Officials in Bay Minette, Ala., have crossed a constitutional line by creating a program that allows low-level offenders to choose between fines and jail or going to church for a year, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
“I have just two words for this ill-considered scheme: blatantly unconstitutional,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Government simply can’t put people in a position where their only choice is Jesus or jail.”
Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland says 56 churches have agreed to take part in the program, dubbed “Operation Restore Our Community.” Rowland says the plan is legal because no one is forced to go to church – they can choose fines or incarceration instead.
Americans United says Bay Minette is offering no real choice at all and that the scheme will clearly have the effect of funneling people into houses of worship.
In a letter to Rowland and Mayor Jamie Tillery sent today, attorneys with Americans United urged the town to drop the plan.
“Under well-established decisions, the City may not force individuals – even those convicted of crimes – to choose between religion and jail,” reads the letter.
The letter goes on to say, “The Program would be unconstitutional even if participants could, as the City has asserted, attend the religious service of their choice. For one, any such choice is purely theoretical: only churches participate in the Program and so in practice defendants must attend Christian services. In any event, the Program would violate the Constitution even if other religions did participate because the First Amendment also requires the government to remain neutral between religion and non-religion.”
The letter requests a response within 14 days.
Americans United’s letter was drafted by Gregory M. Lipper, AU litigation counsel, and AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
Immediately following the convictions of the Irvine 11 students last Friday, student and activism groups across the US have condemned the guilty verdicts while pledging to stand in solidarity with the Irvine 11, defend free speech and protect the right to dissent.
More than 30 Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) university chapters nationwide signed onto a pledge over the weekend that stated, in full:
We join our voices with the unjustly charged and convicted Irvine 11, who dared to draw attention to Israel’s war crimes. Orange County District Attorney, Tony Rackauckus, has punished students who care about the world enough to try to change it. The 11 students refused to remain silent when Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren spoke at the University of California, Irvine in February 2010. Their brief outbursts, at best representing protected First Amendment speech and at worst harmless civil disobedience, have led to McCarthyistic misdemeanor charges. On September 23, 2011, an Orange Country jury found them “guilty.”
We unequivocally condemn these charges, which unfairly single out and criminalize Muslim students who chose to exercise their First Amendment right to speak out against Israel’s human rights abuses. Had the speaker not been Israeli, had the issue not been Palestine, had the students not been Muslim, these charges never would have been pursued. Rather, these charges reflect a climate of Islamophobia and an irrational exceptionalism for Israel when it comes to free speech. The charges chill the free exchange of ideas and students’ right to protest at universities nationwide.
It is our right and duty to speak out against Israel’s egregious violations of international law and Palestinian rights. The American government gives Israel over three billion dollars a year in military aid and is therefore directly responsible for Israel’s actions. We are troubled by the increased suppression of student voices in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. Student groups around the country continue to be targeted for their criticisms of Israeli governmental policies. University administrators find themselves under intense pressure from the Israel Lobby when pro-Palestine events occur on campus. It comes in the form of public smearing, alumni pressure, and frivolous lawsuits, as well as U.S. Department of Education investigations that seek to classify criticism of Israel as a violation of students’ civil rights. But it is the criminal prosecution of the Irvine 11 and the silencing of student activists everywhere that violate our civil rights.
It is inconceivable to suggest that Ambassador Oren, who has published four opinion-editorials in the New York Times alone and can easily command the attention of newspapers and television crews, has been denied a voice. On the other hand, it is routine for Palestinians to be silenced by the military and government that he represents without any media attention. The Irvine 11 shed light on the Palestinian voices constantly excluded from the media and public discourse.
To the Irvine 11: you are not alone. Like Dr. King wrote of his own unjust verdict, this week in September, the court convicted more than just you; it convicted every student dedicated to upholding human rights and ending injustice. We commend you for your courage and moral clarity. We know that the Irvine 11 are convicted criminals — but we are proud of their crime.
Harvard University’s Palestine Solidarity Committee posted a similar press release that stated:
The Irvine 11 should be commended for confronting Oren’s propaganda effort to whitewash Israel’s criminal actions and policies in front of college audiences. Instead, they have been unjustly punished for constitutionally-protected dissent that is a routine part of student activism, including here at Harvard.
On November 23, 2009, Harvard students also staged a walk-out of a speech by Oren at the Harvard Kennedy School. Last year, AIDS activists from Harvard and other colleges heckled and interrupted President Obama while he spoke in Boston. In neither case were students punished for exercising their right to protest.
… We call on students to support the Irvine 11 as they move ahead in appealing this unjust verdict. Further, we call on students to redouble their Palestine solidarity efforts. This attack only reinforces the urgency of continuing to organize in support of equality, justice and freedom for Palestinians and all oppressed peoples.
As expected, rhetoric notwithstanding, the actual application submitted by Mr. Abbas to the UN General Secretary for admission of the “State of Palestine” as a full member in the UN does not contain any clause that may arguably protect the status of the PLO as the sole, legitimate representative of the entire Palestinian people.
For fairness, Abbas did, without doubt, raise the ceiling of his political and legal discourse from -10 to just about +50 (out of a 100). His description of Israel as an apartheid state (twice); his mention of the 1948 Nakba and dispossession; his condemnation of Israeli state terrorism; his endorsement of peaceful resistance (it is not everyday that Abbas even utters the R word!), etc. were all appreciated departures from his usual, lackluster, compromised, low-ceiling discourse, for sure.
Still, the fact remains that the very application for membership undermines Palestinian interests and directly jeopardizes the representation of most Palestinians at the UN and their ability to politically assert their inalienable rights. While our inalienable rights cannot be voided or extinguished by this or any other “diplomatic” maneuver, our ability to struggle for these rights in international forums will be severely damaged if the PLO is replaced by this imaginary “State of Palestine” at the UN.
Also, nothing has changed about the fact that we do not have a democratically elected leadership that is mandated to speak for all of us. It is more urgent than ever to revive — or what I’ve called, take back — the PLO from the grassroots up by holding free, democratic, representative, inclusive elections for the Palestine National Council (PNC), our parliament in exile, in which every Palestinian is formally represented.
I, therefore, stand by every word I’d written in my opinion column prior to Abbas’s UN speech. I ended that piece saying:
Ignoring the will of the people and potentially sacrificing their basic rights in order to secure some illusory advantages at the “negotiations” table hurts Palestinian interests and endangers the great advances our popular and civil struggle has achieved to date, particularly as a result of the global BDS movement. It would in effect reduce the Arab Spring to a Palestinian autumn.
Going to the UN should be strongly supported by all Palestinians – and, consequently, by solidarity groups worldwide – if done by a trusted, democratically elected, accountable leadership and if it expressly represents the will of the Palestinian people and our collective right to self determination.
Alas, neither condition is met in the current “September Initiative,” which may end up replacing the “194” we’ve always struggled to implement with a “194” that is little more than another irresponsible leap away from accountability and from the inevitable repercussions of the sweeping Arab Spring.
Also, even in his speech, Abbas repeated his religious commitment to the patently futile and damaging “negotiations” and, more crucially, to the most dangerous concession ever made by any Palestinian official — replacing the inalienable right of the Palestinian refugees to return, in accordance with UN res. 194, with the “just and agreed upon solution” adopted in the so-called Arab Peace Initiative under heavy pressures from the US. This formulation effectively gives Israel veto power over our refugees’ return. Not to mention Abbas’s failure, still, to even mention the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality. He did, to his credit, describe them for the first time as Palestinians, when in the past he used to consider them, more or less, part of Israel’s “domestic issues.”
Finally, Abbas reiterated his opposition to “isolating Israel.” This must go down in the history of national liberation movements (I know, I know!) as the first time an ostensible leader of the colonized rejects any attempt by his own people and those in solidarity with them internationally to isolate the colonizer! I hope Mandela does not get a heart attack from reading this. Gandhi, Che Guevara and many others must be turning like mad in their graves!
It is not for nothing that Israel’s wisest Zionist, Shimon Peres, today called Abbas ”the best Palestinian leader Israel will work with.”
After an extensive investigation the Turkish government has released the names of the Israeli soldiers who participated in the attack on the Mavi Marmara. This news broke today in Sabah, a Turkish newspaper.
The search for the identities of Israeli soldiers who participated in the deadly Flotilla raid began after Turkish intelligence demanded the information from Israel who refused to release the information. The Turkish government has requested an apology from Israel as well as compensation for victims of the attack and lifting the blockade on Gaza to abort this investigation. After Israel refused the Turkish government warned they would pursue criminal charges against individuals who participated in the attack. The prosecutor conducting the investigation on the Mavi Marmara raid is Mehmet Akif Ekinci of Turkey’s Ministry of Justice.
The Turkish Intelligence Service as well as other agencies have conducted the identification and image hunt by meticulously combing thru all video and photographic evidence available thru worldwide media including leads thru thousands of facebook and twitter accounts. Members of the crew as well as passengers on the Mavi Marmara also participated in the investigation. Turkish experts in Hebrew were vital in following leads thru Israeli social media sites.
Israeli soldiers who have been identified thus far are:
Agai Yehezkel, Aharon Haliwa, Alex Shakliar, Amir Ulo, Amir Abste, Amir Shimon Ashel, Anna Strelski, Anton Siomin, Aram Zehavi, Ariel Brickman, Ariel Karo, Ariel Rifkin, Ariel Yochanan, Arnon Avital, Assaf Bryt, Avi Balut, Avi Bnayahu, Avi Mizrakhi, Avi Peled, Aviad Perri, Aviel Siman, Avihay Wizman, Avihu Ben Zahar, Avishay Levi, Avishay Shasha, Aviv Edri, Aviv Kochavi, Aviv Mendelowitz, Baruch (Barry) Berlinsky, Basam Alian, Ben-Zion (Benzi) Gruver, Bnaya Sarel, Boaz Dabush, Boaz Rubin, Boris Schuster, Dado Bar- Kalifa, Dan Dolberg, Dan Harel, Daniel Kotler, David Shapira, David Slovozkoi, David Zini, Eden Atias, Eden Atias, Efraim Aviad Tehila, Efraim Avni, Eitan Ben-Gad, Elad Chachkis, Elad Itzik, Elad Shoshan, Elad Yakobson, Eli Fadida, Eli Yafe, Eliezer Shkedi, Elik Sror, Eran Karisi, Erez Sa’adon, Eyal Eizenberg, Eyal Handelman, Eyal Zukowsky, Gil Shen, Gur Rozenblat, Gur Schreibmann, Guy Givoni, Guy Hazut, Haggai Amar, Hanan Schwart, Harel Naaman, Hila Yafe, Ido Nechushtan, Ilan Malka, Itay Virob, Liran Nachman, Michelle Ben-Baruch, Miki Ohayon, Moshe Tamir, Nadav Musa, Nathan Be’eri, Nezah Rubin, Nimrod Schefer, Nir Ben-David, Nir Dupet, Nir Ohayon, Niv Samban, Noam Keshwisky, Ofek Gal, Ofer Lahad, Ofer Levi, Ofer Winter, Ofer Zafrir, Ofir Edri, Ohad Girhish, Ohad Najme, Omer Dori, Omri Dover, Or Nelkenbaum, Oren Bersano, Oren Cohen, Oren Kupitz, Oren Zini, Pinkhas Buchris, Raz Sarig, Ron Asherov, Ron Levinger, Ron Shirto, Ronen Dan, Ronen Dogmi, Roi Elkabetz, Roi Oppenheimer, Roi Weinberger, Sahar Abargel, Shai Belaich, Shaked Galin, Sharon Itach, Shaul Badusa, Shay Unger, Shimon Siso, Shiran Mussa, Shlomit Tako, Tal Alkobi, Tal Bendel, Tal Kommemi, Tal Ruso, Tamir Oren, Tamir Yadai, Tom Cohen, Tomer Meltzmann, Geva Rapp, Tslil Birbir, Udi Sagie, Uri Ron, Yair Keinan, Yair Palay, Ya’akov(Yaki) Dolf, Yaniv Zolicha, Yaron,Finkelman, Yaron Simsulo, Yehosua (Shuki) Ribak, Yehu Ofer, Yehuda Fuchs, Yehuda Hacohen, Yigal Slovik, Yigal Sudri, Yizhar Yona, Yoav Galant, Yoav Gertner, Yoav Mordechai, Yochai Siemann, Yochanan Locker, Yom-Tov Samia, Yonathan Barenski, Yonathan Felman, Yoni Weitzner, Yossi Abuzaglo, Yossi Bahar, Yossi Beidaz, Yotam Dadon, Yishai Ankri, Yishai Green, Yuval Halamish, Zion Bramli, Zion Shankour, Ziv Danieli, Ziv Trabelsi, Zuf Salomon, Zvi Fogel, Zvi Yehuda Kelner.
There remain Israeli soldiers who have yet to be identified by name although their images are familiar to investigators.
Economic policy in the United States and Europe has failed, and people are suffering.
Economic policy failed for three reasons: (1) policymakers focused on enabling offshoring corporations to move middle class jobs, and the consumer demand, tax base, GDP, and careers associated with the jobs, to foreign countries, such as China and India, where labor is inexpensive; (2) policymakers permitted financial deregulation that unleashed fraud and debt leverage on a scale previously unimaginable; (3) policymakers responded to the resulting financial crisis by imposing austerity on the population and running the printing press in order to bail out banks and prevent any losses to the banks regardless of the cost to national economies and innocent parties.
Jobs offshoring was made possible because the collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in China and India opening their vast excess supplies of labor to Western exploitation. Pressed by Wall Street for higher profits, US corporations relocated their factories abroad. Foreign labor working with Western capital, technology, and business know-how is just as productive as US labor. However, the excess supplies of labor (and lower living standards) mean that Indian and Chinese labor can be hired for less than labor’s contribution to the value of output. The difference flows into profits, resulting in capital gains for shareholders and performance bonuses for executives.
As reported by Manufacturing and Technology News (September 20, 2011) the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages reports that in the last 10 years, the US lost 54,621 factories, and manufacturing employment fell by 5 million employees. Over the decade, the number of larger factories (those employing 1,000 or more employees) declined by 40 percent. US factories employing 500-1,000 workers declined by 44 percent; those employing between 250-500 workers declined by 37 percent, and those employing between 100-250 workers shrunk by 30 percent.
These losses are net of new start-ups. Not all the losses are due to offshoring. Some are the result of business failures.
US politicians, such as Buddy Roemer, blame the collapse of US manufacturing on Chinese competition and “unfair trade practices.” However, it is US corporations that move their factories abroad, thus replacing domestic production with imports. Half of US imports from China consist of the offshored production of US corporations.
The wage differential is substantial. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2009 average hourly take-home pay for US workers was $23.03. Social insurance expenditures add $7.90 to hourly compensation and benefits paid by employers add $2.60 per hour for a total labor compensation cost of $33.53.
In China, as of 2008 total hourly labor cost was $1.36, and India’s is within a few cents of this amount. Thus, a corporation that moves 1,000 jobs to China saves $32,000 every hour in labor cost. These savings translate into higher stock prices and executive compensation, not in lower prices for consumers who are left unemployed by the labor arbitrage.
Republican economists blame “high” US wages for the current high rate of unemployment. However, US wages are about the lowest in the developed world. They are far below hourly labor cost in Norway ($53.89), Denmark ($49.56), Belgium ($49.40), Austria ($48.04), and Germany ($46.52). The US might have the world’s largest economy, but its hourly workers rank 14th on the list of the best paid. Americans also have a higher unemployment rate. The “headline” rate that the media hypes is 9.1 percent, but this rate does not include any discouraged workers or workers forced into part-time jobs because no full-time jobs are available.
The US government has another unemployment rate (U6) that includes workers who have been too discouraged to seek a job for six months or less. This unemployment rate is over 16 percent. Statistician John Williams (Shadowstats.com) estimates the unemployment rate when long-term discouraged workers (more than six months) are included. This rate is over 22 percent.
Most emphasis is on the lost manufacturing jobs. However, the high speed Internet has made it possible to offshore many professional service jobs, such as software engineering, Information Technology, research and design. Jobs that comprised ladders of upward mobility for US college graduates have been moved offshore, thus reducing the value to Americans of many university degrees. Unlike former times, today an increasing number of graduates return home to live with their parents as there are insufficient jobs to support their independent existence.
All the while, the US government allows in each year one million legal immigrants, an unknown number of illegal immigrants, and a large number of foreign workers on H-1B and L-1 work visas. In other words, the policies of the US government maximize the unemployment rate of American citizens.
Republican economists and politicians pretend that this is not the case and that unemployed Americans consist of people too lazy to work who game the welfare system. Republicans pretend that cutting unemployment benefits and social assistance will force “lazy people who are living off the taxpayers” to go to work.
To deal with the adverse impact on the economy from the loss of jobs and consumer demand from offshoring, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan lowered interest rates in order to create a real estate boom. Lower interest rates pushed up real estate prices. People refinanced their houses and spent the equity. Construction, furniture and appliance sales boomed. But unlike previous expansions based on rising real income, this one was based on an increase in consumer indebtedness.
There is a limit to how much debt can increase in relation to income, and when this limit was reached, the bubble popped.
When consumer debt could rise no further, the large fraudulent component in mortgage-backed derivatives and the unreserved swaps (AIG, for example) threatened financial institutions with insolvency and froze the banking system. Banks no longer trusted one another. Cash was hoarded. Treasury Secretary Paulson, browbeat Congress into massive taxpayer loans to financial institutions that functioned as casinos. The Paulson Bailout (TARP) was large but insignificant compared to the $16.1 trillion (a sum larger than US GDP or national debt) that the Federal Reserve lent to private financial institutions in the US and Europe.
In making these loans, the Federal Reserve violated its own rules. At this point, capitalism ceased to function. The financial institutions were “too big to fail,” and thus taxpayer subsidies took the place of bankruptcy and reorganization. In a word, the US financial system was socialized as the losses of the American financial institutions were transferred to taxpayers.
European banks were swept up into the financial crisis by their unwitting purchase of the junk financial instruments marketed by Wall Street. The financial junk had been given investment grade rating by the same incompetent agency that recently downgraded US Treasury bonds.
The Europeans had their own bailouts, often with American money (Federal Reserve loans). All the while Europe was brewing an additional crisis of its own. By joining the European Union and (except for the UK) accepting a common European currency, the individual member countries lost the services of their own central banks as creditors.
In the US and UK the two countries’ central banks can print money with which to purchase US and UK debt. This is not possible for member countries in the EU.
When financial crisis from excessive debt hit the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) their central banks could not print euros in order to buy up their bonds, as the Federal Reserve did with “quantitative easing.” Only the European Central Bank (ECB) can create euros, and it is prevented by charter and treaty from printing euros in order to bail out sovereign debt.
In Europe, as in the US, the driver of economic policy quickly became saving the private banks from losses on their portfolios. A deal was struck with the socialist government of Greece, which represented the banks and not the Greek people. The ECB would violate its charter and together with the IMF, which would also violate its charter, would lend enough money to the Greek government to avoid default on its sovereign bonds to the private banks that had purchased the bonds. In return for the ECB and IMF loans and in order to raise the money to repay them, the Greek government had to agree to sell to private investors the national lottery, Greece’s ports and municipal water systems, a string of islands that are a national preserve, and in addition to impose a brutal austerity on the Greek people by lowering wages, cutting social benefits and pensions, raising taxes, and laying off or firing government workers.
In other words, the Greek population is to be sacrificed to a small handful of foreign banks in Germany, France and the Netherlands.
The Greek people, unlike “their” socialist government, did not regard this as a good deal. They have been in the streets ever since.
Jean-Claude Trichet, head of the ECB, said that the austerity imposed on Greece was a first step. If Greece did not deliver on the deal, the next step was for the EU to take over Greece’s political sovereignty, make its budget, decide its taxation, decide its expenditures and from this process squeeze out enough from Greeks to repay the ECB and IMF for lending Greece the money to pay the private banks.
In other words, Europe under the EU and Jean-Claude Trichet is a return to the most extreme form of feudalism in which a handful of rich are pampered at the expense of everyone else.
This is what economic policy in the West has become–a tool of the wealthy used to enrich themselves by spreading poverty among the rest of the population.
On September 21 the Federal Reserve announced a modified QE 3. The Federal Reserve announced that the bank would purchase $400 billion of long-term Treasury bonds over the next nine months in an effort to drive long-term US interest rates even further below the rate of inflation, thus maximizing the negative rate of return on the purchase of long-term Treasury bonds. The Federal Reserve officials say that this will lower mortgage rates by a few basis points and renew the housing market.
The officials say that QE 3, unlike its predecessors, will not result in the Federal Reserve printing more dollars in order to monetize US debt. Instead, the central bank will raise money for the bond purchases by selling holdings of short-term debt. Apparently, the Federal Reserve believes it can do this without raising short-term interest rates, because back during the recent debt-ceiling-government-shutdown-crisis, the Federal Reserve promised banks that it would keep the short-term interest rate (essentially zero) constant for two years.
The Fed’s new policy will do far more harm than good. Interest rates are already negative. To make them more so will have no positive effect. People aren’t buying houses because interest rates are too high, but because they are either unemployed or worried about their jobs and do not see a recovering economy.
Already insurance companies can make no money on their investments. Consequently, they are unable to build their reserves against claims. Their only alternative is to raise their premiums. The cost of a homeowner’s policy will go up by more than the cost of a mortgage will decline. The cost of health insurance will go up. The cost of car insurance will rise. The Federal Reserve’s newly announced policy will impose more costs on the economy than it will reduce.
In addition, in America today savings earn nothing. Indeed, they produce an ongoing loss as the interest rate is below the inflation rate. The Federal Reserve has interest rates so low that only professionals who are playing arbitrage with algorithm-programmed computer models can make money. The typical saver and investor can get nothing on bank CDs, money market funds, municipal and government bonds. Only high risk debt, such as Greek and Spanish bonds, pay an interest rate that is higher than inflation.
For four years interest rates, when properly measured, have been negative. Americans are getting by, maintaining living standards, by consuming their capital. Even those with a cushion are eating their seed corn. The path that the US economy is on means that the number of Americans without resources to sustain them will be rising. Considering the extraordinary political incompetence of the Democratic Party, the right wing of the Republican Party, which is committed to eliminating income support programs, could find itself in power. If the right-wing Republicans implement their program, the US will be beset with political and social instability. As Gerald Celente says, “when people have have nothing left to lose, they lose it.”
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. His latest book is How the Economy Was Lost (CounterPunch / AK Press).
The sight of Netanyahu parading Obama on a leash at the United Nations must gratify the egomaniacs lounging around the Israeli Lobby; it certainly ranks as one of the greatest stunts ever pulled by the American wing of the Likud party. But for many Americans, it was humiliating – even degrading. Watching Obama mouthing his Netanyahu scripted lines left little doubt as to who was the Alpha Dog in the American-Israeli ‘strategic’ relationship.
A lot of people felt genuine sorrow for Obama as he went through the motions of giving his speech at the General Assembly. He would pause, wait for applause and not hear the clap of a solitary pair of hands. The assembled delegates endured the president’s entire speech and only applauded politely when the farce was over and he stepped down from the podium. After the speech, the president groveled over to a pre-arranged press conference with Netanyahu and the supreme Israeli leader duly anointed him with a “badge of honor.”
Everybody — and I mean everybody — understood exactly what Obama was doing – he was capitulating to the Israeli Lobby to bolster his re-election campaign. It’s not easy to raise a billion bucks and the big Jewish donors had sent a clear message to the White House. They wanted to buy the American veto and the president was obviously willing to sell it.
Two days later, the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas brought down the house with a moving speech calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state. The contrast between the performance of Obama and Abbas was a rare spectacle. Abbas has been called a lot of things but no one has ever mistaken him for a charismatic leader. And there he was bringing tears to the eyes of millions around the world with an eloquent plea for justice for his down-trodden people.
There was something else in Abbas’s message – a lot of truth. I challenge anybody to fact check Abbas’s description of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation. Obama is perfectly aware of the accuracy of Abbas’s depiction of the daily humiliations and privations visited on the Palestinians by their tormentors. For one thing, POTUS gets daily CIA briefings. Unlike Bush, he reads books and newspapers and, as a lawyer, he is quite familiar with international human rights conventions.
Now, let’s go back to Obama’s disgraceful performance before the United Nations Assembly. Obama didn’t just sell Netanyahu the American veto, he deployed brigades of State Department ambassadors to arm twist members of the United Nations Security Council, including France, Great Britain and other NATO allies. What favors were promised? What price was paid? How much respect did he lose? How much American dignity and prestige was squandered to appease Netanyahu?
Obama didn’t stop there. He adopted the Likud’s narrative of the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – the mythology of a ‘peace loving’ Israel surrounded by ‘hostile war mongering Arabs.’ Is that so? I think the British and French could enlighten the president on the 1956 Suez war and how they teamed up with Israel to attack Egypt. It was an American president, Eisenhower, who intervened to end the Tripartite Aggression against Egypt. Look it up.
How about the six-day war which started with an Israeli attack and resulted in the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, Sinai and the Golan Heights? The Israelis claimed it was a ‘pre-emptive’ strike and then immediately proceeded to annex Jerusalem and build settlements in the West Bank, the Golan Heights, Gaza and Sinai with the explicit aim of changing the demographics of the region. It was a blatant land grab. The inhabitants of these exclusive Jewish settlements are not there for ‘security’ reasons – they believe God wanted them to ‘redeem’ the land from the Palestinian ‘squatters’ who just happen to be the indigenous people of the Holy Land. The irony is that the Palestinians are the only nation on earth that can establish a definitive link to the ancient people of the Holy Land – including the ancient Israelites.
And let’s not forget the 1973 war. It was fought on occupied Arab land. Egypt and Syria had every legal right to recover the lands stolen from them in 1967 by any means necessary. These were internationally recognized sovereign Egyptian and Syrian territories under belligerent Israeli occupation.
I imagine Obama was old enough to process the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. If he can’t recollect the details, he should Google “Sabra and Shatilla” and order up some old footage of the siege of Beirut. Even Reagan was outraged and that alone should give Obama a clue about who has been in on the attack for the last 63 years.
I’m sure the state department can give Obama casualty statistics on the 2006 war in Lebanon and the 2008 invasion of Gaza. They can also confirm that no Arab Army has ever breached the 1949 Armistice line. Since the end of the 1948 war, no Israeli city has ever been bombed by an Arab air force and, in the last 38 years, no hostile military actions have taken place on Israel’s border with Egypt, Syria or Jordan. The Israelis preferred to pick on the weakest and most fragile Arab country in the region – Lebanon.
Which takes us back to 1948 which actually started in 1947 with the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian towns and villages. Contrary to Zionist mythology, the Arab armies did not intervene until hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had been unceremoniously evicted from their homes and the battles they fought were largely confined to the areas allocated to the Palestinian state by the 1947 Palestinian partition plan. That’s the verifiable historic record that has been confirmed by dozens of Israeli academics and historians; everything else is Likudnik mythology. Consult the work of Israel Shahak for a complete list of the Palestinian villages and towns that were obliterated from the face of the map.
I’m not even going to go into the Israeli Lobby’s role in marketing the WMD scam and ensnaring Americans in the Iraq war or how they used their substantial influence in Washington to back up their favorite Arab dictator, Mubarak.
To coin a phrase, Israelis are the most dangerous people in a dangerous neighborhood. A tally of the amount of damage they have inflicted on the Palestinian people and other Arabs over the last six decades helps explain Arab hostility to their belligerent neighbor. In what was perhaps his most inflammatory remark, Obama vilified Arabs by claiming that the conflict was a result of Arabs teaching irrational hatred to their children. Anyone vaguely familiar with the roots of the conflict can explain to the president that Arab grievances are a natural result of their memories of the sons and daughters that were murdered, imprisoned, dispossessed and humiliated by the so-called Israeli ‘Defense’ Forces. But Obama doesn’t need any explanations; he knew that already. He was just sending a coded signal to Netanyahu’s lobby that he had capitulated to all their demands.
The bottom line is that Israeli security issue is a bogus issue. It’s the Palestinians and Arabs who need security guarantees and American commitments to restrain a nuclear armed Israel from invading their lands and dispossessing their people.
Of course, Obama knew he was lying about the history of the conflict and so did every other knowledgeable delegate in the audience. Fortunately, these diplomats don’t get their information from FOX, CNN or the New York Times. They are very well versed in the historic roots of the conflict. In fact, there are professionals at the State Department who could very easily have fact-checked Obama’s Likudnik narrative and saved the President from making a sorry spectacle of himself. I suspect some of them tried but were overruled – by Obama and Netanyahu.
Why would Obama stoop to lie to a bunch of delegates who were too sophisticated to believe a word he was saying? Because he wasn’t lying to them – he was talking to Americans – Jewish Americans. He was swearing allegiance to Netanyahu to raise cold cash for his second presidential campaign. What he really sold out was American national interests and that ought to be a crime.
Obama challenged the 193 nations of the General Assembly to “face the truth” and then proceeded to deliver a diatribe of half-truths and outright lies. You want the truth? The president can’t face the truth because the truth would strain his campaign finances.
Ahmed Amr is the former editor of NileMedia.com and the author of The Sheep and The Guardians – Diary of a SEC Sanctioned Swindle. He can be reached at: Montraj@aol.com.
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — An Israeli Border Guard unit, dressed as Arabs, kidnapped Palestinian MP Muhammad Attoun at the entrance of the Jerusalem Red Cross at noon Monday in a move expected to spark rage among local Palestinians.
The operation was also coordinated with the Israeli occupation police unit’s minorities division, according to media reports.
MP Attoun, along with another Palestinian MP Ahmed Totah and the Palestinian Authority’s former minister of Jerusalem Khalid Abu Arafeh, were staying at a protest tent at the Red Cross compound in the Sheikh Jarrah district after the Israeli occupation authorities revoked their right of residence in their native city of Jerusalem and sought to banish them.
Attoun’s wife said she was visiting him alongside her daughter when undercover officers suddenly pounced on him as he neared the entrance of the Red Cross premises where he has been holding a sit-in for over a year to protest the banishment decision. She added that she does not know where her husband was taken to.
Director of the Jerusalem information center Muhammad Sadiq told our correspondent that when Attoun’s wife and daughter came to visit, three masked men abducted Attoun and detained him in a vehicle before Israeli security forces arrived at the scene.
Sadiq said the entry into the Red Cross sanctuary was in violation of international laws, adding that the arrest of the Palestinian people’s government representative could trigger friction across the occupied Palestinian territories.
Attoun, Totah, and Abu Arafeh, politicians from Hamas’s Change and reform bloc, were arrested in 2006 after Hamas gained dominance in the Palestinian ballot boxes. The Israeli occupation authorities also revoked their residence in Jerusalem after the men were released following three year prison terms.