Peretz and the dangers of obsessive love
Peretz and the New Republic
Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief of the New Republic. He acquired that position by simply buying the magazine in 1974. Although he resold it to a group of investors in 2002, they were, and apparently remain, his ideological soul mates for he continues to this day to be the magazine’s executive editor.
Peretz’s New Republic is a far cry from the original magazine. The origin of the New Republic goes back to 1914 when it was established by Herbert Croly and Walter Lippman. From the beginning the magazine was liberal and progressive. Between the world wars I and II it took a stand against the growing ideological enmity that bred the “red scares” and their accompanying violations of the civil rights of Americans. In the 1950s it took a principled stand against both Soviet tyranny and the McCarthy witch hunts. In the 1960s the magazine took a position opposing the Vietnam War.
Little of this survived Peretz’s remaking of the New Republic. Within a year of gaining control he fired most of the staff and shifted the editorial direction toward the center/right. The new New Republic supported Reagan’s foreign adventures, including alliances with terrorists such as the Contras, and later both Persian Gulf wars. Sometimes the magazine would selectively back Democrats. It backed Al Gore (a personal friend of Peretz) for president and waxed elegant about the likes of Joseph Lieberman. One progressive policy the magazine decided to support was universal health care. Peretz claims to be a life-long supporter of the Democratic Party but that has not stopped the ultra-conservative National Review from touting the New Republic as “one of the most interesting magazines in the United States”.
One of the reasons we can get this mixed bag of positions from Peretz’s New Republic is because domestic policy is but a secondary interest of the editor-in-chief. “I care most about foreign policy,” Peretz admits, and there is one aspect of foreign policy toward which he is down right obsessive. That aspect is US-Israeli relations. In more ways than one he keeps declaring that “I am in love with the state of Israel”. And how does he tell the world of his love? Mainly through the pages and blog of the New Republic. He has made it into his mouthpiece, his vehicle for declaring his abiding passion for “Zion.”
Peretz in love
It should be made clear that Peretz’s love of Israel is no ordinary love. It is not like, say, the love the founding fathers must have held for the new United States. No, Peretz’s love is of another order of intensity. It is that sort of passionate and blinding love that defeats reason. For instance, it has caused him to get Israel and the US all mixed up. According to Peretz support of Israel is a litmus test of American good citizenship: “Support for Israel, is deep down, an expression of America’s best view of itself.” I suspect that he got this sentiment from Louis Brandeis, the first leader of the Zionist Organization of American as well as the first Jew appointed to the Supreme Court. Back in 1918 Brandeis declared that to oppose Zionism was to be disloyal to the US (see Lawrence Davidson, America’s Palestine, page 225, note 23).
One fellow who failed the litmus test is Charles W. Freeman Jr., the man Barack Obama momentarily considered for his chief of the National Intelligence Council. Peretz wrote at the time that Freeman was utterly unsuitable for the post. Why? Because he had raised questions about America’s uncritical support of Israel–an act which Peretz characterized as “an offence“. By committing this “offence” Freeman had “questioned the loyalty and patriotism of not only Zionists and other friends of Israel”, but also “the great swath of American Jews and Christian countrymen who believed that the protection of Zion is the core of our religious and secular history…” This is the way Peretz sees the world. And it is, of course, a severely distorted view. When you get so intense about, so in love with, a foreign nation that you insist this outside entity represents “the core of our religious and secular history”, you have, as the saying goes, really gone over the top. Peretz has turned the United States and its national interests into a suburb of Tel Aviv.
In some of my earlier analyses I tried to show that “Zion” is in fact a racist place that does not resemble contemporary America, but rather America before the introduction of civil rights legislation. In today’s Israel, Arab Israelis are systematically discriminated against. Yet, a person who loves blindly will fail to see the faults of his or her lover. He or she may well adopt those faults as virtues and spend an inordinate amount of energy justifying the lover’s sins and castigating all who would be critical. And so it is with Martin Peretz. One way he has shown his perverse and obsessive love of Israel is by taking its anti-Arab line as his own. That has turned him into a bigot.
Back on 6 March 2010 Peretz said, “I can’t imagine any venture requiring trust with Arabs turning out especially well. That is, you will say my prejudice, but some prejudices are built on real facts, and history generally proves me right. Go ahead, prove me wrong.” Such wholesale stereotyping is, to use Peretz’s term, an offence against everyone who has ever had a good Arab friend, who is successfully married to an Arab man or woman, and to the very long and successful diplomatic relations the United States has had with such countries as Saudi Arabia and Jordan. And by making this common sense observation I have, at least strongly suggested, that what Peretz spouts is indeed wrong, and grievously so. But there is no doubt that this nonsense reflects his true feelings. And, it is his obsession with Israel that makes him see the world in this way.
On 4 September 2010 Peretz, again using the New Republic blog, returned to his prejudicial ways. “But frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf [leader of those seeking to create the Islamic cultural centre near ground zero] there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So yes, I wonder whether I need honuor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.” Here, Martin Peretz presents himself as a walking and talking example of how one is almost always wrong when one indulges in gross simplifications and categorizations from the “gut’ or otherwise.
1. Imam Rauf has consistently demonstrated himself to be a moderate and sensible man. He has publicly denounced radicalism in all religions and called on moderates to keep control of the leadership of religious movements.
2. How does Peretz know that hardly anyone of the imam’s supporters “has raised a fuss” about violence? Those supporters number in the thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands. Has he checked them all out?
3. The notion that “routine and random bloodshed … defines their [Muslim] brotherhood” is just the lowest sort of stereotyping. If I asserted that the quite routine and random bloodshed caused by Israeli settlers in the occupied territories defined the “brotherhood” of Judaism, Peretz would go ballistic. Both statements can be properly labelled specious nonsense.
4. Martin Peretz has the First Amendment right to wonder out loud in a fashion that can only undermine the First Amendment. He can even legally do so in an atmosphere of growing and volatile Islamophobia, although in my estimation that is a bit like yelling fire in a crowded theatre. Such public assertions certainly put him in the running for the title of demagogue, but he is probably too impassioned to care. Occasionally, when he is called to task by a major national medium like the New York Times he will back off in a sort of resentful and ill-tempered way, like a little bully confronted by a schoolmaster. But you know that he does not mean it when he says he is sorry. You know he is insincere because, by consistently speaking first and thinking later (if at all), he wears his feelings on his sleeve.
The Harvard connection
This latest outburst of Peretz happens to coincide with a ceremony in his honour planned by Harvard University. It seems that Peretz was once an assistant professor at the prestigious school and that money plus contacts have subsequently taken him beyond that to the status of a school benefactor. We are here reminded of the recent conference on anti-Semitism held at Yale during which radical Zionists put on a display of bigotry disguised as academic research. Now it is Harvard’s turn to host a bigot. It might well be that some of the Harvard bureaucracy are embarrassed at having to fete Peretz (though they did choose Lawrence Summers as their president) but they seem to feel they are stuck with him, and so they cover their position with appeals to free speech. Even Harvard has a First Amendment right to reward a man whose stated desire is to deny the First Amendment rights of an entire American religious minority. According to Harvard’s publicly issued defence, going ahead with the ceremony makes the place “ultimately stronger as a university” engaging in “the robust exchange of ideas”. Well, its their party.
Martin Peretz is a good example of that subset of Americans whose single-minded dedication to Israel makes them, for all intents and purposes, agents of a foreign power. Indeed, in his willingness to pronounce his affection in the most indiscreet way, Peretz can be seen as their spokesman. These folks get very upset when you describe them this way, but that is because they have so mixed up America and Israel that, in their minds, there is no real difference between the two. As the Bard once said, “love is blind and lovers cannot see what petty follies they themselves commit”. Alas, these follies are far from petty.
I once had the dubious pleasure of appearing in a debate with Peretz. I remember him as a small man of nervous temperament. He had a tendency to handle challenges to his position by speaking very fast and very loudly so that you could not get a word in edgewise. Based on this behaviour “I had in my gut the sense” that he was quite capable of going hysterical. Such people usually self-destruct over time and maybe that will be Martin Peretz’s fate. I do hope so.
Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University. He is the author of numerous books, including Islamic Fundamentalism and America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood.
JERUSALEM — Israel began construction on Wednesday to separate Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the city, a local committee leader said.
Head of the anti-settlement committee in the Shu’fat refugee camp Khader Salamah said Israeli authorities had erected 9- 12-meter concrete blocks around the military checkpoint at the camp’s entrance, isolating Ras Al-Khamis, neighboring the camp.
The construction would increase the suffering of the 15,000 residents of the camp, particularly elderly or sick residents and schoolchildren, Salamah said.
Israel’s planned construction extended to the Dahiyet As-Salam, Ras Shahadah and Anata villages, which when completed would affect the daily life of around 40,000 residents, Salamah said, adding that residents had instructed a lawyer, Dani Zaidman, to begin legal proceedings against Israeli authorities who had confiscated lands without notifying Palestinian owners.
The local committee was preparing to notify President Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO negotiations department of the consequences of Israel’s plan to isolate Palestinian neighborhoods. Israeli authorities were also at the final stages of constructing a new checkpoint at the entrance to Shu’fat refugee camp similar to the main checkpoints in the separation wall at Qalandiya and Hizma, Salamah said.
During the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur on Friday and Saturday, Israeli forces set up cement road blocks at the entrances to several suburbs of Jerusalem, including Al-Isawiya, northeast of Jerusalem and Sur Bahir in the south.
Fierce clashes had erupted on Thursday at Al-Isawiya, during which nine Palestinians were injured, including a paramedic, and six Palestinians were detained, medic Mohammad E’Beid said.
Al-Jazeera | September 19, 2010
A soap factory and an olive oil business in Nablus deal with the harsh realities of the Israeli occupation and its impact on the economy.
By Sylvia Schwarz| September 19th, 2010
The Ma’man Allah (Mamilla) Cemetery was the oldest Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem with graves dating back to the seventh century, comprised of 33 acres and tens of thousands of graves. After 1948 the Israeli ministry that maintained the site reassured world leaders that this important religious site would be cared for in perpetuity.
Less than fifteen years later, in the 1960s a park was built in part of the cemetery and a parking lot covered another part. These were followed by a school, football field, underground parking garage, and road. Electrical wires were laid in other sections.
The final few acres were dug up just before the beginning of Ramadan, in the middle of the night (as can be seen on the CNN video) so that Israel can build the Museum of Tolerance in conjunction with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in the United States.
An enormous amount of knowledge was lost with the destruction of the Mamilla Cemetery, according to St. Paul based archaeologist, John E. Landgraf, Ph.D., because the era since the end of the Byzantine period and the beginning of the Islamic conquest (around 638 CE) up to the present day is the least known period of history in the Middle East generally. There is much to be learned by examining skeletal remains, headstones, and tombs. However, the Israeli Department of Antiquities, which has recently been taken over by the Orthodox Rabbinate, does not allow any human skeletal remains to be examined; Jewish remains must be re-interred as quickly as possible out of respect, whereas non-Jewish remains at the Mamilla Cemetery were disposed of along with tombstones and other debris in construction dumpsters.
Dr. Landgraf, who participated in a number of archaeological digs in Israel and the West Bank between 1965 and 1980, said that the Israeli Department of Antiquities was seldom interested in the preservation of remains or artifacts from the Islamic period. In the late 1960s the discovery of Muslim graves at Tell Gezer did not interest the American head archaeologist at the time, and so bulldozers were used to push remains, artifacts, and debris back into the graves.
Archaeological excavations are a way of learning about the past in an orderly fashion. One exposes history a layer at a time, and by careful examination knowledge can be gained of the various eras and cultures. When Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 Israeli archaeologists used bulldozers to excavate the Western (Wailing) Wall area down to the late Roman period, destroying the homes of Palestinians living there at the time, and along with them the 1500-year history of the people who had lived there since the Byzantine period. “Thus there is a loss of continuity in our understanding of the past,” said Dr. Landgraf.
It is ironic that in the midst of mass hysteria over an Islamic center to be built in lower Manhattan, because some people feel that this would be disrespectful to the dead, that a genuine desecration of a sacred place occurs, unreported in most mainstream media. “The unfortunate reality is that Indigenous populations live in a world in which we are never safe from colonizer assaults even when we are dead,” says Wazayatawin, Ph.D., Indigenous Peoples Research Chair and Associate Professor, Indigenous Governance Program, University of Victoria, someone who has worked on behalf of Indigenous peoples in this hemisphere for many years, and sees many parallels with the experience of Palestinians. “The ongoing desecration of Indigenous burial sites, including the Mamilla Cemetery in West Jerusalem, reflects a deeply embedded colonizer mentality that views subjugated peoples as fundamentally inferior and unworthy of even the most basic dignities afforded other human beings,” she says.
Dr. Wazayatawin continues, “The act of erasing a people’s memory from the landscape is a necessary element in the colonization process. In order for the colonizers to legitimize their occupation of another’s land, they must eradicate all memories of the colonized, including even the human remains that demonstrate a deep and powerful connection to the land itself.”
Everywhere in Israel are the eradicated memories of the dispossessed Indigenous people. Old mosques are transformed into bars and nightclubs, so that patrons drink alcohol where Muslims used to pray. The history museum in Jaffa (more of a tourist site than an educational institution) is inexplicably silent about the existence of people in the city between the Roman times and Napoleon’s invasion. Street names are changed from their ancient Arabic names to new Hebrew ones. Golda Meir’s famous comment “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people” reflected her desire, not a reality, but it has been repeated so often that many Israelis believe it. The destruction of a cemetery shows starkly how little regard Israel holds for the humanity of the Palestinians. As Dr. Wazayatawin says, “There is something terribly wrong with a culture that digs up the dead of others. The societal justification for such a crime reveals its own sickness.”
I am an American Jew who began to question Zionism in 1982 after the Sabra and Shatila massacres in Lebanon. After reading everything I could on the Israel and Palestine I realized I could no longer remain passive on this issue while Palestinians suffered from Israeli human rights abuses and international law violations. I am actively involved in the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), in a state-wide campaign to get our state to divest from State of Israel bonds, and in other Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns. As I write this in June 2010 there are reasons for optimism as well as pessimism. Pessimism because the repression experienced by Palestinians increases daily. Optimism because the increasing repression is a result of the work that we are doing. I believe we will end Israeli Apartheid in my life time. This issue is all-consuming for me, and so I suppose it’s not horrible that I was laid off from my waste water design engineering job in February 2009 and have been unemployed since.
Here is the Promotion for the “Museum of Tolerance”
- Israeli Eradication of History: Disappearing Mosques (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- New Israeli military complex planned in Jerusalem (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Scattered in death as in life (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Palestinian cemetery destroyed for new TAU dorms, shopping center (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel’s War Against the Dead (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Imperialism, its character, means and ends has changed over time and place. Historically, western imperialism, has taken the form of tributary, mercantile, industrial, financial and in the contemporary period, a unique ‘militarist-barbaric’ form of empire building. Within each ‘period’, elements of past and future forms of imperial domination and exploitation ‘co-exist’ with the dominant mode. For example , in the ancient Greek and Roman empires, commercial and trade privileges complemented the extraction of tributary payments. Mercantile imperialism, was preceded and accompanied initially by the plunder of wealth and the extraction of tribute, sometimes referred to as “primitive accumulation”, where political and military power decimated the local population and forcibly removed and transferred wealth to the imperial capitals. As imperial commercial ascendancy was consolidated, manufacturing capital increasingly emerged as a co-participant; backed by imperial state policies manufacturing products destroyed local national manufacturers gaining control over local markets. Modern industrial driven imperialism, combined production and commerce, both complemented and supported by financial capital and its auxiliaries, insurance, transport and other sources of “invisible earnings”.
Under pressure from nationalist and socialist anti-imperialist movements and regimes, colonial structured empires gave way to new nationalist regimes. Some of which restructured their economies, diversifying their productive systems and trading partners. In some cases they imposed protective barriers to promote industrialization. Industrial-driven imperialism, at first opposed these nationalist regimes and collaborated with local satraps to depose industrial oriented nationalist leaders. Their goal was to retain or restore the “colonial division of labor” – primary production exchanged for finished goods. However, by the last third of the 20th century, industrial driven empire building, began a process of adaptation, “jumping over tariff walls”, investing in elementary forms of ‘production’ and in labor intensive consumer products. Imperial manufacturers contracted assembly plants organized around light consumer goods (textiles, shoes, electronics).
Basic changes in the political, social and economic structures of both the imperial and former colonial countries, however, led to divergent imperial paths to empire-building and as a consequence contrasting development performances in both regions.
Anglo-American financial capital gained ascendancy over industrial, investing heavily in highly speculative IT, bio-tech, real estate and financial instruments. Germany and Japanese empire builders relied on upgrading export-industries to secure overseas markets. As a result they increased market share, especially among the emerging industrializing countries of Southern Europe, Asia and Latin America. Some former colonial and semi-colonial countries also moved toward higher forms of industrial production, developing high tech industries, producing capital and intermediate as well as consumer goods and challenging western imperial hegemony in their proximity.
By the early 1990’s a basic shift in the nature of imperial power took place. This led to a profound divergence between past and present imperialist policies and among established and emerging expansionist regimes.
Past and Present Economic Imperialism
Modern industrial-driven empire building (MIE) is built around securing raw materials, exploiting cheap labor and increasing market share. This is accomplished by collaborating with pliant rulers, offering them economic aid and political recognition on terms surpassing those of their imperial competitors. This is the path followed by China. MIE eschews any attempt to gain territorial possessions, either in the form of military bases or in occupying “advisory” positions in the core institutions of the coercive apparatus. Instead, MIEs’ seek to maximize control via investments leading to direct ownership or ‘association’ with state and/or private officials in strategic economic sectors. MIEs’ utilize economic incentives in the way of economic grants and low interest concessionary loans. They offer to build large scale long term infrastructure projects-railroads, airfields, ports and highways. These projects have a double purpose of facilitating the extraction of wealth and opening markets for exports. MIEs also improve transport networks for local producers to gain political allies. In other words MIEs like China and India largely depend on market power to expand and fight off competitors. Their strategy is to create “economic dependencies” for long term economic benefits.
In contrast imperial barbarism grows out of an earlier phase of economic imperialism which combined the initial use of violence to secure economic privileges followed by economic control over lucrative resources.
Historically, economic imperialism (EI) resorted to military intervention to overthrow anti-imperialist regimes and secure collaborator political clients. Subsequently, EI frequently established military bases and training and advisory missions to repress resistance movements and to secure a local military officialdom responsive to the imperial power. The purpose was to secure economic resources and a docile labor force, in order to maximize economic returns.
In other words, in this ‘traditional’ path to economic empire building the military was subordinated to maximizing economic exploitation. Imperial power sought to preserve the post colonial state apparatus and professional cadre but to harness them to the new imperial economic order. EI sought to preserve the elite to maintain law and order as the basic foundation for restructuring the economy. The goal was to secure policies to suit the economic needs of the private corporations and banks of the imperial system. The prime tactic of the imperial institutions was to designate western educated professionals to design policies which maximized private earning. These policies included the privatization of all strategic economic sectors; the demolition of all protective measures favoring local producers (“opening markets”); the implementation of regressive taxes on local consumers, workers and enterprises while lowering or eliminating taxes and controls over imperial firms; the elimination of protective labor legislation and outlawing of independent class organizations.
In its heyday western economic imperialism led to the massive transfer of profits, interest, royalties and ill begotten wealth of the native elite from the post-colonial countries to the imperial centers. As befits post-colonial imperialism the cost of administrating these imperial dependencies was borne by the local workers, farmers and employees.
While contemporary and historic economic imperialism have many similarities, there are a few crucial differences. For example China, the leading example of a contemporary economic imperialism, has not established its “economic beach heads” via military intervention or coups, hence it does not possess ‘military bases’ nor a powerful militarist caste competing with its entrepreneurial class in shaping foreign policy. In contrast traditional Western economic imperialism contained the seeds for the rise of a powerful militarist caste capable, under certain circumstances, of affirming their supremacy in shaping the policies and priorities of empire building.
This is exactly what has transpired over the past twenty years, especially with regard to US empire building.
The Rise and Consolidation of Imperial Barbarism
The dual processes of military intervention and economic exploitation which characterized traditional Western imperialism gradually shifted toward a dominant highly militarized variant of imperialism. Economic interests, both in terms of economic costs and benefits and global market shares were sacrificed in the pursuit of military domination.
The demise of the USSR and the virtual reduction of Russia to the status of a broken state, weakened states allied to it. They were “opened” to Western economic penetration and became vulnerable to Western military attack.
President Bush (senior) perceived the demise of the USSR as an ‘historic opportunity’ to unilaterally impose a unipolar world. According to this new doctrine the US would reign supreme globally and regionally. Projections of US military power would now operate unhindered by any nuclear deterrence. However, Bush (senior) was deeply embedded in the US petroleum industry. Thus he sought to strike a balance between military supremacy and economic expansion. Hence the first Iraq war 1990-91 resulted in the military destruction of Saddam Hussein’s military forces, but without the occupation of the entire country nor the destruction of civil society, economic infrastructure and oil refineries. Bush (senior) represented an uneasy balance between two sets of powerful interests: on the one hand, petroleum corporations eager to access the state owned oil fields and on the other the increasingly powerful militarist zionist power configuration within and outside of his regime. The result was an imperial policy aimed at weakening Saddam as a threat to US clients in the Gulf but without ousting him from power. The fact that he remained in office and continued his support for the Palestinian struggle against the Jewish state’s colonial occupation profoundly irritated Israel and its zionist agents in the US.
With the election of William Clinton, the ‘balance’ between economic and military imperialism shifted dramatically in favor of the latter. Under Clinton, zealous zionists were appointed to many of the strategic foreign policy posts in the Administration. This ensured the sustained bombing of Iraq, wrecking its infrastructure. This barbaric turn was complemented by an economic boycott to destroy the country’s economy and not merely “weaken” Saddam. Equally important, the Clinton regime fully embraced and promoted the ascendancy of finance capital by appointing notorious Wall Streeters (Rubin, Summers, Greenspan et al.) to key positions, weakening the relative power of oil, gas and industrial manufacturers as the driving forces of foreign policy. Clinton set in motion the political ‘agents’ of a highly militarized imperialism, committed to destroying a country in order to dominate it.
The ascent of Bush (junior) extended and deepened the role of the militarist-zionist personnel in government. The self-induced explosions which collapsed the World Trade Towers in New York served as a pretext to precipitate the launch of imperial barbarism and spelled the eclipse of economic imperialism.
While US empire building converted to militarism, China accelerated its turn toward economic imperialism. Their foreign policy was directed toward securing raw materials via trade, direct investments and joint ventures. It gained influence via heavy investments in infrastructure, a kind of developmental imperialism, stimulating growth for itself and the “host” country. In this new historic context of global competition between an emerging market driven empire and an atavistic militarist imperial state, the former gained enormous economic profits at virtually no military or administrative cost while the latter emptied its treasury to secure ephemeral military conquests.
The conversion from economic to militarist imperialism was largely the result of the pervasive and ‘deep’ influence of policymakers of zionist persuasion. Zionist policymakers combined modern technical skills with primitive tribal loyalties. Their singular pursuit of Israel’s dominance in the Middle East led them to orchestrate a series of wars, clandestine operations and economic boycotts crippling the US economy and weakening the economic bases of empire building.
Militarist driven empire building in the present post-colonial global context led inevitably to destructive invasions of relatively stable and functioning nation-states, with strong national loyalties. Destructive wars turned the colonial occupation into prolonged conflicts with resistance movements linked to the general population. Henceforth, the logic and practice of militarist imperialism led directly to widespread and long-term barbarism-the adoption of the Israeli model of colonial terrorism targeting an entire population. This was not a coincidence. Israel’s zionist zealots in Washington “drank deeply” from the cesspool of Israeli totalitarian practices, including mass terror, house demolitions, land seizures, overseas special force assassination teams, systematic mass arrests and torture. These and other barbaric practices, condemned by human rights organizations the world over, (including those in Israel), became routine practices of US barbaric imperialism.
The Means and Goals of Imperial Barbarism
The organizing principle of imperial barbarism is the idea of total war. Total in the sense that (1) all weapons of mass destruction are applied; (2) the whole society is targeted; (3) the entire civil and military apparatus of the state is dismantled and replaced by colonial officials, paid mercenaries and unscrupulous and corrupt satraps. The entire modern professional class is targeted as expressions of the modern national-state and replaced by retrograde religious-ethnic clans and gangs, susceptible to bribes and booty-shares. All existing modern civil society organizations, are pulverized and replaced by crony-plunderers linked to the colonial regime. The entire economy is disarticulated as elementary infrastructure including water, electricity, gas, roads and sewage systems are bombed along with factories, offices, cultural sites, farms and markets.
The Israeli argument of “dual use” targets serves the militarist policymakers as a justification for destroying the bases of a modern civilization. Massive unemployment, population displacement and the return to primitive exchanges characteristic of pre-modern societies define the “social structure”. Educational and health conditions deteriorate and in some cases become non-existent. Curable diseases plague the population and infant deformities result from depleted uranium, the pre-eminent weapon of choice of imperial barbarism.
In summary the ascendancy of barbarous imperialism leads to the eclipse of economic exploitation. The empire depletes its treasury to conquer, destroy and occupy. Even the residual economy is exploited by ‘others’: traders and manufacturers from non-belligerent adjoining states. In the case of Iraq and Afghanistan that includes Iran, Turkey, China and India.
The evanescent goal of barbarous imperialism is total military control, based on the prevention of any economic and social rebirth which might lead to a revival of secular anti-imperialism rooted in a modern republic. The goal of securing a colony ruled by cronies, satraps and ethno-religious warlords – willing givers of military bases and permission to intervene – is central to the entire concept of military driven empire building. The erasure of the historical memory of a modern independent secular nation-state and the accompanying national heritage becomes of singular importance to the barbarous empire. This task is assigned to the academic prostitutes and related publicists who commute between Tel Aviv, the Pentagon, Ivy league universities and Middle East propaganda mills in Washington.
Results and Perspectives
Clearly imperial barbarism (as a social system) is the most retrograde and destructive enemy of modern civilized life. Unlike economic imperialism it does not exploit labor and resources, it destroys the means of production, kills workers, farmers and undermines modern life.
Economic imperialism is clearly more beneficial to the private corporations; but it also potentially lays the bases for its transformation. Its investments lead to the creation of a working and middle class capable of assuming control over the commanding heights of the economy via nationalist and/or socialist struggle. In contrast the discontent of the ravaged population and the pillage of economies under imperial barbarism, has led to the emergence of pre-modern ethno-religious mass movements, with retrograde practices, (mass terror, sectarian violence etc.). Theirs is an ideology fit for a theocratic state.
Economic imperialism with its ‘colonial division of labor’, extracting raw materials and exporting finished goods, inevitably will lead to new nationalist and perhaps later socialist movements. As EI undermines local manufacturers and displaces, via cheap industrial exports, thousands of factory workers, movements will emerge. China may seek to avoid this via ‘plant transplants’. In contrast barbaric imperialism is not sustainable because it leads to prolonged wars which drain the imperial treasury and injury and death of thousands of American soldiers every year. Unending and unwinable colonial wars are unacceptable to the domestic population.
The ‘goals’ of military conquest and satrap rule are illusory. A stable, ‘rooted’ political class capable of ruling by overt or tacit consent is incompatible with colonial overseers. The ‘foreign’ military goals imposed on imperial policymakers via the influential presence of zionists in key offices have struck a mighty blow against the profit seeking opportunities of American multi-nationals via sanctions policies. Pulled downward and outward by high military spending and powerful agents of a foreign power, the resort to barbarism has a powerful effect in prejudicing the US economy.
Countries looking for foreign investment are far more likely to pursue joint ventures with economic driven capital exporters rather than risk bringing in the US with all its military, clandestine special forces and other violent baggage.
Today the overall picture is grim for the future of militarist imperialism. In Latin America, Africa and especially Asia, China has displaced the US as the principal trading partner in Brazil, South Africa and Southeast Asia. In contrast the US wallows in unwinable ideological wars in marginal countries like Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan. The US organizes a coup in tiny Honduras, while China signs on to billion dollar joint ventures in oil and iron projects in Brazil and Venezuela and an Argentine grain production. The US specializes in propping up broken states like Mexico and Columbia, while China invests heavily in extractive industries in Angola, Nigeria, South Africa and Iran. The symbiotic relationship with Israel leads the US down the blind ally of totalitarian barbarism and endless colonial wars. In contrast China deepens its links with the dynamic economies of South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Brazil and the oil riches of Russia and the raw materials of Africa.
James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York. He is the author of 64 books published in 29 languages, and over 560 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, Journal of Contemporary Asia, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has published over 2000 articles. His latest book is War Crimes in Gaza and the Zionist Fifth Column in America (Atlanta:Clarity Pres 2010)
The surprise disclosure that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, through its state Homeland Security Agency, along with a number of local police departments in the state, have been employing a private Israeli security company with strong links to Mossad and the Israeli Defense Force to spy on law-abiding citizens, grows increasingly disturbing when the website of the company, called the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, is examined.
ITRR’s slick site at TerrorResponse.org features a homepage image of an armor-clad soldier or riot policeman preparing to fire an automatic pistol, while the company boasts of being “the preeminent Isreal/American security firm, providing training, intelligence and education for clients across the globe.”
Image captured from ITRR’s website
The firm, which offers courses locally at the University of Philadelphia, notes that all its course offerings, some of which are taught in Israel, are “approved by the Israeli Ministry of Defense.” The course titles include such compelling topics as: “Tactical Advantage in Combat,” “Civilian Battlefield,” “Undercover/Plainclothes Tactical Operations,” “Israeli Shooting Techniques,” “Arena Combat,” “Hard Entry (Arrest)” and “Principles of Night Operations.” While a number of the titles link to course descriptions, the links to the undercover class and the civilian battlefield class were disabled when this reporter visited the site, which was two days after the company’s role as a state security contractor was exposed.
The description for the Tactical Advantage course, which the website says was designed for military, law enforcement and security personnel, describes the program as “intense, dirty, aggressive and based on Israeli Counter-Terror Schools policy.” It says “This course pushes trainees to the physical and mental edge.”
American organizations which engage in protests and rallies, hearing that reference to the Israeli Counter-Terror Schools policy, might recall the IDF’s handling of the aid flotilla that was boarded on the high seas by IDF troops as they read these lines. That assault, in which the Israelis used 9mm semi-automatic weapons against defenders armed at most with sticks and light chains, left nine flotilla participants, including a young Turkish American, dead.
The Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, which only lists a post-box address in Philadelphia (though in its report on the scandal the Philadelphia Inquirer referred to ITRR as a “Philadelphia-based company with offices in Philadelphia and Jerusalem”), also advertises a subsidiary operation it calls a Targeted Action Monitoring Center (TAM-C), which it claims is “world renowned” and which it says supplies “factual, actionable intelligence to subscribers.” All information gathered by the firm’s staff of “former law enforcement, military and intelligence professionals” is sent to the Israeli headquarters of the TAM-C for processing–a move which effectively insulates it from discovery by any surveillance victims who might seek disclosure under federal or state Freedom of Information laws, or who might sue in court for violation of their civil liberties.
While ITRR, founded in 2004, doesn’t name any of its clients, it says they range from Fortune 100 companies, including the power industry, maritime companies, US infrastructure companies, “the company company charged with protecting oil production facilities,” missionary organizations and pharmaceutical firms, to law enforcement agencies and joint terrorism task forces.
A search on Google for references to ITRR doesn’t turn up much, but there is a report in July 2008 by a Washington-based right-wing site called National Terror Alert, which attributes a warning of a “possible large-scale terror attack” to ITRR. Claiming that it had “intercepted communications from an organization closely associated with international terrorists, to include al Qaeda,” the National Terror Alert organization says TIRR reports that, “Available intelligence and recent events indicate that terrorists have an established capability and current intent to mount an attack on the target and there is some additional information on the nature of the threat. It is assessed that an attack on the target is a priority for the terrorists and is likely to be mounted.”
Nothing came of this “alert,” but it should be noted that a year later, the first head of the new federal Department of Homeland Security, former Republican governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge, admitted that the color-coded terror alerts issued by his office had been manipulated to serve Republican political interests. It should also be recalled that the 2008 TIRR “warning” came during the height of the election season, just before the two national party conventions. As the Philadelphia Daily News commented at the time in a headline, “GOP kicks off fall campaign with heightened terror alert.”
But ITRR does much more than just monitor terrorists. Indeed, it seems to be far too busy monitoring legitimate, non-violent and completely legal protest organizations and other political groups to do much real anti-terror work. According to news reports on ITRR’s work for the Pennsylvania Homeland Security Agency and also the Pittsburgh Police Department, it would appear that ITRR was spying on and providing Pennsylvania State Police and Homeland Security with reports on everything from anti-war groups and anti-oil-shale-fracking groups to gay rights groups, animal rights groups, environmental organizations and even Good Schools Pennsylvania, a citizens association formed to back Gov. Ed Rendell’s school reform initiatives. Even a Harrisburg, PA man who likes to bring a 25-foot inflatable pig to demonstrations to symbolize government waste was targeted.
While local news media reports in Philadelphia have suggested that ITRR is just composed of two people, Aaron Richman, an Israeli police captain and security consultant and Michael Perelman, a retired New York City police commander, the website makes it clear that the company actually employs a large number of people in Israel, and may have as many as 15 people working “in the field” in the US.
Its activities are not limited to Pennsylvania either. The firm boasts on its website that “Information provided to clients ranges from issues of global jihad to Mexican Cartel threats along America’s southern border (maybe that’s where Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer got her weird tale, eventually debunked and retracted, of beheadings in the border desert?) to providing guidance of the threat of disorders as a result of international monetary meetings.”
This latter is a reference to the yeoman work ITRR reportedly did for the Pittsburg Police Department in advance of the disastrous G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, which turned into a police riot after the local government and police brought in hundreds of reinforcements from other cities, with cops suited up as though for war, to lock down the city and prevent students from demonstrating against the predations of international capital and international “free trade” agreements. It appears that ITRR had ingratiated its way into the confidence of demonstration planners by having its agents join chat rooms and websites “posing as G-20 opponents.” One wonders whether these same agents may have also acted as agents provocateur.
As the head of Pennsylvania’s Homeland Security Agency, James Powers, who hired ITRR, put it, “We got the information to the Pittsburgh Police, and they were able to cut them off at the pass.”
So much for the Constitutional right to protest!
Several calls for comment made to the Homeland Security Agency and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency which oversees it went unanswered, but Perelman has released a statement saying “The Institute of Terrorism Research and Response tracks events, givinglaw enforcement a heads-up for the potential of disorder as our bulletins provided to the [state] clearly show…[and] does not follow people, conduct surveillance, photograph, or record individuals.”
This claim is undermined by the details in some of its reports (a select bunch of ITRR weekly “terror” alert report released by the state government after the scandal broke included one on the Brandywine Peace Community, which regularly runs a protest at the Lockheed Martin military contractor plant just northwest of Philadelphia. The report says, “When their focus is not directed at Lockheed itself, protesters will likely gather at the traffic light on the corner of Mall and Goddard to wave signs at cars.” Less this report not sound terrifying enough, the report adds ominously (with no supporting evidence to back its claim) that even so, the event could attract “radical protesters from the ranks of local communist and/or anarchist movements.”
Gov. Rendell, after the story about ITRR’s activities for the state under a no-bid, $125,000/year contract, broke, claimed he was “embarrassed” by the spying on non-violent civic action organizations, and vowed to cancel the contract effective this October.
It is not clear, however, that there will be any information provided about who was spied on over the time the company has been active. Members of both political parties in the state legislature are calling for a General Assembly hearing into ITRR’s activities, but such calls in this closely divided body generally come to little or nothing. Meanwhile, Rendell, a lame duck governor headed for the exit, is unlikely to do anything about the issue beyond saying he’s embarrassed by it. He has said he has no intention of firing Powers.
I know how damaging this kind of spying by state and local governments can be. Back in the mid-1970s, when I and some journalist colleagues owned and ran a small weekly alternative newspaper in Los Angeles, the LA Vanguard, we were among the targets of a massive illegal spying campaign by the paranoid Los Angeles Police Department’s “red squad,” the Public Disorder Intelligence Division. Our staff was actually penetrated by a young red squad officer, who pretended to be a student wannabe journalist in order to try to learn our sources for reports on the LAPD. But we were only one of about 200 groups, ranging from a local anti-nuclear group to the Peace & Freedom Party, a well-known third party in California electoral politics, to the National Organization for Woman and even the office of then City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky.
The reason we all learned about what the LAPD red squad was doing was that one spy was outed, a class-action suit was filed by the ACLU of Southern California, there was discovery ordered by the court, and eventually the city of Los Angeles settled with the victims of the campaign, to the tune of $1.8 million.
The Pennsylvania ACLU may eventually sue Pennsylvania over this latest domestic spying outrage, but the times have changed, and it is hard to be confident that the courts, no great friend of civil liberties at the state level, and packed with Reagan and Bush 1 and 2 appointees at the federal level, will mandate disclosure of the names of groups spied on, much less of the records that were compiled. Furthermore, because the state did this spying through an outside contractor, which is headquartered in Israel, government and police agencies could claim that the records are for the most part out of their hands and beyond the courts’ jurisdiction.
At least one man, Gene Stilp, owner of the giant inflatable pig, already has plans to sue the government in federal court. “When people’s civil rights are trampled it’s a federal issue,” says Stilp, himself a licensed attorney. Stilp says he isn’t satisfied with Rendell’s statement that he is “embarrassed” by the disclosure of ITRR’s contract. “Being embarrassed doesn’t cut it,” says Stilp, who is calling for an investigation into ITRR’s spying activities by the attorney general or the federal government, and full disclosure of which groups and individuals were spied upon.
Another person who has good reason to believe he was probably targeted by ITRR is ThisCantBeHappening!’s own John Grant. Says Grant, “The more I read about this affair, the more disturbing it seems. I’m a Vietnam veteran and part of an organization — Veterans For Peace — that very publicly opposes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We meet monthly and we organize events with other anti-war groups. All First-Amendment-protected, red-blooded American stuff. To think that some self-ordained watchdog group of security freaks is monitoring me and my friends and reporting our activities to God-knows who in the context of ‘terrorism’ — and probably making tons of money doing it — really pisses me off. Governor Rendell should be embarrassed. He should come clean and make public all the groups and people this gang was spying and reporting on. The fact they are somehow connected to Israel — a nation many of us have been critical of — is further reason to clear up what’s going on.”
Mark Perry reports on the latest incident in the West Bank which indicates that the Palestinian acting president, Mahmoud Abbas, can now only impose his authority by force.
On Aug. 25, one week prior to the opening of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, a group of Palestinians held a conference in Ramallah to discuss – and protest — President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to travel to Washington to attend the talks. The Ramallah gathering, to be held at Ramallah’s Protestant Club meeting house, had been meticulously planned by a prominent coalition of political activists that included Palestinian businessmen, acknowledged leaders in Palestinian civil society and respected leaders of Palestinian political parties. “This was to be an open forum, an assembly to debate and discuss,” Munib al-Masri, the founder of the Palestine Forum and one of the meeting’s organizers said in an interview from his home in Nablus. “Our intention was to exercise our right to assemble and debate. Tragically, that’s not what happened.”
As the crowd of attendees (later estimated at between 250-300 people) began to gather at noon on Aug. 25, a group of about 100 non-uniformed officers from the Palestinian General Intelligence Service entered the hall carrying placards featuring Abbas’s picture and shouting pro-Abbas slogans. Across the street, at the headquarters of Al Haq — an independent human rights organization — Shawan Jabarin, the organization’s director (who had been invited to attend the meeting), heard of the commotion and decided to walk to the meeting hall. Jabarin described the scene: “This was going to be a large and important meeting,” he said, “so there were already 200 to 300 people in the hall at noon. But it was clear they wouldn’t be allowed to speak. The security people were shouting slogans, intimidating people. I saw a sign — ‘Stop Supporting Iran.’”
Inside the hall, those disrupting the meeting (Israeli journalist Amira Hess described them in Haaretz as “young men of similar appearance — well-developed muscles, civilian clothes and stern facial expressions”) began to shout down the first speaker, Dr. Mamdouh Al Aker, the director of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (PICCR). When Aker asked for a moment of silence “in memory of those who gave their lives for the Palestinian people and the Arab nation” he was whistled down and the crowd of young men began to shout in unison: “With our blood and our souls, we will redeem you, Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas].” The young men, now a phalanx of intimidating muscle and anger, began to push and shove the attendees out of the building. “People were frightened and were pushed outside, shoved out by the security people,” Al Haq’s Jabarin remembers. “It was outrageous, so I directed my staff to take pictures.”
Mustafa Barghouti, the head of the Palestinian National Initiative (a leading and increasingly strong political movement inside Palestine) and one of the most prominent leaders scheduled to speak at the meeting was in the crowd as it was pushed out of the meeting house. He attempted to maintain order and separate the meeting’s attendees from the group disrupting the gathering. “People were pushed into the street,” he remembers, “and that’s when the beatings began. It was very violent. The General Intelligence people were pushing people to the ground.” On the street in front of the Protestant Club, meanwhile, members of the Al Haq staff began to document the incident. “We had a camera, one of my staff members had a camera,” Jabarin says, “and we were trying to take pictures. But my staff member who had the camera was pushed down and the security official attempted to take the camera, to break it. This man was beating him and when one of my other staff members tried to help him, she was pushed to the ground and beaten. They got the camera.”
Standing nearby, Bassam al-Salhi, general secretary of the Palestine Peoples’ Party (and a former candidate for president), also attempted to stop the beatings. “This was mob violence,” he says. “But I thought that if we could somehow move up the street we could stop the confrontations.” Facing continued harassment, the group decided to walk to a nearby park, but were prevented from doing so by the Ramallah police. “They didn’t participate in the violence,” Salhi says of the police, “but they didn’t try to stop it either. Eventually, we had nowhere to go – so people just ran away. They had no choice.” The leaders of the conference, meanwhile, decided to take their protest of the incident to the headquarters of Watan, a local television station. But when they appeared on camera, a vocal group of security officials shouted them down, waving their placards in front of the Watan cameras. Inevitably, perhaps, the continued intimidation of the speakers was successful – and the crowd at Watan dispersed.
Writing from Gaza, Laila El-Haddad says:
There is very little patience in Gaza for this latest set of talks. They are not only being conducted without a national consensus by what is broadly considered an illegitimate government, but they also completely marginalise the Gaza Strip and overlook the blockade and asphyxiation it has suffered for more than four years.
“When people started to talk about negotiations and going back to the peace process and all, I thought, wait a minute, who took our opinion before going there?” said Ola Anan, 25, a computer engineer from Gaza City. “I mean, Mahmoud Abbas is now a president who’s out of his presidential term. So in whose name is he talking? In the name of Palestinians? I don’t think so.”
Abu el-Abed, a 30-year-old fisherman who sells crabs in the coastal Gaza enclave of Mawasi said: “We hear about the negotiations on television, but we don’t see them reflected on the ground. They’re not feasible. Gaza’s completely marginalised as far as negotiations go. There’s no electricity, there’s no water. There’s no movement. Living expenses are high. And the borders are all closed.”
Ultimately, Gazans know very little or care very little about what is happening in Washington, because what’s happening in Washington cares very little about them, says Nader Nabulsi, a shopkeeper in Gaza City’s Remal neighbourhood: “These negotiations don’t belong to us, and we don’t belong to them.”
Nabulsi, like many others here, feels the negotiations are farcical given the fractured nature of the Palestinian leadership, but also given the fact that most consider Abbas’s government illegitimate and his term expired.