Jim Crow is alive and well in Israel

{Originally published March 1, 2017 at Al Jazeera}

Jim Crow is alive and well in Israel
Long before Israel erected separate communities, the United States perfected the art of the artificial divide.

by Stanley L Cohen

For years, Israel has sold, and we in the United States have bought, the cheap peel-away sticker that it is the “lone democracy” in the Middle East.

It has a nice, assuring ring to it, sort of like “opportunity” or “peace”, whatever these chants may, in practice, mean. But, like beauty, it remains very much in the eye of the beholder, and like reality, sooner or later the truth surfaces, no matter how well its fiction is packaged.

We in the US are damn good at packaging ourselves, and our charade of equality and justice is second to none. We sell stuff; lots of it. Much of it false. Very much like a willing stepchild, Israel has learned from us that if you say something long enough with vigour, power and money to back it, it begins to take on a surreal life of its own, no matter how much reality puts the lie to its embroidery. Indeed, we are quite accomplished at obfuscation. We know it all too well. We’ve hidden behind the fog of it for so long that, even today, those who remind us that the earth is, in fact, not flat, remain heretics to be scorned. Have we found the weapons of mass destruction yet?

Long before Israel erected separate communities divided by will of law to segregate its Jewish citizens from its almost two million Palestinian Arab ones, the US perfected the art of artificial divide.

With the accuracy of delusion, from coast to coast, could be heard the refrain that race-based segregation was lawful as long as the facilities provided to each race were equal.

For decades, the legal fiction of “separate but equal” was the mantra that state and local governments, throughout the US, held out to justify the artificial, indeed lawful, separation of tens of millions of Americans on the basis of race and nothing more.

Whether in services, facilities, public accommodations, transportation, medical care, employment, voting booths or in schools, black and white were segregated under the cheap shibboleth that artificial isolation of the races insured equality, as long as the conditions of their separation were legally equal.

These laws came to be known simply as Jim Crow.

Enter Jim Crow

Indeed, the idea that race or religious separation was not only preferable, but helpful to one another’s ability to chart their own separate but equal course, became a perverse intellectual exercise which fundamentally did nothing more than exalt the supremacy of one race at the expense of another.

Putting aside, for the moment, the reality that facilities and services offered to African Americans were almost always of lower quality than those available to their counterpart white Americans, eventually the US Supreme Court had had enough. It held that separate could never be equal, even where there was a match in opportunity and facilities.

As noted in the seminal 1954 case of Brown v Board of Education, a school-based challenge to the notion of equal segregation, separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.

In words that eventually took hold first in education, then elsewhere throughout the US, the unanimous court noted:

“Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society … It is the very foundation of good citizenship … Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms …

“Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to retard the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racially integrated school system.”

These words were penned but six years after Israel was granted statehood by the United Nations. Nevertheless, some 62 years later, Brown’s command remains a linchpin of any meaningful democratic ideal and, yet, evermore elusive in Israel, which takes pride in the falsehood of the same supremacist claptrap rejected long ago.

Separate schools

In Israel, Palestinian schoolchildren account for about 25 percent, or about 480,000 pupils, of the state’s total student population. Palestinian and Jewish students, from elementary to high school, learn in separate institutions.

As noted in Brown v. Board of Education, institutionalised discrimination in the education system impedes the ability of students to develop the skills and awareness to participate on an equal footing, as individuals, in a free society.

In Israel, this is no accident. It is very much the result of a conscious effort to build a permanent educational, social and political advantage of Jews over their Palestinian counterparts.

In 1969, the state passed a law that gave statutory recognition to cultural and educational institutions and defined their aims as the development and fulfilment of Zionist goals in order to promote Jewish culture and education.

In that light, in Israel, Palestinian children receive an education that is inferior in nearly every respect when compared with that for Jewish children.

Palestinian schools receive far less state funding than Jewish ones – three times less, according to official state data from 2004. In Jerusalem, it is half the funding.

This underfunding is reflected in many areas; including relatively large class sizes and poor infrastructure and facilities. Many communities have no kindergartens for three and four-year-olds. Some schools lack libraries, counsellors, and recreation facilities. Their students get fewer enrichment and remedial programmes and special education services than do Jewish children.

Palestinian students are also underrepresented in Israel’s universities and higher education institutions.

Recent studies indicate that only 10 percent of Palestinian citizens were attending undergraduate programmes, and 7.3 percent and 4 percent were pursuing masters’ and doctoral degrees respectively.

Palestinian academics account for just about 1.2 percent of all tenured and tenure track positions in Israel’s universities.

Like a full range of public spending policies that privilege the Jewish majority, government support for student tuition fees, subsidised housing and employment opportunities is available only for those who serve in the Israeli army which, as a practical matter, excludes Palestinians.

No less pernicious, for Palestinian citizens of Israel, is their inability to live and work where they choose.

Community segregation

In 1952, the Israeli state authorised the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency to function as quasi-governmental entities in order to further advance the goals of the Zionist vision, to the detriment of minorities including those with Israeli citizenship.

Under the Land Acquisition Law of 1953, the land of 349 Palestinian towns and villages, approximately 1,212 square kilometres, was transferred to the state to be used preferentially for the Jewish majority.

In 1953, the Knesset bestowed governmental authorities on the Jewish National Fund to purchase land exclusively for Jewish use. The state granted financial advantages, including tax relief, to facilitate such purchases.

Today, 12.5 percent of Israeli land is owned by the Fund, which bans the sale or lease of it to non-Jews under the admitted premise that it’s a “danger” for non-Jews to own land in Israel.

In 1960, the state passed a law stipulating that ownership of “Israeli lands”, namely the 93 percent of land under the control of the state and the Fund, cannot be transferred in any manner.

In practice, this means that in some 700 agricultural and community towns throughout Israel, housing applicants are screened by Jewish boards with the ultimate power to accept or reject applications to settle in these locales.

These boards, which include representatives from the World Zionist Organization and the Fund, consider a range of criteria such as “suitability to the community’s social life” and the town’s “social and cultural fabric”.

The admission process all but guarantees that almost all Israeli towns and villages will remain Jewish enclaves, and are but a tease to those Palestinian citizens who desire to live in equality in fully integrated communities.

Is it any wonder then, that today, in Jim Crow Israel, few Palestinian citizens have been found to be suitable for these communities?

By virtue of state control over the racial makeup of municipalities throughout Israel, most Palestinian citizens are limited to residence and employment in the acutely overcrowded Palestinian towns and villages.

In fact, since 1948, the State of Israel has established hundreds of additional Jewish communities, without permitting the construction of any new Palestinian municipality whatsoever. Indeed, of Israel’s total area, just 2.5 percent comes under Palestinian municipal jurisdiction.

Of Israel’s 40 towns with the highest unemployment rates, 36 are Palestinian and the average employed Palestinian citizens of Israel makes just 58.6 percent of what a Jewish Israeli makes. About 53 percent of the impoverished families in Israel are Palestinian.

Inequality from the Israeli Parliament

Over the years, the Knesset has used the veneer of democracy while acting arbitrarily to ensure that demographic and political control remains exclusively in the hands of the state’s Jewish citizenry and parliamentarians.

For example, in an effort to maintain a Jewish demographic majority, the Family Unification Law of 2003 prohibits Palestinian citizens of Israel from reuniting with their spouses who live in the West Bank or Gaza. As a result, more than 150,000 children born of these so-called mixed marriages are denied the most elementary rights and privileges attendant to Israeli citizenship.

In a series of other laws, the Knesset has not only imposed a broad range of limitations on freedom of movement, speech and access to the political system for Palestinian citizens, but imposed ideological boundaries on the platforms of political parties to which they may belong.

By design, such laws thwart the ability of Palestinians to impact upon a political process which, daily, dictates every phase of their lives, but yet leaves them essentially powerless to bring about any fundamental change in the system itself. These restrictions necessarily deny Palestinian citizens an equal opportunity to play a meaningful role in the political life of Israel, otherwise available to their Jewish counterparts.

Under its most recent attempt to stifle its Palestinian minority, the Knesset proposed legislation that would enable the suspension of elected representatives of the public not because of criminal wrongdoing on their part, or even because of a breach of settled legislative protocol, but simply because their political agenda is objectionable to the Jewish majority.

Under other legislation, Knesset members may strip Palestinian MKs from their elected seats if they voice opposition to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Indeed, recently a Palestinian MK, Haneen Zoabi, was suspended from parliamentary debates for six months when, on the floor of the Knesset, she called Israeli soldiers “murderers” for their role in the Mavi Marmara incident that took the lives of nine pro-Palestinian activists.

On other occasions, the Knesset has imposed severe restrictions on travel by Palestinian MKs, both domestically and abroad.

Currently, there is a law that bans any political party which challenges the existence of Israel as a “Jewish” state or which advocates equal rights for all of its citizens irrespective of ethnicity. Another law empowers the interior minister to revoke citizenship of people who violate “allegiance” to the state.

An elusive pursuit for justice

That Israel has become a land where laws are enacted to obstruct the free exercise of core political rights of its Palestinian citizens is beyond dispute.

Ultimately, in any truly “democratic” society, citizens are able to seek redress for institutional or private injuries through an independent judicial system wed to no result but equal protection and justice for all, no matter the race, creed or religion of those who seek its protection.

It’s hard to imagine a more fundamental or essential arbiter of the rights of all than a judiciary that operates under no obligation but to see that justice be done without consideration of the ethnicity of those who come before it.

Yet, by design, in Israel, the pursuit of justice by Palestinian citizens is an elusive chase indeed; one calculated to perpetuate second-class citizenship very much the way African Americans were long held in the US under the arcane practice of separate but equal.

For example, more than 200 major rulings issued by the Supreme Court of Israel have been translated into English and published on the court’s website along with the original Hebrew decisions. Although the majority of these pronouncements are relevant to Palestinian citizens of Israel, none has been translated into Arabic.

In the history of Israel’s Supreme Court, there have been but two Palestinian male justices.

Currently, all but one of its 15 members is Jewish. No Palestinian woman has ever served on the Israeli Supreme Court. At the district and magistrates court level, Palestinian judges make up less than 5 percent of those who occupy a judicial position, and even fewer who preside over labour courts.

Historically, the Israeli Supreme Court has sided with majoritarian values in what can only be described as a wholesale abdication of its responsibility to see that justice be done for Palestinian and Jew alike.

Thus the Supreme Court has upheld the restrictions of the 1950 Law of Return which permits every Jewish person to immigrate to Israel and obtain citizenship, yet denies the same protection to Palestinians, even those who were born in the area that is now the State of Israel.

Likewise, the Court has upheld the legality of the January 2003 family unification ban that bars a Palestinian citizen from raising a family in Israel with a Palestinian spouse from the Occupied Territories. The controversial law was introduced as an amendment to the 1952 Citizenship Law, which determines citizenship for non-Jews.

In 2014, the Court dismissed a petition by Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel challenging the continued Judaisation of Palestinian-owned land originally confiscated largely from Palestinian refugees inside Israel. According to Adalah, the court’s decision “entrenches racial segregation” and, writes Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large Annie Robbins, “will result in the continued concentration and containment of the Palestinian population in Israel”.

These are but a few of the many decisions of the Supreme Court that have adversely affected Palestinian citizens of Israel on the basis of their second-class status and little else.

The definition of the State of Israel as a Jewish one makes inequality and discrimination against its Palestinian citizens a political goal.

The marriage of “Jewish” and “democratic” ensures discrimination against non-Jewish citizens and necessarily impedes the realisation of full equality for all citizens of Israel.

Israel has become better at this “subtle” nuanced sale of an imaginary narrative than we in the US ever dared dream.

What, however, the “Jewish” state has not yet come to grips with, is that eventually myths about equal opportunity and justice for some 20 percent of its population prove specious and that, ultimately, time swallows all such fallacy, whether by operation of law or, tragically, all too often, through violence.

Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ is not an exception in US history

{Originally published February 9, 2016 in Al Jazeera}

 

Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ is not an exception in US history

The US has long targeted immigrants and American citizens alike for no reason other than heritage, race or religion.

In 1942 more than 120,000 mostly second and third-generation Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated from their homes and incarcerated in ‘camps’ [Al Jazeera] In 1942 more than 120,000 mostly second and third-generation Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated from their homes and incarcerated in ‘camps’ [Al Jazeera]

It’s always been far too easy for Americans to strut around the world’s living room praising our own inclusiveness … acting very much as revisionist historians who, once past the obvious ugly, move along quickly to “welcome” the world’s hungry, tired and poor.

The folly of attempting to rest the progress of a religious creed by persecutions and civil disabilities has been so often demonstrated that it is surprising to see it survived in this age and country. A distinguished advocate of religious liberty decreed, nearly a half-century ago, that even in Great Britain nearly all of its opponents had been silenced – some have been taught sense, others inspired with shame, until none were left upon the field except those that could neither learn nor blush.– John Rutherford, Chairman Democratic Party Virginia, 1855

We are, in fact, quite accomplished in repackaging a dark, ugly history with fancy wrapping paper tied together with red, white and blue ribbons that seem to surface with predictable dramatic flair as Americans walk into voting booths.

There’s not a whole lot of rewrite that can be done to sanitise the genocide of Native people or to recast slavery or reduce misogyny to anything but. These are, after all, the cornerstones upon which the United States was built. And the march from Asia to railroad peonage is littered with the bodies of indentured servants who typically found relief only in the opium that came with their forced labour as they built the passageway of the US from one coast to another.

It’s a trail of tears that began long before the American Revolution and which continues on today as very much an open, oozing infection … one described not all that long ago by our Supreme Court as “badges and incidents of slavery” in a case which held that Congress had the authority to prohibit even private acts of ongoing discrimination.

Likewise, the smug sermon of religious freedom and diversity that seems to find its way into every politician’s pulpit is belied by periods of religious persecution that not only predate the American Revolution but periodically stop to revisit us as so much a dark reminder of the wide chasm between blind faith and political reality.

The “non-violent” part of the story is easy. It has its genesis, not long after the Revolutionary war, when varied states abolished some churches while supporting others, issued preaching licences and collected tax money to fund and establish official state churches. Were it just about “peaceful” institutional discrimination, it would be far easier to sell the tale of evolving cultural and religious diversity and freedom. But it’s not.

Indeed, beginning in the 17th century, anti-Quaker laws imposed penalties upon “heretics” ranging from expulsion to capital punishment. In the 18th century, physical assaults and near-drowning of Baptists often became the cost of their beliefs.

The 19th century brought us torched convents, pitched gun battles between “nativist” Americans and mostly Irish Catholic immigrants, and a Mormon town burned to the ground with its leaders executed.

In the 20th century, Jews became increasing targets of anti-religious fervour which ranged from imposition of immigration quotas based upon national origin to exclusion from colleges, to being banned from holding political office, and to violent attacks typically carried out by special societies such as the Silver Shirts or the Ku Klux Klan.

In the early days of the 21st century, reported anti-Muslim hate crimes soared nationwide from 28 to 481 and ran the gamut from racial and religious slurs to attacks on mosques and to physical assaults and murder.

Ours is a political experience long rooted in theological and social animosity and domination; one where majority religious groups have long controlled domestic political power and opportunities that derive from its reach. Indeed, historically, theocratic rule has been quick to punish dissent within our midst and viewed immigrants with “competing” religious beliefs and values with suspicion as very much outsiders and undemocratic.

So, one might ask, what is there, then, about the most recent Trump attack upon Muslims, all Muslims, that stands in dramatic contrast from a long and sordid American history of targeted persecutions of minorities based upon nothing more than religious and immigrant status?

The easy part of the equation is it’s 2017 … a long way removed from the time and place where we feared witches and hanged women. Indeed, one would like to think that in an “enlightened”, educated, and culturally diverse “advanced” society, no president would dare to target men, women and children for exclusion or deportation from our shores on the basis of their place of birth, or belief, and nothing more.

But Trump is not your run-of-the-mill president. He has made a career out of exploiting the fears of others to his personal benefit and, like the brash bully that he is, has perfected the art of the contemporary coliseum where today’s Roman elite decide the fate of the relatively powerless … not with a thumbs-up or down but through immigration policies that play to the roar of the crowd … a crowd long manipulated by ignorance and political greed which reduces 25 percent of the world’s population to presumptive enemy status by little more than the number of times that they pray each day.

Is Donald Trump’s rhetoric, now executive policy, aberrant, or unique? Of course not. Tragically, nothing could be further from the truth. As noted, it is but another in a long history of legislative and political efforts to control the borders and street ways that, on the one hand, hold out the promise of freedom as an opportunity but, on the other, reduce it to little more than a tease based upon colour, class and religious belief.

If the past is indeed a prelude, a passing look at just several of these failed attempts to homogenise the American experience offers much a glimpse of, ultimately, where and how Trump will fail in his effort to convert the US into a mirror image of his own insular and supremacist views and “values”.

The Alien and Sedition Acts

In 1798 the Alien and Sedition Acts were a series of four laws proposed by the Federalist Party purportedly to increase “national security”. In relevant part, these laws changed residency requirements for obtaining citizenship and gave the president power to imprison or deport aliens. The Acts themselves came about in response to American “fears” that unrest in Europe was starting to haemorrhage over into the US.

The Federalists felt this turmoil was caused by immigrants who sympathised with the French Revolution and led people to believe that the Acts were necessary to eliminate foreign enemies residing in the US and to make America a safer place. Sound familiar?

After the laws went into effect, the government began compiling a list of aliens that were to be deported. Many who were not incarcerated fled the country on their own to avoid deportation or imprisonment.

Following the implementation of the Act in 1798, future Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison secretly drafted the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions which not only denounced the Alien and Sedition Acts as unconstitutional but prompted the first serious defence of the principles of states’ rights.

Not long thereafter, with the rise of public revulsion over the Acts, Jefferson was elected president. He immediately pardoned individuals who were still incarcerated for violating the Sedition Act and repaid the individuals’ fines with government funds.

More than 200 years later, some 15 states including Washington, Minnesota, Virginia, Massachusetts and New York, the District of Columbia along with more than 150 former US attorneys and assistant US attorneys from California, New York and Florida and some 100 US-based international companies now seek to strike down the Trump executive order which targets Muslims for exclusion or deportation from the US.

These challenges derive their impetus from the very claims raised by Jefferson and Adams against the Alien and Sedition Acts, namely that states need not sit silent in the presence of unconstitutional federal attacks upon their citizens, visitors and refugees but can, in fact, seek relief in federal courts even against policies of the president normally found within the unique province of his power.

The internment of Japanese Americans

One hundred and forty years later, the Alien and Sedition Acts laid the foundation for imprisoning so-called enemy aliens, namely Japanese Americans, and confiscating their property during World War II.

As a result of Executive Order 9066 issued in 1942 by President Franklin Roosevelt, military commanders were empowered to designate “military areas” from which “any and all persons [could] be excluded.” More than 120,000 mostly second and third-generation Japanese Americans – many, Buddhists – were forcibly relocated from their homes mostly on the West Coast of the US and incarcerated in “camps” in the interior of the country.

Although ordered not long after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, there is little doubt that the forced relocation was triggered by political frenzy stirred by hate groups such as the Asiatic Exclusion League, the California Joint Immigration Committee and Native Sons of the Golden West which, along with various earlier Immigration Acts, had long targeted Japanese Americans and immigrants from other “undesirable” Asian countries as part of the “yellow peril”.

Although Roosevelt’s exclusion order was upheld by the Supreme Court on limited grounds, some 40 years later Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act which apologised for the internment and authorised reparations to each individual camp survivor. The legislation, which specifically acknowledged that government actions were based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership”, resulted in payments of more than $1.6bn to some 80,000 Japanese Americans who had been interned and their heirs.

These are just two of the most extreme examples of race and religious-based hate by the executive and legislative branches of the federal government that cover a 200-year period of US history. They are, however, by no means alien to the American experience which, throughout its run, has targeted immigrants and American citizens alike for no reason other than heritage, race or religion. From the Know-Nothing Movement of the 1850s, to the Palmer Raids of the 1920s, to the McCarthy era some three decades later, there are countless examples of when, like now, political animus has driven petty politicians and hate groups alike to target the most vulnerable among us.

Hate is always senseless and, ultimately, self-defeating. It starts out with hating religious beliefs … be they of Catholics, Jews, or Muslims … and along the way sweeps within its dreadful destructive reach refugees from countries as diverse as Ireland, Italy, China, Palestine and Syria, to name a few.

Hate unites the bonds of fear and ignorance for those who find perverse relief in the pain of others to make more palatable their own personal and political discomfort.

Hate is a virulent malady indeed, one that seems to travel with the passage of time.

Donald Trump is one such traveler.

Move the Embassy: End the Charade

Originally published January 31, 2017 in CounterPunch

 

Move the Embassy: End the Charade

Among Donald Trump’s first acts as President was suspending Barack Obama’s last – a grant of 221 million dollars in discretionary humanitarian aid to Palestine.

But why pause before the next move against Palestine? Move the US Embassy to East Jerusalem right now and end this charade once and for all.

Politics

US politicians like to preach from on high about justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike… as if the pathway of pain for occupied and occupier is one-in-the same… as if these two dramatically different ends of the scales of justice can, indeed should, be balanced.

When it comes to Palestine, for decades the United States has hidden behind a cheap frilly veneer of neutrality all the while subsidizing, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, a vicious, often deadly, criminal occupation that has used impediment and stalling tactics to re-sculpt a landscape that has been home to Palestinians for the millennium.

How often do we hear from US politicians that Palestine is a complex issue? In point of fact, Palestine is very complicated only when confusion provides opportune cover for delay. Of course, ethnic cleansing knows no better cover than delay.

The debate about the whens, wheres and whys can go on and on as not much more than the allure of excuse. There are, however, certain fundamental truths about Palestine that cannot be denied even by those largely European immigrants who have become expert at rewriting history to suit a land grab of epic and on-going proportion.

Population

While figures vary from source to source, in 1914, Palestine had a population of between 600-738,000 Palestinians (Muslim & Christian Arabs as well as other religions) and 59-94,000 Jews. In 1922, the census showed some 660-725,000 Palestinians and 84-89,000 Jews. In 1931, it is recorded that 4,075 Jews immigrated to Palestine while 1245 Christians and 213 Muslims immigrated there. In 1935 it was 61,854 Jews, 903 Arabs and 1390 Christians and others. In 1937 it was 10,500 Jews, 743 Arabs and 1196 Christians and others. By the end of 1944, the Jewish population had increased to 528,702 of which 117,226 were natural and 327,686 were immigrants. The Arab population had increased to 1,061,277 of which 453,405 were natural and 18,695 were immigrants. Christians and others increased to 149,645 of which 51,616 were natural and 18,948 were immigrant.

Four years later, in 1948, when land designated as Israel was ripped from the heartland of Palestine by UN political fiat, the two sides were ill-matched. The Jewish community in Palestine was much smaller: approximately 608-630,000 to the Arab, Christian and others 1.3-1.7 million… roughly 30 or so percent of the overall population. In spite of all Israel’s efforts, the Jewish population remains in the minority (as it has since at least the 5th century).

Land

As of 1922 Jews owned roughly 3% of the land in Palestine which increased to some 7% of its total over the next decade. When the State of Israel was established, Jewish ownership of land stood at 8.6%, with 3.3% owned by those who were to become known as Israeli-Arabs while another 16.9% of land was abandoned by Palestinian owners who fled in advance of the war that was to come.

Following the UN pronouncement, some 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their farms and villages with estimates running as high as 20,000 civilians killed, twice as many injured and hundreds of rapes carried out by marauding terrorists from the Irgun, Stern Gang and Haganah. Hundreds of villages and towns were eradicated.

In the war that followed, another 400 to 600 Palestinian villages were sacked while urban Palestine was almost entirely extinguished. Out of about 400 Jewish settlements built post 1948, 350 were fabricated on Palestinian refugee property. Between 1948 and 1950 some 369 Palestinian villages were erased and replaced by 161 new Jewish settlements. During that same period, Israel seized two-thirds of all cultivated land which had been owned by Palestinians who were forced to flee.

Reliable estimates indicate that ultimately 80% of the Arab inhabitants, in what became Israel, left or were expelled from their homes, swept out by a colonial design that has run unabated since 1948… one in which the US has been very much a willing partner, indeed, enabler of the ethnic cleansing that has ensued.

Fast Forward 1993- The Wasted Talks

The Oslo Peace Process of 1993 was intended to lead to a final negotiated settlement between the parties within five years. Among other things, it divided the West Bank into three administrative divisions: Areas A, B, and C. The first two were the smallest and were to be home to just Palestinians subject to varying degrees of Palestinian oversight. Area C, the largest at approximately 75% of the West Bank, was “gradually” to be transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction. It also led to the creation of a Palestinian Authority (PA) with responsibility for the administration of territory under its control.

Oslo I was signed in Washington D.C., followed by Oslo II in 1995. Among other things, this agreement, also known as the Taba Agreement, called for prompt Israeli withdrawals from various Palestinian areas and expanded Palestinian self-rule.

Following Oslo I, in rapid order, came: The Gaza-Jerico Agreement also known as the Cairo Agreement (1994);The Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities Between Israel and the PLO ( August 1994); The Protocol on Further Transfers of Powers and Responsibilities (August 1995); The Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron (January 1997); The Wye River Memorandum (October 1998); The Sharm el-Sheik Memorandum (September 1999); The Camp David Meetings in (July, 2000); The Agreement on Movement and Access (November 2005); and, most recently, during 2013-2014, the unsuccessful attempt by now former Secretary of State Kerry to restart the so-called peace process.

Although these dozen or so hollow agreements, protocols and meetings made for powerful photo ops and fine dining, in practice they provided little more than cover… cover for Israel to steal more and more Palestinian land and moral cover for the US to speak of justice while, in reality, stoking the flames of racial and religious hatred through billions of dollars for Israeli settlements and weapons.

The Growth of Settlements

To some degree, the Oslo Accords are based upon the 1978 Camp David Agreement that resulted in a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. At the time of the agreement, there lived some 7,400 settlers in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), and 500 in Gaza.
Fifteen years later, at the time of the 1993 Oslo Accords, there were some 262,500 settlers in the West Bank.

Seven years later, at the Camp David Summit of 2000, there were a total of 362,945 settlers in the West bank with 169,969 in East Jerusalem.

By 2013, some 20 years after the Oslo Accords, the number of settlers grew to 520,000, across the West Bank,including 200,000 in East Jerusalem.

Today, there are approximately 250 settlements and “outposts” in the West Bank… home to some 800,000 illegal settlers… constituting approximately 13% of Israel’s population.
Among them are 13 settlements and 12 solely Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem where 200,000 Israelis live. The population of East Jerusalem is now down to 37% Palestinian. Area C of the West Bank is now 99% settler occupied.

Empowered by the election of Donald Trump and his nomination of David M. Friedman, long aligned with its settler far right, as Ambassador to Israel, it has approved more than 3,000 new units in the occupied West Bank, and signaled a green light to take what little else remains.

The Bleeding Hearts of the Whitehouse

One need not be a soothsayer to note a steady unbroken pattern of Israel swallowing more and more of the occupied West Bank even as US politicians, republican and democrats alike, convene feel good peace conferences or wax on about the need for justice for Palestinians.

As then President, Jimmy Carter noted “There has to be a homeland provided for the Palestinian refugees who have suffered for many, many years.” Ronald Reagan, spoke of “autonomy talks to pave the way for permitting the Palestinian people to exercise their legitimate rights.”

George H.W. Bush criticized the presence of illegal settlements in the West Bank noting “Outposts, yeah, they ought to go.”

President Clinton opined about the need for the creation of a new Palestinian State based on the idea of self-determination for the Palestinian people.

George W. Bush called for a halt to Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian lands needed for a state.

Several years ago Barrack Obama decried…“more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time.”

Though these sentiments have been echoed by each occupant of the White House over the last 40 years, in reality they’ve reflected little more than a conspicuous political subterfuge to garner votes while providing Israel unlimited funds to support its endless aggression.

The cold hard reality is US politicians care far more about the domestic political mileage and influence of American Zionists than they do abstract notions of international law or justice for Palestinians.

One simply can’t have it both ways… calling out for justice while subsidizing Israeli hatred and violence with an open checkbook and empty rhetoric. It’s just not possible to be a neutral and detached arbiter at the same time courting votes.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Israel simply does not care. 68 years of its history, and counting, has shown that it has and will continue to do whatever it wishes to Palestinians unless and until the United States holds it accountable by ripping up the blank check or until the pain and suffering of its colonial enterprise becomes just too much for Israelis to bear.

Enter Donald Trump

Donald trump is a simple man with a simple mind. It’s his way or none. He loves the challenge of being the smartest, toughest and most creative thinker in the room even when he knows he’s far from it. To Trump there’s nothing like the grand dare, even when he knows he’s not up to it. And when all else fails, he simply makes up the narrative to suit his view. In Trump’s world honesty is for the weak, reality for those who can’t lie and then simply move on.

For decades presidents have determined that they could pontificate to the world about justice for Palestinians but finance Israel in its drive to purge them from the river to the sea without costs that they were unwilling to bear.

However, these same presidents discerned a bright red line beyond which they could not cross without unleashing consequences far too explosive to contemplate… namely, moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the capital of Palestine in Jerusalem.

Apparently Donald Trump does not care.

To the politically naive, such a move would be of little practical consequence… a mere symbolic gesture. To millions of Palestinians, indeed hundreds of millions of Arabs, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem without their specific invitation would constitute a point of no return… a veritable disaster in waiting.

In one fell swoop, it would signal an end to two separate yet related fictions that, since Oslo, have helped to enable a relative calm in Palestine even in the presence of the loss of much of it to settlers: 1) that the United States was interested in even the semblance of neutrality and 2) that the PA has the ability to represent the traditions and aspirations of the Palestinian people with meaningful capability and authority.

So, Mr. Trump, proceed at your own peril. If you feel, as Ambassador-to-be Friedman does, that Jerusalem is “Israel’s eternal capital”… proceed with your folly. Move the Embassy.

To millions of Palestinians, the only answer will be militant and fierce resistance, and it will come… as sure as the early morning call to prayer.

From war to more war

Originally published January 23, 2017 Al Jazeera/InDepth

From war to more war

Experience tells us it matters little whether a liberal democrat or an autocratic republican sits in the White House.

Well, it’s over … and good riddance. What began with a purchased Nobel Peace Prize and a lecture to the Middle East, under the then omnipotent eyes of Hosni Mubarak, has ended with a parting bang … yet another round of massive US air strikes in Libya and Syria.

Forgive my cynicism, but if history is, in fact, a fair guidepost of what comes to be, Barack Obama’s parting shots at so-called “jihadi” camps most likely did little more than slaughter civilians … thereby enticing 10 times as many others to pick up a gun or a bomb and strike back, however possible, wherever feasible.

Eight years ago the world held its collective breath for what would prove to be an all-too-brief moment with the election of a self-professed anti-war “liberal” to the most powerful and deadly office in the world.

In October 2002, then Senator Obama, an orator of rare talent with keen mind and extraordinary youthful vigour and promise, announced he was “opposed to dumb wars”. He was going to be different. He said so. He lied.

Wartime president

Well … not quite. He was different. After all, he’s the only two-term president in US history who has waged war every single day of his eight years in office. Indeed, not to be outdone by the hawkish George W Bush, Obama conducted air strikes on seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria. That’s three more than Bush bombed.

During his two terms, our peace president ordered a total of 563 “special” air strikes, largely carried out by drones, that targeted Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, in particular, compared to “but” 57 such strikes under Bush.

While impossible to know for sure, the total number of those killed by these attacks during attempts to target three dozen or so “terrorists” – including US citizens afforded no due process – apparently resulted in the deaths of almost 1,200 civilians . As a parting peace gesture, Obama left behind “Special Operation Forces” deployed to more than 130 nations; that’s 70 percent of the world’s countries.

On the other hand, let’s give some credit where credit is due. Obama did slap around Benjamin Netanyahu to the tune of $38bn, largely for weapons, before refusing to veto the toothless settlement resolution in the United Nations.

War means profit, and that’s something that brings a huge smile to the face of the new president. The US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan alone have earned the American weapons industry trillions of dollars and counting.

Saudi Arabia, which has obtained more than $100bn worth of weapons during the Obama administration, heard its “concerns” about how US-made weapons were being used in Yemen before proceeding to purchase another 153 tanks, and hundreds of machine guns in a deal worth $1.15bn.

Egypt also felt the pinch of Obama’s pacifist hand when he required that it make “credible progress towards democracy” before releasing billions in military aid frozen since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power after the military coup that toppled the elected government of President Mohamed Morsi. We all know how well Egypt has been progressing in its steady slither towards democracy.

Perpetual warfare?

Perhaps, in a strange sort of way, the election of Donald Trump, consumed by the chase of money and women in that order, may at day’s end be the best thing in years that has happened for the prospects of peace in the Middle East.

Unlike Obama – who has spent his lifetime wanting to be loved and who figured the best way to earn it was by proving just how tough he could be – Trump has spent his life proudly ensuring there’s just nothing there to love and, seemingly, could not care less about it.

Maybe, when it comes to war, the shrinks are right: those who need to prove just how tough they can be are far more dangerous than those who just don’t give a damn. Hope surely springs eternal.

But wait a minute; these guys in the Trump cabinet seem awfully familiar, don’t they? Isn’t that retired General James “Mad Dog” Mattis wearing an Armani suit? Wasn’t he the general who lost his tour of duty because Obama found him too hawkish on Iran as he pushed the military to punish it and its allies through more covert actions to capture and kill Iranian operatives and interdict its warships? Didn’t he only recently oversee combat operations throughout the Middle East?

And that other guy in the corner – the one looking awfully nervous sitting there without his chest full of medals – can that be retired Marine General John Kelly? Wasn’t he in charge of Guantanamo; you, know, the guy that challenged Obama any time the president had the temerity to bring up the subject of closing it? Didn’t he lose a son to combat in Afghanistan against the Taliban?

How about that third guy? He looks an awful lot like retired Army Lieutenant-General Michael Flynn, whom Obama forced out of the Defense Intelligence Agency (the Pentagon’s version of the CIA) because of his description of Islam as a “cancer” and saying “fear of Muslims is rational”. What’s the worry with him as National Security Adviser? No problem.

Does anyone really think that Trump can – or cares to – reign in a collection of misanthrope generals with likely a century or more of battle scars … those warriors that see peace as very much a pastime of the meek … who see moderation as soft, quiet as weak, and talk but prelude to attack ? Of course not.

Profits and more

What of Trump himself? Though he’s gone on record as being opposed to regime change and committed to allies assuming more of their own military costs, he’s often expressed a hawkish stand on the Middle East, specifically with regard to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and sees other threats, real and imagined, against the US almost everywhere.

That translates to money – big money. Indeed, Trump has called for tens of thousands of additional troops; a Navy of 350 ships; a significantly larger Air Force; an anti-missile, space-based Star Wars-style programme; and an acceleration of the Pentagon’s $1 trillion “modernisation” programme for its nuclear arsenal.

War means profit, and that’s something that brings a huge smile to the face of the new president. The US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan alone have earned the American weapons industry trillions of dollars and counting.

It’s not by accident that in the days following Trump’s election, stock values for military contractors soared: Lockheed Martin – up 4.8 percent; Northrop Grumman – up 5.1 percent; Raytheon – up 6.2 percent; General Dynamics – up 4.1 percent; L-3 Communications – up 5.4 percent; Textron – up 2.2 percent; Boeing – up 0.76 percent; Huntington Ingalls – up 6.5 percent.

While hope may spring eternal, reality flows from bitter experience. Here, that experience should tell us that it matters little whether a liberal democrat or an autocratic republican sits in the White House.

In the history of the US, colonialism has always found a “welcome” host in the Middle East, with or without its age old network of surrogates. It knows of no such restraint as political party or allegiance.

Profit and military madness make for a bad combination indeed. That marriage will continue as eight years of unabated war will surely grow to 12.

It’s Not Just Settlements

Originally published in Al Jazeera December 30

It’s Not Just Settlements”

Last week, the world stood fixated at a largely symbolic gesture of the United Nations in which it found, or did not, the continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank of Palestine to be illegal. Although the Security Council, with rare uniformity, chastised Israel for flaunting the law of occupation, the resolution, crafted with ambiguous lawyerly precision, left experienced thinkers on the subject debating just what it means.

In its most ambitious read, some would argue it appears the decree concerned the occupation as a whole and swept within its prohibitive reach all settlement activity since 1967 when Israel seized the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Arab- Palestinian control. Others view its advisory language as helpful through its continued embrace of the time-tired two state solution and its apparent call for a return to the status quo ante of some 15 years ago when illegal settlements had not as yet swallowed much more than 75 percent of the West Bank. In its least appealing landscape painting, it would appear the resolution seemingly bestows upon already completed settlements de facto legitimacy and addresses only that part of the building gorge currently underway or planned for tomorrows yet to come.

To make matters worse, despite its gratuitous dicta, the resolution remains very much a toothless declaration sans any enforcement mechanism whatsoever… essentially relying upon a sudden burst of Israeli conscience to reverse a steady march of indifference to international law that has led Israel’s way since the very first day it was manufactured from stolen land in Palestine.

Predictable in immediacy and urgency, the Israeli Prime Minister threw his weekly tantrum accusing the world of a dark conspiracy organized by the soon to be ex-President of the United States who, on his way out the door after years of obsequious obedience to Israeli will, has suddenly discovered that it’s ok to say no… well… maybe… or perhaps, to its glaring intransigence. But then again, it’s kind of hard to take seriously “pressure” exerted by a country that has just enriched your military coffers and occupation to the tune of 38 billion dollars.

Not satisfied with the echo of his own vitriol, Netanyahu was just beginning. Next, he singled out Senegal, one of the most impoverished countries in the world… and a mover of the resolution… for economic reprisal. Its offense is having the temerity to believe in the rule of law and being housed in the international building with flags of 193 Nations and the State of Palestine that sits overlooking the East River of New York City.

Today, Netanyahu told the world just what he thinks of the United Nations and its resolution when he announced plans to move ahead with construction of thousands of new housing units in Jerusalem, in particular. “Israel does not turn its cheek”, Netanyahu proclaimed as he went on to prophesy a “plan of action” against the UN directly.

Netanyahu should quit while he’s ahead, but he just can’t. There’s no incentive. Like the earlier 400 plus resolutions critical of Israeli policies, as worded, the most recent condemnation by the UN can do little more than cry out for justice in the night from a state built from the marrow of genocide.

I get “bombast”, “brash” and, at times, even “bully”. However, it’s the two legged beasts that feed on the innocent I do not. Netanyahu is very much that kind of beast. An ogre who lives in a world surrounded by dark, deadly thoughts. With delusion his ally, dishonesty his friend and death his messenger, he thumbs his nose at the world as his reign of state terror consumes more and more civilian victims guilty of no offense other than the air they breathe and free life they seek.

When the history of our times is written, an honest accounting will no doubt add Netanyahu’s wicked shadow… and that of his predecessors… to the list of fiends that have seen the world as little more than a playground within which to use their toys of death and despair… always, of course, for the right reasons and always, of course, against the meek and defenseless among us.

To the world of Stalin, induced famine was the prime weapon of choice, though mass execution and exile helped him dispose of tens of millions he viewed as “enemies of the people.”

To Kissinger, the world, particularly Indochina, was very much a small chess game. Civilians were mere pawns ripe for sacrifice through high-tech weaponry, including biological and chemical warfare, to enforce his worldview at any cost. Millions lost their lives to his cerebral game board.

To Pol Pot, struggle was little more than purification, erasing through starvation, overwork and execution a quarter of his people whose sole crime was to see life through a prism that collided with his own, no matter how soft their view or backward his sight.

In Rwanda up to half a million women were sexually assaulted, mutilated or murdered, along with an equal number of male Tutsis, as enemy agents of the Hutu state; machetes and rape induced AIDS the plentiful weapons of preference.

These are but a few of the extremes of genocide, those rare cases we are told noted mostly for mass murder, systemic rape or group starvation… the worst of the worst. Yet genocide does not demand of us an immediate mountain of bodies or an explosive rage of terror for international law to take hold.

As it turns out, in what increasingly seems to be more than mere passing coincidence, the legal definition of “genocide” enacted by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 260A (III) Article 2 was born in 1948, the very same year as Israel… which has since gone on to become both expert at its application and legendary in its denial.

In relevant part, under the applicable Convention, genocide means “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; or (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. Each and every one of these sign-posts of genocide has been perpetrated by Israel, seemingly with almost proud boast, and no accountability, for almost 70 unbroken years.

One need not rest upon obtuse historical footnotes to find abundant, indeed systemic, acts of extermination carried out by Israel since 1948 against Palestinians… very much a cognizable “national, ethnical, racial or religious group” as those terms are contemplated and commonly understood and applied under international law.

Beginning with its mass expulsion, rape and murder at the onset of the Nakba (the Disaster) Israel has devoted itself to 68 years of non- stop genocide coming up for air only periodically to retool or to change the nature of its weaponry of choice. What started out with the expulsion, at gunpoint, of over 700 thousand Palestinians from their ancestral homeland set in motion a refugee stampede that has grown to more than seven million displaced and stateless people… providing the world more than a disturbing glimpse of what was to come decades later in Syria.

Over the years, Israel has found diverse ways to kill more than 500 thousand Palestinian civilians and injure or cripple three to four times as many, including tens of thousands of women and children. Whether by tank fire, rockets, or cluster or Phosphorus bombs, it has given new meaning to the evil of willful group slaughter.

In its thirst to ethnically cleanse all of Palestine of its remaining inhabitants, it’s made use of starvation, in violation of Protocol I (API) to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, as a method of war targeting foodstuffs, crops and livestock throughout the occupied territories. In particular, it’s destroyed more than a million olive trees which not only serve as an essential mainstay of Palestinian culture but, along with hundreds of thousands of razed fruit trees, constitute key products of a Palestinian national economy largely in various states of ruin.

In Gaza, Israel has targeted hospitals, schools, day-care centers, multi-story apartment complexes, UNWRA shelters and mental health clinics with a deadly proficiency that would make historic war criminals blush with envy. It has laid waste to thousands of its hardscrabble built homes and left upwards of a hundred thousand Palestinians internally displaced, indeed homeless… leaving many families at a breaking point.

For the survivors of the Gaza killing fields, Israel has made life unbearable over the last decade though a criminal embargo that not only guarantees insufficient caloric intake, fresh water and medicine, but denies to its 1.8 million survivors building materials essential for the reconstruction of its beleaguered, and largely leveled, infrastructure. Not satisfied with physical pain alone, with cruel, wanton abandon, it’s no stretch to find that its master plan has consciously induced levels of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder unmatched anywhere else in the world.

Given all these palpable elements of ethnic cleansing, it is reasonably projected that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020 thereby once again driving several million traumatized refugees out onto the road of an uncertain and dangerous Diaspora.

To describe Israel’s Gaza strategy as anything but one intended to cause “serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group” is to deny a very public and systematic orgy of punishment meted out to Palestinian civilians on the basis of group identity and dynamic… and nothing more.

In the West Bank, Israel’s calculus of pain and punishment is largely a difference without a distinction… one that varies in form but not intent or ultimate goal. Not satisfied with the 531 villages and localities it depopulated and completely eradicated during the early days of the Nakba, since 1967 Israel has stolen, resettled and annexed almost all of the West Bank, including much of East Jerusalem, in clear violation of Article 4 of the Geneva Conventions which prohibit an occupation force from doing little more than erecting limited bases for its own security needs in occupied land.

During this criminal land grab, it has approved, indeed subsidized, the construction of illegal housing for some 800,000, largely immigrant, settlers at the same time it has destroyed almost fifty thousand Palestinian structures, largely homes, many of them age-old, rendering tens of thousands of its indigenous population homeless, often destitute or dependent upon the largesse of already overcrowded housing of family or friends.

None of these facts about Israel’s sordid and deadly history can be dispatched as the product of mere hyperbole or unsupported hearsay. Claims of Israeli genocide have been substantiated time and time again by a host of independent human rights organizations and NGO’s, with no axe to grind, and include findings from respected groups from within Israel, itself. In point of fact, from its arrogant perch, Israel has not just committed unspeakable acts of genocide but done so with absolute transparency as if to say to the rest of the world… there we did it… and we are well beyond the reach of international law.

Make no mistake about it, the sum total of Israel’s efforts these past 68 years is nothing short of the deliberate infliction upon Palestinians, as a cognizable group, conditions of life and death calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part. In the presence of overwhelming evidence of premeditated Israeli genocide, to argue otherwise is to reduce the dark, evil and systematic deeds of Stalin, Kissinger, Pol Pot and the Hutu state to little more than a collection of misunderstood happenstance.

Yes, Mr. Prime Minister you should quit while you are ahead. Today, Israel stands charged with violations of but the law of occupation. Tomorrow, it might very well, indeed should, find itself seated in a well deserved international dock on trial for genocide.

Not Our President

Originally published in Counterpunch Nov.16, 2016

Not Our President

To hear the simplistic denial of those who scream out with naiveté “give Trump a chance” as they condemn others engaged in selfless protest against a certain political and social tsunami in the making, is to ignore his life-time public embrace of policies that tens of millions reject as not just destructive, but evil per se. They are not mistaken.

Those in streets that fill with each passing day are not there to simply make halfhearted statements in opposition to an unpopular political thought that rubs up against isolated narrow ideals or goals. To the contrary, in dozens of cities across this nation women and men of conscience, of all races, ages, religions, cultures and beliefs, understand all too well that Trump represents the greatest political and social threat that our Republic of diversity has encountered since the civil war… a battle which left one out of every thirty Americans dead or wounded and cities in ruins as millions fought for the heart and soul of this country.

Do I expect armed insurrection or even Harper’s Ferry Two? No. But the palpable divide that we now see in this country is not just acute and dangerous, but driven by a primitive nativist philosophy of the man just chosen President of this country by a minority of its voters.

Donald Trump is not a mystery. He’s very much a known, abusive commodity. To those of us in New York who have heard him spew his hate- fueled ignorance for decades, there is simply no secret at all about his ugly, core beliefs. Nor is there any reason to hope, let alone expect, that at this late date it will suddenly mature or change merely because this 70 year old demagogue has now captured a bigger share of a larger, simple-minded TV audience to bemuse with his lack of knowledge and experience.

Make no mistake about it, Trump has reached the pinnacle of political power in this country through an accomplished effort to exploit the fear of millions of largely alienated white voters inspired by his utter disdain for the diverse and vulnerable among us.

Trump’s contempt for people of color, Latinos, young women, Muslims, immigrants, the handicapped, union members and activists… to name but a few… is of such well known and unique character that, were this the halls of “justice”, the court would require no witness to prove the point but simply take judicial notice of the well settled fact.

For over 50 years, Trump’s pursuit of personal wealth and power has been his sole drive. Greed has been the cornerstone of his life’s work. Throughout this time, he has displayed not a single sign of interest in the “common” man or woman, let alone support for any public service or good-will directed towards those in need. Indeed, his avarice and chase of pure self-interest has been very public with no attempt at disguise. Obscene bravado and the empty air of pomp and circumstance are the stuff of his legendary arrogance. He thrives on it.

This is a man who regales in the shallow glitter of the mausoleums for the living dead that he has built all over the world and which are gaudily named after him. With a perverse sense of pride and accomplishment, Trump has found willful pleasure in the pain and fear of those he has demeaned; from African Americans denied his rental apartments for color alone to women he’s molested as he tried to purchase their dignity to immigrants guilty as charged, indicted for nothing more than the ring of their last names or the accent of their speech. The list of his enemies is literally endless. No one who is not rich, successful, male and white, Christian or Jew has ever pierced the wall of garish gold that he calls home, or ever will.

Trump is a man of rare, dangerous consistency who has always looked down upon those who are different as inferior… those who were born elsewhere, who pray to a different god, with skins that shine of another tone, who speak languages born of other lands. To him, a woman’s right to choose, to make fundamental decisions about her own body and future, are not personal choices but rather cheap political fuel to curry favor among anxious voters driven by timeless supremacist notions based upon gender, race, or religion.

For Trump, the diversity that is America’s vigor and hope is something to fear, not to proclaim with pride and dignity. His is a view of strength carved not by moral integrity, equality or justice but by torment directed at those among us most… and longest… vulnerable to the changing, and now growing, sweep of political odium.

Indeed, from coast to coast in small rural hamlets to large urban cities the hatred that is Donald Trump has reared its menacing head in ways remarkable not for the speed of its arrival but rather the boldness and cruelty of its message.

Hundreds of incidents nationwide speak to the dark violent base first galvanized by Trump’s message and now empowered through his election. Can it be that “populist” is now just another name for those who terrorize people among us who seek nothing but to live lives of diversity and freedom where they need not mute their voice, hide their presence or change their appearance?

These are dangerous hate driven times fueled by a belief that the president-elect has given a call to arms to target and attack those he sees as undesirable or “un-American.” Apparently, all across the country his base has answered his call.

Beginning almost immediately after Trump’s election, an explosion of attacks was visited upon people of all ages in this country on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual identity. It continues unabated today.

Indeed the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented hundreds of instances of “hateful intimidation and harassment” in the days following the election of a man who called for an outright ban of all Muslims from entering this country with the same ease that he described Mexican immigrants as rapists, belittled a disabled journalist, and mocked women for their physical appearance. Is it any wonder that physical and verbal assaults upon those who Trump targeted throughout his campaign not only abound, but do so in his name?

Thus, a young woman at San Diego State University reported that two men robbed her after they made comments about Trump and Muslims. Another woman reported that a Trump supporter pulled a knife on her friend while she was on a bus near the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Another Muslim in Albuquerque, New Mexico said a man made comments about Trump as he tried to rip her hijab from her head. In Ann Arbor, Michigan police have been investigating reports that a man approached a Muslim student and threatened to set her on fire with a lighter unless she removed her hijab. In Portland Oregon an anti-Trump protestor was shot, another was knocked to the ground while giving a speech at the Ohio Union.

In the shadow of Trump’s election, reported incidents of religious or race based attacks have not been limited to physical assaults alone but include a wide range of verbal or written threats of intimidation. For example, on the night of his victory, a crowd in New York City could be heard screaming out “death to Muslims… death to niggers. In South Philadelphia the words “Sieg Heil 2016” and “Trump”… with a swastika substituted for the T in Trump… were spray-painted on the glass window of a building. At the Tandon School of Engineering at New York University, students arrived at a Muslim prayer room to discover Trump’s name written on its door. At Maple Grove Senior High School in Minnesota students found “Go back to Africa” “Make America great again”, “Trump”, “Whites only” and “White America” written on the door and walls of a bathroom.

A day after the election, a number of students at Michigan’s Royal Oak Middle School started chanting in the cafeteria: “Build the wall! Build the wall!” A student at Shasta High School in Redding, California posted a video on Twitter of himself handing out letters with the word “deportation” written across the top to a half dozen Latino students.

In North Carolina a day after Trump’s victory someone painted racist messages, concerning the election, on a wall in Durham saying “Black lives don’t matter and neither does your votes.” At Canisius College, in upstate New York, students posted photos on social media of a black doll hanging from a dormitory curtain rod. At the University of Pennsylvania, a number of black freshmen reported that after the election they were added to a social media account that included racial slurs and a “daily lynching” calendar. Others received screen shots of pages from GroupMe, which included a photo of people hanging from a tree. On Twitter, high school students described incidents that ranged from African Americans being called cotton pickers to Latinos being told to leave the country to a public display of Hitler salutes.

Trans Lifeline, a national hotline for transgender people in crisis, told the Guardian it saw its normal call volume triple on election night into the next morning. According to the Tennessean, a transgender woman reported on Friday that her truck was set on fire in her driveway, and the word “Trump” spray-painted on its scorched back.

These are but a narrow cross section of numerous terrifying incidents exalting racial, religious and other class based supremacy that have swept across the country in an unprecedented expression of deep seated intolerance and hatred that was exploited by president-elect Trump throughout his campaign… indeed his life.

Having prevailed, one would hope that Trump would now temper his myopic view of a country in which tens of millions, indeed a majority of those who voted, rejected his belligerent message of narrow-minded bigotry. It’s just not possible.

After all, this a man who has promised to appoint Supreme Court Justices that support his personal view of the Republic and his own idea as to the appropriate reach of our collective fundamental rights and freedoms. To Trump, notions of separation of powers… like a woman’s right to privacy, long settled under Roe v. Wade and its progeny,… are outdated legal fictions waiting to be ignored or undone by his administration.

Lest there be any question about whether we will soon see a new, softer version of Donald Trump in victory, yesterday’s appointment of the former head of Breitbart News, Stephen K. Bannon, as his chief strategist at the White House proves the president-elect will continue to find comfort in the counsel of proponents of racist, anti-Semitic and misogynist views.

As noted by out-going Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid: “President-elect Trump’s choice of Steve Bannon as his top aide signals that White Supremacists will be represented at the highest level in Trump’s White House… It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion when Trump appoints one of their foremost peddlers of White Supremacist themes and rhetoric as his top aide.”

Lest Reid’s description of Bannon be seen as simply Monday morning bickering by a defeated political opponent, it’s shared by the highly respected and independent Southern Poverty Law Center which, in describing Bannon, took note that he was the “main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.”

Bannon himself cannot honestly take issue with these descriptions of his views and character. Indeed, during his tenure running Breitbart, its website published such odious headlines as:

Bill Kristol, renegade Jew”: [Breitbart- 5.15.16].

Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” [Breitbart-12.08.15].

The Solution to Online Harassment Is Simple: Women Should Just Log Off.” [Breitbart-7.05.15].

This man who oozes hatred with extremist pleasure is now the top aide to President-elect Trump. Fear not, however, he will not be alone… nor will his elitist, despicable views be isolated. Indeed, they will apparently find comfort in people like Bolton, Gingrich, Palin, Giuliani, Christie, Wolfowitz and others who have long walked the same dark, belligerent path. To be sure, this will be an inner circle that will certainly go down as among the most hateful, racist and warring in White House history.

The message of Donald Trump today is no different than the arrogant, abusive one that he has adhered to and proudly proclaimed… indeed lived his life by…for more than fifty years.

Although, for some, hope may yet spring eternal, one does not spend a life-time of devotion to vile supremacist notions to suddenly awaken born again in the egalitarian wisdom of equality and justice as if they are mere tattoos to cover up scars of hatred that, in Trump, have run long and deep.

For those who say Trump deserves a clean slate, a new chance to prove that he has the interest, let alone capacity, to be a president for all… to help heal wounds which he himself willfully inflicted… it conjures up only one of two reasonable possibilities: the president elect is either an abject, serial liar who has mislead everyone over his beliefs, including his base, and those who have known his views for decades or… what you see is what you get.

It is clear that the election of Donald Trump has unleashed a nationwide assault upon values, if not long practiced then certainly enshrined, in a history of women and men who have fought long and hard to seek strength in diversity both in people and in thought. To suggest that ours is a history without long periods of institutional hatred and violence is to do violence to truth itself.

Slavery, the destruction of Indian nations, disenfranchisement of women, Jim Crowe… to name but a few… are stains upon our collective history; one in which today tens of millions still struggle to taste an ideal that has long escaped personal reality.

But if we are to survive as a diverse people of hope with opportunity and justice, if not for ourselves, then our children, we cannot go silently unto the night or surrender to forces that have declared war against the strength, indeed the majesty, which is our racial, cultural, religious and sexual diversity and identity.

Over the years millions have paid the ultimate price in this country to build a land that could be home to the best and the brightest the world has to offer. We are a nation of immigrants and refugees… all of us… whether descendents of those kidnapped by slavers and forced to build the cities and farms that dot the South, heirs of indentured Chinese who built the railroads that criss-cross our country, or the children or grand children of Europeans who fled tyranny or privation abroad to find a new start in our Eastern cities whether 20 or 150 years ago.

Since the days of our revolution, the US has been home to Muslims, Jews and star gazers alike. We’ve always been a land of diversity, of people of different politics, visions, and appearance who came to these shores, often by any way they could… whether “legal” or not… to build a home, start a family, and find peace along the way.

Today, that diversity, that calm, that ideal is under attack… and not just in the streets of rural America but the roadway leading to the Oval Office itself. “Make America Great Again” has a grand, simple electoral ring to it. But it’s just so much idle bankrupt banter if built upon the back of the greed, hatred and violence that is Trump and his minions. Greatness is measured not by the false security of bombast but the comfort of those who dare to speak their mind… to pursue their dreams… to walk our streets unafraid of the consequences of looking as they wish or praying as they must.

The inauguration is but 66 days away. There is no need to wait for the coronation of our latest and most dangerous demagogue of all to speak truth to power from coast to coast.

Ours is a collective history of resistance built on principle, struggle and sacrifice that has often cost us dearly through the loss of life or liberty but resist we have… resist we must. When Jim Crowe dared to say who was welcome, and who was not, we broke the back of segregation through resistance that ranged from peaceful to militant. When war in Vietnam ran into decades millions of us took to the streets and said no more. It ended. “Occupy” seized blocks throughout this Nation to give notice that economic disparity would no longer rule the day. Today at Standing Rock, thousands refuse to remain idle to the economic greed that seeks to further wage war on Indian Nations and Indian rights. All across America, Black Lives Matter and resisters of all age and color confront systemic police violence as we mourn for those murdered by it.

In 66 days Donald Trump takes office surrounded by a circle of dark repressive support that will feed upon our freedoms, attack our diversity, and wage war at home and abroad against all that seek nothing more than self determination.

66 days is a long time for millions of us to proclaim, in creative and diverse ways, loud and clear… “Not Our President.”

An Open Letter to American Jews

Originally published in Counterpunch November 25, 2016

“An Open Letter to American Jews”

Proud Jews are those that can look others in the face who commit or support crimes against humanity in Palestine and, with no hesitation whatsoever, shout-out “J’accuse” … the self hating ones are those that commit the crimes or simply walk away in boneless silence.

Israel and its sightless, obedient supporters have now come full circle in absolute perverse denial. For years they’ve successfully packaged and sold the fairy-tale that Zionism and Judaism were one in the same… an historic enlightened conflation of shared purpose and belief which, in reality, was born of little more than vicious political convenience (or is it connivance?) in eastern Europe.

Like Malcolm said, the proverbial chickens have come home to roost. It’s finally backfired. It’s about time.

Through massacre after massacre, outrage after outage, whenever anyone dares to condemn Israel’s systematic brutality of millions of Palestinians the indictment always comes down the same… “anti-Semite”.

Challenge the illegal occupation… you’re a Jew hater. Confront Israeli apartheid… you’re a Jew hater. Battle ethnic cleansing… you’re a Jew hater. Support BDS… you’re a Jew hater. And if you’re Jewish and hold Israel accountable for the grand obscenity it’s proven to be since day one, you are worst of all…a self hater. On and on and on the crafted diversion goes and long has, fleeing the very public reality of Israel’s enduring inhumanity to millions of stateless people.

Of course, when hundreds of Holocaust survivors who live in Israel called the most recent high tech carnage in Gaza in 2014 “genocide”, it drew the line. Even the Zionist state was not so crass or politically craven as to publicly label them Jew haters because they had the principled audacity to call it to task for the slaughter of thousands of defenseless women, children and elders. No, that would be exploiting the exploitation called the Holocaust that Zionist cheerleaders have employed for 70 years as so much cover for one of Israel’s own making… as it thumbs its nose at the world and commits unspeakable mayhem against Palestinians. To Zionists, survivors who screamed out with dignity and honor… “genocide,” were pathetic… just old and feeble.

For years, with little more than sleight of hand and a large Western rubber stamp, Zionists have been able to package and vend, with brazen bully success, the message that one cannot attack deadly and criminal Israeli policies without mechanically crossing the line into the hinterland of antisemitism. Well… those days are gone… as team Israel has finally foisted itself upon its own petard.

One need not have surgical precision in their view of the political universe to observe that as the world has become increasingly educated and, thus, more sympathetic to the desperate plight of Palestinians, Zionists have raced to develop new, even more brutish, strategies to recast a narrative based on little more than pure Hollywood fiction. Sorry… Exodus is very much an obsolete illusion, today, with all of its heroic figures long since passed on to old age.

The hallway of Zionist hard-sell is today very public. In its most glaring form it includes intimidating Western countries such as the UK, Canada, France, and Netherlands who shudder at the mere thought of being called “anti-Semitic” for the audacity of permitting their citizens to speak their minds openly and freely about the malevolence that is Israel. To them, and other states that seek to silence those who support BDS as a peaceful grassroots means of expressing opposition to a tyrannical state, Israel owes a great debt of thanks. After all it’s not easy to welcome, indeed embrace, conspicuous ignorance as you draw a deep cloud of denial around the object lesson of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. No matter what your flag, war crimes are still war crimes whether carried out against or by you.

In other ways, demonstrably racist activity has moved Israel into a leading role in the effort to stage-manage 21st Century cyberspace. For example, under the autocratic shine of national honor, it has inspired, if not empowered, Zionist hackers to attack pro Palestinian web sites worldwide spewing forth Islamaphobic rage at those with the temerity to seek an alternative view about unfolding events in Palestine otherwise largely ignored or censored by Western media.

So, too, it has employed an army of social media activists skilled enough to read jejune slogans but completely at a loss when confronted with the dark, fact-based truth that is Israel. After-all, how many times can a cue card equate Muslim with Jew hater before a mindless 18 year old paid $10.00 an hour finally says enough and saunters off to the beach?

Likewise, during its last two onslaughts upon Gaza, Israel moved quickly to shut down all of its internet passage-ways in an unmistakable effort to prevent the world from learning in real-time about the nature and extent of its brutal assault upon the enclave’s two million defenseless residents.

While these are but a few of the most recent public moves by Israel to intimidate or silence political or social opposition, with alarming frequency its policy has been to break bread with some of the most hateful, supremacist groups and activists in the world.

How long ago was it that neo-Nazis sought to march in Skokie Illinois, in Nazi uniforms screaming out zeig-heil while they carried placards that read “White Free Speech” and “Free Speech for the White Man” to a community with a population of thousands of stunned Holocaust survivors? And in that same year, the KKK sought to hold, in the same town, a rally for its brand of racist ideology.

Yet, today, Zionists seem to have no problem whatsoever sitting down strategizing with proud supporters of the Klan and other white supremacist groups. Indeed, the Zionist Organization of America will fete, this weekend, noted white supremacy and antisemitism promoter, Steven Bannon, at its yearly hate fest.

This celebration of religious and racial supremacy and intolerance should come as no surprise given the organization has signed onto the Trump plan of profiling Muslims, calls Black Lives Matter a “hate group” and has warned college students against inviting such notables as Noam Chomsky and former President Jimmy Carter to speak at campus assemblies lest they spread their “dangerous messages.”

Make no mistake about it Bannon and his fellow purveyors of hate have never been shy in exploiting abhorrence of Jews and a host of other minorities based upon race, religion, sexual identity or immigrant status. Nor have they been timid at all when it comes to exalting calls for violence to sweep clean an America they perceive as being too black, too immigrant, too Jewish, too Muslim and too soft.

Indeed Bannon is a member of a Facebook page that has openly featured explicit racist and violent material replete with overtures for deadly criminal activity. Thus, for example, their posts feature an image of the president dressed as an SS officer. In other places they celebrate the Confederate flag and urge a military coup in the United States. Elsewhere, they highlight a photo shopped picture of Obama with a watermelon and praise a police officer who called the President a “Fucking Nigger”… that ought to be “executed as a traitor.” This is the message that inspires the President’s chief advisor.

Yet, today, Zionists celebrate Bannon as he and his Klan buddies have finally figured out it doesn’t take much to get a free pass for their palpable hatred of Jews… all they need do is to offer up their much in demand backing of an Israeli state driven by the same treacherous supremacist views.

It seems to Zionists a healthy dose of unabashed antisemitism… directed at Jews… is suitable today as long as it’s dressed up in obedient support for Israel… especially when it comes from the mouth of the top advisor of the President-elect and his inner circle of friends.

Bannon has long been denounced by democrats, republicans and civil and human rights organizations, alike, for having made the Breitbart website a welcome forum for neo-nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites. Nevertheless, his appointment was welcomed by the Israeli Ambassador to the United States who noted that “… we look forward to working with the Trump administration… including Steve Bannon, in making the U.S.-Israel alliance stronger than ever.”

There is nothing at all new about the selective application of the all too expedient brand “anti-Semite”. Indeed, it is the mark of Cain quickly applied to principled students and faculty who support the peaceful effort of BDS to bring about justice for Palestine, yet is completely ignored when confronted by classic anti-Semitic vitriol coming from the mouths of pro Israel patrons.

Indeed, the net balance affect has long been a significant driving force in determining when blatant sign-posts of antisemitism were to be over-looked for the broader “good” of Israel; where those who challenge Israeli policies were to be vilified and those who praise them applauded no matter how much or long their distaste for Jews.

The late “Christian Zionist”, Jerry Falwell, is one such prime example. Denounced by Jewish critics for having said that he believed the “Antichrist” would be a Jew, despite this, and other like anti-Semitic statements, Falwell was ultimately resurrected by Zionists who found greater benefit in his overall political support of Israel than his marked distaste for Jews as a whole.

There is nothing remarkable about today’s Zionist reach to build hate fueled bonds with supremacist groups both in and outside of the United States. Zionists have shown a willingness, if not an ease, throughout their 130 plus year history of working with classic anti-Semitic governments and groups to further their revisionist self-centered view of history. There is abundant precedent.

Beginning long ago in Czarist Russia, the Zionist marriage of political convenience went on to flourish with some in the Axis powers during World War II. It later found comfort with its Balfour friends in Palestine, and has reached new heights in the West through an apparently unbreakable bond with the bigoted evangelical right.

Thus, parliamentary votes throughout the member states of the EU to recognize the sovereignty of the State of Palestine have been opposed by a unique marriage of Zionist and local neo-Nazi interests. This coalition of convenience and hatred should come as no surprise however given a joint effort to target a wave of desperate Muslim refugees and a shared aversion to any semblance of Justice for Palestinians.

In Ukraine, Israel abandoned the safety of its shrinking Jewish population to the political expedience it reaped from its support of the neo-Nazi putsch that ousted its elected pro-Russian president. In France, the National Front, with proud age old roots in French fascism has once again risen to significant power. Not at all shy about its racist and anti-Semitic image, the Front has found support nonetheless from Israel which paid one of its leaders a warm welcome when he traveled to the Holy Land to curry votes from French Jews who now call it home. Sound familiar?

There is nothing remarkable or new about Israel’s recent rapport with some of the worlds most repressive … indeed totalitarian and racist regimes. It has never shied from a march down a long passage way filled with the painful screams of political prisoners, dissidents, or those perceived by virtue of their race, religion or activism to pose a threat to the autocratic rule of the state, be it in Israel or elsewhere.

Israel’s support for South African apartheid, ’til literally its very end, is well known, providing materials for the building of its nuclear weapons. Long after UN-imposed sanctions against apartheid Rhodesia, it continued to provide Uzis and helicopters. In more than a dozen other African countries Israel funded and trained military repression of anti-colonial uprisings and/or dictatorship. It sold arms and provided training to Rwandan military and Hutu militia that carried out genocide against the Tutsis.

In South America, Israel armed Guatemalan death squads, Nicaraguan Contras, Pinochet’s Chile, and the military junta in Argentina which resulted in the “disappearance” of thousands of opponents of a regime which not only openly espoused anti-Semitic rhetoric, but specifically targeted and disappeared numerous Jewish civilians.

In Southeast Asia, Israel provided aid to the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia and, in the Pacific Region, funded the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. In Iran, during the rule of the Shah, the secret death squad (SAVAK) received training from Israel and purchased over 150 million dollars in arms from it. Never known for its selfless virtue, Israel was to benefit… the Shah was one of the first leaders in the region to recognize it as a state.

These are but a few glaring examples of dozens of instances where Israel has supported, if not propped up, supremacist and racist regimes… many known for their utter and extreme anti-Semitic vitriol and manifest hatred of Jews. But, with remarkable agility, if not indifference, it has become practiced… indeed expert… at balancing the self interest of its own rapacious agenda with the reality of the often anti-Semitic neo-fascist regimes and movements its supports throughout the world.

With this practiced experience it seems that Zionists are eminently equipped to handle the emerging face of antisemitism, nay, overt odium for Jews which, with Steve Bannon and company, will soon move from the inner sanctum of Trump Towers to the inner circle of the White House.

Given its history of support for anti-Semitic allies it comes as no surprise that Zionists believe they will be able to stage manage overt hatred for Jews and other minorities from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. What is, however, stunning is that, for the first time in recent memory, they appear perfectly willing to abandon the false conflation of Zionism and Judaism by supporting a collective of white ethnocentric supremacists who support the Zionist agenda in Israel yet hate Jews in whose name it is claimed that agenda has been built.