The department store chain Macy’s has stopped carrying Israeli settlement products of SodaStream, according to the Wall Street Journal. Macy’s has been targeted the past year by pro-Palestinian activists, who have called on it and other major chains to stop carrying the SodaStream home carbonation system and soda flavourings due to the company’s role in the military occupation of Palestine.
This news comes amidst sinking share prices of the company, which earlier this month announced preliminary results for the fourth quarter. It projected $125 million in revenue in the quarter and operating income of $8.5 million. That’s well short of the $154.4 million of revenue and $17.6 million in operating income expected by analysts. In the third quarter of last year, the revenue was about the same, but operating income of $18 million was more than double what it expects this year. Its shares have dropped by 45% so far this year.
Jim Charnier, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt, told the Wall Street Journal that he had been expecting a poor quarter when he learned early in September that Macy’s had stopped carrying SodaStream and saw other negative figures from the market.
Macy’s did not respond to questions by North American activists concerning SodaStream.
For more than a year, religious and human rights organizations throughout the United States have urged Macy’s, Target and other corporations to de-shelve SodaStream products because of the company’s complicity with Israel’s occupation and settlements. SodaStream products are largely manufactured in the West Bank Mishor Adumim settlement industrial zone.
“We are very disappointed in our recent performance,” said Daniel Birnbaum, Chief Executive Officer of SodaStream. “Our U.S. business underperformed due to lower than expected demand for our soda makers and flavors which was the primary driver of the overall shortfall in the third quarter. While we were successful over the last few years in establishing a solid base of repeat users in the U.S., we have not succeeded in attracting new consumers to our home carbonation system at the rate we believe should be achieved. The third quarter results are a clear indication that we must alter our course and improve our execution across the board. We have already begun a strategic shift of the SodaStream brand towards health & wellness, primarily in the U.S., where we believe this message will resonate more strongly with consumers….”
SodaStream states that calls for boycott are indeed a “risk factor” and a cause for “rising political tensions and negative publicity”, although this official notice makes no mention of boycott. However, the company has declared in the past that moving its factory out Mishor Adumim would require the expenditure of resources and, more importantly, “limit certain of the tax benefits for which we are currently eligible.” These benefits stem from the fact that the Israeli government provides economic incentives, including tax deductions, for businesses operating in West Bank settlements.
John Lewis in the UK had been the latest retailer to stop stocking SodaStream products and protests forced a SodaStream store in Brighton, UK, to close recently. SodaStream also had to deal with a public relations headache early this year when the U.K. charity Oxfam criticized its brand ambassador Scarlett Johansson for working with the settlement company. Johansson stepped down from her role with Oxfam and defended the company.
Soros Fund Management, the family office of the billionaire investor George Soros, also sold its stake in SodaStream this past August.
“Soros Fund Management does not own shares of SodaStream,” Michael Vachon, a spokesman for the fund, told The National, declining to comment further on when and why it sold the shares.
In a May filing with the US markets regulator, the fund said it had bought 550,000 shares of SodaStream during the first quarter. Bloomberg reported that the fund acquired the shares for $24.3 million, with the new holding making up 0.3 per cent of the fund’s $9.3 billion stock portfolio.
“After pressure from Soros partners in the region and the world, they dropped SodaStream and promised, in private letters so far, to issue guidelines similar to those adopted by the EU to prevent any investment into companies that sustain the Israeli occupation and settlements in particular,” said Omar Barghouti, the Palestinian activist and co-founder of the BDS movement.
The activist group Adalah-NY continues its campaign against SodaStream following the decision by Macy’s, and at the end of October will visit New York stores that stock and sell SodaStream, letting owners and managers know why they should stop. Adalah-NY notes that this planned week of visits will be used to develop its future NYC-based campaign against SodaStream.
Around this time last year, parliamentary records show, the retired property developer and hugely generous Labour party donor, Sir David Garrard, had given a modest £60,000 towards the party’s election campaign for 2015. It came in addition to around half a million he had already given since 2003.
Fast forward to 16 June of this year, Garrard hosts a Labour Friends of Israel event, at which Labour leader Ed Miliband is the main speaker. The prime minister hopeful had, the year before, proclaimed that he was a Zionist. The lobbying group he addressed boasts dozens of Labour peers and MPs amongst its membership, including the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls.
Despite the atrocities being committed as Miliband spoke – a few thousand miles away during “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza, he made not one mention of the Palestinian casualties in his speech, though he did take time to note Israel’s own losses. By that point, 172 Palestinian lives had been taken, and over 1,200 were wounded. The newspapers were in outcry, but from Miliband – performing before his party donors – silence.
That same day, the silence was rewarded. Garrard transferred a whopping £630,000 to the Labour party accounts, over ten times his donation from the previous year.
It was a near identical episode to David Cameron speaking in 2009, back when he too was hoping to take office as prime minister.
At a well-attended Conservative Friends of Israel annual fundraising lunch held in London, he again made no mention of the Palestinian lives that had been lost, this time as part of “Operation Cast Lead”. Not one mention. In that war, 1,370 Palestinians had died. At the time, a leading British journalist wrote: “I found it impossible to reconcile the remarks made by the young Conservative leader with the numerous reports of human rights abuses in Gaza. Afterwards I said as much to some Tory MPs. They looked at me as if I was distressingly naive, drawing my attention to the very large number of Tory donors in the audience.”
No other foreign nation is as well represented in the campaign finances of British elections as Israel. In fact, no other nation comes close – and money linked to pro-Israel donors is a single interest influence akin to that of the trade unions (the largest democratic organisations in the country) or indeed the megabucks flowing in from City financiers.
And with that money, war crimes are being glossed over, rules bent, and our hard-won democracy warped by foreign interests.
The money is already pouring in.
In April, the Conservative Branch for Brigg & Goole, the constituency of Andrew Percy MP, received £6,000 from a notable pro-Israel supporter, Lord Stanley Fink. During the recent conflict, Percy attended an Israeli military briefing about the Iron Dome missile defence system – later glibly observing that “Israel acts as we would” in response to the mass civilian casualties being inflicted by the IDF.
Percy is, like 80 per cent of his colleagues, a member of Conservative Friends of Israel.
On the same day, £3,000 dropped into the bank account of the Conservative party in Harrow East. Their MP, Bob Blackman, also visited Israel during “Operation Protective Edge”. The money also came from Lord Fink.
And the pro-Israel peer pulled off a democracy-warping hat-trick that day – £3,000 for the Conservatives in Brighton & Kemptown, home to Conservative Friends of Israel linked Simon Kirby MP.
Over and above his backing of individual MPs, Lord Fink has also contributed over £60,000 to the Conservative Central Party accounts since July last year, and his total donations to the Conservatives over the years are now nearing £3 million.
Lord Fink is a staunch supporter of Israel – telling the Jewish Chronicle in 2009 that he shared similar views to Lord Michael Levy, Tony Blair’s aide who had close ties with Israeli political leaders. Levy’s son, Daniel, served as an assistant to the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and to Knesset member Yossi Beilin.
Elsewhere, Lord Fink has been a “loyal donor” to Just Journalism, a now defunct group organised by the pro-Israeli Westminster think tank the Henry Jackson Society. Just Journalism claimed to be correcting “media bias” against Israel but instead acted as a pro-Israel “flak” group aggressively criticising any British publication who queried Israel’s human rights record, including the Guardian and the London Review of Books. The group folded in 2011.
Lord Fink is also a member of the Jewish Leadership Council (more on their influence later).
In March, the Conservative Branch in Poplar & Limehouse received £3,000 from another pro-Israel funder – Sir Michael Hintze. Hintze was ranked by Forbes in 2014 as the 1,016th richest person in the world, with a net worth of approximately $1.8 billion.
The constituency he has plugged money into is a swing seat; a six per cent change would depose incumbent Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick (a member of both Labour Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Palestine).
The Conservatives have their own reasons for targeting the seat, using the youthful ex-banker and Tower Hamlets councillor Tim Archer. The Respect party are running George Galloway, and he could split the Labour vote, opening the way for a Conservative win. George Galloway also happens to be the most outspoken critic of Israel in British politics.
British-Australian Hintze is not a man the Conservatives would want to annoy. Since July of last year, he has donated just over £1.5 million to the party (the figure is doubled if you look back to 2002).
Current Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne MP received nearly £40,000 in 2008 and 2009 directly from Hintze. Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Theresa May MP, David Davis MP and David Willets MP have also been subject to his financial largesse.
But the first politician Hintze backed in the Conservatives was Dr Liam Fox MP, with a £10,000 gift back in January 2007.
Fox then rose to become Secretary of State for Defence, before being disgraced when it was revealed he had allowed his close friend Adam Werrity access to the Ministry of Defence and to travel on official visits (despite not being a government employee).
Hintze was implicated because he had allowed Fox a desk in his London office as part of a £29,000 donation to Fox’s controversial charity – Atlantic Bridge – another pro-Israel lobbying organisation. Hintze served on its Executive Council.
Adam Werrity, who had been best man at Fox’s wedding in 2005, was later appointed UK Executive Director of Atlantic Bridge and played a key role in its operations.
In late 2011, “multiple sources” told the Independent on Sunday that Werrity had used contacts developed through Atlantic Bridge to arrange visits to Iran, meeting with opposition groups in both Washington and London, and had even been debriefed by MI6 about his travels.
The newspaper described the activities as “a freelance foreign policy” with Werrity seemingly “acting as a rogue operator”.
It was also revealed that Werrity was capable of arranging meetings “at the highest levels of the Israeli government”, and that Mossad had, bizarrely, believed Werrity to be Fox’s chief of staff.
The Guardian also raised the possibility that Werrity and Fox could have been operating a “shadow foreign policy,” using Atlantic Bridge as a cover organisation. The charity was investigated by the Charities Commission in 2011 and shut down.
Another patron of Atlantic Bridge, alongside Hintze, was Michael Lewis, ex-chairman of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM).
That lobbying group describes itself as a “British organisation dedicated to creating a more supportive environment for Israel in Britain”. It was reported that Michael Lewis had paid for some of Werrity’s trips to Israel, charges he later denied.
Fox’s resignation was forced over the scandal – although true to Westminster form – no scandal is too much, in fact, he is already back, having politely refused a role as foreign secretary in July but now planning a new career as a backbencher.
Reviewing the Electoral Commission records for 2014, the pro-Israel donor Michael Lewis has popped up again. In March, he wrote another cheque for £10,000, to none other than Liam Fox.
In the past, Lewis has also backed William Hague – to the tune of £5,000. Hague later became foreign secretary.
According to Peter Oborne, now chief political commentator for the Telegraph, Michael Lewis’s baby BICOM is “Britain’s major pro-Israel lobby”.
In a searing expose for Channel 4 in 2009 and later a pamphlet calling for transparency from the Israel lobby, Oborne showed how BICOM was funded by a Finnish billionaire whose father made a fortune selling Israeli arms.
Chaim “Poju” Zabludowicz, who the Sunday Times ranked as the 57th richest individual in Britain with a net worth of over £1.5 billion, founded BICOM in 2001 and is its chairman.
Zabludowicz is also a member of the United Jewish Israel Appeal, a charity whose website claims it has three strands of work – “Supporting Israel”, “Connecting with Israel” and “Engaging with Israel”.
Since 2009, Zabludowicz has given approximately £125,000 to the Conservative party, either directly to party central, or to the party operating in Finchley and Golders Green, Harlow, Watford or Burton.
Zabludowicz is also a member of the Jewish Leadership Council – primarily concerned with philanthropic and educational matters within the British Jewish community, but who in June 2011 also met with the government to discuss the Middle East (BICOM attended the meeting too), and again in January 2012.
The Jewish Leadership Council, whose members also include pro-Israel Tory funders such as Lord Stanley Fink, and Tony Blair’s controversial man in Israel Lord Michael Levy, have taken it upon themselves to vigorously defend Israeli leaders from the principles of universal jurisdiction – which proves a great example of how influential the lobby is ,how intent the lobby is on insulating Israel from legal redress, and exactly why British voters should be wary of how much money the lobby is pumping into our elections.
In a celebratory post in 2011, on their own website, the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) explained that two years ago, they had “commissioned a legal opinion from Lord Pannick QC which recommended a change in the law. We wanted to protect universal jurisdiction itself, a vital innovation that grew out of the Holocaust, while preventing it from being abused.” (“Preventing it from being abused” roughly translates to “being applied to Israel”).
Following an arrest warrant being issued for Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, the group said: “We immediately sent our legal opinion to the government and opposition and worked with Conservative Friends of Israel, Labour Friends of Israel and Liberal Democratic Friends of Israel to begin generating support for this law change.”
“Within a few days, Gordon Brown had publicly promised to change the law as soon as possible,” the JLC bragged.
The Conservative party had already placed an advert in the Jewish Chronicle promising to change the law if they were elected. In 2011, the universal jurisdiction laws of the United Kingdom were changed, with arrest warrants now requiring the assent of the Attorney-General before they could be issued for alleged war criminals.
This was just as the pro-Israel lobby wanted. Rather than facing arrest when visiting the UK, Israeli politicians, generals and other war criminals can now feel assured that warrants would first have to pass through the Attorney-General, who is none other than Jeremy Wright MP, who is of course, another member of Conservative Friends of Israel.
By Doug E. Steil | Aletho News | October 20, 2014
It is an established and well-known fact, at least among the many hundreds of thousands of health care professionals and local politicians tasked with securing public health in the United States, that the legal jurisdictional responsibilities for dealing with potential or actual pandemic emergencies lie at the state level, not with any agency or department of the federal government. Thereby, the Governor of a particular state of the Union leads the chain of command in such instances, as in the recent Ebola outbreak in Texas, which subsequently spread beyond the initially impacted individual, who has subsequently died.
Elaborate procedures for dealing with such contingencies were developed years ago, and implementing the appropriate procedures, in case a disaster strikes, have been rehearsed periodically. Therefore, alleged Incompetence, such as not knowing exactly what to do in such a situation, cannot be a credible explanation or excuse.
As the Washington Examiner revealed on October 17th — though they did so rather cryptically so one needs to “read between the lines” — the primary issue in the recent public debacle, involving Texas Governor Rick Perry’s failure to assume his legal mandate to combat the widening Ebola outbreak, is simply a matter of where his priorities lie. Since this turns out to be rather embarrassing, though, it is not being trumpeted to the general public.
You see, Rick Perry wants to run for the office of President. As anybody following US politics knows, this endeavor requires “currying favor with” (i.e. conspicuously prostrating oneself before) the Zionist Power Configuration, in hopes of obtaining the necessary funding to run a successful public relations campaign, so as to distract the electorate with trivial wedge issues. Since he has already done the obligatory “Wailing Wall Ritual,” which has long ago already become a transparently ridiculous cliche, organizers apparently felt a variation on this theme of obeisance to the prevailing Power Establishment was appropriate for future fundraising events.
Whereas a visit to Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall may evoke some religious sympathies, a visit to the infamous Auschwitz I camp, with the often depicted words “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” at the gate, will likely trigger more powerful emotions. So that was the plan. The photos of Perry posing before the gate would be available to be released at the most opportune time during campaign season. However, at least one image did leak out into the public domain prematurely. (Note that the proper way to visit the Auschwitz I camp, which the holocaust industry propagandists have declared a “holy” site, appears to entail keeping both hands in your pockets, unless you have to hold an umbrella with the other one.)
Not until this all-important photo opportunity was completed did it become relevant for the Governor of Texas to cancel the rest of his trip and fly back to deal with the Ebola crisis, for which he must ultimately take responsibility. One might imagine that partisan Democrats could make a big issue of Perry’s photo stunt at Auschwitz, except in this case they all play the same cynical game. So there is the main message, clear as day: The general population can wait, as a deadly virus threatens to go out of control, because Rick Perry has much more important things to attend to first.
BETHLEHEM – Palestinian Authority police regularly detain people in the West Bank due to their political affiliation, an official said Sunday.
Khalil Assaf, a member of the subcommittee on civil liberties formed after the West Bank-Gaza unity government was sworn in in June, told Ma’an that regardless of the committee’s formation, none of its recommendations have been implemented.
“Every day people are being detained in the West Bank because of their political affiliation, though in most cases they are released within days,” Assaf said.
Though he could not give an exact number of political detainees, he said “we are talking about dozens” of people.
The subcommittee, which was tasked with maintaining and monitoring civil liberties in the West Bank and Gaza, has not been summoned for any meetings with the rest of the unity government so far, Assaf said.
He said it was formed in order to address several aspects of freedom in a democratic society: the freedoms of work, assembly, research, and movement; the freedom to distribute newspapers; the freedom to participate in political activities without discrimination; providing passports to citizens who had previously been denied passports; and the issue of citizens being summoned for questioning both in the West Bank and Gaza.
Palestinian political leaders have been unable to implement these freedoms due to the lack of full implementation of the unity government, he added.
Critics of the US-backed PA often decry the night raids conducted by Palestinian police to arrest dissenting politically active individuals, stressing that they are carried out in a manner nearly identical to the raids conducted by occupying Israeli forces.
As expected, the recent fabricated ISIS terror scare that swept the headlines of Canada’s Zionist-owned media is being used by the neocon regime in Ottawa to give Canada’s spy agency CSIS more sweeping powers to spy on citizens and protect the identities of informants.
“The federal government will face intense scrutiny – perhaps even a constitutional challenge – when it introduces legislation to give its spies more legal powers,” reported the Ottawa Citizen.
Proposed amendments to the act governing CSIS will grant the Canadian spy agency more wiggle room to collaborate with the “Five Eyes” spy network comprised of US, UK, Australia and New Zealand espionage agencies. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the Five Eyes network has been neck-deep in illegal espionage activities targeting millions of their own citizens.
“A second measure,” the Citizen continued, “would give CSIS informants the same anonymity that already exists for police sources, who are not subject to cross-examination and can have their identities hidden, even from trial judges.” The Canadian government’s informants are more than likely responsible for spurring or otherwise concocting the very ‘terror’ plots CSIS claims to have foiled — just like its counterpart in the US has been caught doing time and time again. (See The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism by Trevor Aaronson) Problem, reaction, solution — the Machiavellian methodology never fails.
Like Canada, Australia and Britain are endeavoring to empower their spook agencies as well as stiffen their fraudulent “anti-terror” laws in the face of phony ISIS ‘terror plots’ that bear all the hallmarks of intelligence psyops.
That is what the ISIS sham threat is all about — creating a bogus pretext so our governments can strip us of our liberties and stamp out dissent.
British PM David Cameron unveiled the real agenda behind ISIS terrorism fear-mongering — silencing critics of the war on terror and skeptics of the US and UK government versions of 9/11 and 7/7. In September, Cameron delivered a bizarre speech at the UN in which he said with unreserved hubris:
“As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by preachers who claim not to encourage violence, but whose world view can be used as a justification for it. … The peddling of lies: that 9/11 was a Jewish plot and the 7/7 London attacks were staged. The idea that Muslims are persecuted all over the world as a deliberate act of Western policy. The concept of an inevitable clash of civilizations. We must be clear: to defeat the ideology of extremism we need to deal with all forms of extremism – not just violent extremism.”
More and more people are awakening to the truth that 9/11, 7/7 and other major terrorist incidents in the West were staged by US, UK and Israeli intelligence services to provide said countries a pretext to launch the pre-planned Zionist-contrived war on terror against Israel’s enemies. Innumerable masses of people are learning about the dark legacy of Zionism and are starting to speak out about it.
The public’s growing interest in alternative theories about 9/11, 7/7 and other false-flags has alarmed the Western powers-that-be whose present foreign policies hinge upon the big lies surrounding those events. If the true story of 9/11 and 7/7 emerged, the American and British public would rise up in revolt against the unjust and criminal regimes occupying their capitals. The perfidious elites cannot allow that to happen, hence Cameron’s insistence that “non-violent extremists” — 9/11 and 7/7 truthers, anti-Zionists, etc. — are akin to the head-chopping Takfiri marauders of ISIS and should be treated as such.
The manufactured ‘civil war’ in Syria, like the preceding one in Libya, is a deliberate Zionist policy of destabilization. Syria, like Iran, is one of the last bastions of resistance against Israeli hegemony in the region, and has therefore been earmarked for extinction by the usual suspects and their Western lapdogs.
Aside from being impediments to Israel’s imperium, countries like Syria, Iran, Libya, Iraq and other target states have been resilient to globalist attempts to import a degenerate American monoculture into their jurisdictions. These countries affirmed their sovereignty against the globalist cultural imperialists — headquartered in Washington — who seek to export MacDonalds, Burger King and Wal-Mart to the four corners of the earth. The globalists want to erect a global shopping mall on the ruins of traditional cultures.
Unlike in America and much of the deracinated West, the peoples of the Middle East have been widely educated about the Zio-American world menace. Instead of chowing down Big Macs or listening to the putrid rhymes of Kanye West, Middle Easterners are being informed on issues of global importance. Instead of reading trashy gossip mags and stewing over celebrity degeneracy, Iranians are perusing The Protocols of Zion and holding conferences questioning the veracity of ‘the holocaust.’
Neocon Zionists like Daniel Pipes, David Aaronovitch and Jonathan Kay have routinely decried the “conspiracy” culture emanating from homogenous Muslim societies. That’s what Pipes’ book The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy was all about; Aaronovitch’s Blaming the Jews documentary is of a similar vein. The reality is that the Muslim world has figured out the Zionists’ Machiavellian game plan and is therefore being punished for failing to succumb to their decrepit exceptionalist mythology.
A dumbed down, atomized mass of materialistic consumers is what the Zionists and their Big Money cohorts want. A pitiful populace comprised of tattooed, chain-smoking, money-chasing, burger-munching airheads is what pleases the moneyed elite.
The Frankfurt School Zionists conquered much of the West through the promotion of degenerate and dysgenic social norms, thereby weakening the traditional culture of their host nations and effectively taking them over. Since the nation-states of the Middle East have largely thwarted the cultural imperialists’ internal plots, the globalist armies of the West have besieged them.
But there is still a glimmer of hope in the West as more people come to terms with the truth about 9/11, 7/7 and the ‘war on terror’ hoax. Only time will tell if that will be enough to stop the globalist menace from devouring what’s left of our broken world.
Copyright 2014 Brandon Martinez
To understand Denis Rancourt and his book, Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism, you have to know the difference between critical thinking and independent thinking.
Critical thinking is nothing special. Every college student is taught to do it, to prepare for employment fielding matters for employers. On the job, critical thinking amounts to little more than the ability to say, “The boss isn’t going to like this.” You don’t need your own ideology to say that. You need only understand the boss’s ideology and use it to guide your work.
The safest way to avoid making a fatal mistake in such work, and to advance through the ranks, is to adopt the assigned way of thinking as your own. Your life becomes routine and you vanish from history, but you get a roof over your head and more than enough food for your pie hole. It’s the Devil’s bargain for survival in hierarchical organizations.
Rancourt is having none of it. Having become an activist and thereby having experienced the excitement, exhilaration and fulfillment of helping to shape the society he lives in, Rancourt sees cog-in-the-wheel life as a living death.
As a tenured professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Rancourt noticed that students were emerging from physics courses without truly grasping the concepts behind the techniques that they were learning. The instruction was more indoctrination than education. Grades reflected obedience and memorization more than real understanding. The system prepared students to be obedient critical thinkers but did not arm them with the understanding required to be independent thinkers. That served employers, who want technically trained employees who don’t have their own agendas.
Rancourt became an outspoken critic of the university. (And I was fortunate enough to get to know him at that time.) He blogged about how the institution’s undemocratic structure and corporate orientation led to malfeasance at all levels, from the president’s office to the classroom. And he worked to promote student activism. In response, the university repeatedly tried to discipline him for various contrived infractions, but the repressive measures didn’t hold up upon review. Finally, the university fired Rancourt under the pretext that an unconventional grading system that he used in one class wasn’t permitted by the rules, despite its success in getting students to grasp concepts. His dismissal led to one of the biggest academic freedom cases in Canada.
The university continued to try to silence Rancourt even after it fired him. As I describe below, the university used public money to finance a private lawsuit against Rancourt for refusing to withdraw his stinging criticism of one of the university’s “service intellectuals” (a term that Rancourt uses incisively).
Rancourt’s book is more wide-ranging than its title implies, as it covers much more than the fight against racism. Rancourt argues for student liberation, tries to use biology to explain social hierarchy, discusses how workplace hierarchy is a source of stress and a health hazard, criticizes establishment medicine, describes how the social system works to keep individuals powerless, and discusses the role of collaborators in maintaining the status quo. He brings independent thinking to each topic, often opening up new lines of thinking about long-standing social problems. In this way his book is seminal, and one hopes that he and others will follow through on his ideas and see where they lead.
In a theme that pervades the book, Rancourt argues that the structure of society reflects the state of an ongoing battle between oppressive hierarchy and the individual’s impulse for freedom and influence. He says that the hierarchical system needs to disorient and incapacitate us. It uses brutal methods that exploit the dependence of our self-identities on our social status, over which the bosses exercise much control.
In another theme, Rancourt is highly critical of critical race theory. He argues that suppressing the expression of racist opinions prevents real, enlightening debate and thereby undermines the individual’s political development and the struggle against racism.
The racism issue that Rancourt addresses arose after the student union on his campus publicly reported a pattern of discrimination by the university. To the embarrassment of the university, the report received much media attention. In response, the president of the university asked a black assistant professor to publicly “evaluate” the student report. In just a few days’ time, and with university guidance behind the scenes, the professor produced an “independent” public report, which the university posted on its website, questioning the validity of the student findings.
To present as “independent” an evaluation produced in this way would be considered unethical in science, journalism, government, and even advertising. It would be seen as a gussied-up version of: “I’m not a racist, am I?” “Of course not, boss.”1,2 However, when Rancourt criticized the relationship between the professor and her employer in terms that Malcolm X used to describe similar situations, the university moved to silence him. It hired a top corporate lawyer to pursue a million dollar lawsuit against Rancourt, in the name of the black professor.
But that effort to silence Rancourt backfired. Lawyers usually advise litigants to shut up, but Rancourt repeatedly spoke out about the lawsuit and made its details public; the media reported on it. In the book, Rancourt discusses the suit and critiques the philosophy behind it.
I don’t agree with Rancourt on every issue. For example, he says that it is “self-evident” that social hierarchy is natural, a product of human biology. If such biological determinism hadn’t been discredited by 20th century history, then I would respond by asserting that the ongoing fight for democracy is natural. And in this I would quote Rancourt himself, for the main thrust of his book is that social hierarchy has to be forced upon people.
But Rancourt’s main goal isn’t to get you to agree with him on the issues. Rather, his goal is to provoke you to reject the boring, worn-out framework within which the issues are debated in the mass media and academe, and think independently. His book worked for me, as I ended up thinking about important issues in new ways.
- “Author Jeff Schmidt campaigns for just treatment of Professor Joanne St. Lewis.” [↩]
- “Author Jeff Schmidt apologizes to Professor Joanne St. Lewis.” [↩]
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – The land research center said that the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) established fake graves in Silwan district, south of the Aqsa Mosque, as part of feverish steps to Judaize the Arab history and identity of the holy city.
In a report released on Friday, the center stated that Zionist settler groups in cooperation with the nature and parks authority planted tombs built of stone on a tract of Palestinian land located between Silwan district and the Umayyad Palaces area, south of the Aqsa Mosque.
It noted that the tombs, engraved with the Star of David, were made look like age-old ones and presented to tourists as Jewish graves built before 1948.
“Such step confirms once again that the occupation state is seeking on purpose to fake the history of Jerusalem in violation of the international norms and laws that demand it not to make changes to any land under its occupation,” the center underlined.
The center also warned that creating fake graves enables Israel to seize more areas in east Jerusalem.
Western diplomats have reportedly faulted Iran in recent weeks for failing to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with information on experiments on high explosives intended to produce a nuclear weapon, according to an intelligence document the IAEA is investigating.
But the document not only remains unverified but can only be linked to Iran by a far-fetched official account marked by a series of coincidences related to a foreign scientist that that are highly suspicious.
The original appearance of the document in early 2008, moreover, was not only conveniently timed to support Israel’s attack on a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran in December that was damaging to Israeli interests, but was leaked to the news media with a message that coincided with the current Israeli argument.
The IAEA has long touted the document, which came from an unidentified member state, as key evidence justifying suspicion that Iran has covered up past nuclear weapons work.
In its September 2008 report the IAEA said the document describes “experimentation in connection with symmetrical initiation of a hemispherical high explosive charge suitable for an implosion type nuclear device.”
But an official Iranian communication to the IAEA Secretariat challenged its authenticity, declaring, “There is no evidence or indication in this document regarding its linkage to Iran or its preparation by Iran.”
The IAEA has never responded to the Iranian communication.
The story of the high explosives document and related intelligence published in the November 2011 IAEA report raises more questions about the document than it answers.
The report said the document describes the experiments as being monitored with “large numbers of optical fiber cables” and cited intelligence that the experiments had been assisted by a foreign expert said to have worked in his home country’s nuclear weapons programme.
The individual to whom the report referred, Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko, was not a nuclear weapons expert, however, but a specialist on nanodiamond synthesis. Danilenko had lectured on that subject in Iran from 2000 to 2005 and had co-authored a professional paper on the use of fiber optic cables to monitor explosive shock waves in 1992, which was available online.
Those facts presented the opportunity for a foreign intelligence service to create a report on high explosives experiments that would suggest a link to nuclear weapons as well as to Danilenko. Danilenko’s open-source publication could help convince the IAEA Safeguards Department of the authenticity of the document, which would otherwise have been missing.
Even more suspicious, soon after the appearance of the high explosives document, the same state that had turned it over to the IAEA claimed to have intelligence on a large cylinder at Parchin suitable for carrying out the high explosives experiments described in the document, according to the 2011 IAEA report.
And it identified Danilenko as the designer of the cylinder, again basing the claim on an open-source publication that included a sketch of a cylinder he had designed in 1999-2000.
The whole story thus depended on two very convenient intelligence finds within a very short time, both of which were linked to a single individual and his open source publications.
Furthermore, the cylinder Danilenko sketched and discussed in the publication was explicitly designed for nanodiamonds production, not for bomb-making experiments.
Robert Kelley, who was the chief of IAEA teams in Iraq, has observed that the IAEA account of the installation of the cylinder at a site in Parchin by March 2000 is implausible, since Danilenko was on record as saying he was still in the process of designing it in 2000.
And Kelley, an expert on nuclear weapons, has pointed out that the cylinder would have been unnecessary for “multipoint initiation” experiments. “We’ve been taken for a ride on this whole thing,” Kelley told IPS.
The document surfaced in early 2008, under circumstances pointing to an Israeli role. An article in the May 2008 issue of Jane’s International Defence Review, dated March 14, 2008, referred to, “[d]ocuments shown exclusively to Jane’s” by a “source connected to a Western intelligence service”.
It said the documents showed that Iran had “actively pursued the development of a nuclear weapon system based on relatively advanced multipoint initiation (MPI) nuclear implosion detonation technology for some years….”
The article revealed the political agenda behind the leaking of the high explosives document. “The picture the papers paints,” he wrote, “starkly contradicts the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released in December 2007, which said Tehran had frozen its military nuclear programme in 2003.”
That was the argument that Israeli officials and supporters in the United States had been making in the wake of the National Intelligence Estimate, which Israel was eager to discredit.
The IAEA first mentioned the high explosives document in an annex to its May 2008 report, shortly after the document had been leaked to Janes.
David Albright, the director of the Institute for Science and International Security, who enjoyed a close relationship with the IAEA Deputy Director Olli Heinonen, revealed in an interview with this writer in September 2008 that Heinonen had told him one document that he had obtained earlier that year had confirmed his trust in the earlier collection of intelligence documents. Albright said that document had “probably” come from Israel.
Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei was very sceptical about all the purported Iranian documents shared with the IAEA by the United States. Referring to those documents, he writes in his 2011 memoirs, “No one knew if any of this was real.”
ElBaradei recalls that the IAEA received still more purported Iranian documents directly from Israel in summer 2009. The new documents included a two-page document in Farsi describing a four-year programme to produce a neutron initiator for a fission chain reaction.
Kelley has said that ElBaradei found the document lacking credibility, because it had no chain of custody, no identifiable source, and no official markings or anything else that could establish its authenticity—the same objections Iran has raised about the high explosives document.
Meanwhile, ElBaradei resisted pressure from the United States and its European allies in 2009 to publish a report on that and other documents – including the high explosive document — as an annex to an IAEA report. ElBaradei’s successor as director general, Yukia Amano, published the annex the anti-Iran coalition had wanted earlier in the November 2011 report.
Amano later told colleagues at the agency that he had no choice, because he promised the United States to do so as part of the agreement by Washington to support his bid for the job within the Board of Governors, according to a former IAEA official who asked not to be identified.
PBS NewsHour Executive Producer Sara Just and NPR Standards Editor Mark Memmott seem to have come up with almost identical statements about commentator David Brooks’ conflict of interest. (Brooks, who works for the New York Times, NPR and PBS, had kept hidden the fact that his son was serving in the Israeli military while Brooks was commenting on Israel.)
Either Sara Just and Mark Memmott have been gifted with telepathy, or they – and/or their bosses – collaborated on their statements.
UPDATE, 11am Pacific time: Mark Memmott has just emailed me: “I’ve had no contact with PBS. I’ve actually never met Sara Just, as far as I remember, and have not had any email correspondence with her. I have to think that they agreed with what I wrote and decided to (mostly) reissue it.”
I find it disconcerting that PBS’s Sara Just didn’t attribute her statement to NPR’s Memmott; this seems dangerously close to plagiarism. I wonder how she learned of his statement? I’m also curious about why she removed a small but significant portion of what he had written. Please read on:
Here are the facts:
PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler reports that on Oct. 15th NewsHour Executive Producer Sara Just issued the following statement:
“David Brooks is primarily an opinion columnist for The New York Times. He appears on the PBS NewsHour to offer his opinions, not as a reporter. His son’s service with the Israeli Defense Forces is not a secret. We agree with the New York Times’ editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, that Mr. Brooks’ long-standing views about Israel are informed by many factors. We also agree with the Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, that Mr. Brooks should not be barred from commenting about Israel. She has recommended that he address the issue of his son’s service in the IDF in a future column. That seems reasonable to us as well. If a situation arises in which Mr. Brooks will be appearing on the NewsHour and discussing Israel and its military, we will consider how we might disclose his son’s service to the audience at that time.”
Five days before, in response to my questions about David Brooks, I had received an email from the NPR ombudsman’s office containing a statement that they said was from NPR’s standards and practices editor:
David Brooks is primarily an opinion columnist for The New York Times. He appears on All Things Considered to offer his opinions, not as a reporter. His son’s service with the Israeli Defense Forces is no secret. We agree with the Times’ editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, that Mr. Brooks’ long-standing views about Israel have been “formed by all kinds of things … [and] are not going to change whether or not his son is serving in the IDF, beyond his natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being.” We also agree with the Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, that Mr. Brooks should not be barred from commenting about Israel. She has recommended that he address the issue of his son’s service in the IDF in a future column. That strikes us as a reasonable suggestion. If a situation arises and we feel he should also mention it on our air, we still [sic] discuss that with Mr. Brooks at that time. [Ellipsis was in the original statement emailed to me.]
(You can see the statements side by side below.)
I published this email and a rebuttal to the statement on my blog that same day, Friday, Oct 10th. The following Wednesday, Oct. 15th, I was able to reach NPR’s standards editor, Mark Memmott, who confirmed that he had written the statement. I then raised some of the flaws I saw with it (the same ones I discussed in my post).
Memmott was particularly interested when I pointed out that the statement acknowledging Mr. Brooks’ “natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being” indicated why Mr. Brooks should recuse himself, since his commentaries have the power to influence the public in ways that would impact his son either positively or negatively.
During the phone call it came out that Memmott had not known before I called him that his statement had been sent to me. After we hung up it occurred to me that Memmott was also probably unaware that I had published it. I told him I was working on a blog post and would send it to him. I was then involved in other projects over the following days and was only able to finish my new post tonight. This contains additional info on NPR’s ethics guidelines.
After I completed it, I then looked to see if PBS’s ombudsman Michael Getler (whom I had spoken with by phone last week) had yet written anything about Brooks. I discovered his column, and was startled to see Sara Just’s statement, parts of it word for word the same as Memmott’s. The only significant difference was that the reference to Brooks’ “natural concerns as a father” section was omitted.
I now plan to contact Memmott and Just, and ask about the source of their telepathy.
While PBS and NPR are both under the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the public perception is that they are largely independent entities with separate editorial control and decision-making. It appears that’s not the case.
Below are the two statements:
* * *
Following is information about Just and NewsHour from a press release on the PBS website:
In addition to being executive producer, Just is also Senior Vice President of NewsHour Productions LLC. She reports to Rick Schneider, President of NewsHour Productions LLC and Chief Operating Officer of WETA.
The press release states:
“In July 2014, WETA assumed management and control for PBS NewsHour, with the formation of NewsHour Productions LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of WETA. This transition followed the retirements of the program’s original founders, managing editors and co-anchors, Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil, who established the commitment to excellence in journalism that guides PBS NewsHour to this day.”
Update on Friday, October 17, 2014 at 08:49AM by Alison Weir
A few years ago PBS ombudsman Michael Getler wrote a column in which he emphasized:
“My interest in mentioning this is simply to remind the vast majority of those who wrote to me or called is to explain that PBS is not NPR…. and that both organizations, while part of public broadcasting in this country, are separate organizations and separate public media entities.”
So is it appropriate for the two supposedly separate media organizations to collaborate on how to respond to ethics complaints, especially without informing the public that they are doing so?
Update on Friday, October 17, 2014 at 10:07AM by Alison Weir
It’s interesting to see that Memmott was one of the authors of NPR’s newest code of ethics.
It’s even more interesting to see that when the handbook came out, NPR’s vice president for news stated: “…commentators are expected to follow NPR’s ethical principles when doing work on behalf of NPR.”
She also said that commentators would receive copies of the handbook.
NPR, according to a 2012 press release, “reaches 27 million listeners each week.”
Third part of a documentary produced by Béatrice Pignède, with footage shot by Jonathan Moadab, Sylvia Page, Jean-Sébastien Farez and Saber Farzard. Music by Gilad Atzmon.
Click below for other segments of the documentary:
News about developments of the Palestinian issue continue to pour in through all media outlets, and statements and political speeches do not stop, but we hardly hear about the core and essence of the Palestinian issue which is the problem of Palestinian refugees.
Most of the actions related to finding a solution for the Palestinian case revolve around the establishment of a Palestinian state, or the so-called two-state solution. Meanwhile the issue of the refugees remains excluded, or marginalised, from these steps, in light of very weak hints by Palestinian politicians.
In the United Nations there are Palestinians and Arabs who mention the suffering of the Palestinian refugees with implicit sentences in order to get sympathy from those who have none. On the internal Palestinian front, there is a clear absence of the issue of refugees in all educational, cultural and media related facilities, and it is rare for the issue to be a topic of debate or discussion, whether private or public. As for the international arena, the world is completely silent about this issue and we don’t hear countries or human rights organisations putting the case up for discussion.
The Palestinian cause is torn into pieces after it was a whole cause that represented an entire people, but it was transformed into one of many issues such as an independent mini-state, a non-member state at the UN, settlements, a speech for Mahmoud Abbas at the UN, salaries, tax revenues collected by Israel, the war on Gaza, reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and other issues.
The Palestine case is first and foremost the case of refugees; it is the case of a people, who were expelled from their homeland, and in its essence, it is a case of a people who live in camps under very difficult economic and social conditions and it is not a secondary case.
It is true that the secondary issues are important, but they are not a priority, and we should not allow them to affect the issue of Palestinian refugees or overstep its high priority amongst the Arab and Palestinian interests.
If there is a solution to the Palestinian case, it can’t be realised without including a program to facilitate the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes and properties occupied in 1948. This is why the issue of refugees must be the main concern for all those who seek peace in the Arab and Islamic region and on the international level. All those who try to evade the acknowledgment of the rights of Palestinian refugees are actually evading serious efforts to find a solution for the case, and are trying to keep the Arab and Islamic worlds in constant war, and are threatening world peace.
The right of return
Countries, international conventions and human rights organisations always talk about human rights, but such talk always stops when it comes to the rights of Palestinian refugees. International conventions, religious teachings and history lessons all acknowledge the right of refugees to return to their homeland, and so many countries, mainly large ones, call for the return of refugees and expelled people to their homes and properties, but these countries become silent when it comes to Palestinian refugees. Even the United Nations did not live up to its responsibility when it settled for only issuing UN Security Council Resolution 242 which calls for a just solution for the issue of refugees without mentioning who these refugees are, and without talking about specific international conventions related to refugees, and without confirming the General Assembly’s Resolution 194 for the year 1948 concerning the return of Palestinian refugees.
International norms state that countries in conflict must first look for ways to face humanitarian problems before starting negotiations about political, economic and security problems. Humanitarian problems have a priority over all other issues, and that’s why countries at war always start with talking about two vital issues: refugees and prisoners.
First, they agree to return refugees or those who were displaced due to the war, and then they agree to swap prisoners. Those two issues did not get prioritised in the Palestinian case, and Israel’s security remained the main issue that dominated negotiations between Israel, the PLO and the Arab regimes.
For many years, the negotiations table acted as a support for Israeli security while the displaced Palestinians had to stand guard at the gates of the Israeli kingdom.
And instead of looking for arrangements for the return of Palestinian refugees, the search was focused on how the Palestinians must provide security and military services to Israel. Some Palestinians had to commit moral crimes against themselves where they would defend Israel’s security while Israeli warplanes were killing children, destroying homes, and their army was confiscating lands and building settlements.
The meaning of justice was changed during the negotiations between the Arabs and Israel, as the meaning of justice now meant the defence of settlers and Israel’s right to exhaust the Palestinians, crush them, kill them and destroy their homes. Justice now meant protecting Israel, its security and its interest, as well as the absence of the case of Palestinian refugees.
The harshest blow to Palestinians’ morale as a result of this change was the fact that refugees who grew up and lived in refugee camps were now defending Israel’s security. There are Palestinian refugees who work as leaders in Palestinian security services and coordinate with Israel against their own people and nation.
The search for a state
The issue of establishing a Palestinian state was not presented as a Palestinian constant that must be fought for; there were only two constants: the right of return and the right to self-determination.
The idea of establishing a Palestinian or Arab authority in the land occupied in 1967 was only raised once in 1968 by Zionist Yigal Alon who presented a proposal for a solution for the Palestinian case in cooperation with Jordan. Juldamir repeated the idea in 1973, but former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was clearer when he, in 1978, proposed the establishment of a Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Bethlehem as its capital, and where it would have a police that is armed by Israel in order to enforce internal order. However, Ariel Sharon is the one who adopted the idea practically and sought to establish a Palestinian Authority by means establishing the Village League system for this purpose.
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation refused the idea at all its stages and considered accepting the establishment of a Palestinian Authority and autonomy to be treason that should be punished by death. The translation of this rejection was in the form of the PLO’s assassination of Yousef Al-Khatib, the head of the Village League in Ramallah.
However, time showed us that the position of the PLO was not based on national principles, but on the PLO’s vision and idea of who should be leading the national treason. This is why it easily accepted the signing of the Oslo agreement which represents a bad copy of the Menachem Begin proposal for the establishment of Palestinian autonomy.
It was clear in the PLO’s agenda for 1974 that it was moving towards accepting autonomy and the establishment of a Palestinian Authority. The official Palestinian position evolved after that into a search for a state in light of the Zionist occupation, and then Palestinian media outlets adopted the idea of establishing this state so it would become a Palestinian constant, while it is actually close to being an Israeli constant as Israel is the one that initially proposed the idea.
The state at the expense of the right of return
It was important for the Palestinian leadership to adopt the idea of establishing the state and using it to distract the Palestinian people from it, which was at the expense of right of return. It was clear from the actions of the Palestinian leadership in both the internal and external arenas that it had given up on the right of return and that it is only providing media services in this regard in order to throw dust in the eyes of the Palestinians.
This is a result of a conviction formed by this leadership that believed that Israel would never agree to the right of return, and that insisting on it would completely abort all other efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the case, and that if the Palestinian people wanted peace with Israel, they would have to give up on the right of return first, and also give up their right to self-determination.
After the Oslo accord, Palestinians started realising that many security officers began to publicly say that demanding the right of return will stand in the way of the peace process with Israel. I heard, with my own ears, Palestinians saying that those who want the right of return do not want peace in the region.
As for the right to self-determination, it is clear that the PLO and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority do not mention it, even though the UN General Assembly recognised the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination in 1974.
The Palestinian Authority, and those with it, exert so much effort to remind the people of the UN General Assembly’s resolution relating to recognising Palestine as a non-state member at the UN, but they do not bother to remind people of the right to self-determination which is much more important than the recognition resolution, because the establishment of a state is included in the right to self-determination.
The Palestinian leadership, as well as the Arab regimes, are evading the refugees’ right of return. Their overlooking of the clause in the Arab Initiative regarding the refugees shows the irresoluteness of the Palestinian and Arab positions towards this issue.
This clause states the importance of looking for a just solution for the refugees’ case (in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 242) in light of the General Assembly’s Resolution 194 which concerns the refugees’ right of return.
The truth is that this decision circumvents the issue of refugees, or at best presents it in a vague manner, while this is supposed to be clear and unambiguous, and should explicitly state the right of refugees to return to their homes and properties in the land occupied in 1948, and the text must leave no room for misinterpretation that the right of return would be to the land occupied in 1967.
The irresolute positions of the different factions
The Palestinian factions were not serious in their position towards the Oslo agreement and the consequent decline in Palestinian positions, as well as the decline of the Palestinian cause on the regional and international arena. The Oslo agreement did not eliminate the refugees’ right of return, but it postponed looking into it. This delay is considered a national crime. On the other hand, acknowledging Israel, certainly involves denying the refugees’ right of return.
It was expected for those who agreed with the Oslo accords to follow the national standard which has been followed since the British mandate and which called for boycotting all those who cooperate with the enemy and belittle Palestinian rights.
The Palestinian factions that are part of the PLO immediately built friendly relations with those that signed and accepted the Oslo Accords, and asked the Palestinian Authority for jobs for their members. Their leaders started to hold meetings with those who were cooperating with Israel on the security and civil levels, while continuing to issue statements of verbal abuse and insults against Oslo.
On the other hand, Islamic factions did not boycott those who cooperated with the occupation either and some of their leaders also asked for jobs for their sons and matters even reached the point of these factions going under the umbrella of the Oslo Supporters after the 2014 war.
These factions who supported the Oslo agreement led negotiations on behalf of the Palestinian resistance, and none of the resistance leaders mentioned, neither during the war nor during negotiations, the right of return. This has put all factions in the same trench; a matter that requires the Palestinian people to intensify their efforts to preserve their inalienable national rights.
Translated by MEMO from Al Jazeera net
NPR’s standards editor & ombudsman minimize and/or ignore NPR ethics requirements regarding David Brooks
In recent weeks I’ve phoned and emailed the NPR ombudsman’s office several times about commentator David Brooks’ conflict of interest – Brooks’ son has been serving in the Israeli military while Brooks has been commenting on Israel without divulging that his son was in the Israeli army. Ombudsmen are charged with publicly addressing ethical breaches by a news organization’s journalists.
Now I’ve also been in touch with NPR’s Standards and Practices Editor, Mark Memmot, who is in charge of ensuring that NPR journalists adhere to ethics standards. Last week NPR’s ombudsman’s office sent me an email that contained a statement by Mr. Memmott. I discussed this statement in a previous post and now will expand on this a bit more, specifically including information about NPR’s own ethics code.
Below is the email containing Mr. Memmott’s statement:
Thank you for contacting the NPR Ombudsman. We appreciate your comments and your thoughts will be taken into consideration as we continue to monitor the reporting.
The Ombudsman is currently working on a blog post about this issue. You may be interested in this statement from our standards and practices editor:
David Brooks is primarily an opinion columnist for The New York Times. He appears on All Things Considered to offer his opinions, not as a reporter. His son’s service with the Israeli Defense Forces is no secretWe [sic] agree with the Times’ editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, that Mr. Brooks’ long-standing views about Israel have been “formed by all kinds of things … [and] are not going to change whether or not his son is serving in the IDF, beyond his natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being.” We also agree with the Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, that Mr. Brooks should not be barred from commenting about Israel. She has recommended that he address the issue of his son’s service in the IDF in a future column [see my comments on the Rosenthal and Sullivan statements here]. That strikes us as a reasonable suggestion. If a situation arises and we feel he should also mention it on our air, we still [sic] discuss that with Mr. Brooks at that time.
There are a number of problems with this statement, one of which is that it largely fails to apply NPR’s own ethics requirements to Mr. Brooks.
The fact is that NPR’s ethics codes place a strong emphasis on impartiality and transparency. They include the activities of family members among the activities that may interfere with impartiality, and decree that NPR journalists inform NPR of any potential conflicts of interest. And they apply these ethical requirements to analyses and commentaries, not just to reportorial activities.
NPR’s full ethics handbook states:
“All NPR journalists, including those of us who work for the arts and music desks, must tell our supervisors in advance about potential conflicts of interest.”
NPR’s ethics handbook states:
“Our methods are transparent and we will be accountable for all we do.”
“We are vigilant in disclosing to both our supervisors and the public any circumstances where our loyalties may be divided – extending to the interests of spouses and other family members – and when necessary, we recuse ourselves from related coverage.”
The handbook has an entire section on the importance of impartiality. Below is a particularly relevant section:
Impartiality in our personal lives
Be aware that a loved one’s political activity may create a perception of bias.
Some of our family members — including spouses, companions and children — may be involved in politics or advocacy. We are sensitive to the perception of bias. So we inform our supervisors and work with them to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest [emphasis added].
NPR journalists recuse themselves from covering stories or events related to their family members’ political activities. We may go so far as to change job responsibilities (for instance, moving off the “politics desk” to an area of coverage well removed from that subject). “You have the right to marry anyone you want, but you don’t have the right to cover any beat you want” if the potential conflicts appear to be too great, as Tom Rosenstiel of Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism said to the Los Angeles Times.
The ethics handbook includes additional statements specifically about commentary, concluding:
Our commentaries must also hew to other Guiding Principles, reflecting honesty, accuracy and transparency.
In other words, NPR’s own standards indicate that Mr. Brooks should have informed his editors of his son’s employment in the Israeli military. They also suggest that he should recuse himself from commenting on Israel. If Mr. Brooks chooses not to recuse himself from this subject matter, and if NPR fails to require this, its ethics codes direct that he should at least divulge to the public the fact that his son is serving in the military of the foreign country he is discussing.
Yet, so far NPR
- has not informed listeners that Brooks had a close personal interest in a subject in which he was supposedly offering disinterested analysis,
- has not asked Mr. Brooks to recuse himself from future commentary on a subject in which he has a personal interest, and
- has not stated clearly that this conflict of interest will be divulged in the future (only saying that they might discuss this with Mr. Brooks “if the situation arises”).
There are a number of factual errors and logical inconsistencies in Mr. Memmott’s statement (which I also discussed in my previous post):
1. While Mr. Memmott claims that Mr. Brooks’ situation is “no secret,” in reality, the large majority of NPR listeners quite likely have no idea of Mr. Brooks’ conflict of interest.
The only place the information about Brooks has appeared in print to date is a Hebrew version of an Israeli newspaper, and possibly the Los Angeles Jewish Journal (whose online article was the first place to reveal it in English; it was also on the New York Magazine website). It has not appeared on any mainstream radio or TV broadcast that I’m aware of.
2. While Mr. Memmott is correct in stating that Mr. Brooks is not a reporter, this does not exempt Mr. Brooks from the necessity of abiding by ethics requirements. The National Society of Newspaper Columnists‘ decrees that opinion writers should disclose potential conflicts of interest.
3. It is entirely correct that Mr. Brooks has “natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being,” which is precisely why Mr. Brooks should recuse himself from commenting on matters that concern Israel.
The reality is that Mr. Brooks is a powerful and influential journalist whose commentary about Israel does indeed have the capacity to affect his son’s “safety and well-being.”
Commentary that defends Israel to the American public serves to help keep American tax money ($8-10 million per day) and American diplomatic support for Israel flowing, both of which are extremely important for his son’s safety and well-being.
Commentary that pointed out the illegality and immorality of Israel’s recent killing and injuring of thousands of Gazan men, women, and children by the Israeli military in which his son is serving would quite likely interfere with his son’s well-being, as an increasing number of Americans would join those around the world calling for war crimes tribunals.
Since Mr. Brooks does the former and not the latter, his commentary, at minimum, gives a strong appearance of bias.
According to NPR’s ethics handbook, NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos is also responsible for addressing ethical violations. In fact, the ombudsman is called NPR’s Chief Ethics Officer. He is also responsible for informing the public about such matters.
Yet, so far Mr. Schumacher-Matos has failed to weigh in on this matter, most recently choosing instead to write about what to call the Washington DC football team.
Important as that issue is, it is hard to feel that it is more important than the life-and-death issue of Israel-Palestine and the recent killing and injuring of thousands of Gazan men, women, and children by the Israeli military that David Brooks’ son was serving in while Mr. Brooks was praising Israeli actions on NPR.
I hope that Mr. Schumacher-Matos will eventually step up to the plate and call on NPR, which proclaims its dedication to honesty, transparency, and the highest principles of journalism, to inform the public that commentator David Brooks has been issuing opinions on an issue in which he had a hidden interest. I hope he will also recommend that NPR look for another commentator to replace Mr. Brooks – one who doesn’t believe he is above ethical obligations.