaurants in New York City have opened new horizons for unions in the United States.

Holy Moley Batman—Palestinian Textbooks Don’t Demonize Jews!
If you are quiet and can hear a loud cracking noise in the distance, that’s the sound of the Hasbaraniks losing one of their favorite stock charges against the “big, scary, bad” Palestinians.

The Brooklyn College BDS Debacle Highlights the Perils of Pro-Israeli Overkill
Far more Americans know of the Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement today than did a week ago.

The Internet Will Not Ruin College
As cheap online educational options spread like wildfire, critics are sounding the alarm. They’re too late.

More Austerity Cuts Coming to the States
The Great Recession has quietly devastated public services on a state-by-state basis, with Republican and Democratic governors taking turns leading the charge.

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Kuwait MP after questioning minister

Kuwaiti MPs attend a parliament session in Kuwait City in May 2012.

A Kuwaiti lawmaker has filed a request in parliament to question the interior minister over accusations that the interior ministry has been unlawfully dealing with the Israeli regime.

On Sunday, MP Faisal al-Duwaisan said in his grilling request that the ministry bought a border security system to strengthen the Persian Gulf emirate's border with Iraq from SENSTAR Corp in Canada, AFP reported.

The Shia lawmaker stated that SENSTAR is owned by Israel's Magal Security Systems which means that Interior Minister Sheikh Ahmed al-Hamoud al-Sabah, a senior member of the ruling family, has violated Kuwait’s Israel boycott laws.

Duwaisan alleged that the interior minister sent a delegation to SENSTAR plant in Canada to examine the security system.

He noted that the dealing with the Israeli company and disregarding the emirate's national interests "amounts to treason...and to subjecting Kuwait’s national security to danger."

The grilling is likely during the last week of February and could lead to a no-confidence motion which if passed would mean immediate dismissal of the minister.

Kuwait was the first Arab state in the Persian Gulf to establish an elected parliament in 1962. However, the Al Sabah family remained in control of key posts, including the premiership and the ministries of defense, interior, and foreign affairs.

GJH/HN

‘No charges in 240 Israeli abuse cases’

An Israeli soldier presses his knee into the neck of a Palestinian youth in the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron) on May 11, 2012.

An Israel-based human rights group says Palestinians have submitted 240 abuse complaints against the Israeli military in 2012 but not a single indictment has been handed.

The Saturday report by the Yesh Din human rights group accused the Israeli military of civilian abuse, noting that it has no base in the occupied West Bank to allow Palestinians to file complaints directly.

The report said that Palestinians have submitted 240 complaints to Israeli human rights groups in 2012 against the military, which conducted 103 probes related to them.

Out of 103 probes, not a single indictment was made of a single soldier, the report added.


The Israeli military responded to the report on Saturday insisting that not all of the probes have concluded, so it is conceivable that someone might be indicted at some point.

On January 29, Tel Aviv boycotted a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) review in the Swiss city of Geneva that examined Israel's violations of Palestinian rights.

Israel severed all ties with the Council in March 2012 after the UNHRC adopted a resolution condemning Tel Aviv’s announcement of new settlement units and demanded a reversal of the settlement policy.

Israeli violence remains an almost daily occurrence in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Ramallah.

In spite of a security agreement with the Palestinian National Authority, according to which Ramallah falls under full Palestinian administrative and security control, Israeli forces regularly carry out raids in the city and its surroundings.

PG/HGH/SL

Iran’s president defies supreme leader to safeguard his future

BEIRUT, Feb 8 - It was an extraordinary moment in the history of the Islamic Republic. Live on state radio, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani exchanged insult after insult in the assembly chamber last Sunday as shock...

Pathway to Progress in Israel Runs Through International Law, Local and Global Action

The results weren’t nearly as dire as many predicted. The Israeli elections last month didn’t bring about a complete victory for the far right (and Israel’s far-right is very far indeed!). Right-wing prime minister Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s Likud Party, in alliance with the right-wing extremist Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) party, lost at least 10 seats.Yair Lapid, a leader of Israel's new centrist political party, speaks to supporters on election night. Photo by The Israel Project.

The biggest victor was the new centrist party Yesh Atid, led by charismatic television personality Yair Lapid. He ran on the basis of personality and a claim to represent Israel’s middle-class interests, from the price of cheese to affordable housing to his most popular call, for “sharing the burden”—a euphemism for drafting ultra-Orthodox young Jewish Israelis into the military. Israeli commentators described the new Knesset as divided almost down the middle between center-right and center-left blocs.

That’s all good. But. The campaign was waged virtually entirely on economic and social issues affecting the 80 percent Jewish population of Israel; the needs of the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are Palestinians were largely ignored. Israel’s continuing occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the besieged Gaza Strip were off the agenda, let alone its violations of international law and human rights. On the question of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the elections represented a clear victory for Israel’s status quo: the occupation will be left in place.

The far-right settler party known as Jewish Home, led by the American-Israeli Naftali Bennett, won 12 seats, and is a likely coalition partner with the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu bloc. It calls directly for annexing about 60 percent of the West Bank, with few, if any, rights for Palestinians living there. And while it may be useful to clarify what mainstream discourse means in Israel, the rising power of a party explicitly calling for consolidation and legalization of Israeli apartheid –defined in international law as a legal system that privileges one group over another—is hardly something to cheer about.

Sure, Yair Lapid says he supports a two-state solution, and has said that even though the Palestinians can’t be trusted, Israel should still negotiate. (On exactly what Israel should negotiate isn’t so clear.) But doing anything to actually end Israel’s occupation wasn’t anywhere on his election platform. And of course Bibi Netanyahu says he supports a two-state solution, too—the kind of “two-state solution” that leaves Israel in permanent control, that leaves non-contiguous Palestinian Bantustans scattered across 40 percent of the West Bank while 60 percent remains fully under Israeli control, that leaves East Jerusalem part of the “undivided” capital of Israel, and Gaza remains permanently under siege.

Some optimistic Israelis seem to be hoping that the elections reflect the broad social protests that erupted in the summer of 2011, with hundreds of thousands pouring into the streets and the creation of a protest tent community on Tel Aviv’s upscale Rothschild Boulevard. That may be so, but one of the unfortunate things that the election results share with those protests was the complete sidelining of the occupation. Israeli activists made a conscious decision—rejected by a few brave Palestinian and Jewish participants—not to include ending the occupation in their wide-ranging demands for social justice. To do so, they felt, would have divided the “left.”

Looking beyond the election

The real optimism of the moment stems not from the Israeli elections, but from the continuing rise of nonviolent resistance across the Palestinian territory and throughout the world. The most recent development is the creation of Palestinian villages on Palestinian land under Israeli control. Utilizing the tactics of illegal Jewish settlers, who seize and hold Palestinian land, and build outposts considered illegal even under Israeli law (which of course does not acknowledge that under international law, specifically Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions, all settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal), the young Palestinian activists are claiming land as well. The difference is that they are building these new villages on Palestinian land, not occupying someone else’s.

The Israeli government response, of course, has been entirely different when those claiming land are Palestinians. The Jewish outposts are mostly left alone, with legal efforts underway in the courts and in the Knesset to legalize them. On the rare occasion that one is shut down, there is great care taken that no violence is used. In closing down the Palestinian villages, however, significant violence has been routine. At least six Palestinian protesters were hospitalized after the first resistance village was shut down by the military.

Outside of the occupied territories, Palestinians continue to investigate possible trajectories for engaging the International Criminal Court, perhaps the International Court of Justice, and other United Nations-related agencies. The goal is to take advantage of the U.N. General Assembly’s recognition of Palestine as a non-member state on Nov. 29—a status that allows the State of Palestine to sign treaties, join the ICC, and potentially the ICJ as well.

And globally, the civil society movement known as BDS—or boycott, divestment and sanctions—continues to grow. Initiated by a call from Palestinian civil society in 2005, the movement continues to bring nonviolent economic and cultural pressure on Israel to end its violations of international law and human rights. In one recent victory, the great musician Stevie Wonder cancelled a long-scheduled benefit concert for the Israeli military after other cultural workers, African and African-American leaders, and a wide range of international activists urged him to do so.

And the widely anticipated (and multi-million dollar) SuperBowl ad for SodaStream was spoofed on Youtube, mimicked online, and ridiculed on Twitter—undermining the popular upscale soft drink machine’s appeal. SodaStream is marketed as “made in Israel,” but is actually manufactured in the industrial zone known as Mishor Adumim, a sector of the huge city-sized illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank. The factory exploits Palestinian land, resources, and labor.

Israel’s settlement policy began and continued throughout years of Labor Party governments. A new Knesset, even one including a new “centrist” party that is centrist only relative to Israel’s far-right polity, is not likely to change things now.

As Palestinians have learned, after 46 years of occupation and 65 years of dispossession, they’re going to have to rely on international law, human rights, changing U.S. and global policy, and their own work to end the occupation.

Phyllis Bennis wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions.

Phyllis Bennis

Wingnuts On Parade: Strike Up The Band For Senate GOP Hopefuls

Gosh, the Republican Party is succeeding so much with their "rebranding effort" that they can't seem to find anyone to run against Ed Markey for John Kerry's Senate seat. Well, I take that back. There's this guy, the Blowhard named Dr. Keith Ablow, who makes a career out of offering bogus, junk-filled Freudian analyses on Fox News.

You might remember him from other posts here on C&L, like the one where he offers ridiculous explanations for President Obama's normal, even mainstream policy choices by suggesting the president is working out his frustrations at being abandoned by his father. Or this one, where he profiled Media Matters' David Brock, calling him a self-hating narcissist. There's this one, too, where he calls for Vice President Biden to be examined for dementia. Or, you might make a judgment just on the basis of one single fact:

He actually co-wrote a self-help book with Glenn Beck.

Yes, this is the guy who has expressed an interest in running for John Kerry's seat.

But wait! There's more!

In Georgia, Rep. Paul Broun is widely expected to announce his candidacy to replace Senator Saxby Chambliss. Yes, THAT Paul Broun. The one who laughed off a constituent's comment about who would shoot the president. The same Paul Broun who boycotted and trolled the president's State of the Union address in 2011 after saying he wouldn't attend because President Obama would "spew venom," who compared progressives to Al Qaeda, who wanted to lower, not raise the debt ceiling in 2011, who wanted a in order to school the nation on President Obama's sins, and the very same one who gets star billing on Jon Perr's Republican Confederacy of Dunces.

Listen to Paul Broun for ten minutes or so and the only point of confusion will be whether he is a Bircher or a Klansman. It's possible he's both. Yes, he is preparing to run for Saxby Chambliss' Senate seat.

In Iowa, wingnut Steve King is gearing up for a run at Tom Harkin's Senate seat. Yes, once again, THAT Steve King. The same guy who thinks workers are commodities, who empathized with the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS office, who considered the Hate Crimes Act a "pedophile protection act", who had no problem with the idea of a revolution similar to the one in Czechoslovakia in 1989 here in the United States, and who defends his racist remarks by admitting he just wants to see "if the pot comes to a boil."

Yes, these three are leading off the parade of wingnuts for open Senate seats in 2014. They do seem to have one thing in common: they're all spewing the Birch Society nonsense theories and mixing it with some serious race-baiting and hate.

On the wingnut but not a complete hater side, Geraldo Rivera is snuffling around a run for the Senate in New Jersey. Gee, Rivera and The Wingnuts would make for some interesting times on the Senate floor, but the country would be a shambles by the closing act.

However, Rachel Maddow has one thing wrong in her report above, where she maintains that Karl Rove wants to push these people out. As Jed Lewison points out, the Rove organization poured $400,000 into Steve King's race against Christie Vilsack in 2012 and bragged about it, not that they had much to brag about overall in 2012. Rove doesn't reject these candidates; he embraces them.

It looks like Eric Cantor and the TeaBirchers just got a fresh supply of lipstick, and they're smearing it all over that same old pig.

Seattle Teachers Spark Rebuke of School Standardization and Privatization

Teachers, parents, students and other supporters cross-country declared "enough is enough" Wednesday as they joined in the National Day of Action and the growing tide of support for the Seattle teachers' standardized test boycott.

(Photo: via Twicsy.com) The Day of Action is the culmination of a growing protest begun at Seattle's Garfield High School against the district-mandated Measure of Academic Progress, known as the MAP test, which the teachers say is deeply flawed and hijacks essential classroom time and resources. The MAP test is not exclusive to Seattle as it is annually administered to millions of students across the country.

Calling Wednesday's demonstrations—and the greater boycott—"the new face of teacher unionism," National Education Association President, Dennis Van Roekel, writes in an op-ed that the Garfield teachers' "brave" boycott has "focused attention on a long-simmering national issue." He adds:

A growing number of teacher evaluation systems are focused exclusively on using tests to measure student growth or achievement. Even worse, administrators and education officials nationwide are employing evaluation systems with little input from educators or teacher organizations[...]

Educators are fed up with flawed accountability measures, and the new face of teacher unionism has its eyes fixed on changing the current culture of standardized testing mania. In a dramatic way, Seattle teachers and others are driving the national conversation on professional issues and school reform.

"This could be a critical moment in education, with the reform movement facing a serious challenge," added Seattle Weekly blogger Nina Shapiro.

Ahead of the day's demonstrations, solidarity group Scrap the Map called on supporters to “hold meetings, rallies, take photos and wear red to show support.”

Across the country, groups took action. The Berkeley, Calif. teachers union held a rally and speak out at Berkeley High and in Chicago, anti high-stakes testing coalition More Than A Score petitioned at 30 local schools.

Rochester, NY supporters are rallying at the “State of the Schools” address that is taking place on the same day. "We hope to reach out to others in the community who support the Garfield High Teachers [to] build local allies" they write, in the fight to "sustain the struggle against the standardization and privatization of our children's education."

Fellow educators, parents, students and other supporters joined in the chorus online. The California Teachers Association wrote on twitter (#scrapthemap), "We share deep concerns about the overemphasis on standardized tests as an indicator of student achievement," adding:

A number shared pictures of themselves holding signs or wearing red in solidarity with the boycotting teachers.

The Real New World Order. Bankers Taking over the World

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How quickly best laid plans become passé. New world orders come, it seems, as frequently as eclipses.

The old world order (ancien régime), along with 16 million people, died during the Great European War which began on June 28, 1914 when the Austrian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by a Serb nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, in Sarajevo. (Today he would be called a terrorist.) This assassination sent nations that had no desire to go to war into the most destructive war the world had yet experienced.

Europe at the beginning of 1914 consisted of six major empires and an assortment of minor states that the major empires didn’t care much about. The six major empires, (the Austro-Hungarian, French, German, British, Ottoman, and Russian) were ensnared in military alliances (much like the US is today) which were formed to keep the peace. The diplomats, like those today, believed that forming alliances that balanced the powers of different groups would keep them from attacking each other. The Central Powers consisted of Austro-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire; the Triple Entente consisted of the other three. Peace, the diplomats thought was assured. What happened?

When the archduke was assassinated, the Austrians, confident in their military prowess (as Americans are today), decided to punish Serbia which was attacked on July 28. But the Serbs ambushed the Austrians at the battles of Cer and Kolubara. The Austrians were thrown back with heavy losses. Russia came to the aid of its ethnically related Serbs, and Germany invaded France through Belgium and Luxembourg. Britain came to the defense of France and the Ottoman Empire joined the war in the Balkans on the side of the Central Powers. The alliances that were to ensure the peace changed a single assassination into a massive war. When it was over, the Austro-Hungarian, the German, the Ottoman, and the Russian Empires had vanished and the United States, which joined the war late on the side of the Triple Entente had become a world player. The old world order was gone!

Woodrow Wilson, the American President, sought to create a new old world order by proposing his Fourteen Points. Wilson wanted to create separate nations out of former colonies and ensure the peace by creating a League of Nations (another peace by treaty scheme). Territorial reductions were made to Germany and Austria, a slew of new and revived nations were created in Eastern Europe, while France and Britain carved up the Ottoman Empire to suit themselves. The new old world order was just a reconfigured old world order. It didn’t last and it didn’t ensure the peace. So much for the best laid plans of diplomats.

Germany was reborn in 1933 when Adolph Hitler became Chancellor. He, too, sought to create a new world order, one dominated by a Thousand Year Reich (Empire). To that end, his policies were aimed at seizing Lebensraum (living space) for the German people by extending Germany’s borders. Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia were annexed and Poland was invaded. But alas, Poland had a mutual defense treaty (another alliance formed to ensure the peach) with Great Britain and France, so the invasion of Poland started World War II.

When it was over, Germany again was destroyed and Great Britain and France, for the most part, had had their empires diminished. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Russia) found themselves at the top of another new old world order.

The victorious powers, the US, the USSR, China, Great Britain, and France tried again to ensure the peace by creating the United Nations which they attempted to keep firmly in their control by making themselves rulers of the Security Council which had a veto on all UN Activities all five nations didn’t give unanimous approval to. That was to be the new old world order. But it began to come unglued immediately. China was not represented by mainland China which had become Communist but by “Nationalist” China whose government had fled to Taiwan. Communist China soon took the Chinese seat and the two Communist nations formed a bloc while the remaining three Capitalist nations formed another. The United Nations became the Disunited Nations and has remained so to this day. This new old world order was stillborn.

Sometime after 1950 (because of secrecy, the exact date is unknown) the Bilderbergers, realizing that the old world ancient régime and all of these new old world orders were founded on nation states that kept going to war with each other, began an attempt to create a truly new world order. David Rockefeller writes,

“We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. . . . It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.”

“For more than a century ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents such as my encounter with Castro to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it”

If there were no nation states, no wars could erupt between them!

Some believe that these international bankers have succeeded in taking over the world, but it has never succeeded in abolishing nation states. In fact, there is some evidence that nation states may be disintegrating into smaller ones. Scotland is going to hold a referendum on withdrawing from England, Catalonia is talking about withdrawing from Spain, Czechoslovakia has broken up into the Czech and Slovak republics, there is talk again of secession in the US, and no one quite knows what is really happening in the Arab world. A new world order ruled by one government? Not hardly!

But things began to break down in the 1950s. Until then, wars were fought between armies supported by nation states, and their endings were foreseeable. A war ended when one army, either voluntarily or on command, surrendered. That era appears to have ended. Old world order warfare appears to have become passé.

When the second world war ended, the Korean Peninsula was partitioned into Northern and Southern sections occupied by the Russians and Americans respectively. Elections for unification were to be held in 1948 but were not; the Americans were unsure the result would favor the South. Open warfare broke out when North Korean forces invaded South Korea in June, 1950. Because the Soviet Union was boycotting the United Nations Security Council at the time, the United States and other countries passed a Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention. The war’s progress favored each side from time to time and continued until July, 1953 when an armistice was signed. Officially, the war still goes on today. The US provided 88% of the 341,000 international soldiers which aided South Korea. The Russians and the People’s Republic of China aided North Korea. The West’s army was international, and the era of never ending, wars may have begun.

After a short pause, the American hubris led the US to play one-upmanship with France. Since the end of World War II, the French had been trying to maintain its hold on its Southeastern Asian colony of Vietnam. But at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the French were soundly defeated and decided to give up the fight. American hubris about its military prowess made American diplomats believe that the US could do what the French could not and began to use American military resources to keep South Vietnam from being united with the North.

The Pentagon’s military minds viewed this conflict as a traditional two-nation-state one and believed that America’s military only had to defeat a primitive North Vietnamese army to succeed. They were wrong, and after twenty years of fighting, 58,000 Americans, millions of Vietnamese had died, and the Americans fled. But this war marked another first: the army that won all the battles lost the war. That had never before happened in history. Today, winning battles does not win wars. Truly a new era in warfare has begun. What the Pentagon’s commanders failed to realize was that the war was not a two state war. It was a war between an invading army and an indigenous people who could only be defeated by total annihilation. No possible way existed for Americans (or any other nation-state) to “win” this war.

But Americans are hard learners and they learned nothing from Korea and Vietnam, so after two misadventures that appeared to be successful (Grenada and the 1st Gulf War), the US led another multinational force into Iraq and Afghanistan. After eight years in Iraq and the installation of a new government, the US withdrew without achieving its goals, leaving Iraq in disarray. And after more than a decade in Afghanistan a similar outcome seems to be imminent. Like Vietnam, these wars too are not two-state wars.

They amount to invading armies battling indigenous peoples who themselves are not united and not under the control of any government, group, or commander. No surrendering army in either country will ever be found. But now there’s a new twist. The forces facing the invaders do not merely consist of local peoples. Those peoples are assisted by non-state but similarly minded multi-state actors. The people opposing the West in Afghanistan are the same groups opposing the West in Libya, Algeria, Syria, Yemen, Mali, Somalia, the Sudan, and elsewhere. People who have been subjugated and exploited by the West have begun an undeclared war on the West and westerners everywhere, and winning this war will require not their defeat but their annihilation. The West cannot do that without annihilating itself in the process.

The real new world order has emerged–the world’s downtrodden against the West and its puppet, surrogate colonial governments. These non-state but similarly minded actors will determine the course of future world history. There is now a new world order that the West cannot control, that military force cannot subdue, and that concessions cannot placate. Ancien régimes relied on military power to influence events. The true new world order renders military power effete. All it can now accomplish is kill for killing’s sake. Pure barbarity is what the promise of Western Civilization has been reduced to. What a wonderful world we have made!

Obscuring Israel’s Occupation of Palestine: The Secrets of ‘The Gatekeepers’

VIDEO: Israeli Soldiers "Shoot to Kill" at Israeli Anti-war Demonstrators

“The Gatekeepers,” a new documentary, records the views of the Israeli security officials most responsible for suppressing Palestinian resistance and their growing doubts about the strategy of endless repression. But even this criticism glosses over the depth of the problem.

There is a new documentary movie about Israel called “The Gatekeepers,” directed by Dror Moreh and featuring interviews with all the former leaders of the Shin Bet, the country’s internal security organization.

The Shin Bet is assigned the job of preventing Palestinian retaliatory attacks on Israel and, as described by Moreh, the film “is the story of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories as told by the people at the crossroads of some of the most crucial moments in the security history of the country.” Along the way it touches on such particular topics as targeted assassinations, the use of torture, and “collateral damage.”

“The Gatekeepers” has garnered a lot of acclaim, playing at film festivals in Jerusalem, Amsterdam, New York, Toronto, Venice and elsewhere. It has won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s Best Documentary Award. It has been nominated for an Oscar.

In order to promote “The Gatekeepers,” Moreh has been doing interviews and recently appeared on CNN with Christiana Amanpour. He made a number of salient points, as did the Shin Bet leaders in the clips featured during the interview.

–Moreh says, “if there is someone who understands the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s these guys,” the Shin Bet leaders. Actually, this not necessarily true. One might more accurately claim that these men, who led Israel’s most secretive government institution, were and are so deeply buried inside their country’s security dilemma that they see it in a distorted fashion (with only occasional glimmers of clarity).

For instance, Avraham Shalom, head of the Shin Bet from 1981-1986, tells us that “Israel lost touch with how to coexist with the Palestinians as far back as the aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967 … when the country started doubling down on terrorism.”

But is this really the case? One might more accurately assert that Israel had no touch to lose. Most of its Jewish population and leadership have never had an interest in coexistence with Palestinians in any egalitarian and humane sense of the term. The interviewed security chiefs focus on the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza because they are the ones who offered the most resistance to conquest. But what of the 20 percent of the population of Israel who are also Palestinian and who actually lived under martial law until 1966? You may call the discriminatory regime under which these people live “coexistence,” but it is the coexistence of superior over the inferior secured largely by intimidation.

–Moreh insists that it is the “Jewish extremists inside Israel” who have been the “major impediment” to resolving issues between Israel and the Palestinians. The film looks at the cabal of religious fanatics who, in 1980, planned to blow up the Muslim shrine of the Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, as well as the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Yet, as dangerous as Israel’s right-wing extremists and settler fanatics are, focusing exclusively on them obscures the full history of the occupation.

By 1977, when Menachem Begin and Israel’s right-wing fanatics fully took power, the process of occupation and ethnic cleansing was well under way. It had been conducted against both the Arab Israelis from 1948 onward, and against the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza after 1967. In both cases, it was initiated by the so-called Israeli Left: the Labor Party led by such people as David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin himself. Amongst the Israeli leadership, there were no clean hands.

–Finally, Dror Moreh repeatedly pushes another message: “a central theme of the documentary is the idea that Israel has incredible tactics, but it lacks long-term strategy … if [security] operations do not support a move toward a peace settlement, then they are meaningless.”

Again, this assessment reflects Moreh being so deeply situated inside of the problem that he cannot perceive it clearly. Moreh assumes that achieving peace with the Palestinians is the only “long-term strategy” Israel could possibly have and, in its absence, Israel pursues no strategy at all.

However, an objective assessment of Israeli history tells us that there has been another strategy in place. The Zionist leaders have, in fact, always had a long-term strategy to avoid any meaningful peace settlement, so as to allow: 1. occupation of all “Eretz Israel,” 2. the ethnic cleansing or cantonization of the native population, and 3. settlement of the cleansed territory with Jews.

It is because of this same naivete that Moreh confesses himself “shocked” when Avraham Shalom compares the occupation of the Palestinian territories to “Germany’s occupation of Europe.” It is to Shalom’s credit that he made the statement on camera, and to Morah’s credit that he kept the statement in the final version of the film. But then Moreh spoils this act of bravery when he tells Amanpour: “Only Jews can say these kind of words. And only they can have the justification to speak as they spoke in the film.”

Well, I can think of one other group of people who has every right to make the same comparison Shalom makes – the Palestinians.

Retired Official’s Confession Syndrome 

For all its shortcomings, the film is a step forward in the ongoing effort to deny the idealized Zionist storyline a monopoly in the West. Indeed, that “The Gatekeepers” was made at all, and was received so positively at major film venues, is a sign that this skewed Israeli storyline is finally breaking down. Certainly, this deconstruction still has a long way to go, but the process is picking up speed.

On the other hand, there is something troubling about the belated nature of the insights given in these interviews.  They are examples of what I like to call the “retired official’s confession syndrome.” Quite often those who, in retirement, make these sorts of confessions were well aware of the muddled or murderous situation while in office. But, apparently, they lacked the courage to publicize it at the time. It would have meant risking their careers, their popularity, and perhaps relations with their friends and family.

One is reminded of the fate of Professor Ilan Pappe, who has stood up and lived his principles, and eventually lost his position at Haifa University and was, in the end, forced into exile. For most, however, including these leaders of the Shin Bet, their understanding was clouded and their actions skewed by a time-honored, but deeply flawed, notion of “duty” to carry on like good soldiers.

To date, Israel’s leaders and Zionist supporters have shown an amazing capacity to ignore all criticism. The newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has let it be known that he has no intention of watching “The Gatekeepers.” It is also questionable how many of those who voted for him, or other right-wing politicians, will bother to seek the documentary out.

Israel’s government has recently made the decision to ignore the country’s obligations under the United Nations Human Rights Charter, a decision signaled by its representatives refusal to show up for the country’s “universal periodic review” before the Human Rights Council. Nor is there any sign that any new right-wing led government coalition will stop the ethnic cleansing and illegal colonial repopulation of East Jerusalem.

The only reasonable conclusion one can come to is that it will take increasing outside pressure on Israel, in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanctions, to convince a sufficient number of that country’s Jewish population that they must change their ways. To not change is to acquiesce in Israel’s evolving status as a pariah state.

The irony of it all is that that status will have little to do with most of Israel being Jewish (that is, it will not be a function of anti-Semitism). Yet, it will have everything to do with the fact that, in this day and age, not even the Jews, who have been subjected to some of history’s worst acts of racism, have the right to maintain a racist state.

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

Waves of Anti-Greed Movements in the United States

I was doing some research for the ‘origins’ section of the Occupy Wall Street page on Wikipedia which I have had free rein on for a while now. Doing that research gave me an idea.

Seattle Teachers Lead Day of Action Against Standardized Tests

The Seattle teachers' boycott of a district required standardized exam continues to gain traction as Wednesday's nation-wide day of protest rallies educators and supporters across the country in a call of action to 'Scrap the MAP.' 

(Photo: Scrap the Map via facebook) In what some are calling "the most significant revolt to date against the Obama administration’s embrace of standardized testing," the Seattle Educators Association along with solidarity group Scrap the Map is calling on fellow instructors, parents, students and other sympathizers to “hold meetings, rallies, take photos and wear red to show support.”

"We call on supporters of public education nationwide to participate in actions in their locale to show their support for our effort to Scrap the MAP," they announced on their Facebook page. 

The burgeoning protest began at Seattle's Garfield High School in early January, when educators unanimously voted to boycott against the Measure of Academic Progress, known as the MAP test, which is often used in teacher evaluations. In a change.org petition, the group cites their many grievances with the exam, including its failure to align with state standards; its administration takes time away from instruction; its negative effect on students with special needs; and its monopoly on computer labs.

"We have a different destination for our kids, and that destination is not on the MAP. Our destination is a destination of creativity. Our destination is a destination of critical thinking. We want to teach our kids to solve real problems that they see in the community, and our stand against this MAP test is teaching them that," said Garfield High School history teacher and boycott leader Jesse Hagopian.

On Monday, the local chapter of the NAACP announced that they were backing the boycott, as well. In a statement, the civil rights group said that the test results were more "reflective of the educational and/or economic successes of the child's parents" rather than what "students have learned over the course of a current school year" and lead to an "inequitable result" for children of color and those living in poverty.

Despite the clear groundswell against the mandated exam, the MAP test is being administered to Garfield High School students beginning Tuesday morning, though nearly the entire non-administrative staff will refuse to take part. According to Kris McBride, Garfield’s academic dean and testing coordinator, more than 100 parents have asked that their children be excused from taking the exam out of support for the teachers' action.

The protesting teachers are asking school administration officials for an open dialogue on student and teacher assessment options. Instead, the Washington Times reports, Seattle superintendent Jose Banda is threatening the group with a 10-day suspension without pay for their boycott of the MAP test.

Rosa Parks’ Stamp on American History

(Photo: George Bridges/ Getty)Today, to honor the Feb. 4 centennial of the birth of Rosa Parks, the United States Postal Service has issued a Rosa Parks stamp. Last year, a stone carving of Parks was added to the National Cathedral. In 2005, she became the first woman and second African American to lie in honor in the nation's Capitol and, through a special act of Congress, a statue of her was ordered placed in the Capitol.

Yet these tributes to Rosa Parks rest on a narrow and distorted vision of her legacy. As the story goes, a quiet Montgomery, Ala., seamstress with a single act challenged Southern segregation, catapulted a young Martin Luther King Jr. into national leadership and ushered in the modern civil rights movement. Parks' memorialization promotes an improbable children's story of social change -- one not-angry woman sat down, the country was galvanized and structural racism was vanquished.

This fable diminishes the extensive history of collective action against racial injustice and underestimates the widespread opposition to the black freedom movement, which for decades treated Parks' political activities as "un-American." Most important, it skips over the enduring scourge of racial inequality in American society -- a reality that Parks continued to highlight and challenge -- and serves contemporary political interests that treat racial injustice as a thing of the past.

A more thorough accounting of Parks' political life offers a different set of reasons for the nation to honor her. Laboring in the 1940s and 1950s in relative obscurity, Parks and her colleague E.D. Nixon were among a small group who sought to transform Montgomery's NAACP into a more activist branch, determined to register their dissent, even if they could deal no significant blow to white supremacy. With Nixon as branch president and Parks as secretary, they pushed for black-voter registration, legal justice and school desegregation -- and Parks traveled the state documenting white brutality and legal malfeasance. The summer before her bus stand, she attended a two-week workshop at Highlander Folk School, an interracial, adult organizer training school in Tennessee, to organize for the implementation of school desegregation.

Knowing well the cost of bus resistance (a neighbor had been killed for his resistance, the young Claudette Colvin manhandled) and having made numerous personal stands against segregation that went nowhere, Parks understood the cost, danger and likely ineffectiveness of her stand. And yet "pushed as far as [she] could stand to be pushed," she did it anyway. When, to her surprise, her arrest galvanized a mass movement, she worked hard to sustain it over the next year.

Her stand led to significant economic and personal hardship for her family. In the early days of the boycott, both Rosa and Raymond Parks lost their jobs. Eight months after the boycott ended, still unable to find work, in poor health and continuing to face death threats, they left Montgomery for Detroit. There she did not rest, but joined with new and old comrades to fight the racism of her new hometown and American society more broadly.

One of the greatest distortions of the Parks fable is the way it portrays her as meek, missing the resolute political sensibility that identified Malcolm X as her personal hero. Arriving in Detroit in 1957, she spent more than half her life fighting racial injustice in the Jim Crow North. Describing the city as the "promised land that wasn't," the Parks family lived in the "heart of the ghetto" and found racism in Detroit "almost as widespread as Montgomery." Having volunteered on his upstart political campaign, Parks was hired by the newly elected Rep. John Conyers in 1965 to be part of his Detroit staff, where she worked on issues such as police brutality, open housing, welfare and job discrimination -- the plagues of Northern racism.

Her long-standing political commitments to self-defense, black history, economic justice, police accountability and black political empowerment intersected with key aspects of the Black Power movement, and she took part in numerous mobilizations in the late 1960s and 1970s. An internationalist, she opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam, demonstrated at the South African embassy to condemn apartheid and contested U.S. policy in Central America. Eight days after 9/11, she joined other activists in a letter calling for justice, not vengeance, insisting the U.S. must work with the international community and warning against retaliation or war.

To the end of her life, Parks continued to stress the enduring need for social change, reminding Americans "not [to] become comfortable with the gains we have made in the last forty years." That lifetime of steadfastness and outrage, tenacity and bravery, is what deserves national veneration.

Doing justice to Parks' actual legacy thus requires something of us -- something much harder than a stamp or a statue. Rosa Parks' courage was the ability to make an independent stand, even though she and others had done it before and nothing had changed, and even when she well-understood the harm that might befall her. She made those stands over and over throughout the course of her life.

Honoring her legacy means summoning similar audacity. It requires acknowledging that America is not a postracial society and that the blight of racial and social injustice is deep and manifest. It entails a profound recommitment to the goals for which she spent a lifetime fighting -- a criminal justice system fair and just to people of color, unfettered voting rights, educational access and equity, real assistance to the poor, an end to U.S. wars of occupation and black history in all parts of school curricula. Finally, it means heeding her words to Spelman College students: "Don't give up, and don't say the movement is dead."

© 2013 The Slate Group LLC

Jeanne Theoharis

Jeanne Theoharis is professor of political science at Brooklyn College and is the author of numerous books and articles on the civil rights and Black Power movements, the politics of race and education, social welfare and civil rights in post-9/11 America, including the biography, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.

Rosa Parks’ Stamp on American History

(Photo: George Bridges/ Getty)Today, to honor the Feb. 4 centennial of the birth of Rosa Parks, the United States Postal Service has issued a Rosa Parks stamp. Last year, a stone carving of Parks was added to the National Cathedral. In 2005, she became the first woman and second African American to lie in honor in the nation's Capitol and, through a special act of Congress, a statue of her was ordered placed in the Capitol.

Yet these tributes to Rosa Parks rest on a narrow and distorted vision of her legacy. As the story goes, a quiet Montgomery, Ala., seamstress with a single act challenged Southern segregation, catapulted a young Martin Luther King Jr. into national leadership and ushered in the modern civil rights movement. Parks' memorialization promotes an improbable children's story of social change -- one not-angry woman sat down, the country was galvanized and structural racism was vanquished.

This fable diminishes the extensive history of collective action against racial injustice and underestimates the widespread opposition to the black freedom movement, which for decades treated Parks' political activities as "un-American." Most important, it skips over the enduring scourge of racial inequality in American society -- a reality that Parks continued to highlight and challenge -- and serves contemporary political interests that treat racial injustice as a thing of the past.

A more thorough accounting of Parks' political life offers a different set of reasons for the nation to honor her. Laboring in the 1940s and 1950s in relative obscurity, Parks and her colleague E.D. Nixon were among a small group who sought to transform Montgomery's NAACP into a more activist branch, determined to register their dissent, even if they could deal no significant blow to white supremacy. With Nixon as branch president and Parks as secretary, they pushed for black-voter registration, legal justice and school desegregation -- and Parks traveled the state documenting white brutality and legal malfeasance. The summer before her bus stand, she attended a two-week workshop at Highlander Folk School, an interracial, adult organizer training school in Tennessee, to organize for the implementation of school desegregation.

Knowing well the cost of bus resistance (a neighbor had been killed for his resistance, the young Claudette Colvin manhandled) and having made numerous personal stands against segregation that went nowhere, Parks understood the cost, danger and likely ineffectiveness of her stand. And yet "pushed as far as [she] could stand to be pushed," she did it anyway. When, to her surprise, her arrest galvanized a mass movement, she worked hard to sustain it over the next year.

Her stand led to significant economic and personal hardship for her family. In the early days of the boycott, both Rosa and Raymond Parks lost their jobs. Eight months after the boycott ended, still unable to find work, in poor health and continuing to face death threats, they left Montgomery for Detroit. There she did not rest, but joined with new and old comrades to fight the racism of her new hometown and American society more broadly.

One of the greatest distortions of the Parks fable is the way it portrays her as meek, missing the resolute political sensibility that identified Malcolm X as her personal hero. Arriving in Detroit in 1957, she spent more than half her life fighting racial injustice in the Jim Crow North. Describing the city as the "promised land that wasn't," the Parks family lived in the "heart of the ghetto" and found racism in Detroit "almost as widespread as Montgomery." Having volunteered on his upstart political campaign, Parks was hired by the newly elected Rep. John Conyers in 1965 to be part of his Detroit staff, where she worked on issues such as police brutality, open housing, welfare and job discrimination -- the plagues of Northern racism.

Her long-standing political commitments to self-defense, black history, economic justice, police accountability and black political empowerment intersected with key aspects of the Black Power movement, and she took part in numerous mobilizations in the late 1960s and 1970s. An internationalist, she opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam, demonstrated at the South African embassy to condemn apartheid and contested U.S. policy in Central America. Eight days after 9/11, she joined other activists in a letter calling for justice, not vengeance, insisting the U.S. must work with the international community and warning against retaliation or war.

To the end of her life, Parks continued to stress the enduring need for social change, reminding Americans "not [to] become comfortable with the gains we have made in the last forty years." That lifetime of steadfastness and outrage, tenacity and bravery, is what deserves national veneration.

Doing justice to Parks' actual legacy thus requires something of us -- something much harder than a stamp or a statue. Rosa Parks' courage was the ability to make an independent stand, even though she and others had done it before and nothing had changed, and even when she well-understood the harm that might befall her. She made those stands over and over throughout the course of her life.

Honoring her legacy means summoning similar audacity. It requires acknowledging that America is not a postracial society and that the blight of racial and social injustice is deep and manifest. It entails a profound recommitment to the goals for which she spent a lifetime fighting -- a criminal justice system fair and just to people of color, unfettered voting rights, educational access and equity, real assistance to the poor, an end to U.S. wars of occupation and black history in all parts of school curricula. Finally, it means heeding her words to Spelman College students: "Don't give up, and don't say the movement is dead."

© 2013 The Slate Group LLC

Jeanne Theoharis

Jeanne Theoharis is professor of political science at Brooklyn College and is the author of numerous books and articles on the civil rights and Black Power movements, the politics of race and education, social welfare and civil rights in post-9/11 America, including the biography, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.

NYC Officials Threaten Funding of College Over Israel Event

On Saturday, I wrote about the numerous New York City officials (including multiple members of the US House of Representatives) who have predictably signed onto the Alan-Derwshowitz-led attack on academic freedom at Brooklyn College. This group of Israel advocates and elected officials is demanding that the college's Political Science department rescind its sponsorship of an event featuring two advocates of the BDS movement aimed at stopping Israeli occupation and settlements.In 1999, then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani threatened to cut off funds for the Brooklyn Museum unless it withdrew art exhibits he found "offensive". Photograph: AP Photo/Gino Domenico

The threat to academic freedom posed by this growing lynch mob is obvious: if universities are permitted to hold only those events which do not offend state officials and "pro-Israel" fanatics such as Alan Dershowitz, then "academic freedom" is illusory. But on Sunday, that threat significantly intensified, as a ranking member of the New York City Council explicitly threatened to cut off funding for the college if his extortionate demands regarding this event are not met. From a letter to BC President Karen Gould, issued by Council Assistant Majority Leader Lew Fidler and signed by nine other members of the City Council (the full letter is embedded here):

"Among this City's diversity - and the student body of Brooklyn College - there are a significant number of people who would, and do, find this event to be offensive. . . .

"A significant portion of the funding for CUNY schools comes directly from the tax dollars of the people of the State and City of New York. Every year, we legislators are asked for additional funding to support programs and initiatives at these schools and we fight hard to secure those funds. Every one of those dollars given to CUNY, and Brooklyn College, means one less dollar going to some other worthy purpose. We do not believe this program is what the taxpayers of our City — many of who would feel targeted and demonized by this program — want their tax money to be spent on.

"We believe in the principle of academic freedom. However, we also believe in the principle of not supporting schools whose programs we, and our constituents, find to be odious and wrong."

These officials are expressly stating that no college or university is permitted to hold events that contain views that are "offensive" or which these officials "find to be odious and wrong" without having their funding terminated. How can anyone not be seriously alarmed by this? These threats are infinitely more destructive than any single academic event could ever possibly be.

Few people in New York had trouble understanding this threat when it was posed by a loathed GOP Mayor. Indeed, this current controversy is a replica of the most extreme efforts by official authoritarians to suppress ideas they dislike. In particular, New York City liberals and others vehemently objected when conservative Mayor Rudy Giuliani threatened to cut off city funding for art museums that exhibited works of art which Giuliani found offensive.

Here is what then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani said back in 1999 when he threatened, as the New York Times put it, "to cut off all city subsidies to the Brooklyn Museum of Art unless it cancels next week's opening of a British art exhibition that features, among other works, a shark suspended in a tank of formaldehyde, a bust of a man made from his own frozen blood and a portrait of the Virgin Mary stained with a clump of elephant dung":

"You don't have a right to government subsidy for desecrating somebody else's religion. And therefore we will do everything that we can to remove funding for the Brooklyn Museum until the director comes to his senses and realizes that if you are a government-subsidized enterprise, then you can't do things that desecrate the most personal and deeply held views of people in society. I mean, this is an outrageous thing to do."

The modern-day successors to Giuliani are the New York City officials now threatening the funding of Brooklyn College for exactly the same reasons and based on exactly the same rationale. Back then, liberals were furious at the GOP Mayor's bullying tactics, correctly arguing that his threat to terminate funding was a serious threat to basic freedoms; as First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams put it at the time:

"Punishing the Brooklyn Museum by seeking to remove its funding because the Mayor disapproves of what he perceives is the message of its art is at war with the First Amendment. The Mayor has every right to denounce the exhibition. He should understand, however, that the First Amendment limits what he can do to retaliate against art of which he disapproves."

After the Museum refused to withdraw the "offensive" exhibits and Giuliani made good on his threats, a federal judge ultimately ruled that the New York mayor "violated the First Amendment when he cut city financing and began eviction proceedings against the Brooklyn Museum of Art for mounting an exhibition that the mayor deemed offensive and sacrilegious." The judge, Nina Gershon of the US District Court in Brooklyn, wrote in her ruling ordering Giuliani to end his official attacks on the museum [emphasis added]:

"There is no federal constitutional issue more grave than the effort by government officials to censor works of expression and to threaten the vitality of a major cultural institution as punishment for failing to abide by governmental demands for orthodoxy."

The applicability of that rationale to the current controversy is obvious. Regardless of your views of BDS or Israel, the last thing anyone should want is for state officials to be able to dictate what academic events can and cannot be held on campuses. It's odious and threatening for exactly the same reason Giuliani's bullying tactics were. Some academics, such as Scott Lemieux and Kieran Healy have spoken out in defense of BC's academic freedom, but nowhere near as many as should given the threats this campaign poses to their own academic freedom. As is so often the case, when the issue is Israel, many advocates fall strangely mute.

At least back then, Giuliani was honest: he wanted to cut off funds to museums exhibiting art that he personally found offensive to his religion. By contrast, what's so noxious about the campaign aimed at BC is the glaring pretense of it all. As corrupted and dangerous as the stated "principle" is - that colleges should have their public funding terminated if they sponsor events with offensive ideas - this would never be applied consistently. Indeed, it's inconceivable to imagine this level of official mobilization on any issue other than Israel. This is about using the power of the state to suppress criticisms of and activism against the Israeli government in academia - and nothing else.

To see how true that is, just imagine if the BC Political Science department had sponsored an equally one-sided event on the BDS movement, but invited only BDS opponents and hard-core Israel defenders. Does anyone think that even a single one of these cowardly, dishonest political officials would have uttered a peep of protest on the ground that colleges shouldn't sponsor one-sided events concerning controversial issues or which air views that people in the City and the student body find "offensive"? Please. To ask the question is to mock it.

Indeed, as I noted on Saturday, Alan Dershowitz himself - who offends large numbers of people - has spoken without opposition at this very same Brooklyn College at the invitation of the Political Science department and not one of these city officials spoke out against that or threatened the college's funding over it. Beyond that, when a controversy erupted last year at the University of Pennsylvania over a pro-BDS event sponsored by students, that university's Political Science department (which had pointedly refused to sponsor the pro-BDS event) formally sponsored an event for Dershowitz to speak without any opposition, and nobody raised these fabricated, disingenuous concerns over the need to only hold "balanced" events and for academic departments to avoid "controversial" stances. That includes Dershowitz, who claimed to me on Friday that he "would oppose a pro Israel event being sponsored by a department" but - needless to say - never objected, at least not publicly, when the UPenn Political Science department did exactly that by inviting him to speak about Israel without opposition.

Plainly, this entire controversy has only one "principle" and one purpose: to threaten, intimidate and bully professors, school administrators and academic institutions out of any involvement in criticisms of Israel. The claim that this is driven by the belief that colleges should avoid taking positions on controversial issues is a ridiculous joke. Yesterday, the besieged BC College President Gould wrote a letter to the school's Hillel organization about the controversy, and in it, she stated:

"You have asked that I state unequivocally the college's position on the BDS movement, and I have no hesitation in doing so. As president of Brooklyn College, I can assure you that our college does not endorse the BDS movement nor support its call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, nor do I personally."

Do you think a single New York City official or Dershowitz or anyone else will object to her official opposition to BDS on behalf of herself and the college, by claiming that this makes BC students who support BDS feel unwelcome and that university officials shouldn't take sides in controversial political disputes? Of course not, because those "principles" are pure pretext. Nobody believes or cares about the notion that colleges and professors, in general, should avoid controversial issues or refrain from sponsoring one-sided academic events (which they do constantly: here's an article on a speech I gave last year at UPenn, speaking alone, expressing many controversial views, at an event formally sponsored by the school's Religious Studies Department; here's an article where I did the same at an event sponsored by the University of Missouri Law School last year). As Political Science Professor Scott Lemieux put it, this campaign poses "threats to academic freedom, based on 'principles' nobody believes."

This is about only one controversial issue (Israel) and about suppressing only one side of that issue (criticisms of and activism against Israeli occupation and settlements). Just as it is extraordinary that a nominated Defense Secretary in the US has to take repeated vows of fealty to Israel and spend most of his confirmation hearing discussing not the US but that foreign country, it is truly extraordinary to watch "liberal" officials in the largest city in the US expressly threaten the funding of a college for the crime of holding an event that is critical of Israel (MSNBC's Chris Hayes, who admires - and has previously had on his show - several of the New York members of Congress who have joined this Dershowitz-led campaign, yesterday lambasted their conduct aimed at BC as "outrageous and genuinely chilling").

BC students and groups are (and should be) free to host as many anti-BDS events as they want and invite all the speakers in the world who support Israeli occupations and settlement expansions, despite how uncomfortable that might make Palestinian and Muslim students (and the BC PoliSci Department has made clear they would likely sponsor such events if asked). That's what free speech and academic freedom are about: the right to freely air and advocate for any and all viewpoints, even ones that "offend" people. Few things threaten those critical values more than elected officials threatening to punish colleges for hosting such events. But that's exactly what is taking place right now in New York.

© 2012 The Guardian

Glenn Greenwald

The Super Bowl Ad That Coke And Pepsi Desperately Don’t Want You To See

Pressure from the mammoth corporations led CBS to take an ad down from its programming.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Tiago M Nunes

February 2, 2013  |  

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This Sunday’s Super Bowl will be punctuated by dozens of ads featuring everything from adorable puppies to kids in Star Wars outfits. But one commercial you won’t see is a provocative ad by the carbonated beverage company SodaStream — an Israeli company that is no stranger to controversy — that takes on soda giants Coca Cola and Pepsi.

That’s because the ad has been pulled after pressure from the mammoth corporations led Super Bowl host CBS to take it down from its programming. Reportedly, Coke and Pepsi were upset with the commercials’ implied criticism of the soda industry’s use of plastic bottles and the subsequent harmful effects on the environment:

CBS rejected the ad, reportedly because of its direct assault on the big two carbonated-beverage makers (CBS didn’t return calls for comment). As the music from the movie Deliverance trills, deliverymen from Coke and Pepsi show up at a supermarket and rush to deliver their products. But the bottles pop and disappear, creating a mess. The ad then pans to a shot of a guy using SodaStream. The implication is that SodaStream will make bottled sodas irrelevant. [...]

Like many upstarts, SodaStream has taken an in-your-face, hyperbolic approach to marketing. The company doesn’t just suggest that SodaStream is a money-saving artisanal device. Rather, it suggests that some of the world’s popular brands (and biggest advertisers) are effectively evil forces. Why? They promote the production of polluting bottles and cans.

“SodaStream empowers consumers to make their own fresh soda at home in seconds, without the devastating environmental impact of plastic soda bottles and cans, which litter our parks and oceans,” said Daniel Birnbaum, the chief executive officer of SodaStream International, in a statement. “ Our ad confronts the beverage industry and its arguably out-dated business model by showing people that there exists a smarter way to enjoy soft drinks. One day we will look back on plastic soda bottles the way we now view cigarettes; as a dangerous vice, not as an easily-accepted feature of everyday life.”

Watch the ad here:

Americans throw away enough trash every year to cover the state of Texas — twice. And this isn’t the first time that beverage giants have found themselves in hot water over public health issues. Just last month, Coca Cola launched a deceptive new ad campaign attempting to mask the harmful effects of calorie-laden sodas on America’s obesity and diabetes epidemics.

How Whole Foods and the Biggest Organic Foods Distributor Are Screwing Workers

United Natural Foods Incorporated, the largest wholesale distributor of organic and “natural” foods in the US, is currently under investigation for 45 violations of federal labor law.

This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.

“The union is like having herpes. It doesn't kill you, but it's unpleasant and inconvenient, and it stops a lot of people from becoming your lover." -- John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market (WFM) CEO John Mackey has done a brilliant job of creating the illusion that his empire is all about abundance, bounty and the good life. But there’s nothing bountiful or good about the way the second-largest non-unionized food retailer exploits workers.

United Natural Foods Incorporated (UNFI), the largest multi-billion dollar wholesale distributor of organic and “natural” foods in the U.S., is currently under investigation for 45 violations of federal labor law, including physically threatening immigrant workers in California who were trying to form a union.

The company recently fired its underpaid and overworked unionized workers at its Auburn, Wash., distribution center for going on strike, and illegally hired non-union replacement workers.

What happens when companies like WFM and UNFI, which have carefully cultivated their public progressive images, start acting like Walmart? When union-busting and labor exploitation are accepted as “business-as-usual” in the green economy, it makes us all look bad. It discredits organics and Fair Trade by creating the impression that consumers don’t really care how their healthy organic food was produced. That the entire industry cares only about profits. Ethics and workers be damned.

When flagship organic companies take a Walmart approach to workers’ rights, it sends negative and conflicting signals to core organic consumers, making it look like leaders in the organic community are concerned about the plight of endangered species and Third World coffee growers or cacao producers, but oblivious to the economic pain and stresses of working class Americans or hardworking immigrants who plant and harvest our organic fruits and vegetables and then pack and deliver them to our neighborhood co-ops and natural food markets.

Isn’t it time we ask the same of WFM and UNFI that we demand of ourselves: that they walk their talk, prioritize organic food and products, practice Fair Trade and social justice, and wake up to the fact that "business as usual" is a bitter recipe for injustice?

The demand for organic and fairly traded food, apparel and body care products has grown exponentially over the past two decades. Millions of consumers are demanding products that not only are organic and healthy, but also embody Fair Trade principles, whereby the workers involved in producing these products are treated fairly and paid equitably.

Under the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), organic products are certified by third-party certifiers and regulated under federal law. But no such federal standards exist for Fair Trade labor practices, including the right of workers, especially in large businesses, to form trade unions and engage in collective bargaining with their employers.  As a consequence many consumers look for the “Fair Trade” label on imported goods, but pay little attention to the domestic supply chain.  Here in the U.S., most consumers naively believe that organics and Fair Trade practices go hand in hand. They are surprised to learn that most family farmers and farm workers, as well as many supply chain workers, struggle to make a living. But the truth is, labor exploitation is rampant in the fields, factories and warehouses where organic products are grown, processed and housed. And this is especially true when small, alternative businesses are bought out by corporate investors.

WFM is one of the biggest offenders in the U.S. The company’s Whole Trade Guarantee, through a third-party verified program, supposedly ensures that producers and laborers in developing countries get an equitable price for their goods in a safe and healthy working environment. But here in the U.S., WFM. the second largest union-free food retailer behind Walmart,  has taken the position that unions are not valid. The company even gives its workers a pamphlet titled "Beyond Unions." In the company’s 27-year history, only one of its stores, in Madison, Wis., successfully unionized. The chain has also fended off unionizing attempts in Berkeley, Calif.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Falls Church, Va.

As for UNFI, the company’s recent record on workers’ rights is abysmal. The National Labor Relations Board investigation includes allegations that UNFI engaged in worker surveillance, intimidation and retaliation; that it refused to bargain in good faith; and that it illegally reassigned bargaining unit work. UNFI workers and drivers at UNFI’s Auburn, Wash., distribution center went on strike for better pay and better working conditions Dec. 10, after rejecting UNFI’s latest contract offer. In retaliation UNFI fired them and illegally hired non-union replacement workers.

WFM and UNFI like to brag about how their workers are part of their “family,” and how well management treats them. But what about the thousands of non-unionized and exploited farm workers in California, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Latin America and Asia who supply many of their premium-priced products? What about the immigrant feedlot workers across the country? What about the truck drivers, food processing workers and warehouse staff who are threatened and intimidated whenever they try to organize themselves for collective bargaining? Are we all one family?

It’s time for WFM and UNFI to publicly acknowledge that Fair Trade principles and practices need to be implemented as part of their entire US/North American/global supply chain for food and organic and natural products, not just for the minority of products produced overseas and certified as Fair Trade. And of course, supporting domestic Fair Trade means that WFM and UNFI must stop their union busting and start recognizing the rights of workers, especially workers in large for-profit corporations, to freely organize themselves into unions for collective bargaining.

Until they do, as conscientious consumers we have to pressure UNFI and its largest customer, WFM. In response to UNFI’s actions in Washington State, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has called for a boycott of UNFI’s brand name products, Woodstock Foods and Blue Marble, until the company rehires its fired workers in Auburn, stops harassing and intimidating workers and drivers who want to form a union, and sits down to sign a fair contract.  We’re also asking organic food stores to look for alternative wholesalers to supply their stores, as a number of coops in Seattle and Olympia Washington, have already begun to do.  

In addition to boycotting UNFI’s Woodstock Foods and Blue Marble products, we encourage consumers to:

  • Sign the online petition in support of the striking workers at UNFI.
  • Call UNFI Manager Hank Heatherly at (253) 333-6769. Tell him to rehire the fired workers and return to the bargaining table immediately.
  • If you live in Washington State, and are willing to join in informational leafleting at Whole Foods Markets, sign up here.

UN Mission Condemns Israeli Settlements

On January 31, the UN International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory published damning findings.
Access them in full through the following link.They revealed multiple international law violations. Settlements compromise fundamental Palestinian human rights.

Violations are “interrelated.” They comprise “part of an overall pattern of breaches.”

They’re “characterized principally by the denial of the right to self-determination and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian people which occur on a daily basis.”

“Since 1967, Israeli governments have openly led, directly participated in, and had full control of the planning, construction, development, consolidation and encouragement of settlements.”

Christine Chanet headed the UN mission. She’s a consummate French government insider. From 1992 – 1996, she was Paris Court of Appeals advocate-general.

Since 1996, she’s been a Court of Cassation judge. It’s France’s civil/criminal court of last resort. It’s the equivalent of America’s Supreme Court.

She represents the UN Human Rights Committee. She’s held various other government positions.

They include Ecole Nationale de la Magistrature junior magistrate (1970), Ministry of Justice Central Administration magistrate (1970), Secretariat of State for Women’s Affairs technical advisor and special assistant (1974), and Secretary of State for Culture special assistant (1976).

They also include Ministry of External Affairs Legal Affairs Directorate special assistant (1981), French Foreign Affairs Ministry International Civil and Criminal Affairs and Human Rights Department head (1983), and French Office of Minister of Justice technical advisor (1988).

Since 1996, she served on the UN Human Rights Committee. Twice she was chairperson.

She was a member of the UN Committee against Torture (1988 – 1990). She’s Personal Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Cuba.

In 2003, she was elected a member of the International Commission of Jurists.

She chairs the committee in charge of reviewing criminal law decisions following European Court of Human Rights criminal law decisions.

She’s a French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights member.

Her UN Mission findings cited Fourth Geneva’s Article 49.

It prohibits “Individuals or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not….regardless of their motive.”

They said “Israel must cease all settlement activities without preconditions.” They benefit Jews exclusively. They institutionalize racist segregation. Military occupation enforces policies contrary to international law.

Mission member Asma Jahangir “call(ed) on the government of Israel to ensure full accountability for all violations.” She said it must “put an end to the policy of impunity and to ensure justice for all victims.”

Mission member Unity Dow added:

“The magnitude of violations relating to Israel’s policies of dispossessions, evictions, demolitions and displacements from land shows the widespread nature of these breaches of human rights.”

“The motivation behind violence and intimidation against the Palestinians and their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands, allowing the settlements to expand.”

Mission members interviews dozens of people. They testified about confiscated land, damaged property, and lost livelihoods, as well as security force and settler violence.

The report describes “creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.”

It covers Israel’s colonization history. It discusses restrictions on Palestinian free movement, expression, assembly, religious rights, living standards, access to water and other resources, institutionalized inequality, discrimination, and intimidation, dispossession, and overall Israeli lawlessness.

It said “facts brought to the attention of the Mission indicate that the State of Israel has had full control of the settlements in the OPT since 1967 and continues to promote and sustain them through infrastructure and security measures.”

 ”The Mission notes that despite all the pertinent United Nations resolutions declaring that the existence of the settlements is illegal and calling for their cessation, the planning and growth of the settlements continues both of existing as well as new structures.”

It wants settlement activities halted without preconditions. It calls for “immediately initiat(ing) a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the OPT.”

It wants companies and governments to “assess the human rights impact of their activities.” It wants them to “cease all connections to settlements.”

It wants them to consider economic and political sanctions.

PLO member Hanan Ashrawi called the report “principled,” “candid,” and “incredible.”

PA spokesperson Nour Adeh said it “confirms and deepens the application of international law and shows that the law applies to all, and no one is above it.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry condemned the report. It called it “one-sided, biased, counterproductive and unfortunate.”

Former Foreign Minister/convicted felon Avigdor Lieberman called for severing Israeli/UN Human Rights Council relations. Israel boycotted it deliberations. It refused cooperation when asked.

Haaretz called the report the UN’s “harshest condemnation of Israeli policy in the West Bank since 1967.” It’s the first UN report calling for economic and political sanctions.

Haaretz discussed the findings in detail. It provided a link to the full report. It deserves careful reading and discussion.

 A Final Comment

From January 21 – February 1, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) held its 15th session Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group.

On January 29, Israel’s assessment was scheduled. It was its first since December 2008. It failed to show up. It boycotted the session. Doing so was unprecedented.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemned Israel’s refusal to participate.

It said its boycott reflects “another demonstration of its contempt for international human rights norms, and is made possible by the complacency of the international community.”

 ”The failure to hold Israel to account for its violations of international human rights and humanitarian law has further deepened the culture of impunity which allows such violations to occur.”

Fifteen Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations called on HRC “to take a firm stand consistent with the seriousness of Israel’s obstructive actions to date.”

They warned that Israel’s unprecedented move is “one that could be followed by other States refusing to engage with the UN in order to avoid critical appraisals.”

They added that Israel’s “move to suspend cooperation with the Council and the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) must be viewed within the context of its ongoing refusal to respect the decisions, resolutions and mechanisms of the UN.”

 ”Consecutive Israeli governments have refused to recognize the State’s obligations under international human rights law with regard to the Palestinian population of the occupied Palestinian territory, obligations repeatedly reaffirmed in statements by UN treaty bodies.”

UNC postponed its review until October. Last year, Israel reduced relations with the organization. It did so following its decision to investigate settlement activities. It threatens severing relations entirely. Rogue states operate that way. Israel’s one of the worst.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

The Post War II New World Order Map: A Proposal to Re-arrange the World...

The Post War II New World Order Map: A Proposal to Re-arrange the World after an Allied Victory

Published in Philadelphia in early 1942, this ‘Outline of (the) Post-War New World Map’, created by Maurice Gomberg, shows a proposal to re-arrange the world after an Allied victory against the Axis forces. Its title refers to a ‘New World Order’, a vague concept, its many definitions often contradicting each other.

At the core of the NWO, however, is always the notion that a small group of powerful individuals, institutions, industries and/or nations must lead the world in the right direction (i.e. towards ‘unification’). This may be against the world’s own will (and therefore done covertly, at least in some versions of the NWO-story), but ultimately it is for its own good.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

http://www.globalresearch.ca/articlePictures/map1942world1600.jpg

http://strangemaps. files.wordpress. com/2008/ 06/1942world1600 .jpg

One of the most recent references to the NWO by a major political figure was made by US president George Bush (Sr), who explicitly used the NWO to refer to US objectives in a Post-Cold War world. The term has a pedigree much older than the Cold War, or even both World Wars. Some might even say – and now we’re straying somewhat prematurely into the field of conspiracy theory – that it goes all the way back to Roman times, as is attested by the (modified) quote of the Roman poet Virgil on the revers of the US Great Seal and (significantly or not, since 1935) on the back of the dollar bill: Novus Ordo Seclorum – literally: ‘A New Order for the Ages’.

In a modern context, it was the British imperialist Cecil Rhodes (who gave his name to Rhodesia) who first proposed a federal world government to be imposed by the US and the British Empire. US President Woodrow Wilson was inspired by a similar concept to draw up his plans for a League of Nations in the aftermath of World War I. Most fascist regimes in the 20s, 30s and 40s of the twentieth century also proposed some sort of NWO – in fact, most styled themselves to be a ‘New Order’. H.G. Wells – he of ‘War of the Worlds’ – wrote ‘The Open Conspiracy’ (1928) in which he describes his efforts to get intellectuals to back the idea of a World Social Democracy and ‘The New World Order’ (1940), in which he details how a generation of struggle will be necessary to overcome the opponents of such a global government.

The footer of the above map reads as follows:

•The United States of America (USA): the US, Canada, all Central American and Carribean states, most Atlantic islands (including Greenland and Iceland), most Pacific islands, Taiwan, Hainan, the Philippines and several now Indonesian islands, including Sulawesi. This was to be the dominant power in the world, military and otherwise.

•The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR): the Soviets were to be rewarded with Persia (Iran), Mongolia, Manchuria, Finland, and all of Eastern Europe, which subsequently would form part of the Eastern Bloc (excluding Albania, but including the real-life maverick state of Yugoslavia, socialist but anti-Soviet) . All of theses states were simply to become member-states of the USSR. Austria and most of Germany, although ‘quarantained’ are shown within the Soviet sphere.

•The United States of South America (USSA): including all South American states, with the three Guianas as a single constituent state and the Falkland Islands part of the USSA.

•The Union of African Republics (UAR): All of Africa as a federation of republics.

•The Arabian Federated Republics (AFR): covering Saudi and all other states now occupying the Arabian Peninsula, plus present-day Iraq and Syria.

•The Federated Republics of India (FRI): Present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Birma (Myanmar).

•The United Republics of China (URC): A federation including all parts of present-day China, Korea, the erstwhile French colony of Indochina (now Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), Thailand and Malaya.

•The United States of Scandinavia (USS): Norway, Sweden, Denmark.

•The United States of Europe (USE): the Benelux countries, the German Rhineland, France, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

•And finally the British Commonwealth of Nations (BCN), including Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Madagascar and most of Indonesia.

Smaller entities include Eire (the whole of Ireland), Greece (including Albania), Turkey (excluding European Turkey), Hebrewland (the Holy Land plus Jordan) and Japan. The three axis states (Germany, Italy and Japan) were to be ‘quarantained’ until they could be readmitted in the family of nations.

Mr Gomberg possibly took his cue for this map from US president Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose speech about Four Freedoms and a Moral Order (from his State of the Union to the 77-th Congress) he quotes, before outlining his own vision (at the bottom of the map):

“As the USA with the cooperation of the Democracies of Latin-America, the British Commonwealth of Nations and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, assumes world leadership for the establishment of a New World Moral Order for permanent peace, justice, security and world reconstruction.”

“OUR POLICY SHALL BE THIS:

1. We, the U.S.A., in cooperation with our allies, for reasons of our national safety and in the interests of international morality, are determined to crush and completely destroy the military power of the Axis aggressors, and their satellites regardless of cost, effort and time necessary to accomplish this task.

2. The old world order of colonial oppression, exploitation of dominions, rival imperialism and mercenary balance of power diplomacy; of majesties, dictators, privileged minorities, plutocratic monopolists and similar social parasites; the corrupted order responsible for the present world cataclysm, endangering our national safety and peaceful process, shall never rise again.

3. A New World Moral Order for permanent peace and freedom shall be established at the successful conclusion of the present war.

4. For reasons of history, economic structure, favorable geography and the welfare of mankind, the U.S.A. must, altruistically, assume the leadership of the newly established, democratic world order.

5. To reduce the burden and criminal waste of armaments expenditures everywhere in the world, the U.S.A., with the cooperation of Latin-America, the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the U.S.S.R. shall undertake to guarantee peace to the nations which will be permanently disarmed and demilitarized after the conclusion of the present war.

6. In order to be able, in the fulfillment of our obligations, to effectively prevent the possibility of a recurrence of another world cataclysm, the invincibility of the U.S.A. as a military, naval and air power, shall be the major prerequisite.

7. For realistic considerations of strategy and our invulnerability, it is imperative that the U.S.A. shall obtain relinquishment of controls of their possessions from all foreign Powers in the entire Western Hemisphere, it’s surrounding waters and strategic island outposts as outlined on accompanying map.

8. For considerations of hemispheric defense and in the spirit and tradition of the new Monroe Doctrine of hemispheric solidarity and the “Good Neighbor” policy, the U.S.A. with the consent of the Latin-American Republics, shall obtain control and protectorate rights of the relinquished territories.

9. To strengthen our position in the Caribbean area which is of obvious importance to hemispheric defense, all possible inducements shall be offered to our neighbors of Central America and the West Indies to facilitate their entrance as equal states of the U.S.A. as outlined on map.

10. To fortify the politico-economic unity of the Western Hemisphere, the U.S.A. shall promote and assist the unification of South America into a well organized, democratic, federated “United States of South America.”

11. The liberated British, French and Netherlands Guiana shall be reorganized as one state of the U.S.S.A.

12. All Powers shall relinquish their controls of their colonial, mandate and strategic island possessions everywhere in the world.

13. The British Commonwealth of Nations, the second military and naval Power of importance cooperating in a binding compact with the U.S.A. as a Power for freedom, shall retain and acquire control such territories, peace-security bases and strategic islands outposts essential for the maintenance of world peace and freedom as outlines on the map.

14. The U.S.S.R., the third military Power of importance cooperating with the U.S.A. as a Power for freedom and the maintenance of world peace, shall acquire control of the liberated, disorganized adjacent areas and those of Germany-Austria to be re-educated and eventually incorporated as equal republics of the U.S.S.R., as approximately outlined on map.

15. A world League of Nationalities with arbitration and supervision powers shall be organized.

16. A World Court with punitive powers of absolute boycott, quarantine, blockade and occupation by international police, against lawbreakers of international morality shall be organized.

17. The U.S.A. with the close cooperation of the United States of South America, the British Commonwealth of Nations, the U.S.S.R. and the World League of Nationalities, shall promote and assist in the unification of the relinquished territories and the areas at present unsoundly divided into well organized democratic and absolutely demilitarized republics as approximately on the map.

18. The areas known as Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzerland, France, Spain, Portugal, the island of Corsica, and eventually Italy and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily shall be unified as a demilitarized, federated “United States of Europe.”

19. The areas known as Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Spitsbergen islands shall be unified as a demilitarized, federated “United States of Scandinavia.”

20. The continent of Africa shall be reorganized and unified as a demilitarized, federated “Union of African Republics.”

21. The areas of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Hejas, Aden and Oman, shall be unified as a demilitarized union of “Arabian Federated Republics.”

22. The areas known as India, including Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Burma shall be unified as a demilitarized “federated Republics of India.”

23. The areas known as China, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Thailand, Malaya, Indo-China and Korea, shall be unified as a demilitarized, federated “United Republics of China.”

24. The areas known as Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Crete, Dodecanese and adjacent islands in the Aegean sea shall be unified as a demilitarized “Federal Republic of Greece.”

25. The areas known as Eire and Northern Ireland shall be unified as a demilitarized independent republic of “Eire.”

26. The area of the Holy Land of the ancient Hebrews, at present known as Palestine and Trans-Jordan, and the adjacent requisite regions as outlined on map, for considerations of history and the imperative necessity to alleviate a post war refugee problem, shall be unified as a demilitarized republic of “Hebrewland.”

27. The area known as European Turkey, adjacent to the Dardanelles, sea of Marmora and Bosporus, for considerations of realistic peace strategy shall be placed under joint control of the U.S.S.R. and Turkey.

28. The area known as Turkey shall be a demilitarized independent republic of “Turkey.”

29. All problems of exchange, transfer and repatriation of populations shall be administered by the World League of Nationalities.

30. The criminal perpetrators and their partners in guilt of this hideous war shall be brought to justice and unforgettable punishment administered.

31. All subjects of Japan and all persons of Japanese origin of doubtful loyalty shall be expelled from the entire Western Hemisphere, U.S.A. protectorates and strategic island outposts and their property confiscated for post-war reconstruction needs.

32. All subjects of Germany and Italy and all persons of German and Italian origin known as active supporters of Nazi and fascist ideologies shall be treated similarly.

33. German, Italian, Japanese immigration to the Western Hemisphere, its protectorates and island outposts shall be indefinitely stopped.

34. All persons of German origin in East Prussia and the Rhineland shall be transferred to inner Germany and the regions permanently de-Prussianized.

35. All persons of German, Italian and Japanese origin shall be permanently expelled from their now conquered territories and their property confiscated for post-war construction needs.

36. To cleanse the populations of the defeated Axis aggressors of the intoxication of military chauvinism; to effectuate the removal and destruction of their potential military establishments; to recover the accumulated loot and to re-educate them for their eventual membership in the Family of Nations, the areas of Germany-Austria, Italy and Japan shall be hermetically and indefinitely quarantined and administered by appointed Governors subject to supervision by the world League of Nationalities.

37. All resources, industrial and labor capacity of quarantined areas shall be employed for the post war restoration and reconstruction needs.

38. To reduce the numerical power of the aggressor nations, as a potential military advantage, a Population Control Policy shall be elaborated and applied in the quarantined area.

39. In the New World Moral Order which we seek to establish, besides the essential political freedoms, the following fundamental economic changes are imperative:

(a) Nationalization of all natural resources and equitable distribution of same to all nations…everywhere in the world;

(b) Nationalization of international banking, foreign investments, railroads and power plants….everywhere in the world;

(c) Nationalization of all armaments producing establishments by all military powers;

(d) Federal control of foreign commerce and shipping;

(e) The establishment of a world common monetary system;

(f) World wide limitations of interest rates to a maximum of two percent;

40. To retain the victory and leadership of our united democratic effort….the aim of which is not vengeance or exploitation, but freedom and security to all nations for peaceful progress….the unified “Supreme War Command of the United Nations” at the conclusion of the present war, shall be recognized and transformed into a permanent “Supreme Military and Economic Council” collaborating with the World League of Nationalities in post war construction and to enforce world peace.

41. The “Supreme Military and Economic Council” shall appoint the Governors to administer the quarantined areas until their eventual parole.

For this purposeful beginning we must fight until absolute victory.”

from:
http://strangemaps. wordpress. com/2008/ 06/06/286- the-new-world- moral-map/
1941 Map predicted future …
http://forum. prisonplanet. com/index. php?topic= 57864.msg289305# msg289305

Compare the 1942 Map to the US Commands, which reflect America’s deployment of military might and wars of conquest (Editor of Global Research)

Facts Are For ‘Sissies’: Schwarzenegger Calls to ‘Sex’ Up Environmentalism

Speaking Thursday at a largely-boycotted 'greenwashing' climate summit in Vienna, Austria, big-talking, Hummer-driving, enemy-terminating, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he thinks climate facts are all "doom and gloom" and is calling on leaders to "sex" up the environmental debate.

Clearly encouraging environmentalism, Schwarzenegger strikes a 'sexy' pose next to his Hummer. (Photo via LA Times) "There is a new way, a more sexy, a more hip way. Instead of using doom and gloom and telling people what they can't do, we should make them part of our movement and tell them what they can do," he said.

Schwarzenegger was speaking at the first conference of his new green movement, R20 Regions of Climate Action, which calls on local governments to "follow California's lead" and implement environmental legislation ahead of federal governments. However, largely absent from the conference are environmental organizations including Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, who criticized the event for being "elitist" and "greenwashing."

"I mean I still drive my Hummers but now they are all on hydrogen and biofuel ... We need to send a message that we can live the same life, just with cleaner technology," he added, illustrating his unfamiliarity with the criticism that biofuels threaten international food security and encourage corporate land grabs.

“If we want to inspire the world, it is time for us to forget about the old way of talking about climate change, where we crush people, where we overwhelm people with data.”

Gold Market: What determines the Price of Gold

gold

In this interview for Matterhorn Asset Management, Robert Blumen discusses some important but widely misunderstood elements acting on the gold price. He explains that frequently cited gold demand statistics have no relationship to the gold price. In addition, he explains that the annual gold mine production is of very little influence, as gold is hoarded, not consumed like other commodities.

Robert_Blumen

Lars Schall: Mr. Blumen, how did you become interested in the subject of gold in general?

Robert Blumen: There were two main influences when I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s. We went through a period of very high inflation in the United States. President Nixon imposed wage and price controls in a misguided, or perhaps very cynical, attempt to fight inflation. And Nixon’s successor, President Ford, handed out these silly little lapel buttons that said “Whip Inflation Now”. I remember seeing a young man on the TV news who had reported a chain store for the economic crime of raising the price of one of their products. He was being given some kind of award for this.

The second historical event was the gold bull market of the late 70s. Then Reagan came in along with Paul Volker who he inherited from the former president, Carter. I wasn’t paying much attention at the time but it stuck with me that gold had made this huge move.

Those two things came together and had a life-long influence on me. From that time I took away a curiosity about inflation. And that led me eventually to be curious about the whole field of economics. I was lucky that I came upon the Austrian School of Economics. I started reading Austrian economics in high school. The Austrian School emphasized gold as the basis of the monetary system and how well that has worked out over the course of human history.

L.S.: The growing interest in gold was underlined recently in a report that was published by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), which has the title “Gold, the renminbi and the multi-currency reserve system“. (1) I think that this report is quite remarkable for various reasons. Do you agree?

R.B.: The report suggests that the international monetary system will accept gold in a more recognized way as a reserve asset. I think that this is already true, informally. There are many signs of this. Central banks have gone from selling to buying in recent years.

On the intellectual plane, I think there the consensus of many decades, namely that gold had been permanently removed from its monetary role, is changing. There is increasing discussion gold as a monetary metal among the elites. Several years ago, Benn Steil, a CFR economist wrote an opinion piece for the Financial Times (excerpted here) suggesting that the global gold standard worked better than the current system of floating rates. Robert Zoellick, who was president of the World Bank at the time, wrote a gold-friendly op-ed also in the FT a couple of years ago.

L.S.: What is your overall view on China?

R.B.: The popular perception of China an economic juggernaut on a path to eclipse the economies of the developed world. And how did that happen? Because their wise central planners chose an export-driven growth strategy. Many people now think that this strategy has gotten them to a point where they are deficient in domestic consumption, so they need to switch to a consumption-driven mode of economic growth; and that this also will be accomplished by the same wise central planners through a series of carefully designed five-year plans.

I think almost everything about this view is wrong; it is still largely a centrally planned economy and we know from the economics of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, central planners cannot allocate resources.

L.S.: Why not?

R.B.: Mises wrote a paper in 1920, which became quite a famous and very controversial thesis in economics that was debated for decades. His paper was called Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth and you can find it for free at the Mises site.
economicCalculation

If you have a very simple economy where people make consumption goods with their bare hands, this can be done with central planning. But Mises was trying to explain the economic growth that has occurred in the world from small villages to vast modern economies with millions of goods and a complex division of labor. How could this type of growth occur? The process requires the development of a complex inter-relationship of capital goods, natural resources, and division of labor.

In a modern economy, the number of things that could be produced is nearly unimaginably large. And the number of different production methods for even a single good is incalculable. Take gold for example – finding a deposit is quite complex. There are many ways to look for it. Magnetic fields, chemistry, electrical, drilling. How much drilling and where? And then, when you have the deposit, should it be open pit or underground? Should a resource estimate be established first or start mining and follow the vein? And what about the metallurgy, the chemistry? What type of electrical power? What types of labor? Refine the ore on site, or partially refine? Build roads, rail, or ship the ore? There are millions of decisions and each one needs to be fully answered down to the hire or purchase of specific pieces of capital and individual workers.

Mises’ point was that all of these production decisions, not only what gets produced and what does not, but how it’s done, can only be decided on the basis of prices. In particular Mises noted that the prices of capital goods are crucial to production decisions. Contrary to what you read endlessly in the financial news about consumption driving the economy, spending on capital goods is the major part of total spending.

Only with prices can you have accounting, which is the ability to calculate profit and loss. In a market economic system, the important decisions are made on the basis of an anticipated profit and loss, which is the difference between the expected prices received on sales and the costs.

Mises had the insight that prices of capital goods are only a meaningful tool for resource allocation if they are established by a competitive bidding process among entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs must choose how much they are willing to pay to acquire a specific capital asset and hire the skilled workers they need. Entrepreneurs are people who put at risk their own capital, and will either earn a profit or suffer a loss.

The diversity of entrepreneurs is a key part of this. Each business firm or company founder has a unique view of their own market, which may be highly detailed and based on years of experience. Mises also noted that each entrepreneur has his idea about what the customer will want. The market is a decentralized process in which the entrepreneur who has the best plan for each particular asset, along with some cash, will end up in a position to choose how that asset gets used.

In my own former job, I worked for a company that was in a small sub-sector of a sub-sector. There are perhaps half a dozen people in the world who truly understood our industry, maybe fewer. The entire world is full of experts like this, people who understand a particular industry or product really well.

Can you imagine, for example, that we would have iPhones or Kindles if the technology industry was planned by a central committee? Before the iPhone, competition in the mobile industry was primarily over how many minutes per month you got on weekdays or weekends. When Steve Jobs decided to develop the iPhone, he risked $150 million of his shareholder’s money and took on the US mobile industry, who did not want a disruptive phone taking away the spotlight from their monthly plans.

Central planning means the abolition of this type of competition. And that is the problem that Mises identified. There is no way to replace this competitive bidding process with a single planner or a planning committee. The central committee cannot bid against itself for the opportunity to acquire specific capital goods and labor. That would be nothing more than the left hand bidding against the right hand. They could assign fake prices to resources and pretend to calculate the best projects, but the numbers that would come out of this process would not be prices, they would be arbitrary numbers that did not reflect the best possible use of scarce productive resources. Mises showed that a central planner has no basis for making economic decisions, even if the process did not become entirely politicized, as it always does.

L.S.: So how does that apply to China’s growth prospects?

R.B: The China bull story as far as I can tell is based on the growth rate of GDP. Their economy is allegedly growing at 9%, if you believe the number. But the GDP number is more of a measure of spending. You can go along spending money for quite a while, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a useful allocation of resources in the face of scarcity. In the end if you have nothing that people want to show for it, it was wasted. And GDP does not capture that distinction.

chinagdpgrowth

The idea of export driven growth, it’s a contradictory concept. Economic growth means the ability of an economic system to produce more goods and services that people want and are willing to pay for, at a higher price than it cost to produce them. What they call export-driven growth is really a policy of holding their own currency exchange rate below the market rate in order to reduce the domestic monetary costs of their export industries. This creates a misallocation of labor and capital and a relative over-productive of export goods at the cost of fewer imports and fewer goods for domestic consumption.

If the cost of China’s policy were properly accounted for, it would be evident that the marginal export goods that is apparently produced at a profit (under the phony accounting of depreciating money) is in reality produced at a loss. But this loss is hidden because it is distributed over the entire population by reducing the purchasing power of their currency. And that impacts their ability to buy imported goods, or, as many domestically produced goods that have an import component.

They have a huge infrastructure bubble. They are building far more roads, bridges, power plants in relation to the rest of their capital structure. Bridges and roads to nowhere show up as GDP because spending is required to create them. But not all spending is created equal. Spending on thinks you don’t need or things that cost too much to produce is waste and it moves resources away from where they are needed to create real growth.

A lot of the writers in the West are in awe of China’s centrally planned economic system. A friend of mine, the American investment writer Chris Meyer, sent me news story a few years about the highly reputed UK fund manager Antony Bolton who had come out of retirement to manage a new China fund. Bolton cited the advantages of central planning compared to a market economy as one of his reasons for his enthusiasm. Things didn’t work out so well for Bolton. The fund has under-performed, which can happen for a lot of reasons besides believing in an incorrect political-economic theory. But I think that he came in right near the top of China’s planning bubble.

Economist Brad Setser wrote a paper around 2006 about the Chinese banking system. In his paper, he went back a number of years into the history of their banking system. Setser found that during this time, interest rates had been set at below-market levels by the central planners. This of course meant more demand for loans than banks could supply. Rather than rationing by price, resource allocation had been largely driven by political favoritism. Not surprisingly, most of the loans from this period went bad. The entire banking system eventually became nothing but a sea of bad loans. Then there was a bail-out, putting all of the bad loans in a bad bank. And then, they started over from zero and rebooted the whole system. But by the end of the time that Setser covered in his research, they had gotten right back where they started, full of bad loans again. More recently Edward Chancellor and Mike Monelly of the respected value investing firm GMO have produced a research piece saying more or less the same thing.

Overall they have a completely dysfunctional capital allocation process. That’s why I’m a bit of a skeptic on China.

L.S.: Last year the Austrian gold analyst Ronald Stöferle mentioned you in an interview with me for GoldSwitzerland. (2) Mr. Stöferle, in my opinion one of Europe’s best men in this field, said that you belong to the crème de la crème when it comes to the issue of price formation, and that you have something original and unique to say in your writings. So I am curious about this. But let’s begin the discussion with a more general question: In your opinion, where do you think that many analysts go wrong in their understanding of the gold market?

R.B.: I see four problems but in a way they are all different versions of one problem.

The first is a focus on the annual statistics. Whatever happened in the last year is not that significant because most of the gold that exists at the end of one year was there at the beginning of that year.

The second problem, which you could argue is a subset of the first one, is the emphasis mine supply. While a lot of ink or electrons are spilt on mine production, it has very little impact on the gold price.

The third is the vast amount of brainpower that goes into quantifying gold flows into market segments, such as industry, jewelry, coins, and funds. These quantities may be interesting for some purposes, but they’re not really that relevant if what you’re trying to do is understand the gold price, because there is not a connection between quantities and price in the way that most people think there is.

The last problem is the idea in some circles that there is a gold supply deficit. If you really look at the market, the concept doesn’t make sense. It’s based on a strange way of lining up the numbers to produce something like an optical illusion. The gold market, structurally, cannot be in a deficit in the way that any other commodity market could be in a deficit.

L.S.: We will discuss the last point in detail later. — As already mentioned, in the past you have written several pieces about the price formation mechanism in the gold market. Why have you chosen to focus on this area?

R.B.: I think the reason I have chosen to focus on this is that I see a lot of misunderstanding about this topic, and since very few people are active in this area, I have decided to take it on. I am hoping that through my writing and through interviews such as this one, I can play some part in shifting the thinking of the gold community.

There are a few others who get it. Stöferle who you mentioned has covered this in his gold report. Paul Mylchreest wrote about this exact issue when he was at Chevreux/Credit Agricole. Acting-man, a site that covers the Euro market, has some excellent content looking at gold and the price system from the correct perspective. James Turk and the people at GoldMoney are quite friendly to this concept. And I recall reading something by the fund manager John Hathaway in which he seemed to be saying approximately the same thing. I hope that I haven’t left anyone out.

I believe that the tide is slowly turning on this issue. While the incorrect view still predominates, increasingly the correct understanding is beginning to be expressed more frequently. A report such as Stöferle’s from a prominent research firm is a good sign.

L.S.: How does your view of gold price formation differ from the views of most analysts of the gold sector?

R.B.: I think I need to start out by giving a little background, and then proceed to directly answer your question. I am going to start by talking about where the wrong thinking comes from so you can see that it might make sense to someone to think that way. Then I will show where they go wrong and then, the correct way to think about it.

There are two different kinds of commodities and we need to understand the price formation process differently for each one. The first one I’m going to call, a consumption commodity and the other type I’m going to call an asset.

A consumption commodity is something that in order to derive the economic value from it, it must be destroyed. This is a case not only for industrial commodities, but also for consumer products. Wheat and cattle, you eat; coal, you burn; and so on. Metals are not destroyed but they’re buried or chemically bonded with other elements making it more difficult to bring them back to the market. Once you turn copper into a pipe and you incorporate it hull of a ship, it’s very costly to bring it back to the market.

People produce these things in order to consume them. For consumption goods, stockpiles are not large. There are, I know, some stockpiles copper and oil, but measured in terms of consumption rates, they consist of days, weeks or a few months.

Now for one moment I ask you to forget about the stockpiles. Then, the only supply that could come to the market would be recent production. And that would be sold to buyers who want to destroy it. Without stockpiles, supply is exactly production and demand is exactly consumption. Under those conditions, the market price regulates the flow of production into consumption.

Now, let’s add the stockpiles back to the picture. With stockpiles, it is possible for consumption to exceed production, for a short time, by drawing down stock piles. Due to the small size of the stocks, this situation is necessarily temporary because stocks will be depleted, or, before that happens, people will see that the stocks are being drawn down and would start to bid the price back up to bring consumption back in line with production.

Now let’s look at assets. An asset is a good that people buy it in order to hold on to it. The value from an asset comes from holding it, not from destroying it. The simplest asset market is one in which there is a fixed quantity that never changes. But it can still be an asset even when there is some production and some consumption. They key to differentiating between consumption and asset is to look at the stock to production ratio. If stocks are quite large in relation to production, then that shows that most of the supply is held. If stocks are small, then supply is consumed.

Let me give you some examples: corporate shares, land, real property. Gold is primarily an asset. It is true that a small amount of gold is produced and a very small amount of gold is destroyed in industrial uses. But the stock to annual production ratio is in the 50 to 100:1 range. Nearly all the gold in the world that has ever been produced since the beginning of time is held in some form.

indiagoldjewelry

Even in the case of jewelry, which people purchase for ornamental reasons, gold is still held. It could come back to the market. Every year people sell jewelry off and it gets melted and turned into a different piece of jewelry or coins or bars, depending on where the demand is. James Turk has also pointed out that a lot of what is called jewelry is an investment because in some parts of the world there’s a cultural preference for people to hold savings in coins or bars but in other areas by custom people prefer to hold their portable wealth as bracelets or necklaces. Investment grade jewelry differs from ornamental jewelry in that it has a very small artistic value-added on top of the bullion value of the item.

So, now that I’ve laid out this background, the price of a good in a consumption market goes where it needs to go in order to bring consumption in line with production. In an asset market, consumption and production do not constrain the price. The bidding process is about who has the greatest economic motivation to hold each unit of the good. The pricing process is primarily an auction over the existing stocks of the asset. Whoever values the asset the most will end up owning it, and those who value it less will own something else instead. And that, in in my view, is the way to understand gold price formation.

Many of the people who follow and write about this market look at it as if it were a consumption market and they look at mine supply and industrial fabrication as the drivers of the price as if it were tin, or coal, or wheat. People who look at gold as if it were a consumption market are looking at it the wrong way. But now you can see where the error comes from. In many financial firms gold is in the commodities department, so a commodities analyst gets assigned to write the gold report. If the same guy wrote the report about tin and copper, he might think that gold is just the same as tin and copper. And he starts by looking at mine supply and industrial off-take.

I wonder if more equity analysts or bond analysts were active in the gold area, if they would be more likely to look at it the same way they look at those assets.

L.S.: In your writings, you mention quite often the marginal price theory. Where does this theory originate and what is it all about?

R.B.: Marginal price theory has been part of economic theory for well over a hundred years. Most historians of the field of economics itself see the so-called marginal revolution as the boundary between the classical school of economics and modern economics. I learnt marginal price theory from Murray Rothbard‘s book, Man, Economy and State, but it’s something you could learn in any course on economics.

Marginal price theory was developed to answer a question a lot like what we are discussing today. It was known as the diamond-water paradox. The question that classically economists could not answer is, “Why do diamonds cost so much more than bread when bread is necessary for human life and diamonds are a luxury?” The problem was that classical economists did not think in terms of individual units. The breakthrough was the realization that we need to think about economic action in terms of individual units. A marginal theory says that human action acts on individual units of a good. The last unit that you buy or sell is always the marginal unit. As an economic actor you’re thinking, “What do I want to do with this next dollar? Do I want one more unit, one more dollars’ worth of diamonds or one more dollars’ worth of bread?

L.S.: How does that apply to the gold market?

R.B.: Gold is an asset. People buy it in order to hold it. The price of gold is set as people balance, at the margin, the amount of additional units of gold they want to hold against additional units of other assets or cash they want to hold, or consumption.

If you think of the possible gold buyer as the guy who is saying, “Do I want to hold one more ounce of gold or this $1,800 that I have?” The answer to his question is going to be different for each person and for each additional ounce. You might say “yes, I want one more ounce of gold instead of $1,800”. Now, you have an ounce of gold and if I ask you the question again you might say, “No, now that I have bought that additional ounce, I’ve got enough gold”.

On the supply side, are the people who own gold. From their point of view they have to answer the question, “Do I want to keep holding this ounce of gold or do I want to sell it on the market and have $1,800?” That $1,800 might stay in cash or maybe they have another use in mind for it. The supply side is everyone who has any gold and the buy-side of the market is anyone who has any money that they might want to put into gold.

Now, we can eliminate people who don’t know what gold is, the ones don’t know where to buy it or how to buy it, and those don’t want any because they don’t understand it, or maybe they do understand it but they don’t like it. But that still leaves a large number of people who might add to their position some quantity of gold at the right price. The people who already own gold, they could be active on either side of the market as a buyer or a seller. I want to emphasize that everyone who owns any gold at all is part of the supply-side of the market, not all at the current price, but at some price.

In micro-economics there’s a nice formalism where they use supply and demand curves. If you took a micro course you would have seen those. Many people might feel more familiar with these concepts if they can see the curves. You can do a lot with these curves but you can’t forget that they supply and demand curves are a way of aggregating of the preferences of all the individuals in the market. Murray Rothbard does a great job of explaining this.

In the market, people rebalance between gold and dollars until they’re happy with what they own. At that point there will be no more trading if no one ever changed their mind. But now and again people do change their mind; they realize they want more of one thing and less of another thing. Then you have more trading to bring the market back into balance.

In finance there is a similar concept called, optimal portfolio theory in which they see portfolio management in terms where people are trying to hold the ideal amount of each different form of savings. The portfolio manager rebalances based on the expected properties of each asset until they have the right mix.

L.S: Is it realistic to assume that everyone is willing to sell their gold? The gold buyers are perceived as very strong hands with long time horizon, people who hoard for a crisis.

R.B.: Many of the people who have bought gold in the last few years are not remotely interested in selling at the current price or even double the current price, but there is always a price or some combination of price and circumstances where somebody would put some of their gold on sale — maybe not all of it but some of it. And people on the money side of the market are asking the same question in relation to gold. The market balances all of those choices out and you have a price that brings out the quantities on both sides of the market into balance.

Maybe that’s not totally true, maybe some gold is held by people who wouldn’t sell it for any reason. But I think that the concept of the gold bug who plans to take it all to the grave is over-stated. I asked a person the gold business whether gold retail trade is all selling and no buying. He told me, “No of course not, there are always buyers and sellers”. After all, what is the point of having a store of value if you never use the value? That is John Maynard Keynes and his parable of the cake that is never eaten. But Keynes was really painting a caricature of the capitalist system which encourages saving for the future. The future does arrives at some point, whether it is old age or emergency, and at that time, the value of additional saving is diminished relative to spending.

And it is important to understand the cost of owning gold is not necessarily the amount of money you could get by selling it. Prices are only a way of quantifying true costs. The cost of owning an ounce of gold is whatever other sort of economic opportunity that you are sacrificing by owning the gold instead. People who own gold are every day looking at “what other economic opportunities am I giving up by holding this ounce of gold?” and then “Do I want to shift the next ounce of gold somewhere else that will give me a better return or a better consumption experience?”. If you could swap an ounce of gold for one unit of the American Dow Stock Average that was at the time yielding 12% then the cost of owning an ounce of gold is not owning a unit of the DJIA. The cost of owning gold is the opportunity cost, of which holding cash instead is only one possible choice.

Let me give you another example; if the price of a new car that you like is twenty ounces of gold, you might prefer the gold. The cost of owning the gold is 1/20th of a car. But if the price of that car in gold ounces dropped to one ounce, you might say, “Nineteen ounces of gold is enough and I’d like to have that new car”. And at that point it makes sense to swap a single ounce of gold for a car. You still have nineteen ounces of gold, so you haven’t sold all of your gold, but at the margin, you have sold the least valued ounce for something that became more attractive.

L.S.: So your view is basically that of portfolio balancing. Do you see the price mechanism in the gold market as similar to the share market?

R.B.: Yes, in terms of the formal model of how pricing works it is similar. You see you have a relatively fixed quantity of a good and people are bidding the price up or down, based on who is the most motivated to hold that good, who is most willing to sacrifice the opportunity to hold a different asset or to increase their consumption.

Now, gold is different than shares in that gold is more of a cash-like asset whereas with shares you are buying an actual business that has a management team, products, and a financial statement. So, in that way it’s different. But in terms of the pricing process it’s quite similar.

L.S.: You use in your writings also the concept of “reservation demand”. Can you explain this further, please?

R.B.: There are two different expressions of demand for a good. If I trade with you, I supply one apple and I demand one banana and you do the opposite. We each demand something by offering something in supply. When there’s a buyer and a seller, the buyer demands and the seller supplies. That is exchange demand.

The concept of reservation demand is where you demand something by holding onto it rather than selling it. This concept might sound unfamiliar but it is very relevant to everyone’s life. We all have reservation demand for many goods. I have reservation demand at the moment for an auto, a dining room table, a couch, a mobile phone, and so forth. My reservation demand for cash in my pocket is $20. Any good that you’re any holding onto rather than selling, you are exercising reservation demand.

Most of the market research about gold deals with exchange demand, which has the advantage that you can measure it. But reservation demand is far more relevant to the price. The profile of reservation demand among people who own gold is the main determinant of the gold price from the supply side.

A very closely-related concept is reservation price. This is the price where you would be willing to sell a good that you currently hold. In the gold market, you can think of every ounce with a price tag on it. Or maybe today, it would be a QR code instead of a tag. That price depends on who owns that ounce of gold and their reason for holding it. Short-term traders might take a position for five minutes looking for a small move. If they got their $10 move they would sell and lock in a profit. You have other people who have a much longer time horizon, years or even decades, and a much higher expectation of where they’re going to sell. And even the same person will have a different price tag on each ounce. The first ounce you might be more willing to sell than your last ounce. It is important to understand that reservation prices are not necessarily money prices; they may be construed more broadly in terms of economic opportunities as I described just a moment ago.

You also might object that a lot of people may not know exactly what their reservation price is in money terms because it is impossible to know accurately what the purchasing price of money will be at a time when you might want to sell. And this is true. Many gold buyers are envisioning that we are going to experience hyper-inflation in some countries and their plan might be to look for distressed assets that go on sale during a hyperinflation. That would be the time to sell their gold, or more accurately, to swap their gold for assets. This type of person may conceive of the reservation price as, “When I can buy a small business, like a cleaners, for five ounces of gold” or “when I can buy a rental apartment for 10 ounces of gold”. People conceive of the reservation price more broadly in terms of what is going on in the world around them.

There is reservation demand on the money side of the market as well. Why does everyone not spend all of their money? Because we have reservation demand for money. The reason that you have any money at all and you haven’t spent it is you see some potential use for that money, possibly when you see something you need or want at a low enough price, that the good comes in ahead of your reservation price in so you buy the good.

The bid and ask that you see in the gold market at any point in time is the price offered by the marginal non-buyer and the price asked by the marginal non-seller. The marginal non-buyer is the person whose reservation price for their money is just below the ask and the marginal non-seller is the person whose reservation price for that ounce of gold is just above the bid. The equilibrium of the market is that you have the bid and the ask which are the best reservation prices are on each side.

L.S. Why do you object to the emphasis on annual statistics in looking at this market?

R.B: What I want people to take away from this interview is that the gold price is not primarily a way of rationing gold that was mined during the last year, it’s a way of rationing all of the gold in the world because all of the gold is held and everyone who holds it cares about the price one way or the other.

The gold market is not segregated into one market for the gold that was mined this year and another market for gold that was mined in past years. The buyer doesn’t care whether he’s buying a newly mined ounce of gold or buying from somebody who had purchased gold that was mined 100 years ago. All of the buyers are competing to buy and all of the sellers are competing to sell.

I think that the focus on annual numbers is another residual of the domination of this space by commodities-type thinking.

L.S. You have stated that mine supply is not a key factor driving the gold price. Most gold analysts would not agree with you. Please explain your view on this.

If you pick up a typical research report on a gold market from a research firm or a bank, you will find that the main portion of the report is about annual quantities. Annual mine production is the most important followed by the jewelry melted, jewelry bought, coin and bar sales, dental, industrial, and central bank. And these quantities are thought by most analysts to be critically important in determining the gold price but that is just not the case.

Gold is always owned by whoever has puts greatest value on it. The ask price is the value placed on gold by the individual who values their last ounce the least of anyone who owns gold, compared to the last buyer who got rationed out of the market, the guy who values gold the most of anyone who does not own that last ounce.

Mining add about 1% to the total supply each year. If the total amount of gold is 5.05 billion ounces rather than 5.0 billion, that allows a few more of what were the marginal non-buyers to become buyers.

I think of the miners and the gold destroyers – such as dentists and the electronics industry, as a small delta on top of the price formation process that is mainly about who is willing to bid the most to hold all of the gold. Mine supply is only a small share of all gold.

The only difference between a miner and someone else who owns the same amount of gold is that the miners pretty much have to sell because they are businesses and they have to cover costs. The investor who owns some gold doesn’t necessarily have to sell, they can hold as long as they want to or until they have a better place for their savings than gold. You can say that they are price takers.

You can think of the miner as coming in to that market and selling down into the bid side of the market a little bit. Of course the miner is going to enable some people to get into the market at a lower price than without the miner because those buyers are not forced to go up higher into the ask side of the market in order to buy their gold.

A lot of analysts go even further down the road to absurdity by looking at the growth rate of gold mining. If you start out from year 1 where mine supply is, let’s say 2000 tonnes, and in year 2 mine supply is 2,500 tonnes, that is an increase of 20%. So the thinking goes, if supply is up by 20%, then demand also has to go up by 20% and that looks like a lot. If buyers bought 2000 tons last year and this year you are asking them to buy the same and then 20% more, how is that going to happen? It’s really not a big influence. In math terms, mine supply is the first derivative and now we are talking about second derivatives.

L.S.: You have given your reasons for thinking that the impact of mining on the gold price is small. Do you have any way of quantifying that?

R.B.: I can’t say for sure but there are some ways to make an educated guess.

One is that mine supply only adds around 1% or 2% to the total stockpile of gold. You can think of mining as a form of gold inflation with a rate of around 1-2%. If we were looking at the supply of money in a country or shares of a stock we would expect the value to be diluted by something close to the growth rate. Miners are diluting the value of the existing gold stock by 1%. If this is correct, and if everyone who owned gold was trying to maintain a constant amount of gold in purchasing power terms, then all other things being equal, a 1% dilution would have a 1% impact on price.

Another way of looking at it is when the supply of gold is 5 billion ounces there is a price quotation, which is the best ask. Now one year later mining has brought us up to 5.05 billion ounces. A group of buyers was able to come in and buy the additional 50 million ounces. Where do those new buyers value gold? If we assume static preferences, maybe slightly above their buy price. Not a lot above their buy price or they would have become buyers the year before. So that would suggest a slightly lower price, depending on how deep you have to go down into the bids to fill the additional ounces.

I looked at some figures from geologist Brent Cook showing that all of the gold mined in any one year is about equal to a few days volume on the LBMA. And the LBMA is not the only market where gold is traded in the world. I’m not saying that the difference due to mining is equal to the ratio of trading days to volume. But the point is, selling the mined gold onto the market is a very small part of the market activity. It’s easily absorbed into a liquid market.

L.S.: In your most recent article you argue that many analysts are incorrectly bullish or bearish, because their data does not support their price outlook. Is that so?

R.B.: You see every day in the media statements like “Gold investment demand is up by 20 percent this year” and that’s supposed to be very bullish. Or “investment demand was down by 15 percent” and that is supposed to be bearish.

There is also I remember a wave of stories in the early 90s as the gold industry was increasing up exploration and bringing new properties on line, where it was popular to say, “Gold mine supply was 2000 tons this year and it’s going to be 2500 tons next year”. That is an increase of 25 percent in supply, and wow, that sounds like a big, big increase in supply. To keep up, the demand side of the market has to step up by 500 tons this year otherwise the price is going to be much-much lower. That would be a huge increase in demand. Where is all that demand going to come from to keep up with supply?

When you see statement like that, what does that mean, exactly? It means something like this. If investors as a sector had a net addition to their portfolio of 50 million ounces one year and the next year they added 60 million ounces they’re calling that a 20 percent increase in demand. And that’s supposed to be very bullish.

This way of thinking about the market is not logical. What they call “supply” and “demand” is the amount of gold that got moved around the market. And that is fine as far as it goes. The problem is when they go from the number to the price. Those numbers do not characterize the forces of supply and demand that do set the price.

L.S.: Then what do they mean by supply and demand? And why do you dislike their definitions?

R.B.: Let me explain how they come up with these numbers and what they’re supposed to mean and then, where they go wrong.

What analysts typically do is divide the market up into sectors such as mines, investment, jewelry, industrial and central banks and maybe funds or ETFs get their own sector. Often a country like China is considered a sector. They want to measure the amount of gold that was bought and sold that year by individuals or actors within each sector. Those are gross amounts. From grosses you can compute net amounts. The net is the difference between the gross bought and sold quantity for that sector. There’s always a net outflow from the mine sector because they’re in business to sell. For any other sector, the net might be a positive or a negative number during a year because people may have bought more jewelry than they sold, or the opposite. During any given year investors might on net have added to their positions or diminished their holdings.

When you read “supply” or “demand” in the financial media, the definition is not consistent from one place to the next. There are a lot of ways people slice and dice all of the numbers. Everyone does not do it the say way. However you do it, you have a number made by adding up some gross and net quantities. For example, one report might say that supply is mine supply plus gross jewelry scrap. Someone else might include gross investment purchases, and someone else might count only net investment as part of the demand number. When you read that demand is up, what they mean is that one of these contrived Rube Goldberg definitions that has the misleading name “demand” has changed from one year to the next.

Let me give you one example. The CPM Group (a research consultancy that produces in-depth reports on the gold and silver markets) does it like this: they define supply as the all of following: mine supply, the gross industrial sales, and gross jewelry sold. CPM defines demand as the sum of all of these: gross industrial purchases, gross jewelry purchases, net central bank activity and net investor activity.

CPM uses a mix of gross quantities and net quantities. This definition by itself strikes me as quite eccentric because of the mixture grosses and nets into the same aggregate. Gross quantities measure a flow, while nets are the change in magnitude of a stock. What happens when you add grosses and nets together? I have no idea. This reminds me of breaking the rules of dimensional consistency, something that the physics faculty at my university prohibited.

Now let’s delve into these net quantities a bit more. To simplify the situation, suppose there are only two sectors in the market. Let’s call those two sectors “mines” and “everyone else”. Then the relationship between the quantities is very simple. Whatever the miner sold somebody bought. There’s always a market for gold at some price. An ounce of gold is worth more than zero. Any quantity of gold that someone offers on the market will find a buyer at some price and that gold will end up in someone’s portfolio or maybe consumed. Mine supply gross (or net) sold is equal to everyone else net purchased. That is a simplified understanding of a two-sector market.

Now let’s complicate the model a bit more to get it closer to reality. If you have three sectors, mines, jewelry and investment, then you can have a net outflow from jewelry one year and that would have to show up as a net inflow into investment because all the quantities have to balance out. Everything still has to net out to zero across all sectors. The gold miners are always sellers but any other sector could be a net buyer or a net seller in any one year period.

You can keep making the model more complex by adding more and more sectors. Each time you add another sector to your model, that sector has inflows and outflows. But this doesn’t change the fundamental logic which is that every ounce that is sold in one place is purchased in another place. All of the flows have to balance out to the net change in the world’s total position, which is mine supply less destruction. And that is always a positive number as long as anyone has been counting.

Now, I’ve been saying that this is at best, not very useful, and at worst, misleading. By now you probably want to know, “what is the problem?” The problem is that these quantities and these flows have no causal relationship with the gold price. All we have done is to add up some of the volume in the market and shifts in aggregate holdings. But we are still no closer to the price because neither the volume of trading, nor position changes as are causes of the price. Quantities are not the cause of the gold price. Gross quantities are not the cause of the gold price. Net quantities are not the cause of the gold price. And so it must also be true that any Frankenstein monster number you invent, even if you give it a familiar name, like “supply” and “demand” also does not cause the gold price.

Suppose I tell you that there was a net flow of gold from sector A to sector B last year, then what is the impact on the gold price? There is no way to say. The gold price could be higher, lower or unchanged when gold moved from A to B. If the gold moved from A to B because the buyers on the A side were more aggressive and raised their bid prices, then you would see a higher price. If gold flowed because the people in B valued it less, so they were willing to let it go for less in return, then you would see a lower price. If both of those things happened, there would be a lot of trading but the price might end up about the same.

A price is a quantity of money that is exchanged for a quantity of gold. In these voluminous reports about mine supply and jewelry and everything, they’re only looking at quantities of gold. There is no way that looking at quantities alone can tell you anything about price because there is no money involved. It’s sort of like the is-ought problem in philosophy, which says that you cannot derive a sentence containing “ought” from any number of propositions that contain only “is”. You cannot make any conclusions about money if you do not have money in your premises. No matter how hard you study these quantities it won’t tell you anything about the price. Whatever the driver is of the price, it has to involve both gold and money.

L.S.: If not cause and effect, is there any relationship between these quantities and the gold price?

R.B. : Yes, it’s almost the opposite of what most people think. The gold price is formed by a balancing process, as investors shift different assets in order to hold the amount of gold, cash, and other assets they want. These quantities come about because of discrepancies between what people own, what they want, and the collective preferences of the rest of the market. These discrepancies are resolved by exchanging and that gets counted as a quantity. But these quantities do not drive the price. The more preference changes among the buyers and sellers, the greater the volume of trading required to get back to an equilibrium.

I recall Warren Buffet describing a cartoon of a financial news anchor with the caption, “There was no volume on the market today because everyone was happy with what they own”. This is quite funny but the serious point is that buying and selling comes about because there are people who wish to change their position in a way that is complementary to what someone else wants, so they are both able to change their positions to something that they like better. The one side wants more cash, less god; the other wants the opposite.

The volume of buying and selling shows how far out of adjustment people are between their own positions and the preferences of other people in the market which is what creates the opportunity to trade. Buying and selling as such do not cause the price, buying and selling come about because of a preference disequilibrium. That disequilibrium requires trading to equilibrate but it does not tell us at what price the trading occurs.

There might be a statistical correlation between, for example, a net inflow into one sector and higher (or lower) prices. If someone has a statistical model that works, that is great. But it’s not causal.

But it seems to me that even if someone has discovered correlations like that, they will be coincident with the price, rather than predictive. In order to forecast the price, you need an indicator that moves in advance of the price. You read all the time how bullish it is that people bought so many coins, or bars or whatever, but buying that was the cause of the price going up, then it would have already gone up due to the buying. That would not help you forecast at all.

L.S.: You say that the way supply and demand are reported in the financial media is confusing. Please explain to our readers your thought process in more detail.

demandsupplycurve

R.B.: When the average reader, or even the quite sophisticated reader sees the word “supply” and “demand” they don’t think to ask, “what is definition of that word” because we already have a good intuitive feeling about what those words mean. And we all know that an increase in demand drives the price higher, while an increase in supply sets us up for a lower price. And that is true if you use the terms “supply” and “demand” correctly to mean as the intensity of investor preferences on each side of the market.

If the author got all their numbers right – and some of these firms go to a lot of trouble to count up every microgram of gold dust in the entire world – then these statements are accurate in a very limited sense. But it is not true that a quantity made out of the sum of various flows and position shifts has any relationship to the forces that set the market price.

Everyone will agree: “The price of gold is set by supply and demand”. But what does did we all just agree on? Correctly understood, this statement means that the price balances out the overall the set of choices people make to offer on their desired terms from each side of the market. The price results from balancing those two sides.

Suppose that instead of “supply” and “demand” these aggregates were called X and Y, if you like algebra. Now if I change my statement to say “The price of gold is set by X and Y” you are immediately going to ask “what do you mean by X and Y?” And when you find that X = A + B + (C – D) + (E – F), etc. and Y is something similar it starts to make a lot less sense. At that point your head will probably start exploding. When you use X and Y in place of “supply” and “demand”, you no longer have a true statement.

The problem happens by starting out from truth and then changing the definitions of terms so the statement looks the same but it is no longer means the same thing and the thing that it now means is not true. By using words that have a clear meaning in our minds, but using them to mean something else this creates immense confusion. And hardly anyone realizes this when they are reading an innocent-looking statement.

L.S.: If not by quantities, then can the gold price otherwise be analyzed quantitatively?

R.B.: The gold price is set by investor preferences, which cannot be measured directly. But I think that we understand the main factors in the world that influence investor preferences in relation to gold. These factors are the growth rate of money supply, the volume and quality of debt, political uncertainty, confiscation risk, and the attractiveness (or lack thereof) of other possible assets. As individuals filter these events through their own thoughts they form their preferences. But that’s not something that’s measurable.

I suspect that the reason for the emphasis on quantities is that they that can be measured. Measurement is the basis of all science. And if we want our analysis to be rigorous and objective, so the thinking goes, we had better start with numbers and do a very fine job at measuring those numbers accurately. If you are an analyst you have to write a report for your clients, after all they have paid for it, so they have to come up with things that can be measured and the quantity is the only thing that can be measured so they write about quantities.

And in the end this is the problem for gold price analysts, you’re talking about a market in which it’s difficult to really quantify what’s going on. I think that looking at some broad statistical relationships over a period of history, like gold price to money supply, to debt, things like that, might give some idea about where the price is going. Or maybe not, maybe you run into the problem I mentioned about synchronous correlations that are not predictive.

Part of the problem is that statistics work better the more data you have. But we really don’t have a lot of data about how the gold price behaves in relation to other things.

Domestic Fair Trade: A Plea to UNFI and Whole Foods for Justice

“The union is like having herpes. It doesn't kill you, but it's unpleasant and inconvenient, and it stops a lot of people from becoming your lover."John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market (WFM) CEO John Mackey has done a brilliant job of creating the illusion that his empire is all about abundance, bounty and the good life. But there’s nothing bountiful or good about the way the second-largest non-unionized food retailer exploits workers.Whole Foods Market Inc. signage is displayed at a store in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. (Victor J. Blue / Bloomberg)

United Natural Foods Incorporated (UNFI), the largest multi-billion dollar wholesale distributor of organic and “natural” foods in the U.S., is currently under investigation for 45 violations of federal labor law, including physically threatening immigrant workers in California who were trying to form a union.

The company recently fired its underpaid and overworked unionized workers at its Auburn, Wash., distribution center for going on strike, and illegally hired non-union replacement workers.

What happens when companies like WFM and UNFI, which have carefully cultivated their public progressive images, start acting like Walmart? When union-busting and labor exploitation are accepted as “business-as-usual” in the green economy, it makes us all look bad. It discredits organics and Fair Trade by creating the impression that consumers don’t really care how their healthy organic food was produced. That the entire industry cares only about profits. Ethics and workers be damned.

When flagship organic companies take a Walmart approach to workers’ rights, it sends negative and conflicting signals to core organic consumers, making it look like leaders in the organic community are concerned about the plight of endangered species and Third World coffee growers or cacao producers, but oblivious to the economic pain and stresses of working class Americans or hardworking immigrants who plant and harvest our organic fruits and vegetables and then pack and deliver them to our neighborhood coops and natural food markets.

Isn’t it time we ask the same of WFM and UNFI that we demand of ourselves: that they walk their talk, prioritize organic food and products, practice Fair Trade and social justice, and wake up to the fact that "business as usual" is a bitter recipe for injustice?

The demand for organic and fairly traded food, apparel and body care products has grown exponentially over the past two decades. Millions of consumers are demanding products that not only are organic and healthy, but also embody Fair Trade principles, whereby the workers involved in producing these products are treated fairly and paid equitably.

Under the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), organic products are certified by third-party certifiers and regulated under federal law. But no such federal standards exist for Fair Trade labor practices, including the right of workers, especially in large businesses, to form trade unions and engage in collective bargaining with their employers.  As a consequence many consumers look for the “Fair Trade” label on imported goods, but pay little attention to the domestic supply chain.  Here in the U.S., most consumers naively believe that organics and Fair Trade practices go hand in hand. They are surprised to learn that most family farmers and farm workers, as well as many supply chain workers, struggle to make a living. But the truth is, labor exploitation is rampant in the fields, factories and warehouses where organic products are grown, processed and housed. And this is especially true when small, alternative businesses are bought out by corporate investors.

WFM is one of the biggest offenders in the U.S. The company’s Whole Trade Guarantee, through a third-party verified program, supposedly ensures that producers and laborers in developing countries get an equitable price for their goods in a safe and healthy working environment. But here in the U.S., WFM. the second largest union-free food retailer behind Walmart, has taken the position that unions are not valid. The company even gives its workers a pamphlet titled "Beyond Unions." In the company’s 27-year history, only one of its stores, in Madison, Wis., successfully unionized. The chain has also fended off unionizing attempts in Berkeley, Calif.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Falls Church, Va.

As for UNFI, the company’s recent record on workers’ rights is abysmal. The National Labor Relations Board investigation includes allegations that UNFI engaged in worker surveillance, intimidation and retaliation; that it refused to bargain in good faith; and that it illegally reassigned bargaining unit work. UNFI workers and drivers at UNFI’s Auburn, Wash., distribution center went on strike for better pay and better working conditions Dec. 10, after rejecting UNFI’s latest contract offer. In retaliation UNFI fired them and illegally hired non-union replacement workers.

WFM and UNFI like to brag about how their workers are part of their “family,” and how well management treats them. But what about the thousands of non-unionized and exploited farm workers in California, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Latin America and Asia who supply many of their premium-priced products? What about the immigrant feedlot workers across the country? What about the truck drivers, food processing workers and warehouse staff who are threatened and intimidated whenever they try to organize themselves for collective bargaining? Are we all one family?

It’s time for WFM and UNFI to publicly acknowledge that Fair Trade principles and practices need to be implemented as part of their entire US/North American/global supply chain for food and organic and natural products, not just for the minority of products produced overseas and certified as Fair Trade. And of course, supporting domestic Fair Trade means that WFM and UNFI must stop their union busting and start recognizing the rights of workers, especially workers in large for-profit corporations, to freely organize themselves into unions for collective bargaining.

Until they do, as conscientious consumers we have to pressure UNFI and its largest customer, WFM. In response to UNFI’s actions in Washington State, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has called for a boycott of UNFI’s brand name products, Woodstock Foods and Blue Marble, until the company rehires its fired workers in Auburn, stops harassing and intimidating workers and drivers who want to form a union, and sits down to sign a fair contract.  We’re also asking organic food stores to look for alternative wholesalers to supply their stores, as a number of coops in Seattle and Olympia Washington, have already begun to do.   

In addition to boycotting UNFI’s Woodstock Foods and Blue Marble products, we encourage consumers to:

Sign the online petition in support of the striking workers at UNFI.

Call UNFI Manager Hank Heatherly at (253) 333-6769. Tell him to rehire the fired workers and return to the bargaining table immediately.

If you live in Washington State, and are willing to join in informational leafleting at Whole Foods Markets, sign up here.

Ronnie Cummins

Ronnie Cummins is a veteran activist, author, and organizer. He is the International Director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica. http://www.organicconsumers.org; http://www.viaorganica.org

Dave Murphy

Dave Murphy is the founder of Food Democracy Now!, a sixth generation Iowan, and an advocate for sustainable agriculture. Founded after the election of President Obama, Food Democracy Now! is a community of more than 250,000 farmers and citizens that works to create a more sustainable future for family farmers, rural communities and American consumers.

‘Outbreak of Rage’ and Egypt on the Brink

Reporting from Port Said, Egypt, Democracy Now! correspondent and frequent Nation contributor Sharif Abdel Kouddous explains why the young Egyptian government could be on the brink of collapse:

CAIRO, Egypt – The second anniversary of Egypt's revolution has been marked by rocks, firebombs, tear gas and bullets. More than fifty people have been killed and over a thousand wounded across the country. The army has been granted arrest powers, and military troops have been deployed to the three cities where President Mohamed Morsi has declared a state of emergency and ordered a curfew.

This outbreak of rage has laid bare the precarious state of a country plagued by a disfigured transition process, a lingering sense of injustice and the repeated failures of an entire political class that has forsaken a host of popular grievances in its scuffle for power.

Much of the vitriol has been directed toward Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood. Using a highly contentious decree that granted him near-dictatorial powers, Morsi forced a controversial constitution through a referendum process last month. The move sparked mass protests and deadly clashes and left a deep national rift in its wake. It also bolstered fears of the "Brotherhood-ization" of the state, namely that the group was asserting control over the regime left behind by Hosni Mubarak rather than reforming state institutions.

In the weeks since, the economy has edged closer to the precipice with the Egyptian pound plummeting to record lows against the US dollar causing a rise in the price of staple goods like sugar, rice and cooking oil and exacerbating the economic burdens of the poor.

In this charged environment, it didn't take long for the protests on January 25 commemorating the revolution to turn violent; clashes between demonstrators and security forces erupted in cities across the country as protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails and police fired tear gas, birdshot and live ammunition, leaving at least eleven dead.

The mostly young men and boys doing the fighting include "Black Bloc" protesters in balaclavas, a newly-formed, apparently loosely organized group that has nonetheless quickly gained notoriety in the media.

The port city of Suez saw the anniversary's deadliest confrontations with up to nine people killed. A forensics report later found the victims were shot by live ammunition at close range and, in some cases, from behind. The next day, protesters stormed three police stations in Suez and freed prisoners as the police fled the area. The army was eventually deployed in an attempt to secure the city.

Morsi stayed off the airwaves and did not make any statement until after 1am, when he posted a much-derided message on his Twitter account urging "citizens to adhere to the values of the revolution, express opinions freely and peacefully and renounce violence."

Yet the violence of the anniversary protests was dwarfed by what took place in the city of Port Said the next day when thirty-two people were killed and hundreds wounded in fierce clashes with security forces.

A northern coastal city on the Suez Canal, Port Said had been the site of the single bloodiest incident in Egypt since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, a soccer match on February 1, 2012, between Port Said's Masry Club and Cairo's Ahly Club. As police forces looked on, Masry fans stormed the field and attacked their vastly outnumbered rivals. Seventy-two people, mostly Ahly fans, were killed in the violence, most of them crushed to death in a stampede. Many Ahly fans felt they were victims of a conspiracy by security forces to punish them for their instrumental role in battling police on the street over the course of the revolution.

A total of seventy-three people were put on trial over the incident, including Masry fans, senior police officers and club officials. For the past year, hardcore Ahly fans—known as Ultras—have staged protests, marches and street actions to call for justice in the case, threatening "chaos" with an unsatisfactory verdict.

As the scheduled January 26 ruling approached, the Ultras escalated their acts of civil disobedience, halting traffic on a major overpass in Cairo and taking the unprecedented step of blocking the underground metro for several hours.

In a televised session on Saturday, the judge sentenced twenty-one defendants to death—all of them Masry fans—and postponed the verdict for the remaining fifty-one defendants to March 9. The death sentences against the civilians came from the same court system that has yet to jail a single security official for the death of more than 800 protesters during the 2011 uprising.

Yet inside the courtroom, the families of those killed erupted in joy, as did thousands of Ultras who has gathered outside their club headquarters in Cairo. The notion that political pressure secured the verdict rather than any form of due process was widespread, and they greeted the extremely harsh sentence as a vindication of their efforts. "Unfortunately this is the way the country works now," said Sayed, a 22 year-old Ultras member. "You make your voice heard and you get results."

The reaction in Port Said was very different: residents felt they had been unfairly scapegoated to placate the Ahly Ultras. A complete news blackout on the courts proceedings did little to help the speculation.

As the verdict was announced, the screams and wails of mothers and family members can be heard rising in the air in video footage from the city. A group of angry relatives tried to storm the Port Said's main prison to free the defendants, killing two policemen. Security forces responded by opening fire with live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas, killing at least thirty people and wounding hundreds more. The army was sent in to secure government buildings.

The next day, mourners chanted “Morsi is God's enemy” during a mass funeral which came under fire with tear gas and live ammunition from police officers crouching on rooftops, killing seven more and bringing the Port Said death toll to thirty-nine. The managing editor of the Egypt Independent, Lina Attalah, summed up the cycle of violence in a tweet: "7 dead while mourning 30 dead in clashes after 21 were sentenced to death for killing 72."

Meanwhile, protests continued to rage in the capital, spilling out from Tahrir to the surrounding streets and bridges, disrupting traffic and sending clouds of toxic tear gas wafting across downtown Cairo. Protests also continued in Alexandria, Mahalla and elsewhere.

The president's supporters and the Muslim Brotherhood blamed the violent unrest on paid thugs, the media and mysterious "hidden hands" that wanted to destroy the country. An online posting by the Brotherhood pointed to the Black Bloc and, in a continued pattern of fomenting sectarian tensions, claimed the group was headed by a Christian militia leader.

Meanwhile, the reaction by the National Salvation Front, a loose alliance of non-Islamist opposition groups, was equally woeful. The coalition said it would boycott upcoming parliamentary elections unless a list of demands were met, including forming a "national salvation government" and suspending the constitution. The move was viewed as politically opportunistic and being far removed from the mayhem unfolding in the street.

As the violence continued unabated for the fourth straight day, Morsi finally took to the airwaves in a fiery address broadcast on state television. He blamed the violence on the "counter revolution" and called on citizens to respect court rulings, a staggering claim by a president who issued a decree two months earlier that placed him beyond judicial reach and whose group had vilified the judiciary as a politicized remnant of the former regime and had staged protests outside the Supreme Constitutional Court.

Morsi then declared a 30-day state of emergency in Suez, Port Said and Ismailia, the three Suez Canal provinces that had witnessed the most violence, and imposed a curfew from 9pm to 6am. One of the most despised tools of repression during Mubarak's 30-year reign, the state of emergency suspends the ordinary judicial process and most civil rights while granting the president and the police extraordinary powers. “If I see that the homeland and its children are in danger, I will be forced to do more than that. For the sake of Egypt, I will," Morsi said.

Within moments of the announcement, several hundred protested in the restive cities and activists pledged to defy the curfew the next day. Meanwhile, Egypt's cabinet approved a draft law that was swiftly ratified by the Shura Council to allow Morsi to deploy the armed forces on the streets and grant them judicial powers to "safeguard state institutions against saboteurs and restore security."

The president also called for a national dialogue at the presidential palace with political supporters and opponents the following evening yet the National Salvation Front spurned the invitation with Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading member of the coalition, telling a news conference the next day the call to talks was "cosmetic and not substantive."

Morsi announced the state of emergency would begin on January 28, a date that marks the two year anniversary of the "Day of Rage," when the army was first deployed to the streets after tens of thousands of Egyptians overwhelmed the police and security forces in what was arguably the most decisive day of the revolution yet. That day, the legitimacy and authority of the state headed by Hosni Mubarak was severely crippled. Two years later, the legitimacy of the Egyptian state appears to be eroding even further under an elected president.

© 2013 The Nation / Democracy Now!

US Imperialism, International Law and the United Nations

liberty statue gun

The broad principles underlying the United Nations (UN) are noble and peaceful. They have unfortunately been perverted from the UN’s inception.

The UN is currently being used as an instrument of domination by several permanent member States of the UN Security Council.

According to the Charter’s Preamble the UN was established:

“to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war [...] to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained [...]” (Charter of the United Nations)

The UN General Assembly (GA) is democratic. One country, one vote. Unfortunately, even if it represents all 193 member states and passes very important resolutions, its members often follow the diktats of the powerful nations on which they depend financially.

The GA has no power. The latter lies in the self-given authority of the five permanent members of the Security Council (U.S.,UK, France, Russia, China), the only ones in possession of the very arbitrary and very powerful veto.

The astonishing number of resolutions passed by the GA regarding Israel have had no effect whatsoever and have invariably been blocked by the US at the Security Council (SC).

In his historic speech at the UN in 2009, which the New York Times unfairly qualified as “rambling”, the late Muammar Gaddafi rightfully and virulently criticized the unjust and contradictory nature of the UN:

The Preamble is very appealing, and no one objects to it, but all the provisions that follow it completely contradict the Preamble. We reject such provisions, and we will never uphold them; they ended with the Second World War. The Preamble says that all nations, small or large, are equal. Are we equal when it comes to the permanent seats? No, we are not equal.

[…] Do we have the right of veto? Are we equal? The Preamble says that we have equal rights, whether we are large or small.

That is what is stated and what we agreed in the Preamble. So the veto contradicts the Charter. The permanent seats contradict the Charter. We neither accept nor recognize the veto.

The Preamble of the Charter states that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest. That is the Preamble that we agreed to and signed, and we joined the United Nations because we wanted the Charter to reflect that. It says that armed force shall only be used in the common interest of all nations, but what has happened since then? Sixty-five wars have broken out since the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council — 65 since their creation, with millions more victims than in the Second World War. Are those wars, and the aggression and force that were used in those 65 wars, in the common interest of us all? No, they were in the interest of one or three or four countries, but not of all nations. (Muammar Gaddafi cited in Who is Muammar Al-Qadhafi: Read his Speech to the UN General Assembly, Global Research, March 23, 2011)

It is worth noting that the Libyan leader was killed during the 2012 NATO military invasion, which had been been approved by the Security Council. Three of the SC”s permanent members namely the U.S., the UK and France, participated in this NATO led invasion.

According to Mahmoud Jibril, Libya’s interim Prime Minister during the Western-backed armed insurrection in 2011, Gaddafi was killed by a French intelligence operative “acting under direct instructions of the French government”.

French President “Sarkozy was eager to prevent the possibility of Gaddafi standing trial, particularly after the Libyan leader had threatened to expose his alleged financial dealings with the French President”. (Joseph Fitsanakis, Did French intelligence agent kill Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi?, intelNews.org, October 2, 2012.)

These allegations are not surprising since France played a leading role in the invasion of Libya.

Was the war on Libya, like the other wars Gaddafi mentioned, “in the common interest of us all” or “in the interest of one or three or four countries”?

Libya was invaded and its leader killed for many reasons, all of which were of financial and geostrategic nature. Mahdi Nazemroaya explains how only a few nations, most of all the U.S., control the UN:

The manipulation of the United Nations for imperialist interests, […] goes back a long way. From its inception, the United Nations was meant to facilitate the global influence of the US after the Second World War. [...]

The UN was used as a tool to control most these former Western European and American colonies of the Third World. At first the US and its post-war allies maintained their domination over the newly formed UN and the former colonies through their numbers and then through a Western Bloc monopoly over the structures of the United Nations. Hereto this monopoly includes control over the agencies and permanent veto-wielding chairs of the fifteen-member Security Council of the United Nations.

The Security Council above all has been used by the US as a means of protecting its interests. The purpose of the Security Council veto is to reject any international resolutions and consensuses against the national interests (or more precisely the interests of the ruling elites) of the US and the other major post-World War II powers [...]

As the Western Bloc began to lose its numerical advantage, control over the Secretariat would be maintained through the Security Council. The UN Security Council does this by filtering all the candidates for the top UN post in the Secretariat. Secretaries-general of the UN are appointed by the UN General Assembly based on the recommendation of the UN Security Council. Thus, the US and other permanent members of the Security Council have vetoes that can eliminate any candidates that would be hostile to their interests. (Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, America’s Takeover of the United Nations, Press TV 3 September 2012.)

The selection process of the UN Secretary-General reveals why those in office espouse concepts such as the so-called “responsibility to protect” (R2P), which actually refers to “military invasion”, and why they fail to act as “spokesm[e]n for the interests of the world’s peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable among them”, as their position requires. If R2P had been drafted with genuine intent, it would have been invoked to protect Palestinians against the permanent Israeli aggression. Under Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretariat has rather endorsed Israeli agressions and approved the illegal blockade of Gaza. Kofi Annan was “an enabler of ‘responsibility to protect’” and Ban Ki-moon its “executioner”, Nazemroaya argues.

In regards to both Libya and Syria, Ban Ki-moon has followed the US and NATO script for R2P and regime change. When a major propaganda effort was launched against Syria following the Houla Massacre, Ban Ki-moon and other UN officials quickly followed the US line and condemned Damascus at a special session of the UN General Assembly in New York City. (Ibid.)

Ronda Hauben details the “mysterious process” by which the Security Council was able to influence the way the UN investigation on the Houla massacre was conducted and how a one-sided version of the events supporting the Western propaganda prevailed:

By a rather mysterious process, the Security Council’s request that an investigation of the Houla massacre, which was to be carried out with the involvement of UNSMIS, was shifted to a significantly different process that was carried out by the Human Rights Council and the Commission of Inquiry it created, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (hereafter CoI). How this shift happened and the significance of this change, merit serious consideration by those who are concerned about the role the UN is playing in the conflict in Syria [...]

Major-General Robert Mood, head of UNSMIS, [...] said that UNSMIS had been to Houla with an investigating team [...] They interviewed locals who told one story. They interviewed locals who told another story. But the circumstances leading up to Houla, the detailed circumstances, the facts related to the incident still remained unclear to the UNSMIS investigators. This led General Mood to say that if there was a decision to support a more extensive on the ground investigation, UNSMIS could help to facilitate it.

In his June 15 press briefing, General Mood said the UNSMIS Report on Houla included statements and interviews with locals with one story and statements and interviews with locals with another story. The August Report of the CoI tells only one story and claims that they either do not have other information or that any other information they know of is inconsistent, so that they have accepted that there is only one story. The Reports that the CoI produced had no on-site interviews or statements, but only telephone or Skype interviews with insurgents or those supporting the account of Houla presented by the armed insurgents. (Ronda Hauben, US-NATO Sponsored Crimes against Humanity in Syria. Coverup by UN Human Rights Council, taz.de,November 28, 2012)

Of all 297 UNSMIS international unarmed military observers on the groundto monitor a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties“, none were from the US. The conditions of the UNSMIS mandate were set by the Security Council, which decided on July 20, 2012 it would allow the mission to be extended only if it confirmed “the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and a reduction in the level of violence sufficient by all sides”. The US must have known those conditions would be impossible to meet since it had itself been providing the rebels with heavy weaponry and contributing to the violence. Even The New York Times ran a story on the CIA arming Syrian rebels on June 21. The UNSMIS mandate was ended on August 19. If the US was not part of the UNSMIS, it was and still is, on the other hand, a member the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The US possibly used its influent position at the Security Council to request that the HRC takes over the Houla massacre investigation, where it could play a part in its findings and align them with its war agenda.

[T]he US was elected to a second three-year term on the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). President Bush boycotted the HRC for criticizing Israel too much, but Obama joined in 2010 to ‘improve’ it. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice welcomed Washington’s re-election this week, saying that the HRC “has delivered real results”, citing its criticism of Syria, though she criticized the rights council’s continued “excessive and unbalanced focus on Israel”. (Eric Walberg, Human Rights: the People vs the UN, November 18, 2012.)

While it should be the guardian and promoter of international law, the UN has shown several times it acts on behalf of the powerful against the powerless. NATO has been manipulating the UN to legitimize its brutal neo-colonial designs and international law is being used in a very selective manner by imperial powers. James Petras explains:

Imperial law supersedes international law simply because imperial law is backed by brute force; it possesses imperial/colonial air, ground and naval armed forces to ensure the supremacy of imperial law.  In contrast, international law lacks an effective enforcement mechanism.

Moreover, international law, to the extent that it is effective, is applied only to the weaker powers and to regimes designated by the imperial powers as ‘violators’. [T]he application and jurisdiction of international law is selective and subject to constraints imposed by the configurations of imperial and national power [...]

To counter the claims and judgments pertaining to international law, especially in the area of theGenevaprotocols such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, imperial legal experts, scholars and judges have elaborated a legal framework to justify or exempt imperial-state activity [...]

This does not imply that imperial rulers totally discard international law: they just apply it selectively to their adversaries, especially against independent nations and rulers, in order to justify imperial intervention and aggression – Hence the ‘legal bases’ for dismantlingYugoslaviaor invadingIraqand assassinating its rulers [...]

Imperial legal doctrine has played a central role in justifying and providing a basis for the exercise of international terrorism.  Executives, such as US Presidents Bush and Obama, have been provided with the legal power to undertake cross-national ‘targeted’ assassinations of opponents using predator drones and ordering military intervention, in clear violation of international law and national sovereignty.  Imperial law, above all else, ‘legalizes’ aggression and economic pillage and undermines the laws of targeted countries, creating lawlessness and chaos among its victims. (James Petras“Legal Imperialism” and International Law: Legal Foundations for War Crimes, Debt Collection and Colonization,December 03, 2012)

On behalf of four men, Canadian and American lawyers recently filed a complaint against Canada with the United Nations Committee against Torture, because the Canadian authorities failed to prosecute George W. Bush during his visit to the country. Considering its strong economic, diplomatic and military ties to the U.S, such a move was not expected from Canada and its inaction demonstrates yet again how the U.S.’ imperial law overcomes international law.

As a signatory to the Convention against Torture, Canada has an obligation to investigate and prosecute a torture suspect on its soil. This is the first time a complaint concerning torture allegations against a high-level U.S. official has been filed with the U.N. Committee. The Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) and the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the complaint on the men’s behalf.

“Canada has the jurisdiction and the obligation to prosecute a torture suspect present in Canada, including a former head of state, and even one from a powerful country,” said Matt Eisenbrandt, CCIJ’s Legal Director. “Canada’s failure to conduct a criminal investigation and prosecution against Mr. Bush when there was overwhelming evidence against him constitutes a clear violation of its international obligations and its own policy not to be a safe haven for torturers.” (Lawyers against the War, Survivors File U.N. Complaint Against Canada for Failing to Prosecute George W. Bush for Torture The Canadian Centre for International Justice, November 14, 2012.)

Global Research offers its readers a list of selected articles on this very important issue. For more in-depth analysis, visit our archives United Nations and Law and Justice.

Global Research has been committed to peace and justice and over the years has provided its readers with insightful analyses pertaining to the UN, international law and illegal wars. We need your help to continue to fight the brutal domination of a ruling elite willing to send young men and women fight unjust wars of aggression to remain in power through destruction and exploitation. You find our articles useful? Make a donation or become a Global Research member!

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SELECTED ARTICLES

Who is Muammar Al-Qadhafi: Read his Speech to the UN General Assembly, March 23, 2011

America’s Takeover of the United Nations, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya,  September 3, 2012

US-NATO Sponsored Crimes against Humanity in Syria. Coverup by UN Human Rights Council, Ronda Hauben, November 28, 2012

Human Rights: the People vs the UN, Eric Walberg, November 18, 2012

“Legal Imperialism” and International Law: Legal Foundations for War Crimes, Debt Collection and Colonization, James Petras, December 03, 2012

Survivors File U.N. Complaint Against Canada for Failing to Prosecute George W. Bush for Torture, Lawyers against the War,  November 14, 2012

Hamas Shouldn’t Fire Rockets … But Israel Has Violated HUNDREDS of UN Resolutions, Washington’s Blog, November 20, 2012 

UN General Assembly Vote On Syria: World Gone Unipolar – And Mad, Rick Rozoff, August 06, 2012

Canada’s Vote Opposing UN Recognition of Palestine. Quebec’s Motion to Recognize Palestine Statehood, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, December 05, 2012

UN Vote on Palestine, Stephen Lendman, December 01, 2012

UNESCO Human Rights Conference Honoring Israel’s President Shimon Peres. Four of Five Speakers Pull Out, Ali Abunimah, October 24, 2012

Boycott and Chaos at the United Nations in Geneva: Who Committed War Crimes in Iraq? Dirk Adriaensens, October 03, 2012

The UN and General Mood’s “Missing Report” on Conflicting Accounts of Houla Massacre, Ronda Hauben, September 11, 2012

UN Envoy Brahimi bears Poison Chalice to Syria, Finian Cunningham, September 10, 2012

NAM Summit: Ban Ki-Moon in disgraceful show of US puppetry, Finian Cunningham, August 30, 2012

Can the US and its Allies arbitrarily Violate International Law?, Rick Rozoff and John Robles, August 17, 2012

Terrorism as an Instrument of US Foreign Policy: UN-Backed Rogue States Plan Syria’s Slaughter, Felicity Arbuthnot, August 11, 2012

To Follow in MLK’s Footsteps, Join the Fight Against Foreclosure

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, almost fifty years after the historic 1963 March on Washington. Today we also bear witness to the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. The simultaneity of these events is remarkable, serving both as a signal of how far we’ve come as a nation, and how far we’ve left to go.

The economic crisis Barack Obama discussed in his first inaugural address—a new iteration of the economic crisis Martin Luther King jr. spent the last years of his life fighting—continues unabated. More specifically, the foreclosure crisis, which disproportionately affects people of color, continues to exact harsh costs.

But unlike the situation in King’s time, no significant movement exists to transform the crisis into an opportunity to generate economic equity. Just last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced new provisions that should make it harder for banks to give mortgages to unqualified men and women, and that should help people going through foreclosure. Banks now have to ensure that the person applying for a mortgage has a high enough income to be able to pay the monthly bills and associated fees, as well as any other debts that individual may have, whether it be credit card debt or student loan debt. Furthermore, banks can no longer “dual-track” homeowners, foreclosing on their homes even as they work through the loan-modification process. These new provisions should help some homeowners.

But they do not go far enough.

The new provisions do little to nothing to ease the burden of the millions of American homeowners who are either underwater because their homes have fallen drastically in value, or on the verge of foreclosure because of job loss or health issues. It’s time for concerned Americans to figure out some new organizing strategies that will keep us in our homes and prevent further evictions.

Nationwide, a variety of groups have begun to do this, using a number of tactics up to and including civil disobedience. But the challenge here is a straightforward one: people are still too ashamed to even talk about their circumstances amongst family and friends, much less in a broader public forum, and as a result these organizations have found it difficult to build a critical mass of support for their activities.

Movements, like people, need homes

Five months after Occupy Wall Street began, a group of civil rights leaders formed Occupy the Dream. Although it amounted to little more than a photo opportunity, I think the idea of connecting the fight against rampant economic inequality to the strategies and tactics of the civil rights movement is one that deserves further examination.

We should begin with the church.

Approximately 57 years ago last year, a group of political organizers in the Deep South made a tactical decision to fight busing segregation. Though they’d had some success in finding individuals willing to challenge Jim Crow, they hadn’t yet found a way to mobilize the broader community.

They needed a central space within which to dialogue, to organize, and to provide legitimacy for their work. They chose the church because it was one of the few institutions blacks had a modicum of control over, one of the few institutions a significant number of blacks routinely participated in, perhaps the only institution with moral authority, one of the few institutions they could gain legitimacy from.

After Rosa Parks was arrested, the organizers identified a church led by young Martin Luther King jr. and Ralph Abernathy, and were able to successfully use the church to wage what would become the longest boycott Montgomery had ever seen. Victory came a full year later, when the Supreme Court upheld a federal district court ruling that found the segregation of buses in Alabama unconstitutional. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was created as a result.

Now, the causes and consequences of the Montgomery Bus Boycott are far more complex than I note above. Furthermore, the circumstances we face now are very different than the ones faced by black Montgomery denizens suffering under Jim Crow. Black churches are not the force they used to be (for good reason).

Yet a few facts remain. America remains a nation deeply segregated by race and class. Along those lines, even though churches are not as central a part of black life as they once were, they still represent an important gathering spot for African Americans. And they are still one of the only places where people from different walks of life routinely gather to gain moral and ethical instruction and guidance.

Given these realities, churches could be a wonderful place for organizing and mobilizing Americans against foreclosures. Organizations like Take Back the Land, Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, and Occupy Baltimore (among others), have done a masterful job of getting citizens to realize that the foreclosure crisis is not driven by irresponsible individuals taking out loans they can’t afford, but rather by an irresponsible system. But imagine how this movement could be broadened if churches became involved, given how many churchgoers routinely attend church once a week if not more.

What would it look like?

I believe that a church-led movement against mortgage debt should have a few key components.

It would begin with a church-based anti-shame campaign modeled off the one developed by Strike Debt. Once a week or one Sunday a month, churchgoers either would be given (or should take) the opportunity to speak candidly about their mortgage debt. At best, this should be combined with sermons that emphasize the immorality of the ongoing debt crisis. Contrary to the views of prosperity gospel adherents—who believe that material wealth is a sign of God’s approval—Jesus was far from what we would today call a capitalist. The den of thieves he refers to in Matthew 21 was arguably the biggest bank in Jerusalem. If done correctly, the personal testimonies and sermons should reduce stigma around foreclosure within the church membership, and create a space for public conversations and political actions around debt. Churches can involve everyone in this activity—choirs can perform songs, children can draw pictures, and so on.

The second component is creating debt committees. These committees would exist for the purpose of identifying the roots of churchgoer debt. Are the mortgages held by one bank in particular or several? Are the terms of the loan onerous, as they were with the subprime mortgages disproportionately handed out to African Americans and latinos? Are the mortgages themselves under water? If individuals are in the foreclosure process, where are they in the process?

These committees would exist as both a short-term means of giving churchgoers the means of coping with the stresses and anxieties of being in debt and as long-term means of both giving churchgoers the information they need to take individual control over their debt and placing them within a broader community able to aggressively fight unfair practices.

The third component would be foreclosure defense committees. These committees would work to keep individuals who are in foreclosure in their homes through non-violent methods. This is perhaps the most critical component, the one most needed to transform the mortgage crisis from a fiscal crisis with minor moral consequences into a fully moral crisis. Churchgoers should learn nonviolent foreclosure defense tactics.

Note here that I am not simply talking about marches and/or boycotts—tactics associated with the civil rights movement but today used more often to release steam than to foment change. I am talking about engaging in tactics of civil disobedience designed to prevent bank officials and law officers from taking people out of their homes, tactics that force bankers, police, locksmiths, and the like to make a tough moral choice. Community outreach is important here—informing people in the affected communities of their plans to prevent foreclosures from happening. At best, given the concentration of the housing crisis in black communities, they will find other individuals willing to speak out and act against foreclosures.

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King jr. spoke plaintively about a “promissory note” that guaranteed all Americans, regardless of race, “the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” For African Americans, he said, that note had come back marked “insufficient funds.” Just four years ago, Barack Obama noted that “the success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity…”

These visions overlap, but not enough. Let’s begin to use our churches to bring Obama’s vision more in line with the one that made his re-election possible.

Jordanians Vote for the First Time Since Arab Spring

Islamic Action Front and opposition groups boycott parliamentary elections, regime not responding to demands for real government reform.

TRANSCRIPT:

[B-roll of Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour from AJ interview]

VO: A new parliament was voted into office in Jordan by 56% of 2.3 million registered voters. The Islamic Action Front and leftist opposition groups boycotted the elections, calling them "cosmetic" and not dealing with their demands for real reform. Voters said they were forced to choose among the same tribal and pro-government figures who have dominated previous, corruption-ridden parliaments. Jordanians ended 2012 with street protests calling for the first time the downfall of King Abdullah's regime. Last November, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour introduced austerity measures, slashing subsidies and raising fuel prices by 54%. The International Monetary Fund hailed the move as an "important step" towards fixing the country's $3 billion deficit. [broll of protests]

[protest chants]

Om Hashem

We can't marry-off the children, we can't pay the rent...they raise the prices and we remain silent.

The (burkan) needs to make a difference. It's the first time I go down to protest. I can't marry off the kids. I am taking my kids out of university. What now? How long will this last for? [ya pharoan shoo pharanak?], he said "no civilian will hinder me from raising the prices". The gas has become so expensive that us and our children have to sleep in one room to stay warm.

Abdel Hiyat

I am looking for another citizenship. I can't survive! I can't find anything ______ in this country! Why should I leave my country? It seems that other countries respect their citizens and be able to eat, drink and educate my children!

University Student

They raised the prices without consulting with the public. Without warning even. We woke up and found they had increased. How and why? That wasn't important. What was important was that they raised the prices and they don't care what we think. [I am here because] I won't allow my parents to stand in line at the post office to get a social assistance cheque to get 23 Dinars ($32 USD) every four months. I plan on receiving a 4 year university degree, and I will not stop half-way so I can stand with my mother to receive her 23 JOD/four months—which I know that after the first installment comes they won't receive a cheque again.

VO: A resource poor landlocked country, Jordan imports 96% of its energy. It's economy is heavily dependent on foreign aid. Last year alone, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE have EACH pledged to provide $1.2 billion in aid. The government has had to cut more than 10 percent of its spending to secure a promised $2 billion IMF loan.

Yasser Melhim, Student

With regards to foreign aid, USAID at its head, these organizations have replaced the state's role. Today, we are lacking essential state services and has weakened the state, and a result has allowed these organization to get involved in political decisions.

Ren Wahbe, Architect

I am here today because I am concerned about the economic problems we are facing under this regime—especially the conditional IMF loans. We are taxed people to lower the deficit, but continue to take foreign loans to implement projects ridden with corruption and theft. This also comes at the price of oppression and imprisonment, even murder.

Yasser Melhim, Student

With regards to increasing the prices, the Jordanian parties came up with alternative methods to cover the deficit of the general budget by incriminating corruption, reclaiming stolen Jordanian resources, and reclaiming corrupt privatization deals of public assets. Any capable lawyer can revise these shady contracts and reclaim the companies that were sold to support the Jordanian budget.

VO: Fearing spillover from Syria's revolution in the North, and eyeing Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood now in power, Jordanians have not taken chants for regime change lightly. Threatened by a violent confrontation with police, opposition groups quickly scaled back their demands and called for electoral reforms, investigations into corrupt privatization deals, and an end to a heavy-handed security state.

JAMAL Hussein, Lawyer, Activist: The youth who chanted [for the downfall of the regime], from the political movement, I believe that they were trying to accelerate the course of events. They didn't take into consideration that the average citizen is only demanding reform. Even the political groups are still not proposing it as a solution. We've seen in other Arab countries the calls on the street was faster than political group's demands. But this is not the case in Jordan. The street has not called for bringing down the regime.

I believe this has impacted the movement and people's reaction in the street. We haven't made solid gains, but we've broken a barrier with the regime and he is now worried. However, the ones we've scared the most is the average citizen.

VO: Jordan's main opposition group is the Islamic Action Front, an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. The IAF receives the majority its support from Palestinian Refugees, making up almost half of Jordan's population. The group has called for the cancellation of the Israeli peace treaty, Jordan being one of two countries that have signed. The IAF has boycotted the elections, and has rejected offers for seats in the parliament and senate.

Nimer Al-Assaf, Deputy General Secretary, IAF

The Islamic Action Front stems really from the Brotherhood organization in Jordan. And it represents something, what we call, a popular movement. We do not actually aim to be ministers or members of parliament. We were offered to be ministers and given seats in parliament. How many seats do you want in parliament? 25, 30? 40? But participate in the elections."

It is an absolute monarchy, and we demand that it goes back to a parliamentary monarchy.

Constitutional reforms which means we are asking for a parliament which does not gets dissolved by the King; we are asking for a government which stems from the parliament.

We believe fighting corruption is what should have been carried out first.

We are also asking for the upper house to be elected. We are asking for the secret service police to stop interfering in the civilian and political life. We are asking for the reform of the electoral law.

VO: Unions in Jordan have led street protests in the past months and have joined calls for government reform and an end to price hikes.

Jamal Hussein, Lawyer, Activist

The unions play a clear political role and they are trying to put pressure on the political parties. and there was formed one of the strongest organizations across the nation, and an important opposition force against the regime.

The teachers' union is considered the largest union in Jordan. It was taken by force from the regime's control by using public pressure, staging street protest and sit-ins. There was also a two-week teachers' strike across the country.

They have also played an important role in speaking out against the price hikes by going on strike for two days, and are putting lots of pressure on the regime.

The movement benefited from the teachers' union's pressure since throughout the last year when the teachers were gaining their rights in the union, a group of teachers came out of this fight more politicized. The teachers started engaging more in the public sphere, and as a result encouraged the youth to challenge leaders of political parties.

President of the Health Workers' Union

Jordanians and the unions are against the government's decision to increase the prices. We are against the economic path we have been headed towards for years, and we are against that these economic woes impact our citizens. The middle class, the poor, the workers and the farmers are most impacted by the price hike. We for reforming the system, and we refuse this decision. We demand the current parliament be dissolved and to form a National Rescue Committee, and to stop this decision immediately. If our demands aren't met, we will continue making our voices heard.

VO: Jordanians have demanded an end to intimidation tactics historically used by state police for stifling dissent. Jordan's Interior Ministry has reportedly been raiding candidate supporters' homes to allegedly curb any attempts at vote buying during the elections.

Moyad Ghowador

At this moment, the regime represents [el kame7]. This regime does not allow us freedom of expression. We are here at a peaceful protest with a various union groups, and the Darak have been sent to stop us. This regime has driven the Jordanian economy into chaos and borderline bankruptcy.

VO: The Islamic Action Front, workers' unions and leftist groups have all called for a boycott of the parliamentary elections. Protesters say they have little faith these, elections will put an end to corruption, an ailing economy and a heavy handed police state. King Abdullah will continue facing challenges as further cuts in electricity subsidies and public sector benefits are promised to soon secure a $2 billion IMF loan.

This is Danya Nadar, for the Real News.

The Resistance Begins: New York Gun Owners Refuse to Register; “Largest Act of Civil...

Mac Slavo
January 25th, 2013
SHTFplan.com

Read by 81,033 people

Resistance Begins

With emotions running high in the aftermath of the Newtown Sandy Hook shooting, politicians on the State and Federal level have begun introducing legislative actions to curtail access to firearms protected by the Second Amendment. In Missouri, parents may soon be forced to register firearms with their child’s school under threat of criminal penalties. In Massachusetts, another proposal would require storage of semi-automatic rifles at government approved storage depots. And, in the State of New York, congressional representatives have already passed legislation that requires registration of every semi-automatic rifle and reduces maximum magazine capacity to 7 rounds of ammunition, and Governor Cuomo has floated the idea of gun confiscation.

Now, in what is sure to be a growing trend across the entire country, New York gun owners are organizing a resistance against what many believe to be the most, “brazen infringement on the right to keep and bear arms anywhere in the nation,” according to The New American:

Preparations are already being made for mass resistance.

“I’ve heard from hundreds of people that they’re prepared to defy the law, and that number will be magnified by the thousands, by the tens of thousands, when the registration deadline comes,’’ said President Brian Olesen with American Shooters Supply, among the biggest gun dealers in the state, in an interview with the New York Post.

Even government officials admit that forcing New Yorkers to register their guns will be a tough sell, and they are apparently aware that massive non-compliance will be the order of the day. “Many of these assault-rifle owners aren’t going to register; we realize that,’’ a source in the Cuomo administration told the Post, adding that officials expect “widespread violations” of the new statute.

Threats of imprisoning gun owners for up to a year and confiscating their weapons are already being issued by governor’s office, headed by a rabid anti-Second Amendment extremist who suggested before the bill passed that “confiscation” of all semi-automatic rifles was being considered. If tens or even hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens refuse to comply, however, analysts say New York would either have to start raising taxes and building a lot more prisons, or give up on the scheme that experts say will do nothing to reduce violence and that lawmakers say is aimed at eventual confiscation.

Activists involved in the state-wide boycott against the unconstitutional statute who spoke to the Post almost taunted authorities, saying gun owners would essentially dare authorities to “come and take it away.”

According to the paper, leaders of some of the state’s hundreds of gun clubs, dealers, and non-profit organizations, citing the New York Constitution’s guarantee that gun rights “cannot be infringed,” are currently involved in organizing the resistance. Among the primary concerns is that, with registration, authorities would know where to go for confiscation, an idea already proposed openly by Governor Cuomo himself.

“They’re saying, ‘F— the governor! F— Cuomo! We’re not going to register our guns,’ and I think they’re serious. People are not going to do it. People are going to resist,” explained State Rifle and Pistol Association President Tom King, who also serves on the National Rifle Association board of directors. “They’re taking one of our guaranteed civil rights, and they’re taking it away.”

Opponents of the right to bear arms, take heed. The American people know what you’re up to and they will not stand for it.

The resistance has begun.

Author: Mac Slavo
Views: Read by 81,033 people
Date: January 25th, 2013
Website: www.SHTFplan.com

Copyright Information: Copyright SHTFplan and Mac Slavo. This content may be freely reproduced in full or in part in digital form with full attribution to the author and a link to www.shtfplan.com. Please contact us for permission to reproduce this content in other media formats.

Unified First Nation Leaders Vow to ‘Seize the Moment’ in Fight for Rights

First Nations leaders vowed Thursday to keep up the pressure on the federal government as they declared that the grassroots indigenous-rights Idle No More campaign was both unified and hear to stay.

Alex Rogers wears a grass dance headdress near a railway blockade line in Sarnia, Ont. in December. (Photo: Dave Chidley/Canadian Press) "Make no mistake, the energy that's coming from our people is not going anywhere," said national chief of the Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo, who just returned from a medical leave, in a press conference Thursday.

Referring to the increased pressure on the Canadian government to recognize the universal issues of individual sovereignty and environmental protections which have underscored the movement's focus, Atleo continued:

It's not only a single person in the prime minister. It's the fact that this country is now recognizing that we need to address the issues and the relationship between First Nations and Canada, and there's some shared objectives.

[The status quo is] not working not only for First Nations, it's not working for Canadians and it's not working for governments. And so we need to with great haste seize on this moment and say that we're not going to let it go by.

Atleo was one of the First Nations leaders who held a "working meeting" with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on January 11, despite boycott by some chiefs—including Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence—because the meeting did not include Canadian Governor General David Johnston.

Touching upon the conflict, he added, "On principles of substance, we are unified."

A spokesperson for Spence seconded Atleo's statement Thursday, also vowing that the struggle will continue.

Earlier that day, Spence and Manitoba elder Raymond Robinson ended their 43-day hunger strike after representatives from the Assembly of First Nations and various governmental groups endorsed a declaration of specific commitments "to undertake political, spiritual and all other advocacy efforts to implement a renewed First Nations - Crown relationship," including full implementation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), CBC reports.

A full text of the agreement can be read here.

Going forward, movement leaders are planning an Idle No More World Day of Action on Monday, January 28 (#J28) during which they will "peacefully protest attacks on Democracy, Indigenous Sovereignty, Human Rights and Environmental Protections" as Canadian Members of Parliament convene at the House of Commons in Ottawa.

Also, demonstrating the reach and international resonance of the campaign, major flash mobs are planned for this Saturday by supporters in the US and Australia. 

Unified First Nation Leaders Vow to ‘Seize the Moment’ in Fight for Rights

First Nations leaders vowed Thursday to keep up the pressure on the federal government as they declared that the grassroots indigenous-rights Idle No More campaign was both unified and hear to stay.

Alex Rogers wears a grass dance headdress near a railway blockade line in Sarnia, Ont. in December. (Photo: Dave Chidley/Canadian Press) "Make no mistake, the energy that's coming from our people is not going anywhere," said national chief of the Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo, who just returned from a medical leave, in a press conference Thursday.

Referring to the increased pressure on the Canadian government to recognize the universal issues of individual sovereignty and environmental protections which have underscored the movement's focus, Atleo continued:

It's not only a single person in the prime minister. It's the fact that this country is now recognizing that we need to address the issues and the relationship between First Nations and Canada, and there's some shared objectives.

[The status quo is] not working not only for First Nations, it's not working for Canadians and it's not working for governments. And so we need to with great haste seize on this moment and say that we're not going to let it go by.

Atleo was one of the First Nations leaders who held a "working meeting" with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on January 11, despite boycott by some chiefs—including Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence—because the meeting did not include Canadian Governor General David Johnston.

Touching upon the conflict, he added, "On principles of substance, we are unified."

A spokesperson for Spence seconded Atleo's statement Thursday, also vowing that the struggle will continue.

Earlier that day, Spence and Manitoba elder Raymond Robinson ended their 43-day hunger strike after representatives from the Assembly of First Nations and various governmental groups endorsed a declaration of specific commitments "to undertake political, spiritual and all other advocacy efforts to implement a renewed First Nations - Crown relationship," including full implementation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), CBC reports.

A full text of the agreement can be read here.

Going forward, movement leaders are planning an Idle No More World Day of Action on Monday, January 28 (#J28) during which they will "peacefully protest attacks on Democracy, Indigenous Sovereignty, Human Rights and Environmental Protections" as Canadian Members of Parliament convene at the House of Commons in Ottawa.

Also, demonstrating the reach and international resonance of the campaign, major flash mobs are planned for this Saturday by supporters in the US and Australia. 

Israeli Elections: The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.

Bio

Shir Hever is an economic researcher in the Alternative Information Center, a Palestinian-Israeli organization active in Jerusalem and Beit-Sahour. Researching the economic aspect of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, some of his research topics include the international aid to the Palestinians and to Israel, the effects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories on the Israeli economy, and the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel. His work also includes giving lectures and presentations on the economy of the occupation. His first book: Political Economy of Israel's Occupation: Repression Beyond Exploitation, has been published by Pluto Press.

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to this week's edition of The Hever Report with Shir Hever, who now joins us, where he's working on his PhD in Germany.

Shir is an economist. He's studying the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. He works with the Alternative Information Center, which is a join Palestinian-Israeli organization based in Jerusalem. Thanks for joining us again, Shir.SHIR HEVER, ECONOMIST, ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER: Hi, Paul.JAY: So the Israeli elections—some surprises. What do you make of what happened?HEVER: Overall there hasn't been much change and there weren't that many surprises. One thing that's rather surprising is that the rate of participation in the election has gone up a bit. We've seen over the last decade or so a constant decline in public participation in politics, mainly because of desperation and frustration of the general public. What's interesting is that the kind of political map that we have now, if we look at the opinions of the leading parties, it's almost identical to the one that we had in the previous elections, and yet half of the members of parliament have been replaced. And I think that's a very good indication of how the political system in Israel works, because although the public hasn't made any choice to change the agenda, to change the leading ideology of the large parties and also the small parties—but the Israeli public is very unforgiving towards failed leaders and quickly begins to hate its own politicians for being corrupt and ineffective. So the politicians change seats, they get replaced, but then the new ones are just carbon copies of the old ones.JAY: So you're saying this is more about the personalities than the policies. But the way the American media, at least, is covering this, Lapid, who won—what is it?—19 seats and is being described as, quote, center-left, he's being described as the voice of the middle class, the workers, and such—well, so I guess there's a two-part question. One is: is he perceived that way in Israel, and whether he actually is or not? And then, two, what is he really?HEVER: Yeah. Well, Lapid is a sort of empty kind of bag or really is a—.JAY: Vessel, as they say, yeah.HEVER: Empty vessel, yeah. He's a politician. He's very new to politics. He was a journalist, and as a journalist, actually, his main job was to be the anchor for the evening news, which means that mostly he didn't express his own opinions but just read from a teleprompter. But being handsome, well dressed, well groomed, he appealed to the public as a sort of authority figure or fatherly figure.He's also the son of a famous politician who also made the same move from journalism to politics, although his father was actually more of a pundit with his own opinions and Lapid was always very, very careful not to express any kind of opinion that might anger anyone, that might create enemies for him. So that means that he barely said anything, actually. The only things that he dared to say about his own opinions are pretty identical to what we hear from Netanyahu and also from the leaders of the other parties.The media tries to create a sort of spectacle to create drama so they can get their ratings, so they try to make this into the sort of struggle between left and right. But when we go down and examine in detail what are the actual proposals, what are the actual ideologies promoted by the different parties, there's actually no difference at all. Lapid is saying the same thing as the others.JAY: Yeah. Well, give us examples of Lapid, 'cause we're told that he's this left-of-center, pro working class/middle class guy. So if he's not, what is he?HEVER: Yeah. He said that he's pro middle class. He said that he understands what it is to be a middle-class member. He wrote a paper—not a paper; he wrote a short article under the title, "We the Slaves".But at the same time, he's in the top thousandth of the population in terms of his income. And he used to work to promote the sales of one of his biggest and richest banks, so he actually works for the top—I wouldn't say 1 percent; it's 0.1 percent, and he belongs in that demographic.And although he tries to make these sort of statements that he feels the pain of the general public in terms of the economic situation, he didn't say anything concrete about what kind of reforms he wants to implement, except that he wants to privatize education or to increase privatization in the education sector. So that means he's a complete neoliberal. He believes in using the private sector at the expense of the public sector. He believes that the Israeli school system is malfunctioning. On that point I agree with him. But he also believes that the solution would be to bring in companies with the interest to make as much profit as possible, take over the schools, and to run them as for-profit organizations.And, of course, that kind of idea is something that I think most of his voters didn't really take into account, didn't really consider. They voted for him because he promised to shake things up, because he promised to make changes. He didn't say which changes.JAY: Okay. What about this issue that he says he wants to reopen negotiations with Palestinians? The press here have been making an issue out of that, in other words, to distinguish him from Netanyahu.HEVER: Well, let's not forget Netanyahu has been repeatedly saying over his entire term that he wants to reopen negotiations with the Palestinians as well. JAY: But is there any difference on this rhetoric of no partner for peace?HEVER: Yeah. Well, Netanyahu is saying at the same time, there is no partner for peace, but let's negotiate anyway, because the negotiations give Israel the image that Israel wants peace, that Israel is willing to make compromise, although the only compromise Israel is really willing to make is to continue the negotiations ad nauseam. And Lapid, I think, understands that. He didn't say, for example, I believe that Palestinians should have the right for a state in the '67 borders. That he didn't say. He didn't say anything about the right of return of Palestinian refugees. He only stresses the things that are in the consensus, that he supports Zionism, that he's a patriotic Jew, and that he believes everything that the security authorities tell him. So whatever the army statements are, he takes them at face value.JAY: Yeah. Even in the quotes about restarting negotiations, it's all about international appearance of Israel, not that he wants to find some kind of actual settlement. Now, what about the issue of secular—that he represents secular forces and that there's this, you know—. I attended a film festival in Israel in '98. I was told a lot of Palestinian filmmakers were coming there. They wound up not coming. But one of my films was shown there, and when I was there, somebody told me that if it hadn't—if it wasn't for the Palestinian issue, in fact, in a sense, if the Palestinian issue was resolved in some way and there really was a peace plan that worked, the next day a major fight would break out between secular and orthodox in Israel, that this contradiction's boiling beneath the surface. How much did that have to do with his, Lapid's election results?HEVER: I think that is the one point where the elections actually have any kind of significance, that there's any kind of change in relation to the previous parliament, because Lapid's father was a politician that was very associated with hatred of ultra-Orthodox Jews and religious Jews. He supported a sort of separation of church and state in Israel, although he still was a Zionist, believing that Israel should be a Jewish state. So his idea was a state built on an ethnic supremacy of Jews rather than a religious supremacy of Jews.JAY: Shir, really quickly for people that don't know, talk a little bit about how much authority the orthodox have over social life in Israel.HEVER: This is—there is a famous status quo between the secular and the ultra-Orthodox. This was something, a deal that was cooked over 65 years ago by Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, who understood that the ultra-Orthodox are very important in order to achieve the goal of having a Jewish majority in Israel, because they have more children, the rate of natural growth is fast. And he made an agreement with the ultra-Orthodox parties that Israel will not have a constitution—until today, Israel doesn't have a constitution—so that certain things can remain vague and there will be a sort of exemption from military service for those ultra-Orthodox who choose to go to yeshivas during their recruitment years. And that included several hundred ultra-Orthodox young people back in the days of Ben-Gurion. Today we're talking about over 60,000 ultra-Orthodox youngsters who are exempt from military service because of that same agreement. Ben-Gurion planted the seeds to allow the ultra-Orthodox community a lot of autonomy. So even though the ultra-Orthodox originally were very suspicious of Zionism, they saw Zionism almost as a blasphemy to Jewish religion, they were tempted by the autonomy.JAY: Let me just jump in here fast. That's because the Orthodox believe that the state of Israel could only come into being at the return of the Messiah, and that hadn't happened, so there shouldn't be a state of Israel. But they seem to have come around by now.HEVER: Yeah, because there is also another branch of Judaism, a newer branch, known frequently as the national Judaism, which believes that the coming of the Messiah is not a coming of an individual person, but actually a process of recolonizing Palestine. So, actually, through the process of building settlements, for example, they are bringing the Messiah.The ultra-Orthodox have been very hostile to that idea from the start, but are gradually coming over to that side over the years, mainly because the state also builds colonies in the West Bank for ultra-Orthodox, where they get cheap housing and better public services. And the fastest-growing cities in the West Bank, the colonies, are actually ultra-Orthodox communities. So now the ultra-Orthodox have a stake in the occupation. And that also moves them more to the right of the Israeli political map.JAY: Now, talk about other parts of Israeli life that the rabbis control.HEVER: Israel has laws—for example, it's illegal to raise pigs in Israel because pigs are not a kosher animal. But it is possible to raise them if they're not raised on the soil of Israel. So some people raise them on platforms. That's a way around the law.In most cities in Israel, there's no public transportation on Saturday, on the Shabbat.And in Israel it is illegal for people to get married except in their religious institution. So that means that Muslims can get married only with Muslims, Christians only with Christians, Jews only with Jews and only with a rabbi. And, of course, religious marriage is entrenched in law, which means that women don't have the same rights in Israel within the system of marriage. For example, a man can always get a divorce, but a woman cannot get a divorce without the consent of a man. Israel does recognize civil marriages of couples who got married outside of the state. But, again, if they come into Israel and they want to get a divorce, they have to do it with a rabbi.So these are just a few examples.There are also a lot of autonomies for the ultra-Orthodox community in education. And in neighborhoods where ultra-Orthodox are a majority, they can sometimes just close the streets completely on the Saturday and prevent cars from going. And all these forms of autonomy were allowed by the state because it was a sort of alliance. The ultra-Orthodox will support Zionism and will support right-wing governments, and in exchange the government will overlook or turn a blind eye to the fact that the ultra-Orthodox are developing their own society within a society in Israel, where most of the children of the ultra-Orthodox don't study math at school, don't study English, and the kind of education that they do receive is mainly religious education, which doesn't really help them get jobs in the general market. They receive some public support in the form of stipends from the government, and these stipends in a way allow this community to preserve itself. But 45 percent of ultra-Orthodox in Israel live under the poverty line. Now, I'm not sure if we should call them poor, because this is a sort of life choice for them. You can imagine also a student who chooses to go to school all day and not work. So that student is not necessarily poor, even though their income is low.And the ultra-Orthodox are—the fact that they're able to get these stipends from the government and have that separate sort of lifestyle has made them very prime targets for hate campaigns. And we see these hate campaigns in many of the political parties in Israel, including parties at the extreme right, like HaBayit HaYehudi of Bennett, which are saying, these people live at the expense of the state, they should go and get a job. Nobody's really calculating the numbers. If you actually look at how much budget burden the ultra-Orthodox community is on the Israeli budget, that's not so much, certainly not compared to what the government is giving to the Ministry of Defense. That's where the real money is.JAY: So this resentment against the ultra-Orthodox is not really a left-right issue, in the sense that the supposed quasi left of center, the way they describe it—I guess in Israeli terms it has some meaning, but you get just as much resentment of the ultra-Orthodox on the far right, including, like, Foreign Minister Lieberman was very critical of the ultra-Orthodox as well.HEVER: Yeah. Certainly. And the real left in Israel is, of course, very much against the idea of demonizing a whole part of the society. And they—so sometimes you see those seemingly strange alliances between ultra-Orthodox and the radical leftist parties. But, of course, the ultra-Orthodox are not proponents of human rights, gender equality, and so on. They're a very traditional part of society. And they have become very much accustomed to this autonomy that they got from the state for so many years.JAY: So now we're—just we're kind of running out of time, and this is something we're going to do many segments on to dig into more deeply. But just to bring us back to the beginning, so this—Lapid's election results, which seem to have been—nobody really predicted as many seats as he got—this was one of the driving motivations, wasn't it, this resentment against the ultra-Orthodox. And he gave voice to this.HEVER: Well, I think for a lot of people in Israel, they also voted Lapid with the hope that they didn't want to vote Netanyahu. But Lapid was everything like Netanyahu except being Netanyahu. And what's really amazing is that when the first results were published, later there was a certain—a slight correction to the results, which kind of made this a moot point, but it seemed that Lapid had actually the ability to become the prime minister, because the Labor Party and some of those centrist-left parties were willing to support him for prime minister. He had half of the seats in parliament, and then he could become the prime minister. And Lapid himself immediately rejected the idea, because that would mean that he would have to depend on the Palestinian parliament members in the Knesset, who were, of course, willing to prefer him over Netanyahu. But Lapid immediately said, I'm not going to sit with these people. And, of course, that's how he exposes that the level of racism, the level of hatred towards Palestinians is so deep that he was willing to give up his chance of being prime minister, and he lost his main negotiating card. So now he's going to sit with Netanyahu in the same coalition. It seems inevitable. And the one point where he could make a demand from Netanyahu in exchange for sitting in his coalition is probably going to be forcing ultra-Orthodox people in Israel to join the army, to enlist. The army doesn't really want these ultra-Orthodox people, because they're not very motivated to join the army and they're not very well educated by the military's standard, so they're not going to be the best soldiers that the army's looking for. But this is the sort of politic of hatred towards minorities, which they say, why should these people be exempt. And this is likely to cause a lot of strife and conflict within Israeli society over the next four years.JAY: Right. So when it comes to Israeli elections, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Thanks very much, Shir.HEVER: Thank you, Paul.JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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Riots spread across Jordan

Protesters shout anti-regime slogans during a demonstration in Jordan’s capital Amman. (File photo)

Riots have spread across Jordan after the announcement of parliamentary election results which people in four provinces dispute.

Violent clashes erupted on Thursday between police and protestors who accuse Jordan’s Independent Electoral Commission of vote-rigging, DPA reported.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the protestors who set fire to government buildings. At least three people were arrested.

The clashes were reported in the southern city of Maan where four schools were stormed, and government buildings and banks were set ablaze.

Karak and Madaba, two cities also located in southern Jordan, also saw unrest as people accused the electoral commission of “fraud.”

In the northern provinces of Irbid and Balqa, angry protestors burned tires to block roads while calling for the overthrow of Jordan’s kingdom.

Jordan's main opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, has been challenging the outcome of the elections, saying the vote will not end public anger.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which had boycotted the general elections along with other pro-reform groups, said on Thursday that measures taken by King Abdulla II fell far short of true democratic change and that the monarch should not have any say at all in naming a prime minister.

Preliminary figures show that more than 56 percent of registered voters cast their ballots.

Jordanians have been holding demonstrations since January 2011, demanding political reforms, including the election of the prime minister by popular vote and an end to corruption.

In October 2012, the Jordanian king dissolved the parliament and called for early elections under growing public pressure. He has also sacked three prime ministers since the start of the popular protests in the country in a bid to appease protesters.

KA/HN

Cameron takes aim at corporate tax avoiders

(Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday attacked multinational corporations that avoid paying their fair share of tax, promising action against such aggressive strategies after a public backlash in Britain. The issue of tax avoidance by b...

“Fire in the Blood”: Millions Die in Africa After Big Pharma Blocks Imports of...

AMY GOODMAN: We're broadcasting from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. We had an extended break because we lost a link with the satellite. And I want to thank Jennifer Robinson for having joined us, a legal adviser to Julian Assange. As we turn now to another film about what some have described as the crime of the century. The new documentary, Fire in the Blood, explores how major pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, as well as the United States, prevented tens of millions of people in the developing world from receiving affordable generic AIDS drugs. Millions died as a result. This is a part of the trailer of Fire in the Blood.

DR. PETER MUGYENYI: Over two million people were reported to have died in that year alone.

YUSUF HAMIED: The whole of Africa was being taken for a ride.

BILL CLINTON: It's fine for people in rich countries to say this is what it ought to be. They don't have to live in these little villages and watch people die like flies.

DR. PETER MUGYENYI: Where are the drugs? The drugs are where the disease is not.

DONALD McNEIL: "You fight our patent monopolies, we will make sure you die."

NELSON MANDELA: As long as drugs are not available to everybody, he will not take them.

JAMES LOVE: It was just kind of a crisis of humanity. People just weren't really human for a moment.

AMY GOODMAN: That's an excerpt of Fire in the Blood, the film tracing how Big Pharma refused to allow countries to break patents and allow for the importation of cheap generic AIDS drugs. The problem continues today, as the World Trade Organization continues to block the importation of generic drugs in many countries because of a trade deal known as the TRIPS Agreement. Fire in the Blood just had its North American premiere here at the Sundance Film Festival.

For more, we're joined by two guests: Dylan Mohan Gray, director of Fire in the Blood, based in Mumbai, India, and Dr. Peter Mugyenyi, a Ugandan AIDS doctor featured in the film, recognized as one of the world's foremost specialists and researchers in the field of HIV/AIDS. He played a key role in founding Uganda's HIV/AIDS Joint Clinical Research Centre, and is author of a new book, Genocide by Denial: How Profiteering from HIV/AIDS Killed Millions.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Dylan, let's begin with you, why you made this film.

DYLAN MOHAN GRAY: Well, basically, I think the story sort of came to me by accident, to be honest. I was working on a film in Sri Lanka in 2004, and I had a day off and just happened to read an article in The Economist, of all things, which—it struck me as very interesting, because it was about one of the characters in our film, Dr. Yusuf Hamied, who's an Indian generic drug maker, and it was talking about how he was bringing in low-cost antiretroviral medications to Africa. Yet it seemed something interesting was going on beneath the surface. It seemed like this was obviously, you know, to my mind, a very good thing that he was doing, but they were going out of their way, I felt, to attack him, but it wasn't clear why. So, it piqued my interest. And, you know, not long later, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Hamied. And through him, I met several of the other people that became contributors to the film.

And I used to be in the academic world, and, you know, the historian in me was just completely shocked and scandalized that, A, I didn't know more about the story, and, B, that there was so little written about it or, you know, there were no comprehensive accounts of what had happened—you know, something that had killed 10, 12 million people, and it seemed to have happened almost without a record. So, you know, the impetus to make the film, primarily, was actually to create a record, a memorial and a chronicle of what happened. And as you say, I mean, we consider this to be the crime of the century.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mugyenyi is featured in the film. And it's an honor to have you here with us—

DR. PETER MUGYENYI: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: —before you head back home to Uganda, where you had been imprisoned, jailed, as you tried to bring generic drugs into Uganda, to get these drugs at a cheaper amount. Explain what Dr. Hamied did, this—I mean, what Cipla, the head of Cipla did, this drug company, how he challenged the rest of the world in saying he would cut the prices of AIDS drugs from—what was it? The amount that people would have to pay for the triple cocktail, before and after Hamied?

DR. PETER MUGYENYI: Well, there was a misinformation, worldwide misinformation, that AIDS drugs were too expensive to manufacture. The second misinformation that was there was that Africans would not be able to use these drugs, that it was impossible to use these drugs in the African condition. Dr. Hamied called the bluff of all of those who were propagating this false information that cost so many lives of people.

AMY GOODMAN: How?

DR. PETER MUGYENYI: Well, he just literally announced that it is not true that these drugs can only be manufactured at such an exorbitant cost. He demonstrated that they could be demonstrated at relatively affordable cost, which would save millions of lives because of affordability. So it was the issue of affordability and access where Hamied came in and acted.

AMY GOODMAN: So before him, drug companies were charging like $15,000 for a year for one patient to get a triple cocktail for the year. And he cut that price to less than a dollar a day? $15,000 to $350 for the year?

DR. PETER MUGYENYI: Yes, and that action was incredible. For the first time, millions of people who were dying stopped dying in Africa, because they started accessing life-saving drugs.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did you end up in jail in Uganda?

DR. PETER MUGYENYI: Well, it was—I was arrested, but I was rescued because Uganda government was concerned about the plight of the citizens who were dying in such a big number. So an emergency meeting that rescued me from arrest took place in front of the government ministers, and at that meeting I made it clear: I said to the meeting that, "Look, your relatives are dying of AIDS. Your citizens are dying of AIDS. I'm a doctor working among the AIDS patients, and I have no tools to save my patients' lives. All I have done is to import affordable drugs, which will increase access. These drugs are at the airport. They are under your care. You can block them from coming in, but as far as I'm concerned, I have done my job of bringing life-saving drugs to Uganda." And I think they understood. And every one of them had relatives who were suffering from AIDS, or at least a friend whom they knew who had died from AIDS. And so, this was—it was not very difficult to convince them that this action was necessary, and I needed to be out saving lives with drugs instead of being arrested.

AMY GOODMAN: Another of the heroes in the fight to bring life-saving drugs to HIV/AIDS patients is Zackie Achmat of South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign. In 1999, Achmat, who is HIV-positive, went on a treatment strike in solidarity with others who couldn't afford medication. He's featured in Fire in the Blood.

ZAKIE ACHMAT: If my sisters or brothers or cousins had HIV or had AIDS and needed medicines, they wouldn't have been able to get it. And I grew up in a house where your mom would say, "If all the kids can't have chocolate, one is not going to have it."

NARRATOR: Having made up his mind, Zackie Achmat announced that he would boycott antiretrovirals until the South African government made them available to everyone.

AMY GOODMAN: Dylan Mohan Gray, talk about the significance of Zackie Achmat and what the whole issue of patents is about in these U.S. companies.

DYLAN MOHAN GRAY: Well, Zackie Achmat, as you said, is one of the great heroes of this story. And I think the boycott that he undertook, very much with a sort of a Gandhian impetus in mind, you know, it was a very deliberate action that he took. And as he says in the film, you know, he grew up in a family where his mother said, if one child couldn't have chocolate, then none of the children were going to get it. And that's a very simple way of looking at it, but that's something I think we can all identify with. He grew up, you know, struggling against apartheid in South Africa, a very strong sense of solidarity with his fellow man. And, you know, he could easily have accessed the drugs, because he was an internationally known activist, but he said, "No, I'm not going to do it." And he came very close to death by taking that decision. And I think, you know, it had a very, very big impact on waking people, especially in the Western world, up to the reality of the situation in sub-Saharan Africa. So, you know, the gamble paid off, so to speak.

AMY GOODMAN: Say that last part.

DYLAN MOHAN GRAY: I said the gamble paid off. I feel like his gamble that he took—I mean, he risked his life—but in a sense, the gamble paid off, because the impact of what he did, you know, had repercussions throughout the world and woke a lot of people up to the situation of access to medicine in Africa.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain how the patents work.

DYLAN MOHAN GRAY: A patent is a government-granted monopoly or a grant of exclusivity which is given to companies, generally, or individuals, with the idea that by giving a period of the exclusivity, one would incentivize investment. So, what typically happens with pharmaceutical companies is they will purchase technology from others, whether it be universities or small biotech companies or other small innovative outfits, and they will then commercialize these products. And because they will have a monopoly for a period of time, usually a minimum of 20 years, they will be able to set the price at any level they wish. And we have the former vice president of Pfizer in our film, who says very openly the concept is to maximize revenue. It has nothing to do with the cost of research and development.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mugyenyi, what needs to happen right now, in these last 30 seconds?

DR. PETER MUGYENYI: Well, what needs to happen is the realization that an inequitable, unethical situation exists with the related TRIPS Agreement, and that lives, millions of lives, are at stake unless this TRIPS Agreement and patents issue are addressed—not to hurt business, but to make sure that they do not hurt patients and result in a bloodbath, that we have seen in the case of HIV/AIDS.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both very much for being with us, Dr. Peter Mugyenyi from Uganda and Dylan Mohan Gray, director of the new film that has just premiered here at the Sundance Film Festival, Fire in the Blood.

Jordanians Vote for the First Time Since Arab Spring

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More Info

Special thanks to Mostafa Youssef

Transcript

[Broll of Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour from AJ interview]

VO: A new parliament was voted into office in Jordan by 56% of 2.3 million registered voters. The Islamic Action Front and leftist opposition groups boycotted the elections, calling them “cosmetic” and not dealing with their demands for real reform. Voters said they were forced to choose among the same tribal and pro-government figures who have dominated previous, corruption-ridden parliaments. Jordanians ended 2012 with street protests calling for the first time the downfall of King Abdullah’s regime. Last November, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour introduced austerity measures, slashing subsidies and raising fuel prices by 54%. The International Monetary Fund hailed the move as an “important step” towards fixing the country’s $3 billion deficit. [broll of protests][protest chants]Om HashemWe can’t marry-off the children, we can’t pay the rent…they raise the prices and we remain silent.The (burkan) needs to make a difference. It’s the first time I go down to protest. I can’t marry off the kids. I am taking my kids out of university. What now? How long will this last for? [ya pharoan shoo pharanak?], he said “no civilian will hinder me from raising the prices”. The gas has become so expensive that us and our children have to sleep in one room to stay warm.Abdel HiyatI am looking for another citizenship. I can’t survive! I can’t find anything ______ in this country! Why should I leave my country? It seems that other countries respect their citizens and be able to eat, drink and educate my children!University StudentThey raised the prices without consulting with the public. Without warning even. We woke up and found they had increased. How and why? That wasn’t important. What was important was that they raised the prices and they don’t care what we think. [I am here because] I won’t allow my parents to stand in line at the post office to get a social assistance cheque to get 23 Dinars ($32 USD) every four months. I plan on receiving a 4 year university degree, and I will not stop half-way so I can stand with my mother to receive her 23 JOD/four months—which I know that after the first installment comes they won’t receive a cheque again.VO: A resource poor landlocked country, Jordan imports 96% of its energy. It’s economy is heavily dependent on foreign aid. Last year alone, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE have EACH pledged to provide $1.2 billion in aid. The government has had to cut more than 10 percent of its spending to secure a promised $2 billion IMF loan.Yasser Melhim, StudentWith regards to foreign aid, USAID at its head, these organizations have replaced the state’s role. Today, we are lacking essential state services and has weakened the state, and a result has allowed these organization to get involved in political decisions.Ren Wahbe, ArchitectI am here today because I am concerned about the economic problems we are facing under this regime—especially the conditional IMF loans. We are taxed people to lower the deficit, but continue to take foreign loans to implement projects ridden with corruption and theft. This also comes at the price of oppression and imprisonment, even murder.Yasser Melhim, StudentWith regards to increasing the prices, the Jordanian parties came up with alternative methods to cover the deficit of the general budget by incriminating corruption, reclaiming stolen Jordanian resources, and reclaiming corrupt privatization deals of public assets. Any capable lawyer can revise these shady contracts and reclaim the companies that were sold to support the Jordanian budget.VO: Fearing spillover from Syria’s revolution in the North, and eyeing Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood now in power, Jordanians have not taken chants for regime change lightly. Threatened by a violent confrontation with police, opposition groups quickly scaled back their demands and called for electoral reforms, investigations into corrupt privatization deals, and an end to a heavy-handed security state.JAMAL Hussein, Lawyer, Activist: The youth who chanted [for the downfall of the regime], from the political movement, I believe that they were trying to accelerate the course of events. They didn’t take into consideration that the average citizen is only demanding reform. Even the political groups are still not proposing it as a solution. We’ve seen in other Arab countries the calls on the street was faster than political group’s demands. But this is not the case in Jordan. The street has not called for bringing down the regime. I believe this has impacted the movement and people’s reaction in the street. We haven’t made solid gains, but we’ve broken a barrier with the regime and he is now worried. However, the ones we’ve scared the most is the average citizen.VO: Jordan’s main opposition group is the Islamic Action Front, an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. The IAF receives the majority its support from Palestinian Refugees, making up almost half of Jordan’s population. The group has called for the cancellation of the Israeli peace treaty, Jordan being one of two countries that have signed. The IAF has boycotted the elections, and has rejected offers for seats in the parliament and senate.Nimer Al-Assaf, Deputy General Secretary, IAFThe Islamic Action Front stems really from the Brotherhood organization in JordanAnd it represents something, what we call, a popular movement. We do not actually aim to be ministers or members of parliament. We were offered to be ministers and given seats in parliament. How many seats do you want in parliament? 25, 30? 40? But participate in the elections.”It is an absolute monarchy, and we demand that it goes back to a parliamentary monarchy.Constitutional reforms which means we are asking for a parliament which does not gets dissolved by the King; we are asking for a government which stems from the parliament.We believe fighting corruption is what should have been carried out first.We are also asking for the upper house to be elected. We are asking for the secret service police to stop interfering in the civilian and political life. We are asking for the reform of the electoral law.VO: Unions in Jordan have led street protests in the past months and have joined calls for government reform and an end to price hikes.Jamal Hussein, Lawyer, ActivistThe unions play a clear political role and they are trying to put pressure on the political parties. and there was formed one of the strongest organizations across the nation, and an important opposition force against the regime.The teachers’ union is considered the largest union in Jordan. It was taken by force from the regime’s control by using public pressure, staging street protest and sit-ins. There was also a two-week teachers’ strike across the country.They have also played an important role in speaking out against the price hikes by going on strike for two days, and are putting lots of pressure on the regime.The movement benefitted from the teachers’ union’s pressure since throughout the last year when the teachers were gaining their rights in the union, a group of teachers came out of this fight more politicized. The teachers started engaging more in the public sphere, and as a result encouraged the youth to challenge leaders of political parties.President of the Health Workers’ UnionJordanians and the unions are against the government’s decision to increase the prices. We are against the economic path we have been headed towards for years, and we are against that these economic woes impact our citizens. The middle class, the poor, the workers and the farmers are most impacted by the price hike. We for reforming the system, and we refuse this decision. We demand the current parliament be dissolved and to form a National Rescue Committee, and to stop this decision immediately. If our demands aren’t met, we will continue making our voices heard.VO: Jordanians have demanded an end to intimidation tactics historically used by state police for stifling dissent. Jordan’s Interior Ministry has reportedly been raiding candidate supporters’ homes to allegedly curb any attempts at vote buying during the elections.Moyad GhowadorAt this moment, the regime represents [el kame7]. This regime does not allow us freedom of expression. We are here at a peaceful protest with a various union groups, and the Darak have been sent to stop us. This regime has driven the Jordanian economy into chaos and borderline bankruptcy.VO: The Islamic Action Front, workers’ unions and leftist groups have all called for a boycott of the parliamentary elections. Protesters say they have little faith these, elections will put an end to corruption, an ailing economy and a heavy handed police state. King Abdullah will continue facing challenges as further cuts in electricity subsidies and public sector benefits are promised to soon secure a $2 billion IMF loan.This is Danya Nadar, for the Real News


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Japan sets record 2012 trade deficit

Japan’s trade deficit hit a new record for 2012. (File photo)

Japan says its trade deficit for 2012 hit a new record as exports suffered from sour diplomatic ties with the country’s biggest market, China.

The Japanese Finance Ministry released the latest official figures on Thursday, indicating that the trade shortfall last year totaled 6.92 trillion yen (about $78 billion), with the deficit in December alone standing at a higher-than-expected 641.5 billion yen.

The data marked a second consecutive annual trade deficit for the world’s third-largest economy.


The figures are bad news for the new government of Shinzo Abe, who won the December election, pledging to boost Japan’s economy.

Meanwhile, lesser demand from the eurozone has also worsened the trade balance of Japan.

“The figures will likely be better in 2013 as overseas economies improve,” said Masahiko Hashimoto, an economist at Daiwa Institute of Research in Tokyo, adding that the impact of a territorial feud with China would probably fade.

“The European economy may continue to worsen until the middle of the year but China and other Asian economies are likely to lead the global economy.”

Tokyo’s deficit with Beijing doubled to a record 3.52 trillion yen, as tensions between the two countries over a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea caused a consumer boycott of Japanese goods in China.

Massive protests held in China over the islands dispute and attacks on Japanese companies and factories prompted Tokyo to shut down its auto business in China temporarily in September 2012.

MSH/HSN/MA

Egypt’s Constitutional Referendum: Did President Morsi Hijack Democracy?

Egypt Referendum

President Morsi created a new constitution for Egypt on December 26, 2012. Prior to this, Morsi was forced by massive street protests in Egypt to rescind an executive decree that granted him sweeping presidential powers. His opponents called it an empty gesture as Morsi’s government rolled out the tanks and brought out the Egyptian military from their barracks into the streets. Opponents of Morsi and the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood accused him and his Freedom and Justice Party of playing a game to stupefy Egyptians by consistently making propositions, then withdrawing them, and then making them again to create confusion. After calling out the military, Morsi’s government would then rush a constitutional referendum foreword that would guarantee him more powers.

The constitutional changes in Egypt have divided its society. Several Muslim Brotherhood offices have even been stormed by large groups of angry protesters. In what appeared to be a turning back of the clock to the Mubarak regime’s use of brute force, reports of casualties caused by attacks on protesters and activists were far spread. Morsi’s supporters and Egyptian security forces would fight in the streets across Egypt with those opposing the new constitution. A peaceful sit-in of activists in front of the presidential palace in Cairo even ended in violence and death as fighting broke out.

So does Egypt’s new constitution enjoy popular support? In the end Morsi’s new constitution appears to have become victorious. The way numerical information or data is presented or inferred, however, can be very misleading. In many cases the data about the referendum was very selectively presented. An examination of the numbers through some elementary statistical data analysis says a lot about the support that the new constitution received from Egyptian society and provides an important contextual answer to the question being posed. [1]

Reading the Numbers

The new constitution won by a 63.8% approval of yes. This is very misleading when the level of participation is used to generate further data. Only 32.9% of eligible voters cast their ballots for the election and most importantly the new constitution was approved with the support of 20.9% of eligible voters.

Only 17.1 million people out of nearly 52 million registered eligible voters in Egypt participated. Even though the Muslim Brotherhood and its political allies came out in full force to vote, the turnout for the referendum was actually low. This means that about 35 million eligible Egyptians (1) did not bother to vote or (2) boycotted the referendum or (3) were unable to go to a polling station to vote. In some countries such a turnout would be disqualified, because of the lack of citizen participation.

Demographically, only 10.9 million Egyptians voted yes to approve the new constitution. This is a not even a quarter of the population in a country of nearly 82 million people. [2] This means that about 13.3% of the Egyptian population supported the new constitution.

The numbers or data speak for themselves. Interpreting these statistics, we have a sound frame of reference to categorically state that a minority of Egyptians helped secure the Muslim Brotherhood’s new constitutional. It is little wonder that many Egyptians declared that the referendum was illegitimate.

*Estimated breakdown of the entire Egyptian population (millions)

More Political Turbulence to Come?

The leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood is being perceived more and more by Egyptian society as a corrupt organization. It has flip-flopped on many of its promises. Even ideologically the group is being perceived as corrupt by many Muslims inside Egypt. Large segments of Egyptian society believe that very little has changed in their country. For Morsi’s opponent the status quo of the Mubarak era in Egypt essentially remains intact under him and his Freedom and Justice Party.

Like the dictatorship of Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood has refused to fully open the borders with Gaza to help the Palestinians. Its calls of support for the Palestinians have proved to only be political lip service. In fact, like Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood immediately pledged to safeguard Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel when the doors of power were opened to them. Finally, Morsi’s US-supported and Israeli friendly truce between Hamas and Tel Aviv appears to be a strategy devised to de-link Hamas and the Palestinians from Iran and the Resistance Bloc.

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have kept all the employees of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry from the Sadat and Mubarak eras in place. The structures of Egypt’s intelligence services have remained untouched and are intact. The Muslim Brotherhood has continued to subordinate their country’s economy to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) like Mubarak did; this is in opposition to the tenets of Islam that ban interest-based banking.

Morsi’s attempts to viciously repress Egyptian protesters with force also resemble the use of force from the Sadat and Mubarak eras. The violent crackdowns on Egyptian protests by the Muslim Brotherhood have resulted in many protesters saying that the new government is just as murderous as the last. Political instability and turbulence lies ahead for Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood. The country’s economy is not doing any better and a new parliamentary election, which is scheduled for the end of February 2013, will see more heated battles between the Muslim Brotherhood and its opponents as the country is further galvanized.

The Flaws of So-called Democratic Voting Processes

Although determining the exact reasons is a different research topic, it can categorically be stated on the basis of the referendum’s numbers that Morsi’s constitution does not have the support of the majority of Egyptians. The votes of approval that were cast were unrepresentative of most Egyptian society. Is this democracy?

It is here that one can see the flaws in voting procedures that emerge in so-called “democratic processes.” To be candid, a country or society cannot be considered democratic just because voting takes place. This is not democracy, but a “motion of democracy.” In paradox, democracy has continuously been hijacked through the ballot box and under seemingly democratic mechanisms or motions. Egypt is not the only case. Other countries, like the US and Canada, face similar problems where minorities are making decisions for the majority of the population under the guise of democracy.

Democracy is not about voting per se, it is about active participation and collective decision making by all the members of a society. This is called “direct democracy.” Anything else is not real or authentic democracy. Voting in larger societies has been presented as a substitute representing an individual citizen’s voice in charting the course of their society under what is called “indirect democracy.” Indirect democracies are preferably referred to as “representative democracies” to conceal or gloss over the fact that they are not direct democracies.

NOTES

[1] These calculations were made by the author for the Chinese press right after the Egyptian constitutional referendum and based on the Arab Republic of Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics official population figure for 2012 and two pieces of numerical information or data about the referendum provided by the Associated Press (AP) on December 25, 2012. The data from AP is the following: (1) 63.8% of voters said yes; and (2) 32.9% of nearly 52 million registered voters went to referendum polling stations. It should also be noted that the data provided are estimates and that among the non-eligible members of the Egyptian population there are those that are under age.

[2] According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, the Egyptian population is 83,774,037 as of January 18, 2013.

Support for Seattle Teachers Grows: A Revolt Against ‘Standardized Testing Industrial Complex’

A boycott against a mandated standardized test at Garfield High School in Seattle, first initiated two weeks ago, has now received support from prominent national educators and—despite threats from school administrators and state officials—has spread to other schools across the city.

“We refuse to give a test that’s bad for students, but this is way bigger than Garfield High School now," said teacher Jesse Hagopian at a press conference on Monday. "This is not just about our school but a city and revolt against a test that is harming our children.”

The teachers at Garfield announced their boycott earlier this month by saying they would refuse to administer a district required standardized test known as the MAP test which they argue is deeply flawed on multiple fronts.

"We, the undersigned, stand with these brave teachers and against the growing standardized testing industrial complex." - from statement of support

After receiving national press coverage and with thousands of people across the country signing an online petition in support of their stance, scores of educators and parents rushed to the side of the teachers as more schools joined in the MAP test boycott.

And on Monday, some of the most respected figures in the field of US education policy issued a public statement in support of the boycott, calling the action a “blow against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.”

Among the original signers of the statement were former US Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, author and social activist Noam Chomsky, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, author Jonathan Kozol and professor of education Nancy Carlsson-Paige. As of Tuesday, the number of signatories had grown beyond 160 people.

"In the name of “raising standards” the growth of high stakes standardized testing has effectively lowered them," the statement read in part. "As the stakes for standardized tests are raised higher and higher, administrators and teachers have been forced to spend less time on arts, sciences, social studies, and physical education, and more time on tested subjects."

“We’ve had more than a decade of standardized testing,” said Ravitch explaining her support, “and now we need to admit that it’s not helping.” She added: “By signing this statement, I hope to amplify the voices of teachers who are saying ‘enough is enough’.”

Teachers in Seattle, including Hagopian, welcomed the support. When he looked at the list of those who signed it, he said, he saw "the people whose work helped to make me the teacher I am today.”

“Their support really means a lot to me, and I know that many teachers at Garfield High School feel the same way.”

New York City public school teacher and doctoral student Brian Jones drafted the statement last week and received help with revisions and outreach from University of Washington professor and Rethinking Schools editor Wayne Au.

“I’m overwhelmed by the response to this statement,” Jones said, “I feel like this is the beginning of a real movement to challenge high stakes standardized testing.”

“We contacted leading scholars in the field of education,” Au said, “and nearly every single one said ‘Yes, I’ll sign.’ The emerging consensus among researchers is clear: high stakes standardized tests are highly problematic, to say the least.”

According to reporting by the Seattle Times, "Eleven teachers at ORCA K-8, a Seattle alternative school, are boycotting along with the Garfield teachers, and some at Salmon Bay K-8 are considering doing the same.  Teachers at other Seattle schools also have sent letters of support for the protesting teachers, as have a number of other groups.  They include the Garfield PTSA, the Garfield High student government, the Seattle Student Senate, the Seattle Education Association and Parents Across America’s Seattle chapter."

Whether the stance by these Seattle teachers can inspire teachers in other parts of the country to follow suit remains to be seen, but teachers say that if the focus is on the students, it is inevitable that changes will come.

"This movement is just beginning," said India Carlson, who teaches science at Ballard High School. "We will be in this struggle until we win quality assessment for all of our students."

Why is the Israeli Election a Fight Between the Far Right and Further Far...

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Bio

Shir Hever is an economic researcher in the Alternative Information Center, a Palestinian-Israeli organization active in Jerusalem and Beit-Sahour. Researching the economic aspect of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, some of his research topics include the international aid to the Palestinians and to Israel, the effects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories on the Israeli economy, and the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel. His work also includes giving lectures and presentations on the economy of the occupation. His first book: Political Economy of Israel's Occupation: Repression Beyond Exploitation, has been published by Pluto Press.

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.

The results of the Israeli elections will soon be known. It's expected that Prime Minister Netanyahu will be reelected. The main battle seems to be all on the right, between one right-wing party and the other.Now joining us to talk about why this is is Shir Hever, who now joins us from Germany, where he's completing his doctorate. Shir is an economist. He's studying the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. He works for the Alternative Information Center, which is a joint Palestinian-Israeli organization dedicated to alternative information and analysis. Thanks for joining us, Shir.SHIR HEVER, ECONOMIST, ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER: Hi, Paul.JAY: So how do you account for this situation, that the whole battle is between the right and the further right? You could even say the further right and the even further right.HEVER: The political map in Israel is not a very usual kind of political map. It seems to have a very key part of it missing, basically. The whole left, progressive left is just extremely small. And one of the main reasons for this is the structural way in which the Israeli political system is built. The Israeli political system is actually in control over a population of 12 million people. And among these 12 million people, only about 7 million are Israeli citizens, and the rest are not citizens—most of them are Palestinians in the occupied territories and therefore have no vote.Among these 7 million Israeli citizens, there is about 1.5 million who are also Palestinians, but many of them have been completely disillusioned, and they have very low voting rates. On average, only about 50 percent of those eligible to vote actually used their right to vote. So basically that means the Zionist parties have a kind of automatic majority, which has not been challenged since the founding of the state of Israel. But, of course, even within the Zionist movement, the different parties used to have more divergent views about what is the best way to promote the Zionist agenda, what is the best way to promote the idea of a Jewish state.I would say if people think of a Jewish state in the sense of a state in which Jews have extra rights and everyone who's not Jewish is a second-rate citizen or cannot have a full and equal share of the power, then all of these parties are equivalent to quite extreme-right parties in other countries in the world. So we're already talking about a very narrow kind of argument or public debate between parties which are in complete consensus about this idea that the state should belong only to one ethnic national religious or even racial group.JAY: So how does Israel get to a situation where there's not even a left of center that's in meaningful contention in terms of the elections. And certainly what would you call a more left or even left social democratic or, you know, something more equivalent to sort of the social democrats you might find in Europe have no position at all in terms of competing.HEVER: Well, that's another thing that's quite interesting about the Israeli political sphere is that the economic questions, the social questions, are separated in a very artificial way from the national or security question. So you could be left and right on the national and security issues, and that doesn't necessarily correlate to views which are more progressive socially or not. This creates very odd situations in which members of the extreme-right, racist parties are cooperating with Palestinian members of parliament on issues of social interest, things like minimum wage or unemployment benefits. But when it comes to the issue of Palestinian statehood, equal rights for people who are not Jewish, and so on, they would be on the very extreme sides of the same map.But what Israel used to have is a kind of center—center by Israeli terms, I mean—in which [unintel.] an idea that Israel could be a sort of mild social democracy or mild welfare state by European standards, and at the same time to promote a version of Zionism which is often called the pragmatic Zionism, which is to find the smartest way and the most subtle way to control the Palestinian population, to make sure that Israel remains a Jewish state and maintains its demographic majority as a Jewish state without taking steps that—you could imagine what kind of steps they could take in order to maintain their demographic majority, but without taking those steps that would ostracize Israel in the world community. So, yes, continue the occupation, but keep up the appearances as if Israel would like the occupation to end, would like to continue negotiations with the Palestinians.This was the main platform of the Labor Party. This was the main policies of Israeli prime ministers like Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak.And that came to a crisis ten years ago—twelve years ago, actually, with the beginning of the Second Intifada, because Ehud Barak took this idea of pragmatic Zionism to an extreme. And by doing that, he exposed the inherent contradictions in this idea that Israel could somehow manipulate the Palestinians into playing their role in this charade of fake negotiations, fake peace process, while Israel continues to put the facts on the ground.And behind this kind of perception that there is a pragmatic or enlightened way to be Zionist and maintain Israel's Jewish majority is a very patronizing approach. And Barak is really the embodiment of this approach. He basically said, I'm going to make the Palestinians an offer they cannot refuse, the best offer they will ever get. And he put that offer in the negotiations and basically said, take it or leave it; there is not going to be any negotiations about this offer; you have to accept it. And that offer was an offer which doesn't actually give the Palestinians sovereignty. It gives Palestinians in the occupied territories some kind of autonomy, a demilitarized state surrounded by Israeli territory on all sides. And of course the Palestinians rejected that plan, because the fact that maybe also Yassir Arafat, who headed the Palestinian Authority at the time—maybe he also believed like Barak that no Israeli prime minister will ever make a better offer.But that's beside the point. This is still an offer they cannot accept. And when they rejected that offer, Ehud Barak said, well, in that case, there's no partner for peace. And this phrase, "There is no partner for peace," has become a catchphrase for the Israeli right and has become the centerpiece of Israeli political ideology ever since that collapse of the negotiations. Basically, the whole idea of the center of the Israeli political map, the so-called Zionist left or Zionist center, was that Israel could pretend to be a democracy and pretend to be part of Europe, while at the same time maintaining 19th-century policies of colonization in the occupied Palestinian territories.JAY: Right. The other part of the sort of official Israeli narrative on no partner for peace is Gaza, that Sharon gave Gaza back to the Palestinians and look what happened.HEVER: Yeah. Well, actually, Barak has already begun to adopt a different kind of strategy. Instead of negotiations, he adopted this idea of management of the conflict, how to manage the conflict. That means how to use technological means, military superiority, and investment in things like the Wall of Separation, which Barak started building in the West Bank, to try to create a situation in which even if the conflict will last forever, Israel will just be able to live with it.And Sharon took this even a step further. Sharon replaced Barak, because Barak basically lost his vote base. He told his own voters: our entire analysis of the situation was wrong; there can be no negotiations. Well, of course, why would they vote for him again? Instead Sharon said, we don't need to negotiate at all; we don't need any kind of peace talks or any kind of settlement with the Palestinians to begin with; let's move on directly to managing the conflict while expanding the settlements, while expanding our control over the Palestinian territories.And Sharon made a very important speech at the Israeli Parliament in 2004, in which he said, if we count everyone between—everyone under Israeli control, then Jews are almost no longer a majority. When he made that speech, Jews were a little over 50 percent of the population. Now they're already 49 percent, so they're already a minority. And he said, well, in that case we have to get rid of some of those Palestinians to maintain our majority. And rather than trying to expel them, he decided to withdraw just from the Gaza Strip and create the appearance as if Israel no longer occupies the Gaza Strip.Now, we all know, of course, Israel does occupy the Gaza Strip, continues to control it in a very sophisticated manner. But this kind of appearance, as if the Gaza Strip is now a separate entity no longer under Israeli control, contributes to the idea that the occupation, the conflict can just maintain forever and nothing's going to stop it. As soon as people become sort of complacent about it and say, well, if we're not going to talk about ending the occupation any time soon, then the whole question of which politicians are relevant, who should we vote for, becomes a different question.I think what we see now in the Israeli election is that the leaders of almost all of the political parties, except for a very small number of real leftist parties, have also found out this same fact or came to the same conclusion, that in fact there is no point in trying to talk about ending the conflict or ending the occupation, because the general population just doesn't believe it's going to happen any time soon and are not so interested in that.And so the debate then becomes a question of what are the best economic policies, what are the best policies towards asylum seekers, refugees who tried to seek refuge in Israel from their home countries and so on—a lot of minor issues.JAY: Now, the Labor Party's position on—you know, in terms of how to deal with the Palestinians, it's not very different than Netanyahu. It's practically indistinguishable. But in terms of economic policy, at least they espouse something that looks like a little bit more social democrat, a little bit more reformist in some ways. This election campaign, they tried to kind of jump on the enthusiasm or momentum that had happened from those mass demonstrations against Netanyahu's economic policies. But it hasn't seemed to have done anything for them in terms of their electoral results.HEVER: I think a lot of people in Israel have become very disillusioned and very depressed when it comes to the economic issues. They know that actually, just like you said, there is no real difference between left and right or so-called left and real, very real right regarding issues of the negotiations, the peace process, the occupation. There is actually also no real differences regarding the economic policies. And the Labor Party, when it was in power, was in no way less neoliberal than the Likud Party. And many of the biggest privatizations were done by the Labor Party. Now, the current leader of the Labor Party does indeed have a record of supporting social democracy and talking about it. But on the other hand, she also knows that she can get no funding for her party and no support from any of Israel's business people who have, of course, control over the economy, unless she makes certain points or unless she avoids certain sensitive issues. So, basically, she continues to promise she's not going to raise taxes. And in her platform, Shelly Yachimovich, the leader of the Labor Party, offers to increase the government budget by about ILS 130 billion (over USD 30 billion) and to use that money for social purposes. But because she doesn't offer to raise taxes and she doesn't want to talk about the deficit, her only way to generate that sort of income is by reforming the existing tax system in such a way that people who are avoiding paying taxes they already have to pay under the existing laws would have to pay them anyway, basically closing loopholes.JAY: Right. So let me just ask you one final question. Assuming, as most people are predicting, the government is going to be formed by Netanyahu's Likud and the far-right nationalist—I should say, the further far-right nationalists—are we likely to see a change in the way Israel's governed?HEVER: I think from the point of view of Netanyahu, I believe he opposes any kind of change. He would not like Israel to further drift in the direction of the very extreme right, because he knows that this would further isolate Israel in the international community. And, of course, he doesn't want to go in the other direction, because he's ideologically opposed to any kind of concessions to social democracy or to Palestinian rights.But we also know that Netanyahu is not a very strong leader, despite how he tries to market himself. He always kind of molds himself to the political pressures around him and eventually becomes a sort of figurehead for the political pressure groups that are able to influence him. So a strengthening of the extreme right does indicate a certain change in Israel's policies, especially in the direction of no longer caring about what kind of international response could there be for Israel's policies.And Netanyahu's already signaled to that direction by deciding to build a new colony in the E1 area, which threatens to disconnect the West Bank into two parts, the north and south. And because of this kind of policy, that this was something that was severely criticized by European countries, for example, because it kind of threatens to bury the whole two-state solution. But European countries are also quite careful not to criticize too harshly just before the elections. They didn't want to be seen as if they were interfering in the Israeli political process. After the elections, I think there could be a different story. These countries will have no longer any reason to hold back. And if Israel basically makes it completely clear that they have no intention of a two-state solution, no intention of ending the occupation, I think then there is a chance for harsher international sanctions against Israel and very severe isolation, diplomatic isolation [crosstalk]JAY: I guess it's still to be seen whether that will change U.S. policy in any way. Thanks very much for joining us, Shir.HEVER: Thank you, Paul.JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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Martin Luther King Was a Radical, Not a Saint

Today Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is viewed as something of an American saint. His birthday is a national holiday. His name adorns schools and street signs. Americans from across the political spectrum invoke King's name to justify their beliefs and actions, as President Barack Obama will no doubt do in his second Inaugural speech and as gun fanatic Larry Ward recently did in outrageously claiming that King would have opposed proposals to restrict access to guns.

So it is easy to forget that  in his day, in his own country, King was considered a dangerous troublemaker. He was harassed by the FBI and vilified in the media.

In fact, King was a radical. He believed that America needed a "radical redistribution of economic and political power." He challenged America's class system and its racial caste system.  He was a strong ally of the nation's labor union movement.  He was assassinated in April 1968 in Memphis, where he had gone to support a sanitation workers' strike.  He opposed U.S. militarism and imperialism, especially the country's misadventure in Vietnam.

In his critique of American society and his strategy for changing it,  King pushed the country toward more democracy and social justice. 

If he were alive today, he would certainly be standing with Walmart employees and other workers fighting for a living wage and the right to unionize. He would be in the forefront of the battle for strong gun controls and to thwart the influence of the National Rifle Association. He would be calling for dramatic cuts in the military budget in order to reinvest public dollars in jobs, education, and health care.  He would surely be marching with immigrants and their allies in support of the Dream Act and comprehensive reform. Like most Americans in his day, King was homophobic, even though one of his closest advisors, Bayard Rustin, was gay. But today King would undoubtedly stand with advocates of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.

Indeed, King's views evolved over time. He entered the public stage with some hesitation, reluctantly becoming the spokesperson for the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 at the age of 26.  King began his activism in Montgomery as a crusader against the nation's racial caste system, but the struggle for civil rights radicalized him into a fighter for broader economic and social justice and peace. Still, in reviewing King's life, we can see that the seeds of his later radicalism were planted early. 

King was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929, the son of a prominent black minister. Despite growing up in a solidly middle-class family, King saw the widespread human suffering caused by the Depression, particularly in the black community. In 1950, while in graduate school, he wrote an essay describing the "anti-capitalistic feelings" he experienced as a result of seeing unemployed people standing in breadlines.

During King's first year at Morehouse College, civil rights and labor activist A. Philip Randolph spoke on campus. Randolph predicted that the near future would witness a global struggle that would end white supremacy and capitalism. He urged the students to link up with "the people in the shacks and the hovels," who, although "poor in property," were "rich in spirit."

After graduating from Morehouse in 1948, King studied theology at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania (where he read both Mohandas Gandhi and Karl Marx), planning to follow in his father's footsteps and join the ministry. In 1955 he earned his doctorate from Boston University, where he studied the works of Reinhold Niebuhr, the influential liberal theologian. While in Boston, he told his girlfriend (and future wife), Coretta Scott, that "a society based on making all the money you can and ignoring people's needs is wrong."

When King moved to Montgomery to take his first pulpit at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, he was full of ideas but had no practical experience in politics or activism. But history sneaked up on him. On Thursday, December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a seamstress and veteran activist with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), decided to resist the city's segregation law by refusing to move to the back of the bus on her way home from work. She was arrested. Two other long-term activists -- E. D. Nixon (leader of the NAACP and of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters) and Jo Ann Robinson (a professor at the all-black Alabama State College and a leader of Montgomery's Women's Political Council) -- determined that Parks' arrest was a ripe opportunity for a one-day boycott of the much-despised segregated bus system. Nixon and Robinson asked black ministers to use their Sunday sermons to spread the word. Some refused, but many others, including King, agreed.

The boycott was very effective. Most black residents stayed off the buses. Within days, the boycott leaders formed a new group, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). At Nixon's urging, they elected a hesitant King as president, in large part because he was new in town and not embroiled in the competition for congregants and visibility among black ministers. He was also well educated and already a brilliant orator, and thus would be a good public face for the protest movement. The ministers differed over whether to call off the boycott after one day but agreed to put the question up to a vote at a mass meeting.

That night, 7,000 blacks crowded into (and stood outside) the Holt Street Baptist Church. Inspired by King's words --"There comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression"-- they voted unanimously to continue the boycott. It lasted for 381 days and resulted in the desegregation of the city's buses. During that time, King honed his leadership skills, aided by advice from two veteran pacifist organizers, Bayard Rustin and Rev. Glenn Smiley, who had been sent to Montgomery by the pacifist group, Fellowship of Reconciliation. During the boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, and he was subjected to personal abuse. But -- with the assistance of the new medium of television -- he emerged as a national figure.

In 1957 King launched the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to help spread the civil rights crusade to other cities. He helped lead local campaigns in different cities, including Selma and Birmingham, Alabama, where thousands marched to demand an end to segregation in defiance of court injunctions forbidding any protests. While participating in these protests, King also sought to keep the fractious civil rights movement together, despite the rivalries among the NAACP, the Urban League, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and SCLC. Between 1957 and 1968 King traveled over six million miles, spoke over 2,500 times, and was arrested at least 20 times, always preaching the gospel of nonviolence. King attended workshops at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, which connected him to a network of radicals, pacifists, and union activists from around the country whose ideas helped widen his political horizons.

It is often forgotten that the August 1963 protest rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his famous  "I Have a Dream" speech, was called the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. King was proud of the civil rights movement's success in winning the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act the following year. But he realized that neither law did much to provide better jobs or housing for the masses of black poor in either the urban cities or the rural South. "What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter," he asked, "if you can't afford to buy a hamburger?"

King had hoped that the bus boycott, sit-ins, and other forms of civil disobedience would stir white southern moderates, led by his fellow clergy, to see the immorality of segregation and racism. His famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," written in 1963, outlines King's strategy of using nonviolent civil disobedience to force a response from the southern white establishment and to generate sympathy and support among white liberals and moderates. "The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation," he wrote, and added, "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."

King eventually realized that many white Americans had at least a psychological stake in perpetuating racism. He began to recognize that racial segregation was devised not only to oppress African Americans but also to keep working-class whites from challenging their own oppression by letting them feel superior to blacks. "The Southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow," King said from the Capitol steps in Montgomery, following the 1965 march from Selma. "And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than a black man."

When King launched a civil rights campaign in Chicago in 1965, he was shocked by the hatred and violence expressed by working-class whites as he and his followers marched through the streets of segregated neighborhoods in Chicago and its suburbs. He saw that the problem in Chicago's ghetto was not legal segregation but "economic exploitation" -- slum housing, overpriced food, and low-wage jobs -- "because someone profits from its existence."

These experiences led King to develop a more radical outlook. King supported President Lyndon B. Johnson's declaration of the War on Poverty in 1964, but, like his friend and ally Walter Reuther, the president of the United Auto Workers,  King thought that it did not go nearly far enough. As early as October 1964, he called for a "gigantic Marshall Plan" for the poor -- black and white. Two months later, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, he observed that the United States could learn much from Scandinavian "democratic socialism." He began talking openly about the need to confront "class issues," which he described as "the gulf between the haves and the have nots."

In 1966 King confided to his staff:

“You can't talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can't talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You're really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism. There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism."

Given this view, King was dismayed when Malcolm X, SNCC's Stokely Carmichael, and others began advocating "black power," which he warned would alienate white allies and undermine a genuine interracial movement for economic justice.

King became increasingly committed to building bridges between the civil rights and labor movements. Invited to address the AFL-CIO's annual convention in 1961, King observed, "The labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who today attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them." In a 1961 speech to the Negro American Labor Council, King proclaimed, "Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God's children." Speaking to a meeting of Teamsters union shop stewards in 1967, King said, "Negroes are not the only poor in the nation. There are nearly twice as many white poor as Negro, and therefore the struggle against poverty is not involved solely with color or racial discrimination but with elementary economic justice."

King's growing critique of capitalism coincided with his views about American imperialism. By 1965 he had turned against the Vietnam War, viewing it as an economic as well as a moral tragedy. But he was initially reluctant to speak out against the war. He understood that his fragile working alliance with LBJ would be undone if he challenged the president's leadership on the war. Although some of his close advisers tried to discourage him, he nevertheless made the break in April 1967, in a bold and prophetic speech at the Riverside Church in New York City, entitled "Beyond Vietnam--A Time to Break Silence." King called America the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" and linked the struggle for social justice with the struggle against militarism. King argued that Vietnam was stealing precious resources from domestic programs and that the Vietnam War was "an enemy of the poor." In his last book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), King wrote, "The bombs in Vietnam explode at home; they destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America."

In early 1968, King told journalist David Halberstam, "For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of society, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you've got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values."

King kept trying to build a broad movement for economic justice that went beyond civil rights. In January 1968 he announced plans for a Poor People's Campaign, a series of protests to be led by an interracial coalition of poor people and their allies among the middle-class liberals, unions, religious organizations, and other progressive groups, to pressure the White House and Congress to expand the War on Poverty. At King's request, socialist activist Michael Harrington (author of The Other America, which helped inspire Presidents Kennedy and Johnson to declare a war on poverty) drafted a Poor People's Manifesto that outlined the campaign's goals. In April King was in Memphis, Tennessee, to help lend support to striking African American garbage workers and to gain recognition for their union. There he was assassinated at age 39 on April 4, a few months before the first protest action of the Poor People's Campaign in Washington, DC.

President Johnson utilized this national tragedy to urge Congress to quickly enact the Fair Housing Act, legislation to ban racial discrimination in housing that King had strongly supported for two years. He signed the bill a week after King's assassination.

The campaign for a federal holiday in King's honor, spearheaded by Detroit Congressman John Conyers, began soon after his murder, but it did not come up for a vote in Congress until 1979, when it fell five votes short of the number needed for passage. In 1981, with the help of singer Stevie Wonder and other celebrities, supporters collected six million signatures on a petition to Congress on behalf of a King holiday.  Congress finally passed legislation enacting the holiday in 1983, fifteen years after King's death. But even then, 90 members of the House (including then-Congressmen John McCain of Arizona and Richard Shelby of Alabama, both now in the Senate) voted against it. Senator Jesse Helms, a North Carolina Republican, led an unsuccessful effort -- supported by 21 other senators, including current Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) --  to block its passage in the Senate.

The holiday was first observed on January 20, 1986. In 1987 Arizona governor Evan Mecham rescinded King Day as his first act in office, setting off a national boycott of the state. Some states (including New Hampshire, which called it "Civil Rights Day" from 1991 to 1999) insisted on calling the holiday by other names.   In 2000 South Carolina became the last state to make King Day a paid holiday for all state employees.

In his final speech in Memphis the night before he was killed, King told the crowd about a bomb threat on his plane from Atlanta that morning, saying he knew that his life was constantly in danger because of his political activism.

"I would like to live a long life," he said. "Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land."

We haven't gotten there yet. But Dr. King is still with us in spirit. The best way to honor his memory is to continue the struggle for human dignity, workers' rights, racial equality, peace, and social justice.

Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, and director of the Urban & Environmental Policy program, at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (2012, Nation Books). Other books include: Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century and The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City. He writes regularly for the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and American Prospect. 

‘Blame The Weather’ As UK Heads For Unprecedented Triple-Dip-Recession

How many 'dips' before a recession cycle becomes a depression structure? That is likely the question on Carney's mind as he enters his role as top man at the BoE shortly. As The Guardian reports, an unprecedented third slump in four years looms for the UK as shoppers stay at home and vital transport links grind to a halt amid paralyzing weather. As snow blankets much of the nation, it would appear the next round of central bank easing will be to print 'sunshine'. A series of economic releases – including weak trade data, downbeat business surveys and dreary retail sales – have fueled concerns that official figures out this week will show that output fell in the final quarter of last year. Now analysts fear a cold snap in January could lead to another quarter of contraction in Q1. The snow, bitter cold and harsh easterly winds continue to cause widespread disruption to travel by air, road and rail.  "Clearly, the longer that the snow and ice lasts, the greater will be the negative impact on the economy," IHS' Archer added, though we are sure we will hear of the 'broken icicle fallacy' soon enough.

Via The Guardian:

...

As transport services ground to a halt, Britons were unable to get to shops and restaurants, companies shut down early, construction work was hit, and supply chains were disrupted. Howard Archer, chief European and UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said retailers would be particularly hard hit, as the weather disrupted Saturday's shopping hours.

David Tinsley, UK economist at BNP Paribas, said: "The scary thing is that, as the snow falls in London and widespread disruption beckons, we could yet get a drop in first-quarter GDP as well. We would then be in triple-dip territory, albeit for erratic reasons." With the Met Office forecasting snow in parts of the country well into next week, the economic hit could be serious. "Clearly, the longer that the snow and ice lasts, the greater will be the negative impact on the economy," said Archer.

The snow, bitter cold and harsh easterly winds continued to cause widespread disruption to travel by air, road and rail on Saturday. Further problems are expected as a blanket of snow falls across the country on Sunday morning in London and the south-east and spreading north throughout the day.

...

At Heathrow furious passengers vowed to boycott British Airways, the airport and, in some cases, Britain itself.

...

Some roads, both motorways, major routes and minor roads remained impassable on Saturday. Darron Burness, the AA's head of special operations, said: "With the snow compacting down and turning icy, we're likely to see treacherous driving conditions throughout the weekend. Any fresh snow on top will just add to the problems."

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Martin Luther King Jr. Was a Radical, Not a Saint

It is easy to forget that in his day King was considered a dangerous troublemaker. He was harassed by the FBI and vilified in the media.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 20, 2013  |  

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Today Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is viewed as something of an American saint. His birthday is a national holiday. His name adorns schools and street signs. Americans from across the political spectrum invoke King's name to justify their beliefs and actions, as President Barack Obama will no doubt do in his second Inaugural speech and as gun fanatic Larry Ward recently did in outrageously claiming that King would have opposed proposals to restrict access to guns.

So it is easy to forget that  in his day, in his own country, King was considered a dangerous troublemaker. He was harassed by the FBI and vilified in the media.

In fact, King was a radical. He believed that America needed a "radical redistribution of economic and political power." He challenged America's class system and its racial caste system.  He was a strong ally of the nation's labor union movement.  He was assassinated in April 1968 in Memphis, where he had gone to support a sanitation workers' strike.  He opposed U.S. militarism and imperialism, especially the country's misadventure in Vietnam.

In his critique of American society and his strategy for changing it,  King pushed the country toward more democracy and social justice. 

If  he were alive today, he would certainly be standing with Walmart employees and other workers fighting for a living wage and the right to unionize. He would be in the forefront of the battle for strong gun controls and to thwart the influence of the National Rifle Association. He would be calling for dramatic cuts in the military budget in order to reinvest public dollars in jobs, education, and health care.  He would surely be marching with immigrants and their allies in support of the Dream Act and comprehensive reform. Like most Americans in his day, King was homophobic, even though one of his closest advisors, Bayard Rustin, was gay. But today King would undoubtedly stand with advocates of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.

Indeed, King's views evolved over time. He entered the public stage with some hesitation, reluctantly becoming the spokesperson for the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 at the age of 26.  King began his activism in Montgomery as a crusader against the nation's racial caste system, but the struggle for civil rights radicalized him into a fighter for broader economic and social justice and peace. Still, in reviewing King's life, we can see that the seeds of his later radicalism were planted early. 

King was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929, the son of a prominent black minister. Despite growing up in a solidly middle-class family, King saw the widespread human suffering caused by the Depression, particularly in the black community. In 1950, while in graduate school, he wrote an essay describing the "anti-capitalistic feelings" he experienced as a result of seeing unemployed people standing in breadlines.

During King's first year at Morehouse College, civil rights and labor activist A. Philip Randolph spoke on campus. Randolph predicted that the near future would witness a global struggle that would end white supremacy and capitalism. He urged the students to link up with "the people in the shacks and the hovels," who, although "poor in property," were "rich in spirit."

After graduating from Morehouse in 1948, King studied theology at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania (where he read both Mohandas Gandhi and Karl Marx), planning to follow in his father's footsteps and join the ministry. In 1955 he earned his doctorate from Boston University, where he studied the works of Reinhold Niebuhr, the influential liberal theologian. While in Boston, he told his girlfriend (and future wife), Coretta Scott, that "a society based on making all the money you can and ignoring people's needs is wrong."

France Launches War in Mali in Bid to Secure Resources, Stamp Out National Rights...

France, the former slave power of west Africa, has poured into Mali with a vengeance in a military attack lau