Aletho News


Liberal/Conservative a False Dichotomy

By Richard K. Moore | Aletho News | April 7, 2010

Between left and right there’s lots of ranting but little dialog. If only people would listen to one another they’d find there are real people on both sides.

I was raised as a liberal. I remember how pleased I was when Kennedy sent in troops to protect black students, and when the Civil Rights Bill was passed. It took me many years to realize that the net result was the centralization of power in Washington, while blacks continue to be treated as second-class citizens. I believe Kennedy was well-intentioned, but we know where good intentions can lead. I no longer identify with any political faction.

I’d like to suggest another perspective on liberalism. The fact is that the majority of the population in North America and Europe are liberal in their thinking. The dream of the liberal is a government that serves the people, balances the budget, promotes prosperity, avoids wars, and protects our rights. They think it is possible, if only the right people get in power. They don’t think too much about the fact that whenever you ask the government to do something for you, you’re giving them power to do that — plus whatever else they decide to use the power for. And liberals can’t bring themselves to see that government is basically a conspiracy against the people — they reject that along with all other ‘conspiracy theories’.

Since liberals are the majority, the mainstream propaganda is aimed at liberals, and phrased in liberal language. Conservatives are quite right to call it the ‘liberal media’. The healthcare bill, for example, was sold by the media in liberal terms — ‘helping’ people who are not currently insured. The media also told people that Obama’s attempt to ‘help’ was being thwarted by ‘heartless’ Republicans.

So we get a situation where liberals are celebrating the passage of the healthcare bill, even when most of them don’t have a clue about what the bill really means. They were seeing the whole thing as a battle between good and evil, between ‘caring’ Obama and ‘heartless’ Republicans. They’ll accept ‘defects’ in the bill because they think it was ‘the best Obama could get’.

The whole thing was theater, a scam. The healthcare bill was settled in its fundamentals many months ago, written by insurance companies, and rubber-stamped by party leaders of both sides and by Obama. Then we had months of fake debate, giving Obama an excuse to ‘back down’ on major promises, so he’d look good to liberals. Meanwhile Republicans could point out how bad the bill is, so they can look like heroes when the shit hits the fan in the healthcare system, as it will. And on both sides of the aisle, campaign accounts had been boosted by contributions from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

The point I’m making is that the healthcare bill has nothing to do with liberal or conservative. It’s theft by insurance companies, abetted by corrupt politicians, and sold as ‘liberal’ by the corporate-owned media.

It isn’t that liberals ‘want things’, and then the government ‘gives it to them’. Rather, the wealthy elites that run the country decide what they want, and then they sell it in the media using liberal language. From a conservative perspective it might look like liberals are running things, but it’s an illusion. An illusion that many liberals buy into as well.

One practical political alternative is to work toward restoring the Constitution, and I support that. However, most liberals will oppose it, if it’s proposed by Republicans. Not because liberals dislike the Constitution, but because they don’t trust Republicans. And because the media will tell them that ‘Constitutionalism’ is fake, that it’s a cover for eroding civil rights, etc. etc. Whichever lie that works — to be discovered in focus groups.

As long as liberals see conservatives as ‘the problem’, and conservatives see liberals as ‘the problem’, then we’re never going to get anywhere. We’ll be played off against one another, and nobody will get what they really want. When the government wants to sell more ‘security’, they’ll use conservative language. When they want to sell more spending, they’ll use liberal language.

I believe that we need to start talking to people on the ‘other side’, rather than circling our wagons in opposition to one another. I don’t propose this as a political strategy, but rather as a pre-condition for developing an effective strategy. We won’t convert anyone to change sides, but we’ll learn that underneath our labels we all have similar concerns and hopes.

A Constitutional republic is supposed to operate by the consent of the governed. If the governed are divided against themselves, then government is free to do what it wants. If the governed can develop mutual understanding, they can stand as one voice and demand accountability.

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News, Civil Liberties | 8 Comments

UCSB Geologist Discovers Pattern in Earth’s Long-Term Climate Record

University of California, Santa Barbara | Press Release | April 6, 2010

Santa Barbara, Calif. –– In an analysis of the past 1.2 million years, UC Santa Barbara geologist Lorraine Lisiecki discovered a pattern that connects the regular changes of the Earth’s orbital cycle to changes in the Earth’s climate. The finding is reported in this week’s issue of the scientific journal Nature Geoscience.

Lisiecki performed her analysis of climate by examining ocean sediment cores. These cores come from 57 locations around the world. By analyzing sediments, scientists are able to chart the Earth’s climate for millions of years in the past. Lisiecki’s contribution is the linking of the climate record to the history of the Earth’s orbit.

It is known that the Earth’s orbit around the sun changes shape every 100,000 years. The orbit becomes either more round or more elliptical at these intervals. The shape of the orbit is known as its “eccentricity.” A related aspect is the 41,000-year cycle in the tilt of the Earth’s axis.

Glaciation of the Earth also occurs every 100,000 years. Lisiecki found that the timing of changes in climate and eccentricity coincided. “The clear correlation between the timing of the change in orbit and the change in the Earth’s climate is strong evidence of a link between the two,” said Lisiecki. “It is unlikely that these events would not be related to one another.”

Besides finding a link between change in the shape of the orbit and the onset of glaciation, Lisiecki found a surprising correlation. She discovered that the largest glacial cycles occurred during the weakest changes in the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit –– and vice versa. She found that the stronger changes in the Earth’s orbit correlated to weaker changes in climate. “This may mean that the Earth’s climate has internal instability in addition to sensitivity to changes in the orbit,” said Lisiecki.

She concludes that the pattern of climate change over the past million years likely involves complicated interactions between different parts of the climate system, as well as three different orbital systems. The first two orbital systems are the orbit’s eccentricity, and tilt. The third is “precession,” or a change in the orientation of the rotation axis.

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | 2 Comments

Christian leaders call for ‘permits’ boycott

Ma’an – 07/04/2010

Bethlehem – Leaders of the Christian community in Palestine called on church officials to begin a boycott of the Israeli permission system, requiring leaders to request permits for their faithful to access the holy city of Jerusalem.

Speaking on the radio Mawwal show Juthurna (Our Roots) on Tuesday, Fatah official of religious affairs Mike Salman said the entire Israeli system of forcing Palestinians to request permissions to access Palestinian territory illegally annexed by Israel is “an offense to human dignity.”

Under international law and conventions, he added, “Jerusalem is part of the 1967 lands and we Muslims and Christians should be able to reach it without permits,” and called on Christians to support their church leaders in a campaign to halt the permit system.

“We should have one clear and consistent position about permits, for permits offend the dignity of humanity, we must not give in to the occupation’s policy,” Salman said.

Jack Khozmo, the editor-in-chief of Jerusalem’s political magazine Al-Bayader said boycotts by Christians should be backed up by resistance from the Jerusalem community. Already, he said, popular resistance forced Israeli forces to back off restrictions rumored for the Easter celebrations at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, with tens of Palestinian Christians gaining entry to the building.

The editor agreed that Christian patriarchs should take a firm position on the permissions policy, saying “freedom of worship is a sacred right and people should not have to request this right from anyone.”

President of Global Movement for Defense of Children and coordinator of the Kairos Palestine initiative, Rif’at Qassis, further backed up the position, calling on church leaders to shut the doors of churches and forbid all pilgrims from entering if Palestinians are not granted free access to the religious sites.

“The Kairos Palestine document assures the rights of worship and freedom for all the religions in the holy places and demands that individuals should not struggle in order to pray in a church,” Qassis said of an initiative by Christian Palestinians to end the occupation of Palestine.

According to organizers of the initiative, “Palestinian Christians declare that the military occupation of our land is a sin against God and humanity, and that any theology that legitimizes the occupation is far from Christian teachings because true Christian theology is a theology of love and solidarity with the oppressed, a call to justice and equality among peoples.”

Qassis said that the world and the heads of churches should refuse the idea of permits and that everyone should go to the military checkpoints and demand for their natural right to enter Jerusalem to pray in Al-Aqsa mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on Christian leaders call for ‘permits’ boycott

US military aid to Israel violates domestic, international law

Nahida H Gordon, The Electronic Intifada, 7 April 2010
Should the US government, based on international and domestic law, cut military aid and cease the transfer of weapons to Israel? (Luay Sababa/MaanImages)

The Middle East Study Committee of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has published “Breaking Down the Walls“, a report to be submitted to the church’s 219th General Assembly this July.

Some of the report’s 39 recommendations have drawn harsh criticism. The Simon Wiesenthal Center declared in a 22 February action alert that “adoption of this poisonous document by the Presbyterian Church will be nothing short of a declaration of war on Israel and her supporters” (“Presbyterian Church USA Ready to Declare War Against Israel: Take Action Now“).

Such attacks make exaggerated claims and misrepresent the recommendations. The Committee’s intent is not to make war but rather peace.

One factually misleading claim is the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s assertion that “the report calls for the US to withhold financial and military aid to Israel.” In fact, the report “calls on the US government to exercise strategically its international influence, including the possible withholding of military aid as a means of bringing Israel to compliance with international law and peacemaking efforts” (p.53).

As one can easily see, the Committee’s recommendation is nuanced and calls on withholding military aid as a last resort.

Within this context it is appropriate to consider whether the US government, based on international and domestic law, should cut military aid and cease the transfer of weapons to Israel.

According to the International Law Commission (ILC), the official UN body that codifies customary international law, “A State which aids or assists another State in the commission of an internationally wrongful act by the latter is internationally responsible for doing so if: (a) that State does so with knowledge of the circumstances of the internationally wrongful act; and (b) the act would be internationally wrongful if committed by that State” (Article 16 of the International Law Commission, “Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts,” (2001) which were commended by the General Assembly, A/RES/56/83).

In other words, if you knowingly help someone commit a crime, you are also liable for that crime. The ILC states that international law also “prohibits conduct that involves patterns of blatant abuse and complicity in such a pattern of blatant abuse.”

According to Amnesty International, since 2001, the US has been by far the major supplier of conventional arms to Israel. Also since 2001, Israel launched military invasions of Lebanon and Gaza, causing extensive loss of civilian human life and destruction of property, including homes (“Fueling conflict: foreign arms supplies to Israel/Gaza,” Amnesty International, February 2009, p.21).

Section 502B of the US Foreign Assistance Act stipulates that “no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” and section 4 of the Arms Export Control Act authorizes the supply of US military equipment and training only for lawful purposes of internal security, “legitimate self-defense,” or participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations or other operations consistent with the UN Charter.

Since the US government gives no military assistance to any of the Palestinian resistance groups, the question with regard to US military aid and transfer of weapons applies only to Israel.

And with regard to Israel, the UN-commissioned Goldstone report found that the Israeli forces in Gaza committed grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention which included willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, extensive destruction of property and use of human shields. Other findings were that the Israeli forces committed a series of acts that deprive Palestinians of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country, that limit their rights to access a court of law and an effective remedy and that these findings could lead a competent court to find that the crime against humanity were committed.

A particularly abhorrent use by Israel of weapons provided to it by the US government is the use of white phosphorous which when it comes into contact with skin burns deeply through muscle and bone, continuing to burn until deprived of oxygen. It can contaminate other parts of the victim’s body or even those treating the injuries, as documented by Amnesty International. Moreover its use in civilian areas is prohibited under international law.

Based on international and domestic US laws, and the Goldstone report’s finding that Israel committed grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the US government, in providing military aid and the transfer of arms to Israel, has violated its responsibility not to participate in the internationally wrongful acts of another state.

With these observations in mind, I personally believe that the recommendation of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Middle East Study Committee to withhold military aid to Israel as a last resort — in attempting to enforce international law vis-a-vis the occupation of Palestinian territories and the human rights violations against the Palestinians — is a mild statement, indeed. Particularly so in light of Amnesty International’s “calling on the UN, notably the Security Council, to impose an immediate, comprehensive arms embargo on all parties to the conflict, and on all states to take action individually to impose national embargoes on any arms or weapons transfers to the parties to the conflict until there is no longer a substantial risk that such arms or weapons could be used to commit serious violations of international law.”

As the Middle East Study Committee states, “We deeply value our relationships with Jews and Muslims in the United States, Israel and the predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East. Yet the bonds of friendship must neither prevent us from speaking nor limit our empathy for the suffering of others. Inaction and silence on our part enable actions we oppose and consequences we grieve.”

N H Gordon is a professor of statistics and member of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Middle East Study Committee. Professor Gordon, a life-long Presbyterian and currently a church Elder, is a Palestinian-American who experienced, first hand, the 1948 Palestinian Nakba as a child.

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | 7 Comments

Sheikh Jarrah evictions based on forgeries

Ma’an – 07/04/2010

Jerusalem – The court-ordered eviction warrants handed down by the settler organization Nahalat Shimon International to two Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah on Tuesday were based on forged documents, Fatah official in charge of Jerusalem Affairs Hatem Abdul Qader said.

“The Israeli High Court of Justice previously accredited forged documents issued by this [Nahalat Shimon International] society and approved its ownership of the lands the homes are built on,” Abdul Qader told Ma’an.

“The society’s lawyer is sending out circular warrants to residents, ordering them to evacuate their homes,” he added, alleging that all the land ownership documents previously used by the organizations to evict other families in the neighborhood are counterfeit.

The Fatah official said the latest families faced with eviction, the Dajani and Daoudi families, will file a petition at the High Court of Justice to overturn the eviction warrants on the basis that they were approved on forged documents.

“The Nahalat Shimon society is supported by the Israeli government in its work toward building a settlement neighborhood in the area,” Abdul Qader said.

Israeli NGO Ir Amin said in a 2009 report that the settler-related real estate organization “plan[s] to demolish the existing residential structures [in Sheikh Jarrah] and evict hundreds of Palestinian residents in order to clear the way for a new Israeli settlement: Shimon HaTzadik [Simon the Just].”

The structures in question are 28 Palestinian homes, currently housing descendants of 27 Palestinian families, who were offered housing by UNWRA and the Jordanian Ministry of Development in 1956, in exchange for their refugee baskets. The Jordanian government had told the families that within three years, the deeds would be transferred into their names if the owners did not reclaim the land, pursuant to Jordan’s Enemy Property Law. Despite no claims within the stipulated period, the deeds were not passed on to the current tenants.

Nahalat Shimon, in conjunction with a number of other organizations, began filing lawsuits in the 1970s to evict the families in question, based on land sale deeds allegedly acquired during the Ottoman rule and the British Mandate. Many of these owners had fled the neighborhood before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

“The struggle for the area highlights an additional issue: the ongoing attempt of Israeli settlers, backed by the Israel Lands Administration (ILA), to ‘reclaim’ plots of land in East Jerusalem that were owned by Jews under British or Ottoman rule. These efforts continue throughout East Jerusalem, despite Israeli courts’ ongoing refusal to recognize similar claims by Palestinian owners in West Jerusalem,” Ir Amin wrote.

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | 2 Comments

Israel bars Gandhi’s grandson from entering Gaza

Palestine Information Center – 06/04/2010

GAZA — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Tuesday barred Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, from entering Gaza Strip.

Gandhi expressed absolute sorrow for not being able to visit Gaza, adding that he was deeply depressed over the scenes of repression he witnessed in the Palestinian lands.

He said that the Israeli talk about a Palestinian state in light of those de facto conditions was “meaningless”, adding that the separation wall, settlements and bypass roads were more horrific than what he imagined before visiting Palestine.

Gandhi said that the Israeli government was treating Palestinians as second class citizens and was robbing their land.

He said he was deeply touched over the story of prisoner Fakhri Al-Barghouthi who had been held in jail for 33 years and could not meet his two sons, whom he left as little children, until they were detained by the IOF soldiers.

Gandhi said that he would publicize the Palestinian suffering in India, the USA and any place he visits, adding that he would also exert efforts for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | 1 Comment