Monday, March 17, 2014

The Problem With BDS

There appears to be a problem with the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement currently called against the state of Israel: while on principle a good idea it also exposes itself to a charge of hypocrisy which could easily be construed by its opponents as antisemitism. The reasoning goes: why do people around the world are so adamant to ask for a boycott of Israel yet do not ask for a boycott of what Martin Luther King described as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today," i.e. the United States? The crimes against humanity of the US government are far greater and pernicious than those of the state of Israel and yet they don't seem to arouse a similar response. Why not? Why Israel then? Because of apartheid in South Africa?

Well, there is a major difference between Israel and South Africa at least vis a vis the United States – and generally today, as unfortunate as this may be, what the United States government says goes. Apartheid was directed at black Africans, someone who black Americans of African descent could easily emphasize with especially given their recent history in the United States. But those African Americans are not necessarily going to empathize just as easily to the plight of the Palestinians. So who would be the likely target for the comparison to hold, Palestinian-Americans? Otherwise, if the target is Jewish-Americans it would be as if one had tried to end apartheid by appealing primarily to white Southafrican-Americans. And while there are surely many Jewish-Americans who will sympathize with the cause it is a somewhat mute point since these same people can easily be dismissed as traitors or "self hating jews" – a charge which has cleverly been designed to quickly dismiss any type of Jewish self-criticism – by those who hold the propaganda megaphone in the mainstream media.

In conclusion, unless a massive education campaign about the issue is implemented, BDS will easily be defeated by AIPAC by simply raising the antisemitism charge – and we know, at least here in the US, how easily it can be to be charged with that. The main reason being that many Jewish-Americans, particularly those of liberal persuasion, will have a hard time understanding why the state of Israel is targeted with sanctions – that's what a boycott is – while the United States government is allowed to commit fare more atrocious crimes without a similar boycott campaign being called against it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

US Upping the Ante On Syria

This is a showdown between Obama and Putin. Putin has the upper hand because Obama and his backers want war but he's alone out on a limb and vulnerable. He has the might and the power to do as he pleases. Will he enter Shakespearean territory and go full tragedy or will he take the hit and risk becoming irrelevant for the rest of his term? No easy way out. Powerful stuff. Horrible for the people on the ground looking up at the sky.

The goal of the US is clear, to get a legally binding trigger that would justify a military attack. Considering how low the credibility of the US is in regard to evidence, such a trigger should be rejected a priory.

We were lucky once with Kennedy, let's not test the other possible outcome.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Ignorant Hubris of US Officials

Like a despondent child after being caught doing something she wasn't supposed to do, former NSA chief Michael Hayden argued that the agency's spying on European Union officials, both in the US and Europe, should not be seen as a big deal because European governments are doing the same thing. In addition, Hayden stated that non-US citizens are not protected by the the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution and thus they can be spied on at will.

And so, panicking US officials quickly threw their European allies under the bus in order to shield themselves from criticism. This shouldn't come as a surprise, especially given the revelations by Der Spiegel, from which we learn that the US doesn't really see much of Europe, with the exception of the United Kingdom, as an ally – the leaked documents reveal that most EU nations, such as Germany, are viewed as "3rd party foreign partner[s]."

What is particularly interesting about these disclosures is that they reveal a not so thinly veiled cultural prejudice on the part of US officials. In fact, the only countries that are viewed as privileged allies are english speaking and primarily anglo-saxon: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. In addition, the lame defense offered by Michael Hayden shows either his complete ignorance or blatant disregard for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, as an international treaty, supersedes the US Constitution. Article 12 states:

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Aside from showing how the US government sees foreigners as second class human beings, the debate that is currently taking place inside the United States on this issue is also showing the world the US's self absorbed insularity. Completely oblivious of the fact that the entire world is now watching us and waiting for an explanation, if not an apology, US president Barak Obama put his foot in his mouth by saying that the NSA spying program "does not apply to U.S. citizens, and it does not apply to people living in the United States.” As if telling the rest of the world "we only spy on you" is supposed to make them feel better.

In this regard Arthur Silber argues that this state of affair is all by design and, in fact, it should not come as a surprise to anyone who truly understand how this world works; I emphasize this because it is not the only manner in which it can work, even though those who would like to keep it this way tell us otherwise. And so, it is now in the open that those managing the American Empire follow the Machiavellian maxim according to which, if one must choose, it is better to be feared than loved. This, of course, also applies to American citizens, which is why Obama and clapper lied when they said that the NSA does not spy on Americans, and also why their minions came out saying that it was legal after the lie was exposed.

Yet, Macchiavelli also argued that one "must endeavour only to avoid hatred" and this, unfortunately, is an aspect where the US is failing spectacularly and which, in the end, may bring its own undoing unless, of course, we all perish in the process as the hubristic managers of the US imperium may still choose to bring everyone else down with them.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hugo Chávez Frías (1954-2013)

Chavez will continue to be an inspiration for all peoples who fight for their liberation.... Chavez will always be present in all the regions of the world and all social sectors. Hugo Chavez will always be with us, accompanying us.

– Evo Morales, President of Bolivia

The facts speak for themselves: the percentage of households in poverty fell from 55% in 1995 to 26.4% in 2009. When Chávez was sworn into office unemployment was 15%, in June 2009 it was 7.8%. Compare that to current unemployment figures in Europe. In that period Chávez won 56% of the vote in 1998, 60% in 2000, survived a coup d'état in 2002, got over 7m votes in 2006 and secured 54.4% of the vote last October. He was a rare thing, almost incomprehensible to those in the US and Europe who continue to see the world through the Manichean prism of the cold war: an avowed Marxist who was also an avowed democrat. To those who think the expression of the masses should have limited or no place in the serious business of politics all the talking and goings on in Chávez's meetings were anathema, proof that he was both fake and a populist. But to the people who tuned in and participated en masse, it was politics and true democracy not only for the sophisticated, the propertied or the lettered.

– Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, University of London

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The United States of Torture

Here is an excellent segment featuring Glenn Greenwald on the latest US/Hollywood propaganda film Zero Dark Thirty and its glorification of torture. Via Al-Jazeera's Inside Story.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

OWS's Misreading of Gandhi in Gaza

A communiqué posted on website titled Occupy Wall Street, Not Palestine: OWS Says No To War, appears deliberately aimed at drawing a moral equivalence between Hamas and the Israeli government. But, upon careful reading, it is not difficult to see how one of the many public faces of OWS is actually leaning, ever so slightly, on the side of the aggressor, the IDF. This is a very disturbing development for OWS given its supposed stance as a champion of oppressed people everywhere. Yet, when it comes to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, OWS seems content to spread the blame of the Israeli assault onto its victims. This, in a way, shows a certain lack of coherent political vision within the Occupy movement which may also explain its apparent evanescence. In addition, this not-so-veiled exercise in political correctness by is a sign of how far has American culture veered out of the global political mainstream vis a vis the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.


The "blame Hamas first" posture is widespread within the US corporate establishment media (from the New York Times downward) and it has existed for quite some time. One only needs to look at every major newspaper to see how the US government’s line of blaming the Palestinians for their own predicament is passed down to the American populace without a glitch. The framing of the issue in favor of Israel by arbitrarily choosing the starting point of hostilities ­– in this case, the rockets which killed three Israeli citizens even though they were clearly in response to the extra-judicial assassination of Ahmed Jabari – or ignoring the causes altogether is also a favored propagandistic tactic of the American intelligentsia. In this regard, it was for example amusing to see Rachel Maddow, a journalist and a liberal one at that, state on Friday that “we don’t know what started this round of hostilities” (I am paraphrasing). In this regard, it is worth reading Greg Mitchell's piece in The Nation today titled MSNBC's Disgrace: In Five Hours of Prime Time, Fifteen Minutes on Israel-Gaza. Given such climate in the US media it is thus not surprising that a majority of Americans sided with Israel in a recent poll taken on the Gaza assault.

It is perhaps for this reason that decided to give the impression of not clearly taking sides in this situation. Yet, upon careful reading, it is also not difficult to detect a pro-Israeli slant at least as far as the overall narrative is concerned. This can be seen in the very first paragraph of the statement where, in the second sentence, it reads: “We completely condemn the Hamas rocket attacks on civilians, but we also know that retaliation will only beget further violence.” Here, without stating it directly, OWS is regurgitating the narrative of the US and Israeli governments according to which the rockets were the first salvo in the current conflagration. In addition, as a confirmation of this reading, the Israeli response is also carefully characterized as “retaliation.”

The attempt at balancing things out comes further down the paragraph where it says that “it is possible to support those in Israel [link via Occupy Judaism] without supporting the injustices perpetuated by the Israeli state.” Yet, there is no mention of what the Israeli injustices are. Could they perhaps be the murdering of over two dozens Palestinian children? We are not entitled to know.

The second paragraph is also interesting because, once again, it tries to convey criticism of Israel’s actions without actually saying so directly. Here, it is mentioned that “some Occupiers” have expressed solidarity with the people of Gaza and that “supporters of the #J14 social justice movement and many others have also demonstrated against the military actions of Israel.” This third person indirect criticism of Israel’s actions is then justified by clarifying that “OWS has always been a nonviolent movement,” as if to say that, because of its historical legacy, the movement has no choice but to criticize the armed assault. Such passive stance is confirmed in the third paragraph where it clarifies that “collectively punishing an entire population for the actions of a few is not justice,” thus reiterating the narrative according to which the Palestinians should blame Hamas for the current Israeli assault.

It is only in the fourth paragraph that we get a more accurate framing of the conflict:

Make no mistake: While we must stand against violence in all forms, this "war" is a one-sided conflict between a military which is one of the largest and best-equipped in the world, the Israeli Defense Forces, who enjoy widespread support from the U.S. military industrial complex, and a people whose lands have been steadily dwindling for decades.

Yet, to the question of why are the Palestinian lands dwindling, we get no answer. To underscore the lack of clarity of this passage it is also worth noting that the word “occupation” is perhaps the most conspicuous omission of the entire communiqué. In fact, it is conveniently delegated to piece that follows's statement, the Gazan Youth’s Manifesto for Change; sadly, one of the most nihilistic and disempowering statements or resistance I’ve read in a while.

But the icing on the cake (or should I say, political sausage?) can be found toward the end of the statement: “The bombs over Gaza and Tel Aviv are merely the most dramatic example of a global system that seeks to rob us all of our right to live peacefully.” For the sake of clarity, let’s take Gaza out of the picture for a moment: the bombs over Tel Aviv are merely the most dramatic example of a global system that seeks to rob us all of our right to live peacefully. Really OWS? Can we really take away the right to self-defense of the Palestinian people by explaining their understandable response, even though vain and perhaps counterproductive, in terms of the global military-industrial complex? Would OWS draw the same moral equivalence had the American people being subjected to even a sliver of the humiliation endured by the Palestinians in the past five decades? Did OWS equate the resistance of the Egyptian people in Tahrir square which, I am afraid to say, involved acts of violence as self-defense to the acts of the Egyptian military?

In order to strike a balance between Hamas and the IDF is invoking a notion of pacifism which is quite callous and unrealistic to say the least. While Gandhi was a pacifist, he did not try to take away the right to self-defense of the Indian people. In fact, he clearly understood the difference between aggression and self-defense. Something that OWS seems unable to do, at least when it comes to the Palestinians. In What Gandhi Says, a book incidentally dedicated to Occupy, Norman Finkelstein writes:

Gandhi has been reduced to a mantra equating his name with nonviolence. But his thought and practice are much more complex, and contradictory, than this formula suggests…. The real Gandhi did loathe violence but he loathed cowardice more than violence. If his constituents could not find the inner wherewithal to resist nonviolently, then he exhorted them to find the courage to hit back those who assaulted or demeaned them.” (11-12)

Yet, OWS, a movement which claims to be inspired by Gandhian principles, doesn’t seem to get what Gandhi says, at least when it comes to, one of its most prominent virtual incarnations. In fact, nowhere in the entire statement do the words "condemn" and "Israel" appear in the same sentence. Apparently, the best they could do was to use the generic “we condemn violence from all sides” formula. This is quite unfortunate because in order to accommodate the extremely distorted political landscape in the United States vis a vis the Palestinian issue OWS risks to lose its credibility as a global champion of the 99%.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Rolling Jubilee

From the Rolling Jubilee website:
Rolling Jubilee is a Strike Debt project that buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it. Together we can liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal. Debt resistance is just the beginning. Join us as we imagine and create a new world based on the common good, not Wall Street profits.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Imperial Realism and Its Liberal Advocates

It is a sad spectacle to see how many so-called liberals defend Obama's naked imperialistic policies in the Arab world on the grounds that they are simply being realistic. The charge of "realism," is a notorious propagandistic technique aimed to discredit those who have different views without dealing with the substance of their argument. Yet, the fact is that even a cursory perusal of the facts reveals how there is nothing realistic about supporting dictatorial, oppressive governments in the Arab world until it is simply no longer tenable.

Today, the failure of American self-interested foreign policy in the has been exposed for what it is in the Arab world. Obama was caught with his pants down when he supported Mubarak against the majority of the Egyptian people, up until it was crystal clear that his regime was not going to survive. The same is true for Hillary Clinton, who backed the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia until its fall. The point being that because of Wikileaks and the Arab spring, people all over the Arab world fully understand, in case they didn't do so before, that the U.S. is in the business of promoting policies which are antithetical to the interests of the vast majority of the people in the region. This, incidentally, is perfectly understandable, since if these people could have a say, they would throw us, and our invading armies out in a nanosecond.

In this regard, Jill Stein represents the very change that Obama promised and failed to deliver. It is my strong belief that we no longer have the luxury, if we ever did have it, to pretend that by voting for a different flavor of the same corporate brand we will bring about the change which is sorely needed in the United States and the world.