Insurance Execs to Live High, While More Americans Die
Let there be no doubt about it. The health care “reform” bill voted into law Sunday in the House is a capitulation which will leave 30 million more Americans at the cruel mercies of the insurance companies – precisely what the single-payer movement had been battling against.
In the end the defenders of the legislation and those who signed on to it putting loyalty to themselves and their careers in the Democrat Party above principle, like the narcissistic twerp Dennis Kucinich, were left with only one real argument. How could anyone turn his/her back on the 30 million who would “benefit” from being brought under the control of the private insurers? The most succinct answer was given by Ralph Nader in a joint interview with him and the traitor Kucinich, who caved when his vote and a few others might have halted this legislative atrocity, conducted by Amy Goodman.
“First of all, that (the legislation) won’t even begin until 2014, 180,000 dead Americans later (The number of unnecessary deaths over a three year period due to a lack of any insurance – jw). Second, there’s no guarantee of that. The insurance companies can game this system. The 2,500 pages is full of opportunities and ambiguities for the insurance companies to game the system and to make it even worse.
“And let’s say there are more people covered, right? Well, they’re being forced to buy junk insurance policies. There’s no regulation of insurance prices. There’s no regulation of the antitrust laws on this. Everything went down that Dennis was fighting for. There’s no regulation that prevents the insurance companies from taking this papier-mâché bill and lighting a fire to it and making a mockery of it. There’s no shift of power. There’s no facility to create a national consumer health organization, which we proposed and the Democrats ignored years ago, in order to give people a voice so they can have their own non-profit consumer lobby on Washington. …
“This is really a disaster.”
This bill is a bonanza for the Insurance Industry, which has therefore been uncharacteristically quiet during this so-called debate on health care. Or as Obama, ever the lackey for vested interests especially the ever expanding finance sectors of the economy, put it, the bill extends “our system of private insurance” to more people. Put another way, some more people may be covered with lousy policies with lots of fine print, but even to do that the insurance companies must be guaranteed their take. And to do that, the taxpayers along with the purchasers of the “insurance” will be billed.
There are three essential features of private, for-profit health insurance that make it despicable and inhumane. First, the insurers use their premiums “to enforce inequality in health care,” as Dr. David Himmelstein likes to put it. That is the system is fundamentally non-egalitarian, so that one’s health is not a right but depends ever more on one’s wealth. Second, the insurers work to maximize their profits and so that the Insurance bosses can live like kings. Thus these parasites refer to minimizing the dreaded “loss ratio,” as they call it, which is the fraction of the premiums given over to actual care. To them that is just a “loss”! And finally, the law basically caves in to what is a protection racket or a blackmailing racket by the insurers. That is, if you want health care you must pay off the insurers for doing nothing but denying you some care. That is “our system” of private insurance as Obama calls it. And it is increasingly characteristic of our economy where the ever growing giant parasite which is finance capital demands a take for essential needs – whether it be health care or pensions or education or housing or a decent life for our dependents should our life be suddenly terminated. Thus a nation like ours which such wealth leaves so many without essentials for a decent life.
And not only did Obama foist this on us, but those supposed “crusaders” for single payer succumbed to pressure from their Party. And thus did Dennis Kucinich cave to another atrocity just as he did when he backed the pro-war Kerry in 2004 and the pro-war Obama in 2008. There can be no more powerful evidence that the Democratic Party is a worthless vehicle for change than the performance of Obama, the dream candidate of the progressives, and his Congress on the issue of health care. And when push comes to shove, the Kuciniches, there to make the Party look like it has a sliver of decency, always cave in. After all what could be more important than the careers of these narcissists? To adapt a slogan from the 70s, Insurers and Congressmen live high while sick Americans die.
John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com. The exchange between Nader and Kucinich can be found at: http://www.democracynow.org/2010/3/18/dennis_kucinich_and_ralph_nader_a
Interestingly in this exchange, for Nader it is all about health care. For Kucinich it is all about Kucinich.
The BBC puts U.S. corporate and public media to shame, violating taboos on Israel. On “BBC World News America” last night, host Matt Frei asked Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen point-blank about the Israeli government’s announcement yesterday (news ignored by other outlets) of “another settlement in the heart of East Jerusalem.” Frei even emphasized the gall of the new grab as Netanyahu met privately with President Obama: “Talk about timing, there was news today”–of Israel’s new seizures of Palestinian land.
Bowen confirmed: just as Netanyahu rode “in his official limousine heading for the White House for his long-sought-after meeting with President Obama,” Israel pronounced final approval for more Jewish-only apartments in Sheikh Jarrah, which Frei called “the heart of” the old city of East Jerusalem. “Jewish-only”; when do we hear such a refrain in the U.S. about the aim of Israeli encroachment onto areas belonging to Palestinians?
Bowen posited that though the new building is “small”–20 flats–, its location “not in the big Jewish settlements,” but in the “built-up, old [Palestinian] part” makes the announcement “potentially very sensitive indeed.” ["Haaretz" confirms the BBC report on the new Israeli expropriation of Palestinian land.]
“The theme that runs through” the twin stories about Israel today, said Frei, “is that the Israelis have a law unto themselves–or think they do–when it comes to certain issues.”
Bowen agreed: “They have a “feeling of impunity about certain issues… because of diplomatic cover” given them by the U.S.
Frei asked whether that cover might have been weakened by Israel’s recent actions.
Bowen answered that “When you look at Mr. Netanyahu’s diplomatic agenda, he’s presiding over deteriorating relations with two very important allies, the Americans and the British.” And Bowen picked up General David Petraeus’s testimony that Israeli intransigence endangers U.S. interests.
Netanyahu is merely repeating offenses committed last time he was P.M. Recent diplomatic crises must feel like “deja vu” for Netanyahu, Bowen said–or, rather, for us– because Netanyahu then, too, angered the US by building in East Jerusalem and caused a scandal with an assassination attempt carried out using forged Canadian passports. The diplomatic uproar eventually led to Netanyahu’s massive electoral defeat.
BBC coverage betters that of the dominant U.S. news sources. But why does no one even raise an eyebrow over Netanyahu’s pretext for Israeli theft–that Jews were “building 3,000 years ago in Jerusalem”?
The millennial excuse–called into question by Shlomo Sand, who has demonstrated that Netanyahu’s ancestors were most likely in Eastern Europe–is a new claim for the Israeli government to shovel. For decades, Israeli governments fostered the Western delusion that after a peace deal, Israel would return their ‘67 booty to the Palestinians.
Owen Bennett-Jones did at least confront West Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat yesterday on “The BBC Newshour” over Barkat’s assertion that 2000 years of Jewish longing for Jerusalem justifies turning out the current Palestinian owners. Bennett-Jones incredulously asked: “If everyone went back to where we were 2000 years ago, it would be a crazy world, there would be wars everywhere.” Barkat evaded.
Bennett-Jones asked Barkat how many countries recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by lodging their embassies there. Barkat fudged, saying “it was a bit of an insulting question,” before repeating his contention that Biblical identification of Jews with Jerusalem justifies modern possession.
But “International Law doesn’t agree with” Israeli ownership of East Jerusalem, Bennett-Jones persisted. Barkat begged the question by changing all the terms, announcing that even “settlements”–the former euphemism for “illegal colonies”–is now a proscribed term. No, stolen areas are simply “Jewish neighborhoods.”
Israeli “annexation” and “occupation” are out: Israel is “re-uniting Jerusalem.” Orwell’s prophecies live.
“The Education system in Iraq, prior to 1991, was one of the best in the region; with over 100% Gross Enrolment Rate for primary schooling and high levels of literacy, both of men and women. The Higher Education, especially the scientific and technological institutions, were of an international standard, staffed by high quality personnel”. (UNESCO Fact Sheet, March 28, 2003).
As a result of ongoing U.S. occupation, today Iraq is more illiterate than it was five or twenty-five years ago, because the U.S. Administration and U.S. forces occupying Iraq began to root [out] and destroy every aspect of Iraq’s education [infrastructure].
The Iraqi educational system was the target of U.S. military action, because education is the backbone of any society. Without an efficient education system, no society can function, writes Ghali Hassan in May 2005.
Facts have proven him right. This is also one of the conclusions of the book Cultural Cleansing in Iraq.
A recent UNESCO report “Education Under Attack 2010 – Iraq”, dated 10 February 2010, concludes that “Although overall security in Iraq had improved, the situation faced by schools, students, teachers and academics remained dangerous.” The destruction of Iraq’s education is ongoing. Aswat Al Iraq reported on 4 January 2010 that “the 2010 federal budget offers the country’s education and higher education only 10 percent of the funding they need.”
Let’s present a few random facts that give an idea of the scale of the destruction of Iraq’s education sector under occupation.
The director of the United Nations University International Leadership Institute published a report on 27 April 2005 detailing that since the start of the war of 2003 some 84% of Iraq’s higher education institutions have been burnt, looted or destroyed.
Like most higher education institutions across Iraq, Baghdad University escaped almost unscathed from the bombing. In the subsequent looting and burning, 20 of the capital’s colleges were destroyed. No institution escaped: the faculty of education in Waziriyya was raided daily for two weeks; the veterinary college in Abu Ghraib lost all its equipment; two buildings in the faculty of fine arts stand smoke-blackened against the skyline. In every college, in every classroom, you could write “education” in the dust on the tables. 
Ongoing violence has destroyed school buildings and around a quarter of all Iraq’s primary schools need major rehabilitation. Since March 2003, more than 700 primary schools have been bombed, 200 have been burnt and over 3,000 looted.
Between March 2003 and October 2008, 31,598 violent attacks against educational institutions were reported in Iraq, according to the Ministry of Education (MoE)
Since 2007 bombings at Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad have killed or maimed more than 335 students and staff members, according to a 19 Oct 2009 NYT article, and a 12-foot-high blast wall has been built around the campus.
Education under Attack (2007) reported that 296 people serving as education staff were killed in 2005; and 180 teachers were killed between February and November 2006.
These are just a few examples to highlight the level of cultural genocide in Iraq. The list is endless, the real number of casualties much higher. More information can be found in the book Cultural Cleansing in Iraq and in the BRussells Tribunal archives on Iraqi education under occupation, perhaps the most comprehensive database on the Internet about the assassination of Iraqi academics and the destruction of Iraq’s education. Our campaign to protect Iraqi academics is still ongoing, because the tragedy continues. The UNESCO report “Education Under Attack 2010 – Iraq” is very clear: “Attacks on education targets continued throughout 2007 and 2008 at a lower rate – but one that would cause serious concern in any other country.” Why didn’t it cause serious concern? Is it because it’s US design?
The petition we issued, containing also a call for action, is still valid today and can still be signed: http://www.petitiononline.com/Iraqacad/petition.html. An excerpt:
1. We appeal to organisations which work to enforce or defend international humanitarian law to put these crimes on the agenda.
2. We request that an independent international investigation be launched immediately to probe these extrajudicial killings. This investigation should also examine the issue of responsibility to clearly identify who is accountable for this state of affairs. We appeal to the special rapporteur on summary executions at UNHCHR in Geneva.
We urge that educators mobilise colleagues and concerned citizens to take up the cause of the salvation of Iraq’s intellectual wealth, by organising seminars, teach-ins and forums on the plight of Iraq’s academics.
When writing “Killing the Intellectual Class” for the book Cultural Cleansing in Iraq, I added a short story about occupation of schools by the MNF-I.
“it certainly is our policy to not establish military headquarters or other operations in protected areas under the Geneva Convention,” said Lt. Col. Gary Keck, a spokesman for the Department of Defense in Washington, when a journalist asked why the US army occupied a girls’ and boys’ school of a town in northern Iraq.
At a UN press briefings in Amman on 30 April 2003, the question was asked:” Do you know of any other schools that are still occupied & would you ask them of making a point to stay away from the schools, so they can be rehabilitated?”
Answer: S. Ingram: I am not aware of any other places that this situation holds. I remember the incident you referred to, there was a school in the north & some contacts were necessary to persuade the US troops there to leave the premises, which they subsequently did. I am not aware of any other places where schools are being occupied.
“I’m not aware”. A pack of lies. Because occupying schools is exactly what the US Army did (and still does) on a regular basis. I heard and read numerous eyewitness accounts about Iraqi protests after US Forces occupied schools and educational institutions.
The origins of armed resistance in Fallujah f.i. can be traced almost precisely to April 28, 2003, when U.S. troops, who had arrived in the city five days earlier, massacred 17 apparently unarmed protesters. The April 28 protest had demanded an end to Fallujah’s occupation and, more specifically, that U.S. troops vacate the al Qaid primary school, where classes had been scheduled to resume on April 29.
And it continued. On the 29th of February 2008, the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMSI) published a press release condemning the American occupation forces for the seizure of an Islamic Secondary School in Baghdad. 
On the 1st of May 2008, the Iraqi News Agency “Voices of Iraq”, reported that: “The U.S. military withdrew from a building of the education department in Sadr City in eastern Baghdad, which they used it as a barrack last month.”
This was basically all the hard information I had found about the occupation of educational institutions by the occupation forces and I thought the evidence was a little thin to make a decent case, so I decided not to use it for the book.
But now I read in the UNESCO report 2010:
“MNF-I, the Iraqi Army and Iraqi police units occupied more than 70 school buildings for military purposes in the Diyala governorate alone.”
This is only in one province. There’s no information at my disposal about the other regions, but we can almost certainly conclude that occupying schools by occupation forces was/is a general phenomenon throughout Iraq. Where else would you station a one million strong army and security forces?
On the 11th of April 2003, a number of Iraqi scientists and university professors sent an SOS e-mail complaining American occupation forces were threatening their lives.
The appeal message said that looting and robberies were being taken place under the watchful eye of the occupation soldiers.
The occupation soldiers, the e-mail added, were transporting mobs to the scientific institutions, such as Mosul University and different educational institutions, to destroy scientific research centres and confiscate all papers and documents to nip in the bud any Iraqi scientific renaissance.
John Agresto, in charge of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in 2003-2004, initially believed that the looting of Iraq’s universities was a positive act in that it would allow such institutions to begin again with a clean slate, with the newest equipment as well as a brand new curriculum.
The Hague IV Conventions on Laws and Customs of War on Land, 1917, make explicit, in Article 56, that educational institutions are to be regarded as private property, and thus must not be pillaged or destroyed, that occupying forces in war are bound to protect such property and that proceedings should follow their intentional damage, seizure or destruction. Article 55 reinforces this duty relative to all public buildings and capital. Further, an occupying power is obliged, according to Articles 43 and 46, to protect life and take all steps in its power to re-establish and ensure “public order and safety”.
In addition, The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (ratified by the Republic of Iraq in 1967) creates a clear obligation to protect museums, libraries and archives, and other sites of cultural property. Paragraph 1 of Article 4 notes: “The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect cultural property situated within their own territory as well as within the territory of other High Contracting Parties by refraining from any use of the property and its immediate surroundings or of the appliances in use for its protection for purposes which are likely to expose it to destruction or damage in the event of armed conflict; and by refraining from any act of hostility, directed against such property.”
Using schools and universities for military purposes, destroying educational institutions and assisting in looting, criminal neglect when educational staff is being harassed and assassinated, dismantling the Iraqi education system and active involvement in training, funding and arming murderous militia’s….
War crime upon war crime upon war crime. When will there be justice for Iraq? When will there be a serious investigation into these crimes by official International Human Rights Bodies? And who will charge the successive Anglo-American Administrations for War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity?
 Dirk Adriaensens in “Cultural Cleansing in Iraq” p 119, http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745328126&
 Nabil al-Tikriti in “Cultural Cleansing in Iraq” p 98, http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745328126&
In December 1945 and January 1946, the British Mandate authorities carried out an extensive survey of Palestine, in support of the work of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine. The results were published in the Survey of Palestine, which has been scanned and made available online by Palestine Remembered; all 1300 pages can be read here.
One of the subjects investigated in the Survey of Palestine is land use; specifically, which crops were Palestine’s leading agricultural products at the end of the British Mandate, and whose farms were producing them.
So, according to the Survey of Palestine, who really made the barley fields of Beersheba bloom?
The British government survey found that in 1944-45 Palestine’s farmers produced approximately 210,000 tons of grain.
About 193,400 tons of that grain were cultivated on Palestinian farms; about 16,600 tons were cultivated on Jewish farms.
See the precise numbers, from a scan of the relevant page of the Survey of Palestine, here.
Who made the melon patches of Jaffa bloom?
The British government survey found that in 1944-45 Palestine’s farmers produced approximately 143,000 tons of melons.
About 136,000 tons of those melons were cultivated on Palestinian farms; a little over 7,000 tons were cultivated on Jewish farms.
See the precise numbers, from a scan of the relevant page of the Survey of Palestine, here.
Who made the tobacco fields of Safad bloom?
The British government survey found that in 1944-45 Palestine’s farmers produced approximately 1,683 tons of tobacco, on 28,169 dunams of land. Virtually all the land under tobacco cultivation was Palestinian.
Who made the vineyards of Hebron bloom?
The British government survey found that in 1944-45 Palestine’s farmers produced approximately 40-50,000 tons of grapes, and between 3-4 million litres of wine. About 86% of the land that produced these products was owned and cultivated by Palestinians.
See a scan of the relevant page of the Survey of Palestine here.
Who made the olive groves of Tulkarm bloom?
The British government survey found that in 1944-45 Palestine’s farmers produced approximately 79,000 tons of olives.
About 78,000 tons of those olives were cultivated on Palestinian farms; a little over 1,000 tons were cultivated on Jewish farms.
Who made the banana groves of Tiberias bloom?
The British government survey found that in 1944-45 Palestine’s farmers produced approximately 8,000 tons of bananas.
About 60% of the land that produced these bananas was owned and cultivated by Palestinians.
See the relevant page of the Survey of Palestine, here.
Who made the vegetable fields of the coastal plain bloom?
The British government survey found that in 1944-45 Palestine’s farmers produced approximately 245,000 tons of vegetables.
About 189,000 tons of those vegetables were cultivated by Palestinian farmers; about 56,000 tons were cultivated by Jewish farmers.
See the precise numbers, from a scan of the relevant page of the Survey of Palestine, here.
So, on the eve of the partition resolution, in which the United Nations proposed to allocate 55 percent of the land to Jewish Palestine (including those parts that produced most of Palestine’s leading crops, with the sole exception of the olive crop), and 45% to Arab Palestine, Palestinian Arabs were producing:
92% of Palestine’s grain
86% of its grapes
99% of its olives
77 % of its vegetables
95% of its melons
more than 99% of its tobacco
and 60% of its bananas.
Palestine’s agricultural produce at that time had an annual value of approximately 21.8 million pounds sterling; 17.1 million of which was produced by Arab cultivation, and 4.7 million by Jewish cultivation. (See the exact numbers here).
So, who made the desert bloom? The Palestinians made the desert bloom.
Photos: All the photographs of Palestinian farmers cultivating their crops in Palestine under the British Mandate are from Before Their Diaspora: A Photographic History Of The Palestinians 1876 – 1948, by Walid Khalidi.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the AIPAC conference in Washington, DC, 22 March 2010. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)
The speeches at AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby group, on Monday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Netanyahu’s subsequent meeting with US President Barack Obama are widely seen as drawing to a close what Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren called the “most severe crisis in US-Israel relations” in decades. This rapprochement comes on the heels of a series of seemingly angry statements top members of the Obama Administration released, after Israel announced construction of 1,600 new illegal housing units in occupied East Jerusalem while US Vice President Joe Biden was in the country.
In fact, the basis for the Obama Administration’s criticisms of the settlement announcement — as well as the significance of the crisis itself — has been widely misconstrued by both supporters and critics of Israel. AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) were “shocked and stunned” that Biden and Clinton called the Israeli announcement “insulting.” AIPAC urged the administration to “take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish state” and “move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines directed at Israel.” Meanwhile, the ADL mused, “One can only wonder how far the US is prepared go in distancing itself from Israel.”
Voices more critical of Israel, such as Richard Dreyfuss of The Nation, suggested that “this is not just the reaction to an insulting announcement during the visit of Vice President Biden,” but rather “the Obama Administration is beginning to realize that Israeli intransigence … is a major obstacle to US policy in the region.” Dreyfuss predicted that this “might turn into the most significant confrontation between the United States and Israel” since the 1956 Suez War.
Contrary to both of these positions, the Obama Administration merely reacted to a diplomatic affront it was dealt by the Israeli government. Israel’s announcement came on the same day that Biden had arrived in the country to proudly confirm the US’ “absolute, total and unvarnished” commitment to its ally, and commence indirect talks with the Palestinians. Following the announcement, protests and violent clashes broke out in Jerusalem and elsewhere throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Responding to this pressure, the Arab League threatened to cancel its endorsement of the indirect negotiations, with Secretary Amr Moussa even announcing that the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had decided not to participate in the talks. As the endorsement was the only political cover Abbas had to re-enter negotiations, the US administration took careful notice of these events as pressure on Abbas to abandon talks from within the territories mounted. With the Arab world outraged and Biden humiliated due to the degree of US complicity that the timing of the announcement revealed, the Obama Administration was forced to react.
Clinton said the timing of the announcement was “insulting,” while top aide David Axelrod called it an “affront” that “seemed calculated” to undermine the peace talks. The Obama Administration hopes that this PR display will allow the US to fortify its farcical claim to be an “honest broker” in the peace process, provide Abbas the political cover to re-enter negotiations, and send a message to the Israeli government that American leaders are to be treated with respect. As CNN reported, Netanyahu has now set up a team to investigate why the settlement construction announcement was made during Biden’s visit.
Netanyahu may well have been telling the truth when he claimed to be “surprised” by the public criticisms by the US government. The day before, one day after US envoy George Mitchell arrived to broker newly-announced “proximity talks,” the State Department explicitly approved Israel’s construction of 112 new apartments in an illegal settlement outside Bethlehem. The assent came despite Netanyahu’s declaration of a “moratorium” on settlement building, which he has insisted cannot include such illegal construction in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, a position the US has accepted.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also chastised Israel for its “provocative actions,” including record-high rates of stripping Palestinians from Jerusalem their residency rights and infringements on Palestinian religious sites that are clearly designed to incite a Palestinian response or otherwise make it impossible for Abbas to return to the negotiating table. Yet even when the administration was at its most critical of Israel, following Obama’s speech in Cairo last year, Israel was reassured that the actions taken by the US would be “largely symbolic.” Indeed, Obama unconditionally re-authorized the loan guarantees program and massive US aid — conservatively estimated at $7 million per day — has continued without threat of reduction.
Obviously, the Obama Administration is hardly concerned about Israeli violations of international law, previous agreements it has signed, or the human rights of the Palestinians. The implication throughout is that had the announcement come a week before Biden visited (or even a day before, as the Bethlehem announcement did) there would have been no problem. Indeed, just one week later, after the Israeli government announced construction on an additional 426 East Jerusalem settlement homes, Clinton “bolstered her support for the Jewish state,” according to The Washington Post. The Israeli army then opened fire on peaceful protestors in Gaza twice in two days, and carried out air strikes on targets in Gaza, while Clinton issued another statement saying that the steps offered by the Israeli government to resolve the dispute were “useful and productive.”
The escalating repression continued Sunday, when the Israeli army shot and killed four Palestinian youths in 24 hours in the West Bank, two aged 18 and two 16. Simultaneously, Netanyahu issued a statement proclaiming that Israel would never cease building illegally in East Jerusalem as Ban Ki-moon arrived in Israel. Clearly, recent condemnations of these projects as “illegal” by Ban and the European Union did not stop Obama from welcoming Netanyahu to Washington on Monday with a private meeting, nor Clinton from proudly sharing the stage with him at the AIPAC conference to reaffirm the US commitment to support Israel’s rejection of the international consensus for resolving the conflict. Though she did say the settlements “undermine mutual trust,” she did not acknowledge their illegality and mostly stressed the threat that US support for them poses to its “credibility” as an “honest broker,” thus urging Israel to refrain from such flagrantly provocative behavior while reinforcing that the US-Israel relationship is “rock solid.”
The US hopes that this pretended outrage will lend its role as “honest broker” enough credibility to keep the “peace process” moving, itself merely a PR facade that shields Israeli crimes from public scrutiny. If it does not, the US will undoubtedly pay little mind to the harsh words spoken this week and do as it has done before: blame the Palestinians for its failure and support Israeli repression.
Stephen Maher is an MA candidate at American University School of International Service who has lived in the West Bank, and is currently writing his masters’ thesis, “The New Nakba: Oslo and the End of Palestine,” on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The fate of the eleven students arrested for heckling Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., during a speech on U.S.-Israel relations given on February 8th at the University of California Irvine (UCI), continues to hang in the balance as calls for either harsh action or clemency continue. The students face possible suspension or expulsion. Chancellor Michael Drake justifies such a response by arguing that the heckling students undermined freedom of speech, which is “among the most fundamental, and among the most cherished of the bedrock values our nation is built upon” .
Political heckling has a long and somewhat illustrious history; sometimes a duel of wit and sometimes an expression of outrage. It has ranged from the polite and silent (e.g. when a group of woman protesters unfurled a banner in the American House Chamber during Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 State of the Union address which read: “President Wilson: What Will You Do For Woman Suffrage?” ) to the messy (e.g. when eggs were thrown at British Prime Minister Harold Wilson – he replied that at least people “can afford eggs to throw under Labour”) to the obscene (e.g. a Labour lawmaker accused Margaret Thatcher of acting “with the sensitivity of a sex-starved boa-constrictor.” ). Most prominent politicians have been heckled at one time or another: Reagan for his favourable policies towards apartheid South Africa; Johnson for his stance on Vietnam; Nixon was heckled at a high school (he told the authorities: “OK boys, throw him out” – his lecture had been about free speech ); George Bush was heckled on Iraq; Clinton for NAFTA, the list goes on. Most recently Tony Blair was called a liar and murderer during the Iraq Inquiry ; President Obama has been aggressively heckled by anti-abortion activists on a number of occasions, and who can forget Republican Representative Joe Wilson who yelled “you lie!” at President Obama during a speech on health care?
Israel itself is not a stranger to heckling. Disruptions in the Knesset (Parliament) became so bad that in 2001 Ethics Committee chairwoman Colette Avital circulated a list of 68 insults she wanted banned, including: blood-drinker, boor, fascist, filth, eye-gouger, Jew-hater, Nazi, Philistine, terrorist, traitor and… poodle. In America heckling of Israeli leaders has happened before, most notably President Olmert was heckled at the University of Chicago last year.
So what is there to be said about the heckling of Michael Oren and the reaction by the University authorities?
Heckling is not the most polite or subtle of political tactics and this instance was marked by clear anger. Salam Al Marayati argues that we should understand the roots of the students’ frustrations in light of systematic discrimination against Muslim students on UCI campus. This has allegedly included surveillance of the students by the FBI and the denial of the opportunity to host Palestinian speakers. Beyond this we need to understand that activism against the Israeli occupation and human rights abuses committed by Israel is met by the full force of the American pro-Israel lobby. Even when such activism is not resisted directly it often meets entrenched resistance from both conservatives and liberals. The ugliness of the occupation, the frustration of students who oppose it and a subtle climate of Islamophobia present on some American campuses is bound to produce frustration and anger.
The issue of course runs deeper. Without digressing into a lengthy philosophical consideration of free speech, we must ask whether the heckling was itself an expression of free speech or whether such heckling violated Oren’s right to speak? The answer is yes to both, but there is an important difference. Oren was not speaking as a private individual but as the official representative of Israel. Israel is currently engaged in an illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories and has committed gross human rights violations as defined by international law. Oren represents these policies. The question then becomes whether or not a platform should be given to the representative of a government engaged in criminal activity. These students decided that it should not be and such a decision has many precedents. Speeches by representatives of oppressive regimes around the world have been opposed throughout recent history, Apartheid South Africa being a notable example.
What of the response by the authorities? The university has the right to remove the disruptive students from the hall in which the lecture was being given and in fact the students went cooperatively and peacefully. Arrest, suspension and/or expulsion seems heavy handed, unjust and hypocritical. When the President of the United States can be called a liar during an address, in Congress, to the entire country and the Representative in questions eats humble pie, apologizes, accepts a reprimand and maintains his seat, then it seems grossly disproportionate that these students were arrested and may face expulsion. Not unrelated to their fate is the fact that the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has called for a boycott in donations and enrollment at UCI .
The argument made against the students, that they denied Oren the right of free speech, is equally hypocritical. Israel systematically denies free speech to Palestinians who, for example, cannot even hold a simple press conference in East Jerusalem protesting Israeli abuses without the very real risk of arrest. To claim the right of free speech whilst withholding it from others is logically inconsistent and morally bankrupt.
Heckling is not my first choose of political protest. Civil disobedience of any sort is a tactic of last resort. However, we must ask two questions. Was this a display of anger that could find no other more polite expression on UCI campus? And more importantly: should those who struggle for human rights in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories use whatever peaceful means available to deny a platform to official representatives of the Israeli government and her policies?
To see the video and read Al Marayati’s article go here.
To sign a petition calling for the dropping of all charges go here:
Gilad Isaacs is a South African student studying at NYU: “I’ve been politically active for the last 10 years first with a leftist Jewish youth organisation Habonim Dror and then on South African issues. I have worked for the Treatment Action Campaign, a grassroots organisation campaigning for access to medication for HIV+ persons and quality health care treatment for all. I was a founder (and past convener) of the Social Justice Coalition a group focused on safety and security and defending the rule of law. I’ve been active in anti-occupation work for sometime and participated in founding Open Shuhada Street. I consider myself a non-Zionist and actively oppose the gross human rights violations committed in Israel/Palestine.”
There was a time when the pen was mightier than the sword. That was a time when people believed in truth and regarded truth as an independent power and not as an auxiliary for government, class, race, ideological, personal, or financial interest.
Today Americans are ruled by propaganda. Americans have little regard for truth, little access to it, and little ability to recognize it.
Truth is an unwelcome entity. It is disturbing. It is off limits. Those who speak it run the risk of being branded “anti-American,” “anti-Semite” or “conspiracy theorist.”
Truth is an inconvenience for government and for the interest groups whose campaign contributions control government.
Truth is an inconvenience for prosecutors who want convictions, not the discovery of innocence or guilt.
Truth is inconvenient for ideologues.
Today many whose goal once was the discovery of truth are now paid handsomely to hide it. “Free market economists” are paid to sell off-shoring to the American people. High-productivity, high value-added American jobs are denigrated as dirty, old industrial jobs. Relics from long ago, we are best shed of them. Their place has been taken by “the New Economy,” a mythical economy that allegedly consists of high-tech white collar jobs in which Americans innovate and finance activities that occur offshore. All Americans need in order to participate in this “new economy” are finance degrees from Ivy League universities, and then they will work on Wall Street at million dollar jobs.
Economists who were once respectable took money to contribute to this myth of “the New Economy.”
And not only economists sell their souls for filthy lucre. Recently we have had reports of medical doctors who, for money, have published in peer-reviewed journals concocted “studies” that hype this or that new medicine produced by pharmaceutical companies that paid for the “studies.”
The Council of Europe is investigating the drug companies’ role in hyping a false swine flu pandemic in order to gain billions of dollars in sales of the vaccine.
The media helped the US military hype its recent Marja offensive in Afghanistan, describing Marja as a city of 80,000 under Taliban control. It turns out that Marja is not urban but a collection of village farms.
And there is the global warming scandal, in which NGOs. The UN, and the nuclear industry colluded in concocting a doomsday scenario in order to create profit in pollution.
Wherever one looks, truth has fallen to money.
Wherever money is insufficient to bury the truth, ignorance, propaganda, and short memories finish the job.
I remember when, following CIA director William Colby’s testimony before the Church Committee in the mid-1970s, presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan issued executive orders preventing the CIA and U.S. black-op groups from assassinating foreign leaders. In 2010 the US Congress was told by Dennis Blair, head of national intelligence, that the US now assassinates its own citizens in addition to foreign leaders.
When Blair told the House Intelligence Committee that US citizens no longer needed to be arrested, charged, tried, and convicted of a capital crime, just murdered on suspicion alone of being a “threat,” he wasn’t impeached. No investigation pursued. Nothing happened. There was no Church Committee. In the mid-1970s the CIA got into trouble for plots to kill Castro. Today it is American citizens who are on the hit list. Whatever objections there might be don’t carry any weight. No one in government is in any trouble over the assassination of U.S. citizens by the U.S. government.
As an economist, I am astonished that the American economics profession has no awareness whatsoever that the U.S. economy has been destroyed by the off-shoring of U.S. GDP. U.S. corporations, in pursuit of absolute advantage or lowest labor costs and maximum CEO “performance bonuses,” have moved the production of goods and services marketed to Americans to China, India, and elsewhere abroad. When I read economists describe off-shoring as free trade based on comparative advantage, I realize that there is no intelligence or integrity in the American economics profession.
Intelligence and integrity have been purchased by money. The transnational or global U.S. corporations pay multi-million dollar compensation packages to top managers, who achieve these “performance awards” by replacing U.S. labor with foreign labor. While Washington worries about “the Muslim threat,” Wall Street, U.S. corporations and “free market” shills destroy the U.S. economy and the prospects of tens of millions of Americans.
Americans, or most of them, have proved to be putty in the hands of the police state.
Americans have bought into the government’s claim that security requires the suspension of civil liberties and accountable government. Astonishingly, Americans, or most of them, believe that civil liberties, such as habeas corpus and due process, protect “terrorists,” and not themselves. Many also believe that the Constitution is a tired old document that prevents government from exercising the kind of police state powers necessary to keep Americans safe and free.
Most Americans are unlikely to hear from anyone who would tell them any different.
I was associate editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal. I was Business Week’s first outside columnist, a position I held for 15 years. I was columnist for a decade for Scripps Howard News Service, carried in 300 newspapers. I was a columnist for the Washington Times and for newspapers in France and Italy and for a magazine in Germany. I was a contributor to the New York Times and a regular feature in the Los Angeles Times. Today I cannot publish in, or appear on, the American “mainstream media.”
For the last six years I have been banned from the “mainstream media.” My last column in the New York Times appeared in January, 2004, coauthored with Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer representing New York. We addressed the off-shoring of U.S. jobs. Our op-ed article produced a conference at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and live coverage by C-Span. A debate was launched. No such thing could happen today.
For years I was a mainstay at the Washington Times, producing credibility for the Moony newspaper as a Business Week columnist, former Wall Street Journal editor, and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. But when I began criticizing Bush’s wars of aggression, the order came down to Mary Lou Forbes to cancel my column.
The American corporate [establishment] does not serve the truth. It serves the government and the interest groups that empower the government.
America’s fate was sealed when the public and the anti-war movement bought the government’s 9/11 conspiracy theory. The government’s account of 9/11 is contradicted by much evidence. Nevertheless, this defining event of our time, which has launched the US on interminable wars of aggression and a domestic police state, is a taboo topic for investigation in the media. It is pointless to complain of war and a police state when one accepts the premise upon which they are based.
These trillion dollar wars have created financing problems for Washington’s deficits and threaten the U.S. dollar’s role as world reserve currency. The wars and the pressure that the budget deficits put on the dollar’s value have put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block. Former Goldman Sachs chairman and U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is after these protections for the elderly. Fed chairman Bernanke is also after them. The Republicans are after them as well. These protections are called “entitlements” as if they are some sort of welfare that people have not paid for in payroll taxes all their working lives.
With over 21 per cent unemployment as measured by the methodology of 1980, with American jobs, GDP, and technology having been given to China and India, with war being Washington’s greatest commitment, with the dollar over-burdened with debt, with civil liberty sacrificed to the “war on terror,” the liberty and prosperity of the American people have been thrown into the trash bin of history.
The militarism of the U.S. and Israeli states, and Wall Street and corporate greed, will now run their course. As the pen is censored and its might extinguished, I am signing off.
Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com