From the Financial Times to the far left, tons of ink has been spilt writing about some variant of the “Crisis of Global Capitalism”. While writers differ in the causes, consequences and cures, according to their ideological lights, there is a common agreement that “the crisis” threatens to end the capitalist system as we know it.
There is no doubt that, between 2008-2009, the capitalist system in Europe and the United States suffered a severe shock that shook the foundations of its financial system and threatened to bankrupt its ‘leading sectors’.
However, I will argue the ‘crisis of capitalism’ was turned into a ‘crisis of labor’. Finance capital, the principle detonator of the crash and crisis, recovered, the capitalist class as a whole was strengthened, and most important of all, it utilized the political, social, ideological conditions created as a result of “the crises” to further consolidate their dominance and exploitation over the rest of society.
In other words, the ‘crisis of capital’ has been converted into a strategic advantage for furthering the most fundamental interests of capital: the enlargement of profits, the consolidation of capitalist rule, the greater concentration of ownership, the deepening of inequalities between capital and labor and the creation of huge reserves of labor to further augment their profits.
Furthermore, the notion of a homogeneous global crisis of capitalism overlooks profound differences in performance and conditions, between countries, classes, and age cohorts.
The Global Crisis Thesis: The Economic and Social Argument
The advocates of global crisis argue that beginning in 2007 and continuing to the present, the world capitalist system has collapsed and recovery is a mirage. They cite stagnation and continuing recession in North America and the Eurozone. They offer GDP data hovering between negative to zero growth. Their argument is backed by data citing double digit unemployment in both regions. They frequently correct the official data which understates the percentage unemployed by excluding part-time, long-term unemployed workers and others. The ‘crisis’ argument is strengthened by citing the millions of homeowners who have been evicted by the banks, the sharp increase in poverty and destitution accompanying job loses, wage reductions and the elimination or reduction of social services. “Crisis” is also associated with the massive increase in bankruptcies of mostly small and medium size businesses and regional banks.
The Global Crisis: The Loss of Legitimacy
Critics, especially in the financial press, write of a “legitimacy crisis of capitalism” citing polls showing substantial majorities questioning the injustices of the capitalist system, the vast and growing inequalities and the rigged rules by which banks exploit their size (“too big to fail”) to raid the Treasury at the expense of social programs.
In summary the advocates of the thesis of a “Global Crisis of Capitalism” make a strong case, demonstrating the profound and pervasive destructive effects of the capitalist system on the lives of the great majority of humanity.
The problem is that a ‘crisis of humanity’ (more specifically of salary and wage workers) is not the same as a crisis of the capitalist system. In fact as I shall argue below growing social adversity, declining income and employment has been a major factor facilitating the rapid and massive recovery of the profit margins of most large scale corporations.
Moreover, the thesis of a‘global’ crisis of capitalism amalgamates disparate economies, countries, classes and age cohorts with sharply divergent performances at different historical moments.
Global Crisis or Uneven and Unequal Development?
It is utterly foolish to argue for a “global crisis” when several of the major economies in the world economy did not suffer a major downturn and others recovered and expanded rapidly. China and India did not suffer even a recession. Even during the worst years of the Euro-US decline, the Asian giants grew on average about 8%. Latin America’s economies especially the major agro-mineral export countries (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, ) with diversified markets, especially in Asia, paused briefly (in 2009) before assuming moderate to rapid growth (between 3% to 7%) from 2010-2012.
By aggregating economic data from the Euro-zone as a whole, the advocates of global crisis overlooked the enormous disparities in performance within the zone. While Southern Europe wallows in a deep sustained depression, by any measure, from 2008 to the foreseeable future, German exports, in 2011, set a record of a trillion euros; its trade surplus reached 158 billion euros, after a 155 billion euro surplus in 2010. (BBC News, Feb. 8 2012).
While aggregate Eurozone unemployment reaches 10.4%, the internal differences defy any notion of a “general crisis”. Unemployment in Holland is 4.9%, Austria 4.1% and Germany 5.5% with employer claims of widespread skilled labor shortages in key growth sectors. On the other hand in exploited southern Europe unemployment runs to depression levels, Greece 21%, Spain 22.9%, Ireland 14.5%, and Portugal 13.6% (FT 1/19/12, p.7). In other words, “the crisis” does not adversely affect some economies, that in fact profit from their market dominance and techno-financial strength over dependent, debtor and backward economies. To speak of a ‘global crisis’ obscures the fundamental dominant and exploitative relations that facilitate ‘recovery’ and growth of the elite economies over and against their competitors and client states. In addition global crisis theorists wrongly amalgamated crisis ridden, financial-speculative economies (US, England) with dynamic productive export economies (Germany, China).
The second problem with the thesis of a “global crisis” is that it overlooks profound internal differences between age cohorts. In several European countries youth unemployment (16-25) runs between 30 to 50% (Spain 48.7%, Greece 47.2%, Slovakia 35.6%, Italy 31%, Portugal 30.8% and Ireland 29%) while in Germany, Austria and Holland youth unemployment runs to Germany 7.8%, Austria 8.2% and Netherlands 8.6% (FT 2/1/12, p2). These differences underlie the reason why there is not a ‘global youth movement’ of “indignant” and “occupiers”. Five-fold differences between unemployed youth is not conducive to ‘international’ solidarity. The concentration of high youth unemployment figures explains the uneven development of mass- street protests especially centered in Southern Europe. It also explains why the northern Euro-American “anti-globalization” movement is largely a lifeless forum which attracts academic pontification on the “global capitalist crises” and the impotence of the “Social Forums” are unable to attract millions of unemployed youth from Southern Europe. They are more attracted to direct action. Globalist theorists overlook the specific way in which the mass of unemployed young workers are exploited in their dependent debt ridden countries. They ignore the specific way they are ruled and repressed by center-left and rightist capitalist parties. The contrast is most evident in the winter of 2012. Greek workers are pressured to accept a 20% cut in minimum wages while in Germany workers are demanding a 6% increase.
If the ‘crisis’ of capitalism is manifested in specific regions, so too does it affect different age/racial sectors of the wage and salaried classes. The unemployment rates of youth to older workers varies enormously: in Italy it is 3.5/1, Greece 2.5/1, Portugal 2.3/1, Spain 2.1/1 and Belgium 2.9/1. In Germany it is 1.5/1 (FT 2/1/12). In other words because of the higher levels of unemployment among youth they have a greater propensity for direct action ‘against the system’; while older workers with higher levels of employment (and unemployment benefits) have shown a greater propensity to rely on the ballot box and engage in limited strikes over job and pay related issues. The vast concentration of unemployed among young workers means they form the ‘available core’ for sustained action; but it also means that they can only achieve limited unity of action with the older working class experiencing single digit unemployment.
However, it is also true that the great mass of unemployed youth provides a formidable weapon, in the hands of employers to threaten to replace employed older workers. Today, capitalists constantly resort to using the unemployed to lower wages and benefits and to intensify exploitation (dubbed to “increase productivity”) to increase profit margins. Far from being simply an indicator of ‘capitalist crises’, high levels of unemployment have served along with other factors to increase the rate of profit, accumulate income and widen income inequalities which augments the consumption of luxury goods for the capitalist class: the sales of luxury cars and watches are booming.
Class Crises: The Counter-Thesis
Contrary to the “global capitalist crisis” theorists, a substantial amount of data has surfaced which refutes its assumptions. A recent study reports “US corporate profits are higher as a share of gross domestic product than at any time since 1950” (FT 1/30/12). US companies cash balances have never been greater, thanks to intensified exploitation of workers, and a multi-tiered wage systems in which new hires work for a fraction of what older workers receive (thanks to agreements signed by ‘door mat’ labor bosses).
The “crisis of capitalism” ideologues have ignored the financial reports of the major US corporations. According to the General Motors 2011 report to its stockholders, they celebrated the greatest profit ever, turning a profit of $7.6 billion, surpassing the previous record of $6.7 billion in 1997. A large part of these profits results from the freezing of its underfunded US pension funds and extracting greater productivity from fewer workers-in other words intensified exploitation-and cutting hourly wages of new hires by half. (Earthlink News 2/16/12)
Moreover the increased importance of imperialist exploitation is evident as the share of US corporate profits extracted overseas keeps rising at the expense of employee income growth. In 2011, the US economy grew by 1.7%, but median wages fell by 2.7%. According to the financial press the profit margins of the S&P 500 leapt from 6% to 9% of the GDP in the past three years, a share last achieved three generations ago. At roughly a third, the foreign share of these profits has more than doubled since 2000 (FT 2/13/12 P9. If this is a “capitalist crisis” then who needs a capitalist boom ?
Surveys of top corporations reveal that US companies are holding 1.73 trillion in cash, “the fruits of record high profit margins” (FT 1/30/12 p.6). These record profit margins result from mass firings which have led to intensifying exploitation of the remaining workers. Also negligible federal interest rates and easy access to credit allow capitalists to exploit vast differentials between borrowing and lending and investing. Lower taxes and cuts in social programs result in a growing cash pile for corporations. Within the corporate structure, income goes to the top where senior executives pay themselves huge bonuses. Among the leading S&P 500 corporations the proportion of income that goes to dividends for stockholders is the lowest since 1900 (FT 1/30/12, p.6).
A real capitalist crisis would adversely affect profit margins, gross earnings and the accumulation of “cash piles”. Rising profits are being horded because as capitalists profit from intense exploitation, mass consumption stagnates.
Crisis theorists confuse what is clearly the degrading of labor, the savaging of living and working conditions and even the stagnation of the economy, with a ‘crisis’ of capital: when the capitalist class increases its profit margins, hoards trillions, it is not in crisis. The key point is that the ‘crisis of labor’ is a major stimulus for the recovery of capitalist profits. We cannot generalize from one to the other. No doubt there was a moment of capitalist crisis (2008-2009) but thanks to the capitalist state’s unprecedented massive transfer of wealth from the public treasury to the capitalist class – Wall Street banks in the first instance – the corporate sector recovered, while the workers and the rest of the economy remained in crises, went bankrupt and out of work.
From Crisis to Recovery of Profits: 2008/9 to 2012
The key to the ‘recovery’ of corporate profits had little to do with the business cycle and all to do with Wall Street’s large scale takeover and pillage of the US Treasury. Between 2009-2012 hundreds of former Wall Street executives, managers and investment advisers seized all the major decision-making positions in the Treasury Department and channeled trillions of dollars into leading financial and corporate coffers. They intervened in financially troubled corporations, like General Motors, imposing major wage cuts and dismissals of thousands of workers.
Wall Streeters in Treasury elaborated the doctrine of “Too Big to Fail” to justify the massive transfer of wealth. The entire speculative edifice built in part by a 234 fold rise in foreign exchange trading volume between 1977-2010 was restored (FT 1/10/12, p.7). The new doctrine argued that the state’s first and principle priority is to return the financial system to profitability at any and all cost to society, citizens, taxpayers and workers. “Too Big to Fail” is a complete repudiation of the most basic principle of the “free market” capitalist system: the idea that those capitalists who lose bear the consequences; that each investor or CEO, is responsible for their action. Financial capitalists no longer needed to justify their activity in terms of any contribution to the growth of the economy or “social utility”. According to the current rulers Wall Street must be saved because it is Wall Street, even if the rest of the economy and people sink (FT 1/20/12, p.11). State bailouts and financing are complemented by hundreds of billions in tax concessions, leading to unprecedented fiscal deficits and the growth of massive social inequalities. The pay of CEO’s as a multiple of the average worker went from 24 to 1 in 1965 to 325 in 2010 (FT 1/9/12, p.5).
The ruling class flaunts their wealth and power aided and abetted by the White House and Treasury. In the face of popular hostility to Wall Street pillage of Treasury, Obama went through the sham of asking Treasury to impose a cap on the multi-million dollar bonuses that the CEO’s running bailed out banks awarded themselves. Wall Streeters in Treasury refused to enforce the executive order, the CEO’s got billions in bonuses in 2011 . President Obama went along, thinking he conned the US public with his phony gesture,while he reaped millions in campaign funds from Wall Street!
The reason Treasury has been taken over by Wall Street is that in the 1990’s and 2000’s, banks became a leading force in Western economies. Their share of the GDP rose sharply (from 2% in the 1950’s to 8% in 2010 (FT 1/10/12, p.7).
Today it is “normal operating procedure” for Presidents to appoint Wall Streeters to all key economic positions; and it is ‘normal’ for these same officials to pursue policies that maximize Wall Street profits and eliminate any risk of failure no matter how risky and corrupt their practioners.
The Revolving Door: From Wall Street to Treasury and Return
Effectively the relation between Wall Street and Treasury has become a “revolving door”: from Wall Street to the Treasury Department to Wall Street. Private bankers take appointments in Treasury (or are recruited) to ensure that all resources and policies Wall Street needs are granted with maximum effort, with the least hindrance from citizens, workers or taxpayers. Wall Streeters in Treasury give highest priority to Wall Street survival, recovery and expansion of profits. They block any regulations or restrictions on bonuses or a repeat of past swindles.
Wall Streeters ‘make a reputation’ in Treasury and then return to the private sector in higher positions, as senior advisers and partners. A Treasury appointment is a ladder up the Wall Street hierarchy. Treasury is a filling station to the Wall Street Limousine: ex Wall Streeters fill up the tank, check the oil and then jump in the front seat and zoom to a lucrative job and let the filling station (public) pay the bill.
Approximately 774 officials (and counting) departed from Treasury between January 2009 and August 2011 (FT 2/6/12, p. 7). All provided lucrative “services” to their future Wall Street bosses finding it a great way to re-enter private finance at a higher more lucrative position.
A report in the Financial Times Feb. 6, 2012 (p. 7) entitled appropriately “Manhattan Transfer” provides typical illustrations of the Treasury-Wall Street “revolving door”:
Ron Bloom went from a junior banker at Lazard to Treasury, helping to engineer the trillion dollar bailout of Wall Street and returned to Lazard as a senior adviser. Jake Siewert went from Wall Street to becoming a top aide to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and then graduated to Goldman Sachs, having served to undercut any cap on Wall Street bonuses.
Michael Mundaca, the most senior tax official in the Obama regime, came from the Street and then went on to a highly lucrative post in the Ernst and Young corporate accounting firm, having helped write down corporate taxes during his stint in “public office”.
Eric Solomon, a senior tax official in the infamous corporate tax free Bush Administration made the same switch. Jeffrey Goldstein whom Obama put in charge of financial regulation and succeeded in undercutting popular demands, returned to his previous employer Hellman and Friedman with the appropriate promotion for services rendered.
Stuart Levey who ran AIPAC sanctions against Iran policies out of Treasury’s so-called “anti- terrorist agency” was hired as general counsel by HSBC to defend it from investigations for money laundering (FT 2/6/12, p. 7). In this case Levey moved from promoting Israels’ war aims to defending an international bank accused of laundering billions in Mexican cartel money. Levey, by the way spent so much time pursuing Israels’ Iran agenda that he totally ignored the Mexican drug cartels’ billion dollar money laundering cross-border operations for the better part of a decade.
Lew Alexander a senior advisor to Geithner in designing the trillion dollar bail out is now a senior official in Nomura, the Japanese bank. Lee Sachs went from Treasury to Bank Alliance, (his own “lending platform”). James Millstein went from Lazard to Treasury, bailed out AIG insurance run into the ground by Greenberg, and then established his own private investment firm taking a cluster of well-connected Treasury officials with him.
The Goldman-Sachs-Treasury “revolving door” continues today. In addition to past and current Treasury heads Paulson and Geithner, former Goldman partner Mark Patterson was recently appointed Geithner’s “chief of staff”. Tim Bowler former Goldman managing director was appointed by Obama to head up the capital markets division.
It should be abundantly clear that elections, parties and the billion dollar electoral campaigns have little to do with “democracy” and more to do with selecting the President and legislators who will appoint non-elected Wall Streeters to make all the strategic economic decisions for the 99% of Americans. The policy results of the Wall Street-Treasury revolving door are clear and provide us with a framework for understanding why the “profit crisis” has vanished and the crisis of labor has deepened.
The “Policy Achievements” of the Revolving Door
The Wall Street-Treasury Conundrum (WSTC) has performed herculean and audacious labor for finance and corporate capital. In the face of universal condemnation of Wall Street by the vast majority of the public for its swindles, bankruptcies, job losses and mortgage foreclosures, the WSTC publicly backed the swindlers with a trillion dollar bailout. A daring move on the face of it; that is if majorities and elections counted for anything. Equally important the WSTC dumped the entire “free market” ideology that justified capitalist profits based on its “risks”, by imposing the new dogma of “too big to fail” in which the state treasury guarantees profits even when capitalists face bankruptcy, providing they are billion dollar firms. The WSTC dumped the capitalist principle of “fiscal responsibility” in favor of hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the corporate-financial ruling class, running up record peace time budget deficits and then having the audacity to blame the social programs supported by popular majorities. (Is it any wonder these ex-Treasury officials get such lucrative offers in the private sector when they leave public office?) Thirdly, Treasury and the Central Bank (Federal Reserve) provide near zero interest loans that guarantee big profits to private financial institutions which borrow low from the Fed and lend high, (including back to the Government!) especially in purchasing overseas Government and corporate bonds. They receive anywhere from four to ten times the interest rates they pay. In other words the taxpayers provide a monstrous subsidy for Wall Street speculation. With the added proviso, that today these speculative activities are now insured by the Federal government, under the “Too Big to Fail” doctrine.
Under the ideology of “regaining competitiveness” the Obama economic team (from Treasury, the Federal Reserve, Commerce, Labor) has encouraged employers to engage in the most aggressive shedding of workers in modern history. Increased productivity and profitability is not the result of “innovation” as Obama, Geithner and Bernanke claim; it is a product of a state labor policy which deepens inequality by holding down wages and raising profit margins. Fewer workers producing more commodities. Cheap credit and bailouts for the billion dollar banks and no refinancing for households and small and medium size firms leading to bankruptcies, buyouts and ‘consolidation’ namely, greater concentration of ownership. As a result the mass market stagnates but corporate and bank profits reach record levels. According to financial experts under the WSTC “new order” “bankers are a protected class who enjoy bonuses regardless of performance, while relying on the taxpayer to socialize their losses” (FT 1/9/12, p.5). In contrast labor, under Obama’s economic team, faces the greatest insecurity and most threatening situation in recent history: “what is unquestionably novel is the ferocity with which US business sheds labor now that executive pay and incentive schemes are linked to short term performance targets” (FT 1/9/2012, p. 5).
Economic Consequences of State Policies
Because of the Wall Street “ takeover” of strategic economic policy positions in Government we can now understand the paradox of record profit margins in the midst of economic stagnation. We can comprehend why the capitalist crisis has, at least temporarily, been replaced by a profound crisis of labor. Within the power matrix of Wall Street-Treasury Dept. all the old corrupt and exploitative practices that led up to the 2008-2009 crash have returned: multi-billion dollar bonuses for investment bankers who led the economy into the crash; banks “snapping up billions of dollars of bundled mortgage products that resemble the sliced and diced debt some (sic) blame for the financial crisis” (FT 2/8/12, p.1). The difference today is that these speculative instruments are now backed by the taxpayer (Treasury). The supremacy of the financial structure of the pre-crisis US economy is in place and thriving … “only” the US labor force has sunk into greater unemployment, declining living standards, widespread insecurity and profound discontent.
Conclusion: The Case Against Capitalism and for Socialism
The profound crises of 2008-2009 provoked a spate of questioning of the capitalist system, even among many of its most ardent advocates (FT 1/8/12 to 1/30/12) criticism abounded. ‘Reform, regulation and redistribution’ were the fare of financial columnists. Yet the ruling economic and governing class took no heed. The workers are controlled by doormat union leaders and lack a political instrument. The rightwing pseudo populists embrace an even more virulent pro capitalist agenda, calling for across the board elimination of social programs and corporate taxes. Inside the state a major transformation has taken place which effectively smashed any link between capitalism and social welfare, between government decision-making and the electorate. Democracy has been replaced by a corporate state, founded on the revolving door between Treasury and Wall Street, which funnels public wealth to private financial coffers. The breach between the welfare of society and the operations of the financial architecture is definitive.
The activity of Wall Street has no social utility; its practitioners enrich themselves with no redeeming activity. Capitalism has demonstrated conclusively, that it thrives through the degradation of tens of millions of workers and rejects the endless pleas for reform and regulation. Real existing capitalism cannot be harnessed to raising living standards or ensuring employment free of fear of large scale, sudden and brutal firings. Capitalism, as we experience it over the past decade and for the foreseeable future, is in polar opposition to social equality, democratic decision-making and collective welfare.
Record capitalist profits are accrued by pillaging the public treasury, denying pensions and prolonging ‘work till you die’, bankrupting most families with exorbitant private corporate medical and educational costs.
More than ever in recent history, record majorities reject the rule by and for the bankers and the corporate ruling class (FT 2/6/12, p. 6). Inequalities between the top 1% and the bottom 99% have reached record proportions. CEO’s earn 325 times that of an average worker (FT 1/9/12, p.5). Since the state has become the ‘foundation’ of the economy of the Wall Street predators, and since ‘reform’ and regulation has dismally failed , it is time to consider a fundamental systemic transformation that begins via a political revolution which forcibly ousts the non-elected financial and corporate elites running the state for their own exclusive interests. The entire political process,including elections, are profoundly corrupt: each level of office has its own inflated price tag. The current Presidential contest will cost $2 to $3 billion dollars to determine which of the servants of Wall Street will preside over the revolving door.
Socialism is no longer the scare word of the past. Socialism involves the large-scale reorganization of the economy, the transfer of trillions from the coffers of predator classes’ of no social utility to the public welfare. This change can finance a productive and innovative economy based on work and leisure, study and sport. Socialism replaces the everyday terror of dismissal with the security that brings confidence, assurance and respect to the workplace. Workplace democracy is at the heart of the vision of 21st century socialism. We begin by nationalizing the banks and eliminating Wall Street. Financial institutions are redesigned to create productive employment, to serve social welfare and to preserve the environment. Socialism would begin the transition, from a capitalist economy directed by predators and swindlers and a state at their command, toward an economy of public ownership under democratic control.
In his latest article, “Hardhitting, Dissenting Journalism — Without the Hardhitting, Dissenting Part,” Arthur Silber writes:
“In a recent essay, I mentioned Matt Taibbi as one of the examples of a phenomenon I call “The Obedient Dissenter,” and said I would be examining that phenomenon in further detail soon. This isn’t that lengthier analysis, but more in the nature of a sneak preview.
Taibbi posted this entry yesterday: “Another March to War?” His remarks deal with the major media’s warmongering about Iran and the distortions they rely upon. All true, and all old news to those who’ve been awake however briefly in recent years. Note what he drops into the middle of his discussion:
I’m not defending Achmedinejad, I think he’s nuts and a monstrous dick and I definitely don’t think he should be allowed to have nuclear weapons…
He shouldn’t be allowed to have nuclear weapons? Ahmadinejad is going to stock all those terrible nuclear weapons in his very own personal Closet of Worldwide Destruction? And then, some night when he’s had a few too many drinks or because he’s pissed off about not getting his favorite dessert, he’s going to haul out a missile and hurl it at some unsuspecting country? And he shouldn’t be allowed to have these weapons? Who’s going to enforce that prohibition, Taibbi — you and what military? Oh, that’s right: that would be the United States military.
In this manner, Taibbi reduces the most consequential matters of international relations to questions of personality — thus throwing open the door to all the gutter language used by every warmongering propagandist, all the talk of Ahmadinejad being the “new Hitler,” the embodiment of evil and so on. Taibbi even helpfully includes his entirely unsupported and extraordinarily dangerous opinion that Ahmadinejad is “nuts.” Way to fight the power, Taibbi!
Thus does Taibbi accept all the assumptions and premises of those he says he is criticizing. Thus does he concede the battle before the first shot is fired.”
The global 9/11 truth and justice movement has been saying this for a decade. What the brainwashed Left calls “dissent” is a big joke. They blindly accept the official government narrative of the biggest event of our lifetime – an event that launched a world war in the Middle East, and transferred trillions of dollars from funding for science, health care, infrastructure, and education to the banking-military-industrial-congressional complex.
The 9/11 Lie destroyed the American economy and the American Constitution. But both the brainwashed Left and Right are hanging onto the lie as if their very lives depended on it being true.
As Silber says, the delusional and stupid Left has conceded “the battle before the first shot is fired.” They should just get out of the way and let the real dissidents take care of business.
And if you try to educate these clueless “critics of U.S. foreign policy” about the 9/11 attacks and false flag terrorism in general they call you a nut and a conspiracy theorist. Very liberal-minded.
American political scientist and author of the “Holocaust Industry,” Norman Finkelstein - known for his outspoken criticism of Israel and advocacy of Palestinian rights – showed his own fear of the paradigm shift in discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when he called the BDS movement a ‘cult’ last week
The interview with Norman Finkelstein that circulated all over the web on Wednesday, in which he calls the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel a “cult” and compares it to Maoism is, I think, a milestone of sorts. Or, more accurately, the symptom of a milestone – a sign that the ground is shifting on Israel/Palestine issues.
Click link for video of interview:
Normal Finkelstein has made a career out of being the son of holocaust survivors who doesn’t shy away from picking a fight with Israel’s backers, and who unabashedly defends the rights of Palestinians. At times his controversial positions have set his career back, as when he was denied tenure at DePaul University. However, on balance he has certainly benefited, as a less combative scholar would today likely be simply one of thousands of obscure political science professors.
Everything about the interview is classic Finkelstein: his demeanor, his tendency to raise his voice, his adversarial, passionate approach, everything, that is, except for the things he’s saying. In a bizarre turn of events, he comes off as a Zionist bully, or for that matter, any other angry right wing pundit. He accuses activists for Palestinian civil rights of having a secret agenda, that of destroying Israel. He seems obsessed with some overarching concept of the Law as final arbiter in all matters, as though in this case we weren’t talking about a variety of laws, many of which at times contradict each other, and as though there isn’t a history of the law being written, enforced, and misinterpreted by political actors at the expense of the weak. His complaint that solidarity movement activists want to cherry pick which laws they respect is reminiscent of the claims made by white religious leaders that Dr. Martin Luther King so famously refuted in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
Moreover, Finkelstein conveniently ignores the fact that international law recognizes refugees as having a right to return to their homeland. When the law is inconvenient, Finkelstein employs another classic conservative tactic, insisting that the public simply won’t accept the demands of the activists, that they need to be more pragmatic. Again, see “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” for an eloquent refutation of such logic.
Finkelstein even resorts to the desperate tactic of denial. When the interviewer puts forth his contention that the BDS movement is growing in popularity, Finkelstein rejects the idea out of hand, comparing the movement to some Maoist group he apparently was affiliated with at some point in his more idealistic youth.
I recently witnessed BDS’s growing clout at a meeting I attended with a woman working with an Israeli artist helping set up a series of salons in New York to explore and question the Birthright Israel programs, and the idea of a “birthright” in general. The project sounds very interesting, but the woman was visibly frustrated at their inability to find people willing to work with them in the city. They are partially funded by the Israeli Consulate, and as a result have had the proverbial door shut on them by activists, artists, and professors, Arab and Jew alike. This would have been incomprehensible five years ago, when I first heard of the BDS movement at the annual Bil’in conference and it was, at that point, divisive even among conference attendees.
Here is where things stand now. There is a paradigm shift in the works in how the Israel/Palestine conflict is understood and approached. There is an increasing consensus among Israel’s critics to see the issue as one of civil rights, rather than a conflict between two nations. Indeed, some BDS activists harbor a desire to see the end of the Jewish state, and others believe this is the inevitable outcome of a civil rights movement, whether they desire it or not. But many others, I would argue most Palestinians among them, simply don’t care about this abstract One State v. Two State argument. They just don’t think civil rights - indeed human rights - can be trumped by someone’s nationalist claims.
Finkelstein’s sudden hostility to the solidarity movement is a symptom of this paradigm shift. It is easy to rail against Israel when the existence of a Jewish nation-state seems guaranteed in perpetuity. But that guarantee seems to have eroded a bit. For some this will be scary. But then change always is. It was scary in South Africa. It was scary in the Jim Crow American South. For others it is liberating, and you can count among these an increasing number of Israelis who see coexistence – real coexistence, not the tenuous kind that reigns in Jaffa, among other places – as a more attractive guarantee to their security than the ethnocratic state. As the ground continues to shift, some of those who are afraid will flinch, and retreat to safer, more moderate arguments. Finkelstein flinched.
Sean O’Neill worked for Christian Peacemaker Teams from 2006-2009 in the South Hebron Hills supporting Palestinian-led nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation and continued settlement expansion. He is currently an MA candidate at New York University in Near Eastern Studies and Journalism.
- Two critiques of Norman Finkelstein’s recent appearances (alethonews.wordpress.com)
During his 13-year-long presidency Hugo Chavez had to deal with five US ambassadors and numerous charge d’affaires. The history of relations between them and the Venezuelan leader shows how successfully one can oppose a policy of blackmail, conspiracy, overturns and ‘orange revolutions’.
The very first ambassador- John Maisto- arrived in Venezuela in 1997. His credentials were accepted by elderly Rafael Caldera, the last president of the corrupt Fourth Republic, which by that time had fully exhausted its potential. Venezuela was then preparing for presidential elections, and the U.S. propaganda was targeting Chavez’s candidacy.
Maisto’s career is worth paying attention to. He assisted the C.I.A in secret operations against Che Guevara in Bolivia. He worked in policy departments of the US embassies in Colombia, Costa Rica, and in the Philippines, which means that he was involved in intelligence operations. Maisto is believed to have stood behind the bloodless revolution that eventually overturned the Marcos government [of the Philippines 1965-1986]. Maisto led the policy department of the US embassy in Panama and took part in preparing the U.S. military intervention, which resulted in the arrest of President Manuel Noriega. Maisto also worked in Nicaragua, where he arrived in the early 1990s to help in ‘dismantling’ the leftist Sandinista regime following the victory of a pro-American candidate.
Maisto was repeatedly heard describing Chavez as an insurgent leader who supported left-wing parties and sympathized with the Castro brothers. On his advice, in the beginning of 1998 the US Department of State denied Chavez a US visa. This was a clear signal that Washington would support Chavez’s rival Henrique Salas Römer, a politician loyal to the traditions of the Fourth Republic. However, Chavez won the elections with more than 56% of the vote, and Maisto had to urgently bridge the gap. Chavez was no longer denied entry to the US. Preparations started for his meeting with Bill Clinton. Although the US State Department insisted that Chavez should first visit Washington, the Venezuelan leader said that before going to the US he would meet Fidel first.
It is worth mentioning that Maisto had to interpret a new political situation in Venezuela as “not radically opposing the US interests”, saying that Chavez was ensuring stability in his country, including stable hydrocarbon supplies, without infringing upon the US property. Maisto added that although Chavez was not very cooperative towards the US, he still could quite be tolerated as Venezuela’s leader. Agents of the CIA, DIA and DEA were embedded in Chavez’s circles, not to mention fifth-column activists in the country’s ministries of defense and of foreign affairs. The ambassador predicted that Chavez wouldn’t stay in office longer than 1.5-2 years. Now we see that he was mistaken.
Maisto left Venezuela in August of 2000, and was replaced by diplomat Donna Hrinak. Before being appointed as ambassador to Caracas, Hrinak had served as a US ambassador to the Dominican Republic and Bolivia (prior to Evo Morales’s presidency), and was used to talking to Latin American presidents in a bossy tone. When Chavez condemned the US bombing of Afghanistan, which led to numerous civilian deaths, Hrinak asked him if she could meet him in person. She came to the meeting, bearing in mind instructions from the State Department, and demanded that Chavez not be as critical towards the US as he had been. Chavez interrupted her: “You are talking to the head of state. Regarding your position, you are not behaving in a proper fashion, please, leave the room now”. Some sources say that Chavez, however, let Hrinak read the message from Washington till the end. In January 2002 Hrinak left Venezuela and was sent to Brazil to prevent Luiz da Silva from establishing too close ties with Chavez. The Brazilian leader turned to be a tough nut to crack: he listened attentively to US instructions but did it his own way.
Until March 2002, the US embassy in Caracas had been run by a charge d’affaires. Meanwhile, the Bush administration sanctioned a coup d’état, relying on three Venezuelan high-ranking army officials, who had been trained in the US. The conspiracy involved many counterintelligence agents (DIM, DISP, and others). Pro-US media launched non-stop propaganda against the ‘Castro-Communist regime’ and its followers. Non-governmental organizations (NGO) that emerged under Maisto, brought many intellectuals, students and oil workers together. Middle-class women also took active part in protests against ‘Cubanization’ of their country. Certainly, old bourgeois parties and the Catholic church did not stay aside.
A month before the coup a new US ambassador, Charles Shapiro, arrived in Venezuela. Known at home for his experience in dealing with coups, Shapiro was praised for his work as a military attaché in Chile while preparing the toppling of Salvador Allende. Shapiro also stood out during a ‘dirty war’ with guerrilla units in Salvador and Nicaragua in 1980s. Washington relied on this highly experienced person in dealing with ‘the Chavez issue’. On April 11, 2002, indeed, Shapiro reported the toppling of Chavez. The ambassador’s moment of glory did not last long as Chavez returned to his presidential palace in the wake of pubic protests, supported by patriotic members of the military. A week later Shapiro asked for a meeting with Chavez. When the two met, Shapiro told the Venezuelan leader about the plot to assassinate him. Chavez asked: “What exactly do you know about the plot? Who stands behind it, tell me the names”. Shapiro shrugged his shoulders: “The instructions I received contain no information of this kind.”
A few years later Chavez told journalists about his talk with Shapiro, describing the latter a ‘real clown but not an ambassador’: “Given the CIA, the FBI and other intelligence services, they say they have no further information on the issue. Meanwhile, we know, and we are not alone in our knowing, that there is a camp in Miami where Venezuelan terrorists are being trained. The US administration has not done anything to arrest them. Moreover, Washington assists them.” Chavez said that Shapiro’s visit was organized to shield US involvement with April protests, and distract attention from the US ambassador’s applause for Pedro Carmona, one of key plotters”. A really devastating failure for the CIA was that its Venezuelan agents did not have the nerve to get rid of the Bolivarian leader. After that Shapiro was no longer a person whom Chavez and his supporters could trust.
The ambassador thus had to pretend that he was just a mediator between the government and the opposition. Behind-the-scenes, Shapiro supported financial assistance to the opposition via the CIA and NGOs. More and more Zionist supporters were engaged in anti-government activities. Shapiro used mass media to send threatening signals to Chavez, trying to persuade him that the situation in Venezuela would be getting even worse unless his (Shapiro’s) recommendations were heeded. Chavez, for his part, more than once said that Shapiro could become persona non grata in Venezuela. In 2004 Shapiro’s term in office expired and he left the country.
The next US ambassador to Venezuela was William Brownfield. He began his diplomatic career in 1979 as a vice consul in Maracaibo, Venezuela’s oil capital. Traditionally, all posts in that consulate were occupied by CIA agents or intelligence officers. Brownfield participated in working out the so-called Plan Colombia, and also supervised the Cuba-related policies in the Department of State. Three months passed before Brownfield was approved as the new US ambassador in Venezuela: tensions between the Bolivarian government and the opposition remained, and Chavez decided to keep the new US diplomat away from Venezuela for a while.
Brownfield’s credentials were accepted by Chavez at Miraflores Palace on October 15. First, the ambassador tried to leave a good impression on him and emphasized the need to improve US-Venezuela relations at least on some levels and lay the basis for further cooperation. Very soon, however, Brownfield’s policy changed, and he spent much time talking to opposition members and NGO activists. He paid several visits to Venezuela’s Zulia state, openly demonstrating his solidarity with local pro-separatism politicians. He criticized practically everything Chavez did: the purchase of Russian arms, oil cooperation with Cuba, expanded partnership with Iran, contribution to Latin American integration and the creation of the mechanism of regional security without the US membership.
In response, official Caracas paid absolutely no attention to the new US envoy. Brownfield’s mission ended in the middle of 2007. This is how one of Venezuela’s analysts commented on Brownfield’s work: “Defeated, he is leaving. He failed to implement Washington’s plans of making the opposition stronger and Chavez weaker. On the contrary, while Brownfield stayed in Venezuela, Chavez saw his approval rating going up to 73%… Brownfield simply turned into a vulgar immoral instigator. His only success was giving dollars to opposition ‘puppets’.
Brownfield wished his successor Patrick Duddy all the best at his post. Describing Duddy as a ”very smart, intellectual man, who knows Latin America very well”, Brownfield said: ”Probably, he will manage to achieve the goals I’ve failed to approach.” Duddy continued his predecessor’s course, though in a more careful way: his intelligence background helped him. There was not a single reason to reproach him for anything, although Venezuelan counterintelligence received reports that the US embassy was preparing a ‘surprise’ for the 2008 presidential elections. In August of 2008, in a gesture of solidarity with Bolivia, Chavez said that Duddy must leave Venezuela within 72 hours. The US ambassador to La Paz Philip Goldberg was a key figure in organizing opposition rallies and instigating separatism. He was implementing US plans to overthrow Evo Morales.
Duddy returned to Caracas nine months later. His further stay in Venezuela was not in any way remarkable, except the WikiLeaks reports dealing with the embassy’s financial ties to pro-opposition mass media. Journalists addressed Duddy asking him for money allegedly to fight the Chavez regime. Duddy was not happy with the situation because the results were very poor despite huge spending.
Larry Palmer was expected to become the next US ambassador to Venezuela. During discussions in Congress, Palmer spoke about ”low morale of the Venezuelan army”, ”links between the Chavez government and FARC rebels”. After Palmer’s statements were leaked to the media, thus bringing a new chill in the relations between the two countries. Chavez did not accept Palmer as the new US envoy to Venezuela.
Currently, the US interests in Caracas are represented by charge d’affaires James Derham. He used to work in Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, in Kosovo – as part of The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and also in Cuba as part of the US Interests Section in Havana. By the way, Derham was already a retired diplomat, resting in his private house in Williamsburg, Virginia, not far from the CIA headquarters in Langley, when he was appointed to a new post. Perhaps, in Washington they believe that pensioner Derham will be more successful than plotters shielded by the State Department.
- Venezuela wants best of relations with the US based on ‘mutual absolute respect’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Hugo Chavez: Why Does He Hate Us? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Madeleine Albright, former U.S. ambassador to the UN and former Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, once asked General Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”
Albright’s statement nicely captures the U.S. approach to dealing with troublesome leaders. By troublesome, I mean those who have the temerity to oppose U.S. positions and who, at the same time, are far too weak to pose a real military threat to the U.S. Examples of nations that had such troublesome leaders include Panama, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The leaders of Syria and Iran are also currently in the crosshairs.
Note the contrast between Albright’s words and those of President Eisenhower in his “Cross of Iron” speech in 1953. Eisenhower addressed the idea of regime change when he said: “Any nation’s right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.” He added: “Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.” Unfortunately the U.S., even under Eisenhower, did not base its actions on these words.
A pattern also emerges from examining the above one-sided conflicts that led to regime changes. The U.S. clearly feels no need for real diplomacy in these cases. For example, the U.S. often even refuses to talk with the other side. Instead, what passes for U.S. negotiation is the making of demands that the other side cannot accept. When the other side fails to accept all the U.S. demands, it faces U.S. action.
In general, the actions begin with a campaign by a compliant media here to frighten the U.S. population into supporting steps against the crazy leader who is a threat to his own people or to the U.S., covert acts including assassinations, creating and/or building up opposition leaders, threats of an attack against the enemy, the use of economic sanctions, and a military attack if the other steps haven’t worked. Sometimes the U.S. attacks without going through most of the other steps. In the case of Iraq, even acceptance of U.S. demands was not enough to prevent the illegal and unwarranted U.S.-led attack.
The U.S. sometimes seeks to enlist the UN to provide a legal cover for its actions. For example, the U.S. often seeks the UN’s support for the sanctions. However, if the UN doesn’t accept the U.S. position, the U.S. and/or some of its allies apply the sanctions anyway. The U.S. also often attempts to gain the UN Security Council’s support for a military attack. However, if the UN doesn’t go along with an attack, the U.S. then turns to NATO or forms an ad hoc coalition of nations willing to join in military action.
Unsurprisingly, the compliant corporate-dominated U.S. media seldom, if ever, address the morality or legality of this approach that usually leads to a U.S. military attack on a far weaker nation. For example, the threat or use of force, except in self-defense against an armed attack or, unless taken by the UN Security Council, is prohibited under the UN Charter.
Sanctions have been in vogue for the last twenty years or so. However, more and more people today realize that harsh economic sanctions are, in effect, collective punishment of innocent populations. The devastation sanctions cause, particularly those wreaked on Haitians and Iraqis, has led to more frequent discussions about their appropriateness and legality.
The legality and morality of the U.S. approach should be discussed, especially given the U.S. campaigns regarding Syria and Iran. However, in the U.S. today, it seems to be outside the realm of polite discussion to point out that the threats to attack Iran by the U.S. and Israel are violations of the UN Charter. Few in the corporate-dominated U.S. media also challenge the idea of preemptive self-defense.
President Eisenhower also had some strong opinions on preventive war. He said: “I don’t believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn’t even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing. … It seems to me that when, by definition, a term is just ridiculous in itself, there is no use in going any further.”
When the US says that no options are off the table, it raises the awful possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. The threat of the use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapon state that has signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty clearly is an extreme violation of the UN Charter.
Instead of the U.S. approach that relies heavily on the threat of the use of its military, real negotiations without preconditions are the key to resolving conflicts, including those with Syria and Iran.
- Ron Forthofer is a retired professor of biostatistics.
Israel’s use of national parks to expropriate Palestinian land and prevent development in East Jerusalem is the subject of Bimkom’s latest, January, report.
Bimkom, a group of Israeli planners and architects advocating for planning rights, has studied the state’s strategy of making “green” settlements as a more convenient alternative to building its controversial Jewish-only housing enclaves alongside Palestinian communities in occupied East Jerusalem.
Designating urban space as a national park is not only easier but cheaper too, the state having no obligation to compensate owners.
The Jerusalem municipality leaves the creation of these parks to the National Planning Authority (in the Ministry of Interior), Bimkom noted, which deals more with the protection of nature and heritage than the rights of Jerusalem’s residents.
By passing authority over to the NPA, the municipality can absolve itself of responsibility for the people it professes to serve, the report argued.
The report came in the wake of a new national park set to appear on Mount Scopus, using land privately owned by residents of Issawiya and A-Tur, neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem.
The plan, currently under public review, was initially thought up by the Israel Nature and Park Authority, a body of the Ministry for Environment.
More recently it has been championed by the Jerusalem Development Authority – a government body helping the municipality with development projects – which was given 40 million NIS in 2005 to develop green spaces around the Old City of Jerusalem.
As a result of the state’s categorical neglect of Palestinians in Jerusalem, Bimkom began working with A-Tur and Issawiya residents years ago to devise development plans.
The national park will cover the neighbourhoods’ remaining available land, making Bimkom’s project impossible.
Locals, with the help of Bimkom and other rights groups, are raising legal objections to the plan, amid efforts to bring the public’s attention to their plight.
The case forwarded by the municipality is based on the site’s purported archaeological significance.
Municipal representatives pointed to “antiquities, caves … and burial sites from the era of the Second Temple,” Ha’aretz reported last month.
This argument has been rubbished by Bimkom, who argue what is really at play is Israel’s control over land, usually achieved by stunting Palestinian development.
Avraham Shaked – member of the Interior Ministry’s Jerusalem District Committee as an environmental advocate – agrees the prospective park is part of a more sinister political agenda.
“This process is definitely a political process,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “If it’s possible to develop the area for the good of the public it’s a positive thing. But this is not important as a nature reserve.”
The INPA – the management of which is dominated by several prominent settlers – denies doggedly that it is political. The group is “only concerned about preserving nature in the areas under its control,” a spokesperson told Ha’aretz.
“The declaration of the area [as a park] safeguards the last segment of the Judean Desert that begins on the Mount Scopus slope, and its importance stems from its view onto the desert, heritage landmarks and desert vegetation.”
While the state is forbidden from working on the site until the period for public comment is over, the INPA has forged ahead regardless.
Bulldozers have begun work on private land, moving a large mound of earth to create an effective wall which blocks a path to agricultural land. The municipality insists this measure was designed to prevent the area from being used as an illegal dumping ground, stopping the passage of trucks that would dump rubbish.
While residents remain unconvinced, the state’s response to their objection to this breach has been characteristically repressive and disproportionately severe.
On the morning of Monday, 6 February, border police arrived on the private land of Issawiya and A-Tur residents to continue preparatory work on the park.
When locals, along with Israeli supporters, gathered to protest the construction work, police arrested six people, five Jewish Israelis and one Palestinian.
The disparity between the management of space for West Jerusalemites compared to their counterparts in the east is stark, with national parks notably absent from the west.
“The Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are crowded and they suffer from extreme neglect and shortage of public infrastructure,” Bimkom architect, Efrat Bar-Cohen, said in a statement.
“The residents are in desperate need of space by which they can improve their quality of life, even if slightly.”
The building of the park will have ramifications beyond the strangling of Issawiya and A-Tur residents.
It will stretch into the E1 area of the West Bank, which represents an important reserve of space for Palestinian development, creating a string of Jewish Israeli-only settlement between the Old City and Ma’ale Adumim settlement.
Elad Kandl is director of the Old City projects at the Jerusalem Development Authority, whose website describes their work as rehabilitating and conserving the Old City.
He expressed succinctly Israel’s aim of curbing Palestinian development in Jerusalem. “When you make it a national park,” he told The Jerusalem Post in reference to open space, “you keep the status quo.”
- Issawiya: a Palestinian village, boxed in by the occupation (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Ethnic Cleansing in a Zionist Fairyland (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Video shows UK-manufactured JCB equipment destroying Jerusalem playground (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel isolates 125,000 Palestinians from Jerusalem (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli forces destroy “the only place for children in Silwan” (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- 88 Palestinian Houses to be demolished for Israeli Park (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- 70,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites to be re-classified as West Bank citizens (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Arabic place names erased in Municipality’s campaign to Hebrew-ize Jerusalem (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Veolia must stop assisting the occupier and leave Jerusalem, says Hamas spokesperson (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The California State University (CSU) system has sent a letter in response to a Zionist group, rejecting their claim that Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian and a frequent contributor to The Electronic Intifada, should not receive CSU sponsorship during his upcoming campus tour because of his criticism of Israeli policies.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and Leila Beckwith, professors and co-founders of the AMCHA initiative, appealed to the CSU chancellor and the presidents of CSU-Northridge, Cal Poly, and CSU-Fresno, urging them to “revoke sponsorship of Ilan Pappe’s tour.”
As I reported last month, Rossman-Benjamin and Beckwith are at the forefront of a campaign to discredit and punish professors who speak out against Israeli policies. Their targets include CSU-Northridge professor David Klein, who has been under attack from AMCHA for his outspoken support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and for his organizing against CSU’s resumption of the Israel study abroad program.
In their appeal to the CSU administration, AMCHA wrote:
As you may know, Ilan Pappe is an Israeli Jew who harbors deep animus towards the Jewish state, has publicly called for its elimination, and engages in activities to harm its citizens, such as a campaign to boycott Israeli academics, which he helped to found. In addition, he openly supports the terrorist organization Hamas and falsely accuses Israel of “crimes against humanity,” including “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.”
Pappe has readily acknowledged that his “scholarship” is driven by his anti-Israel political agenda, and his historical writings have been repudiated by numerous eminent scholars of Israel and the Middle East. Moreover, much of the rhetoric Pappe uses to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state is anti-Semitic according to the working definition of anti-Semitism employed by the U.S. State Department, as is the academic boycott which he promotes in his talks and writings.
Although we are dismayed that Ilan Pappe is coming to speak at three CSU campuses, our concern is not with the events per se, but rather with the fact that these events are being organized and promoted by faculty and administrators of the California State University system, using the name, resources, and imprimatur of CSU, in order to vilify and harm the Jewish state and its supporters.
The letter included dramatic claims that professors who have organized Pappe’s lectures “have been permitted to exploit their University positions and taxpayer-funded University resources to promote their hatred of the Jewish state and their efforts to harm it.”
Additionally, the AMCHA initiative wrote that the lecture tour is in “clear violation of the will and intention of the CSU Trustees who formally resolved that ‘outside speakers brought to the campus will contribute to educational values, that is the pursuit of truth and citizenship values, and not be brought in for propagandizing purposes.’ Indeed, this resolution of the CSU Trustees introduces CSUF’s 2005 policy on outside speakers and events.”
They go on, wanting to appear as though they’re not asking to censor Pappe:
Please understand that we are NOT asking that these three events be cancelled or that Ilan Pappe be censored. Rather, we are calling on you to rescind all CSUF, Cal Poly, and CSUN sponsorship and support from the Ilan Pappe events, for the following reasons:
… These events are in violation of CSU policy and the California Education Code (89005.5), which prohibit the use of the name of any CSU campus for the support, endorsement, or advancement of political or partisan activity or program, with “boycott” specifically named.
The fact that events which will undoubtedly foment hatred of the Jewish state and its supporters are being organized and promoted by University faculty, senior administrators, departments, and colleges cannot help but create a hostile environment for Jewish students at CSUF, Cal Poly, and CSUN, in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
However, despite their hysterical pleas and citation of codes to fit their specific purpose of silencing dissent and discussion on campuses, CSU decided to unanimously stand up for academic freedom and dismissed AMCHA’s pressure. CSU officials stated in a letter:
Universities are charged with teaching students how to think for themselves. This includes accessing and processing knowledge and ideas and considering, discussing and debating them.
… There is no danger to a free society in allowing opposing views to be heard. The danger, instead, is in censoring them. It is easy to support free speech when we agree with what is being said. The real test is when we are asked to defend the expression of views with which we disagree.
Ilan Pappe’s CSU tour begins next week.
- The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Confronting intimidation – Ilan Pappe (coalitionforpalestine.org)
- New Pappe book highlights plight of forgotten Palestinians (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Socialist Worker: Interview Ilan Pappé Unequal under the law (themisanthropichumanist.wordpress.com)
- California professor under attack for opposing “study in Israel” scheme (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Only 127 US academics (many retired) sign to oppose study abroad in Israel programs (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has once again proven that the only thing Americans need fear, is their own government, with the latest “terror attack” foiled being one entirely of their own design.
USA Today reports that a suspect had been arrested by the FBI who was “en route to the U.S. Capitol allegedly to detonate a suicide bomb.” While initial reports portrayed the incident as a narrowly averted terrorist attack, CBS would report that a “high ranking source told CBS News the man was “never a real threat.”" The explosives the would-be bomber carried were provided to him by the FBI during what they described as a “lengthy and extensive operation.” The only contact the suspect had with “Al Qaeda” was with FBI officials posing as associates of the elusive, omnipresent, bearded terror conglomerate. The FBI, much like their MI5 counterparts in England, have a propensity for recruiting likely candidates from mosques they covertly run.
This is but the latest in a string of national terror plots carried out from start to finish by the FBI, who has made a business of approaching likely candidates and grooming them to carry out terror attacks. In September 2011, another FBI terror operation targeting the Capitol was “foiled,” involving a patsy who believed he was to take part in an assault that would involve multiple gunmen and even a drone bomber provided to him by the FBI.
And perhaps the most dubious of all, was the December 2010 Portland “Christmas Tree Bomber,” who was also approached by the FBI, provided demolition training, including a demonstration with live explosives performed in a Lincoln County park, and a van within which the patsy believed his handlers had provided him a bomb. The van with the inert device was parked next to a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony where the patsy attempted to detonate it remotely before being arrested by FBI agents.
It would later turn out that Portland had heroically withdrawn from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, (JTTF), with the operation then being carried out behind Portland Mayor Sam Adam’s back only for its conclusion to humiliatingly catch the mayor off guard. The city of Portland would eventually rejoin the JTTF after the fallout from the FBI’s own terror plot.
The FBI is carrying out what is essentially a campaign of entrapment fueling what alternative news outlet Media Monarchy appropriately calls “terronoia.” And while it is true that these incidents are being used to foment a climate of fear to justify the ongoing “War on Terror,” there is a more sinister implication readers must be aware of.
In 1993 the FBI was carrying out an identical “sting operation” in New York City. The target was the World Trade Center, the weapon of choice would be a bomb-laden van, that like the above mentioned attacks, was supposed to contain an inert device. Helping the FBI was an Egyptian informant, Emad Salem, who over the course of the investigation grew suspicious of the federal agents and began recording his phone conversations with them.
From these recordings released by the New York Times, it turns out that the FBI switched out the inert device for real explosives at the last moment resulting in an attack that killed 6 and injured over a thousand. Despite this evidence, the 1993 bombing is still to this day attributed to “terrorists” with the FBI’s involvement muted if ever mentioned.
The implications are of course, with the FBI’s current nationwide stable of patsies being trained, directed, and provided material support to carry out attacks which the FBI then “foils,” is that at any given moment, any one of these operations can be switched “live” just as in 1993. The resulting carnage can then be used to manipulate public opinion just as it was in 1993, 2001, on 7/7 in London, and in Madrid, Spain in 2004.
The risk rises exponentially now with Israel being confirmed to be training, arming, and directing US State Department-listed terrorist organization, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, also known as Mujahedeen e-Khalq (MEK). The US has also played an extensive role in supporting MEK which is currently carrying out a campaign of terror inside of Iran.
This is part of a plot by the US indicated in its own policy papers, openly conspiring to provoke war with Iran. This is best encapsulated in this often cited quote from US policy think-tank, Brookings Institution:
“…it would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be. Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it. (One method that would have some possibility of success would be to ratchet up covert regime change efforts in the hope that Tehran would retaliate overtly, or even semi-overtly, which could then be portrayed as an unprovoked act of Iranian aggression.) “
-Brookings Institution’s 2009 “Which Path to Persia?” report, pages 84-85.
The same report would go on to say:
“In a similar vein, any military operation against Iran will likely be very unpopular around the world and require the proper international context—both to ensure the logistical support the operation would require and to minimize the blowback from it. The best way to minimize international opprobrium and maximize support (however, grudging or covert) is to strike only when there is a widespread conviction that the Iranians were given but then rejected a superb offer—one so good that only a regime determined to acquire nuclear weapons and acquire them for the wrong reasons would turn it down. Under those circumstances, the United States (or Israel) could portray its operations as taken in sorrow, not anger, and at least some in the international community would conclude that the Iranians “brought it on themselves” by refusing a very good deal.”
-Brookings Institution’s 2009 “Which Path to Persia?” report, page 52.
Clearly those in the West intent on striking Iran realize both the difficulty of obtaining a plausible justification, and the lack of support they have globally to carry out an attack even if they manage to find a suitable pretext. Brookings would continue throughout their report enumerating methods of provoking Iran, including conspiring to fund opposition groups to overthrow the Iranian government, crippling Iran’s economy, and funding US State Department-listed terrorist organizations (MEK) to carry deadly attacks within Iran itself. Despite these overt acts of war, and even considering an option to unilaterally conduct limited airstrikes against Iranian targets, Brookings noted there was still the strong possibility Iran would not allow itself to be sufficiently provoked:
“It would not be inevitable that Iran would lash out violently in response to an American air campaign, but no American president should blithely assume that it would not.”
The report continues:
“However, because many Iranian leaders would likely be looking to emerge from the fighting in as advantageous a strategic position as possible, and because they would likely calculate that playing the victim would be their best route to that goal, they might well refrain from such retaliatory missile attacks.”
-Brookings Institution’s 2009 “Which Path to Persia?” report, page 95.
With this in mind, and with the 1993 World Trade Center attack as a historical precedent, it is almost a certainty that the West and Mossad are carrying out the current global wave of bombings now being blamed on Iran. This includes two failed bombings in India and Georgia, and a more recent incident in Bangkok, Thailand.
Law enforcement officers across America may be witnessing the FBI conducting through their JTTF what they believe to be a “sting operation” that may end up being the next major terrorist attack on US soil – and the pretext for certain war with Iran.
The fears of Portland Mayor Sam Adams were well founded, and it took an act of terror to strong-arm him and the people of Portland into capitulating to the federal JTTF program. Local law enforcement, for the safety of themselves and the people they are charged to serve and protect, would be wise to keep an eye on the FBI – apparently the most likely source from which terror plots both “foiled” and “successful” are hatched.
- Israel Blames Iran for Convenient Bombing (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Because the Department of Homeland Security has asked parts of the public to report suspicious activity through the “Communities Against Terrorism” program , if you visit an airport, stay in a hotel, drink coffee at an Internet café, or in some other way interact with one of the Halloween G-men in the American public, a full-fledged FBI investigation is only one phone call away, says LaTi.
LaTi lists 85 things that might get you on a watch list, if a Halloween G-man spots you in the act:
1) Use Google Maps to find your way around a strange city.
2) Use Google Maps to view photos of sports stadiums.
3) Install online privacy protection software on your personal computer.
4) Attempt to shield your computer screen from the view of others.
5) Shave your beard, dye your hair or alter your mode of dress.
7) Avoid eye contact.
8) Use a cell-phone camera in an airport, train station or shopping mall.
9) Seek to work alone or without supervision.
10) Appear to be out of place.
11) Have bright colored stains on your clothing.
12) Be missing any fingers.
13) Emit strange odors.
14) Travel an “illogical distance” to do your shopping.
15) Have someone pick you up from a beauty supply store.
33) Act impatient.
16) Be nervous.
17) Be a new customer from out of town.
18) Use a credit card in someone else’s name.
19) Chant environmental slogans near construction sites.
20) Enter a construction site after work hours.
21) Rent watercraft for an extended period.
22) Make comments involving radical theology.
23) Make vague or cryptic warnings.
24) Express anti-U.S. sentiments.
25) Purchase a quantity of prepaid or disposable cell phones.
26) Leave store without preprogramming disposable phones.
27) Be overly interested in satellite phones and voice privacy.
28) Ask questions about swapping SIM cards in cell phones.
29) Ask questions about how phone location can be tracked.
30) Rewire cell phone’s ringer or backlight.
31) Express out-of-place and provocative religious or political sentiments.
32) Purchase a police scanner, infrared device or 2-way radio.
33) Act impatient.
34) Drive a vehicle that appears to be overloaded.
35) Depart quickly when seen or approached.
36) Be a person “acting suspiciously.”
37) Make illegible notes on a map.
38) Take photos of the Statue of Liberty or other “symbolic targets.”
39) Overdress for the weather.
40) Ask questions in a hobby shop about remote controlled aircraft.
41) Demonstrate interest that does not seem genuine.
42) Request specific room assignments or locations at a hotel or motel.
43) Arrive at a lodging with unusual amounts of luggage.
52) Make notes that are illegible to passersby.
44) Refuse cleaning service.
45) Avoid the lobby of a hotel or motel.
46) Remain in your hotel or motel room.
47) Leave your hotel for several days, then return.
48) Leave behind clothing and toiletry items.
49) Park your vehicle in an isolated area.
50) Be observed switching a cell phone SIM card.
51) Be observed using multiple cell phones.
52) Make notes that are illegible to passersby.
53) Communicate through a PC game.
54) Download “extreme/radical” content.
55) Exhibit preoccupation with press coverage of terrorist attacks.
56) Wear a backpack when the weather is warm.
57) Speak to mall maintenance personnel or security guards.
58) Make racist comments.
59) Mumble to yourself.
60) Pass along any anonymous threats you may receive.
61) Discreetly take a photo in a mass transit site.
62) Arrive with a group of people and split off from them.
63)Demand “identity privacy.”
64) Appear to endorse the use of violence in support of a cause.
65) Make bulk purchases of meals ready to eat.
66) Arrive in America from a land where militant Islamic groups operate.
67) Take a long absence for religious education or charity work.
68) Travel to countries where militant Islam rules.
69) Study technical subjects that would aid a terror operation.
70) Work in a field that “serves as a cover for preparing for an operation.”
71) Exhibit ire at global policies of the U.S.
72) Balk at providing “complete personal information.”
73) Provide multiple names on rental car paperwork.
74) Receive an unusual number of package deliveries.
75) Replace rental property locks without permission.
76) Modify your property to conceal storage areas.
77) Fail to pay rent for a storage unit in a timely manner.
78) Inquire about security systems at your storage facility.
79) Place unusual items in storage units or dumpsters.
80) Avoid contact with rental facility personnel.
81) Access storage facilities an unusual number of times.
82) Request deliveries of items directly to a storage unit.
83) Be part of a group requesting identical tattoos.
84) Request tattoos that could conceal extremist symbols.
85) Fly while appearing to be Muslim on September 11 of any year.
Washing your hands of Khader Adnan: Ali Abunimah’s response to weasel words of EU’s Catherine Ashton
Today my colleague David Cronin wrote about the weasel worded response of the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, for comment on the case of Khader Adnan. Here is my response, which I sent her by email.
European Union High Representative
Ms. Catherine Ashton
Dear Ms. Ashton,
Forty-eight hours after my colleague David Cronin first requested it, your spokespersons found the time to issue a statement on the plight of Khader Adnan, who could die at any moment, shackled to his bed, now in his 62nd day of hunger strike against his arbitrary detention by Israel.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Carter Center, and numerous civil society groups all over the world have called for Israel to immediately release or charge Mr. Adnan, as well as the more than 300 other “administrative detainees” including 21 elected members of the Palestinian legislative council currently being held by Israel.
But you didn’t do that. Instead, you washed your hands of Khader Adnan, and to the extent that Khader Adnan has become a symbol of Palestinians’ desperate determination to stand up for their rights against overwhelming Israeli oppression, you washed your hands of all Palestinians too.
“The Israeli occupation has gone to extremes against our people, especially prisoners. I have been humiliated, beaten, and harassed by interrogators for no reason, and thus I swore to God I would fight the policy of administrative detention to which I and hundreds of my fellow prisoners fell prey.”
Addressing you and other members of the “international community” he wrote: “I hereby assert that I am confronting the occupiers not for my own sake as an individual, but for the sake of thousands of prisoners who are being deprived of their simplest human rights while the world and international community look on.”
“It is time the international community and the UN support prisoners and force the State of Israel to respect international human rights and stop treating prisoners as if they were not humans.”
But you decided to look away. Your weasel-worded statement merely “requests the government of Israel to do all it can to preserve the health of Mr. Adnan and handle this case while abiding by all legal obligations under international law.” You even affirmed Israel’s right to use administrative detention.
What is this “case”? Let us remind ourselves that Mr. Adnan was abducted from his home at 3.30AM on 17 December. He was taken from his pregnant wife Randa and his two young daughters. He has not been charged with a crime, despite lengthy harsh interrogation, humiliation and abuse. This is what led him to go on hunger strike. He has not eaten since one week before Christmas.
“My father-in-law said to him: ‘We want you to stay alive. You cannot defeat this state on your own.’ He told him he wanted him to end the strike. I told him I wished he would drink a cup of milk. But he said: ‘I did not expect this from you. I know you are with me all the time. Please stop it…. I know my husband. He will not change his mind. I expect him to die.”
He is still alive and he wants to live. Randa Adnan recalled that her husband told one of his lawyers: “I do not want to go to oblivion or death. But I am a man who defends his freedom. If I die it will be my fate.”
You have frequently asserted that “human rights” are at the center of your policy. But we know that any such statements come with an asterisk. Palestinians are exempt from such rights, and Israel is exempt from any accountability. You proved that again today.
What makes this all the more revolting is that you spared no opportunity to call for the release of an Israeli occupation soldier who was held in Gaza, a soldier taken prisoner while bearing arms to enforce the deadly siege and occupation of Gaza.
Perhaps if Khader Adnan had been an armed Israeli occupation soldier, instead of a father who was at home with his family, you would have had more sympathy.
I have not lost hope that Mr. Khader can be saved. I dream of a day when people like you will lead instead of follow. But perhaps that isn’t your function.
What gives me hope still is that people all over Europe, all over the world, are joining the demands that Israel release Adnan, so he can return home.
Read some of their messages to him and his family. Perhaps you will rediscover some of the humanity that your shameful statement so painfully lacks, end your complicity and call on Israel to free this man and all other prisoners of its brutal, merciless, inhumane and EU-subsidized occupation.
- The EU’s shameful silence on Khader Adnan (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Former Irish hunger striker’s message for Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner 55 days on hunger strike (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Raymond McCartney, former Irish hunger striker in message of support to Khader Adnan (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Palestinian detainee on hunger strike for over 60 days (wandacanton.wordpress.com)
B’Tselem reports sharp increase in the numbers of Palestinians being held in administrative detention
An Israeli human rights organization has stated that during 2011, the number of Palestinian administrative detainees held by the Israel authorities increased sharply.
B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, noted that according to figures received from the Israel Prison Service, the number of Palestinian administrative detainees being held in Israel increased from 219 in January 2011, to 307 in December. In a press release published on its website, B’Tselem also noted that, “At the end of 2011, Israel was holding one minor in administrative detention.”
“Twenty-nine per cent of the detainees had been held for six months to one year; another 24 per cent from one to two years. Seventeen Palestinians had been in administrative detention continuously for two to four and a half years, and one man has been held for over five years.”
The organization stated that 2011, “marks the first time since 2008 that there was an increase in the number of administrative detainees after the number had fallen from 813 in January 2008, to 204 in December 2010.”
“Administrative detention is detention without trial, intended to prevent a person from committing an act that is liable to endanger public safety. … [Un]like a criminal proceeding, administrative detention is not intended to punish a person for an offense already committed, but to prevent a future danger. The manner in which Israel uses administrative detention is patently illegal. Administrative detainees are not told the reason for their detention or the specific allegations against them. Although detainees are brought before a judge to approve the detention order, most of the material submitted by the prosecution is classified and not shown to the detainee or his attorney. Since the detainees do not know the evidence against them, they are unable to refute it,” B’Tselem further stated.
The organization’s website also pointed out that the detainees also do not know when they will be released, although each detention order is specified for a year and a half maximum, but detention orders can be renewed indefinitely.
“Over 60% had their detention extended at least once beyond the first detention order. Administrative detention violates the right to liberty and the right to due process, since the detainee is incarcerated for a prolonged period on the basis of secret evidence, without charge or trial.”
The organization noted that over the years, Israel has held thousands of Palestinians in administrative detention for periods ranging from a few months to several years. There were times during the second intifada that Israel held over a thousand Palestinians in administrative detention. “Under international law, it is permissible to administratively detain a person only in exceptional cases, to prevent a grave danger that cannot be prevented through less harmful means. Israel’s use of administrative detention blatantly breaches these rules.” It called on the Israeli army to release all the administrative detainees or prosecute them.
- Minister of Detainees Calls for Boycott of Military Courts (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Raymond McCartney, former Irish hunger striker in message of support to Khader Adnan (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Speaker Of Palestine Parliament Receives Six Months Administrative Detention (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Carter Center calls on Israel to release or charge hunger striker (jta.org)
In an escalating move with the United States, Egypt on Saturday announced it would go ahead with a trial of foreign NGO activists, including nineteen Americans.
A court set February 26 as a date for the trial of 43 suspects — who also include Serbs, Norwegians, Germans, Egyptians, Palestinians and Jordanians — in a crackdown on NGOs accused of receiving illegal foreign aid, state media announced. Officials had previously said 44 suspects would face trial.
The defendants are charged with “establishing unlicensed chapters of international organizations and accepting foreign funding to finance these groups in a manner that breached the Egyptian state’s sovereignty,” official MENA news agency reported.
Several of the American suspects have sought refuge in their embassy in Cairo as Washington hinted that the crackdown could harm its longstanding ties with the Egyptian government.
Earlier, the US said it would cut off the aid to the country, in a clear sign of protesting the Egyptian act against the activists.
In response, Muslim Brotherhood which emerged in the lead of the parliamentary elections, threatened on Friday to review the 1979 peace deal between Cairo and Tel Aviv if Washington cut the aid to the country.
- NGOs in Egypt: Promoting Democracy or Destabilization? (alethonews.wordpress.com)