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Christian Zionism

An Ideological Tower of Babel

By LILA RAJIVA | CounterPunch | January 15, 2005

This article is excerpted from Lila Rajiva’s book “The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media” published by Monthly Review Press.

Like the repressed, history also returns. The repressed of the neo-liberal maximizer of utility returns. Self-directed, self-interested man looks into a warped mirror and finds homo religiosis. The sublime of religion that appalls us, also fascinates. What shows itself in the scenes of prison abuse does not appear as only defensive, the planned, rational response of threatened modernity. but as something more burdened with emotion, something that simmers under the glassy surface of “no-touch,” something sharp, frenzied, even exhibitionistic. It calls attention to itself. Underneath the neo-liberal rhetoric of a defensive war of modernity against the rise of a new barbarism, we must ask if we find instead a war of religion, an aggressive war against an ancient enemy, a new Crusade. There are those who think so.

In an October 23, 2003 AP report, General Boykin, assistant to Cambone, described the battle against Islamic terrorists as a clash between Christianity and “a guy named Satan” and suggested that Christians needed to support the divine plan that had put Bush in office, “Why is this man in the White House?” he asked rhetorically. “The majority of Americans did not vote for him. He’s in the White House because God put him there.” Earlier, in January 2003, Boykin also told a congregation how the Somali warlord Osman Atto had boasted on CNN that “Allah” would protect him and Boykin had capped the story with the remark, “Well, you know what? I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.” In June 2002, he showed a congregation pictures of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, that had been taken from an Army helicopter in 1993 just after the battle with Somali war lords which killed 18 American soldiers, a debacle depicted in the film, “Black Hawk Down.” He said he had enlarged the photos when he had got back home to the US. and noticed what looked like a dark blemish over the city. “This is your enemy,” he declared to the congregation, “It is the principalities of darkness …. It is a demonic presence in that city that God revealed to me as the enemy.” It was Boykin who briefed Stephen Cambone his boss on Miller’s visit to Abu Ghraib. It was Boykin who encourages the directive to change policy there along the lines that had proved so effective at Guantanamo.

Boykin represents the enormous power of evangelicals in the Bush administration Except for a notorious call for a crusade immediately after Sept 11, Bush has been careful in speeches to differentiate between the war on Iraq and one on Islam. Muslim ambassadors have for the first time participated in a formal Ramadan dinner at the White House and a Muslim chaplain has officiated at the opening prayers of Congress, but others close to him have been more intemperate. Franklin Graham, whose father Billy converted Bush, has called Islam evil and Graham’s decision to join other Christian evangelists in Iraq both to aid and convert Iraqis must bolster the Muslim perception of the invasion as an alliance of “Jews and Crusaders.” Bush claims to be unable to restrain him because of concern for civil liberties, but his reluctance may have more to do with the contribution that evangelicals like Graham, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson have made to his election. And in private too, Bush has revealed his own conviction that his presidency is a mission given to him by God.

Was the abasement at Abu Ghraib crafted to sear the religious conscience? Was the Iraq invasion part of a master plan of crusading Christianity and Judaism? Religious language seems to drench the administration. “Rods from God” is the name for the bundles of tungsten rods fired from orbiting platforms that hurtle down to earth at 3,700 meters per second and destroy even underground targets anywhere on the planet at a few minutes’ notice. David Frum, until last year a speech writer for Bush, claims in a recent book that he heard a staff member say to Bush’s chief speech writer, Michael Gerson, “Missed you at Bible study.” Christian fundamentalists who have the President,s ear include the Apostolic Congress, affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church, which in addition to its missionary work in Israel (illegal under Israeli law),is active in the increasingly Christian work of pro-Israel activities in the United States. In an interview with the Village Voice, its leader, Pastor Upton, claimed that he had coordinated the directing of 50,000 postcards to the White House to oppose the Middle East “Road Map, ” the plan which aims to create a Palestinian state. NSC Near East and North African Affairs director, Elliott Abrams, sits down regularly with the Apostolic Congress to assuage their fear that Israel might give up any of its Biblical claims to land.

Bush also has strong connections to apocalyptic millennialists like Tim LaHaye, one of the authors of the Left Behind novels, who believes that a world-wide conflagration centered in the Middle East will be the prelude to the return of Christ. Before his thousand year rule over the world, however, millennialists believe that select believers will be taken up directly to heaven in a Rapture. Other fundamentalists like the dominionists are more concerned with the present day than the apocalypse and seek to remake the United States as country under Biblical law, focusing on the expansion of Christianity as a power. What all these groups have in common, however, is support for the Iraq war, a belief that Islam is false, and faith in Zionism. Christian Zionists advocate the unconditional support for Israel, the return of all Jews to Israel, the legitimacy of the West Bank settlements, a greater (Eretz) Israel that spreads from and includes Jerusalem with the Temple of Solomon rebuilt on the present site of the sacred Al-Aqsa mosque. The power of this pro-Israeli lobby ensures that Israel receives 3-8 billion dollars annually from the US in aid and military assistance and that House members on both sides are neutered on the subject of Israel. In March 2004, Senator Inhofe stated in a speech on the Senate floor that he supports Israel because God said so. It was the same Inhofe who claimed that he was more outraged by the outrage over Abu Ghraib than over the treatment of the prisoners. “They’re murderers, they’re terrorists, they’re insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands. And here we’re so concerned about the treatment of those individuals.” Should we draw a connection between Inhofe,s Zionist beliefs and his view of Iraqi prisoners?

Christian Zionists constitute a vocal 3 million of America’s 98 million evangelicals and with the 30 million other Christians who have Zionist beliefs of some kind have long been the mainstay of U.S. support for Israel, operating through such political groups as the powerful Council for National Policy, which was founded by LaHaye, a former head of the Moral Majority, and has included John Ashcroft, Ed Meese, Ralph Reed, the editor of The National Review, Robertson, Falwell, Grover Norquist, and Oliver North among its members. Ashcroft has been reported as saying: “Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith where God sent his son to die for you.” Jerry Falwell has told the CBS news program “60 Minutes” that Muhammad is a “terrorist.” The only non-Jew ever to receive the Jabotinsky medal for services to Israel, from the militant Zionist’s ardent disciple, Menachem Begin, Falwell was even permitted by President Reagan to attend NSC briefings while best-selling Armageddon author, Hal Lindsey, was allowed to speak on nuclear war with Russia to top Pentagon strategists. (Born again Zionist – Mother Jones Sept. 2002) Lindsey’s 1970s best-seller, the Late Great Planet Earth is responsible for bringing to world wide fame the dispensationalist view that since the return of the Jews to Israel, history has been unfolding according to Revelations. In recent years, these and other evangelicals have targeted as their priority a swath of the world dubbed “the 10/40 window” (North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia between 10 degrees and 40 degrees north latitude) for conversion. Fundamentalists routinely mischaracterize Islam as idolatry, paganism, or a cult. One former leader of the Southern Baptist Convention has even called the prophet Muhammad a “demon-possessed pedophile.”

Was the abasement at Abu Ghraib intended to exorcize the possessed? The man who was responsible for directing the re-opening of Abu Ghraib prison under the U.S., Lane McCotter, selected for the job by John Ashcroft, resigned under pressure as director of the Utah Department of Corrections in 1997 after a schizophrenic inmate died while shackled naked to a restraining chair for 16 hours. Yet Cotter was also selected to train guards at Abu Ghraib. Perhaps some of the prison bosses in Iraq, like some of the guards, were inclined by religion and temperament to see their charges as in need of punishment or therapy.

Certainly the silence of many fundamentalist Christian leaders on Abu Ghraib was stunning. World magazine was quick to defend Rumsfeld, labeling the torture the “perverse acts of a few.” Chuck Colson and Gary Bauer called for the vindication of America’s military through the swift punishment of the “bad apples” involved. An article on the American Family Association web site briefly condemned the atrocities, then spent the rest of its space on the unwillingness of the “liberal media” to display pictures from the Fallujah burnings.

It is not too much to see in this reaction the frame of reference for administration policies or to suggest that some evangelical,s beliefs about Muslims might coincide with politicians who for other reasons might find detention and torture the best response to a recalcitrant population. For those to whom terrorism is either religious extremism or violent heresy, the rooting out of that heresy may take such medieval forms as the scourging of the body in which the heretical spirit lodges. In this way, apocalyptic Christianity joins with the corporate-state in the disciplining of flesh. and the prisoner posed in the Vietnam like a hooded Christ ultimately recalls us uncannily to both the Inquisition of Catholic Spain and the witch-hunts of the Puritan forebears of America.

ISRAEL FIRST

But are Bush’s policies driven largely by the rise of the fundamentalist right? Don Wagner, an expert in fundamentalism believes that the current hard-line pro-Israel movement in the U.S. draws its strength from these evangelicals and is “predominantly gentile.” But he may be placing the cart before the horse. It is true that Christian Zionists are numerically powerful, but a look at history quickly lets us know that their rise in importance in American politics coincided with the desire of Jewish Zionists to broaden their constituency and goes back to the late 60,s and 1970s to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the Arab defeat, and then during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 an oil crisis caused by an embargo by OPEC, the oil cartel, of the western nations that supported Israel in that war. As oil prices sent shock waves into the Western economies and apprised them of the power of Arab nationalist sympathy for Palestine, other new intellectual currents in Western thought were also strengthening support for that power – feminism, third world nationalism, anti-colonialism, environmentalism, and a peace movement aimed at de-nuclearizing the world, under the impact of which Western Europe, including the U.K. and Japan, began to rethink its reflexive support for Israel. The Soviet Union, which already in the early 1960s had begun to support the Palestinian cause militarily, supported the Arabs in 1967 even as Soviet Jews openly demonstrated for Israel. The Soviet government as a socialist body officially committed to anti-imperialism and anti-nationalism was forced to clamp down on them as well as other dissidents providing the context for agitation among diasporic Jews in the US against Soviet emigration policy. Despite being couched in terms of human rights, this American pressure had not much to do with the oppression of other dissident ethnic groups for a refusenik was by definition a Soviet Jew who had been refused the right to emigrate. Legislation such as the Jackson-Vanik amendment linked trade with Russia to freedom of emigration for Soviet Jews. In 1975 the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 3379, condemning Zionism as “racist” by 72-35 and it became transparent that Israel,s time as a race-based settler state was marked.

Only at this point did neo-conservatives make their transition from the left to the right, claiming they had seen the light on communism and the need for US military muscle to keep the world safe from appeasers. They had come to realize that American military and financial aid as well as a favorable population ratio in the settler state was the best bulwark against any future transformation of Israel from a Jewish state into merely a state for Jews. The Arab womb was the real weapon of mass destruction they feared.

It was at this time that US support for Israel, until then equivocal, moved to the center of American foreign policy. The rise of this Israel-centered foreign policy was therefore neither logically necessary nor spontaneous but the result of a sustained campaign born from fear that the U.S. too might ultimately follow its own interests and cultivate good relations with the Arab world at the expense of Israel. With Arab countries beginning to exhibit political clout, Israel began systematically organizing the influential and wealthy diaspora in the west, labeling any perception of similarity between Nazi and Zionist policies as “communist” and fostering a general intellectual reaction against the emergence of the post-colonial world.

It is this secular history that provides the context for the emergence of the anti-Arabisn whose visible face we see in the extraordinarily demeaning images of Abu Ghraib. Using their preeminence in Hollywood, the media, government-related lobbies, law firms, and academia, the diaspora began a campaign to dehumanize and demonize the Arab, and wanting for allies, began to make common cause with the defense industrial complex, and more dangerously, with the Christian right. Dangerous, because aside from their support of Israel, Christian Zionist theology entails the eventual conversion or destruction of the Jews and under Geneva Conventions, the forced destruction of a people,s way of life and beliefs is also genocide. In 1980, the wooing of the right received the official sanction of the Israeli government and an “International Christian Embassy” in Jerusalem was established whose function was and remains to coordinate worldwide Christian support for Israel and its policies and which raises funds to help finance Russian Jewish immigration to Israel and settlement in the West Bank. Enter Christian Zionism to the center stage of American politics.

JEWISH ZIONISM

But reading history in these terms lays one open to the charge of anti-Semitism, for many would argue that Zionism is merely the Israeli version of the same territorial claim that all other nations make without any criticism. Why should one see in Zionism anything anti-Arab, unless the intent is to de-legitimize the Jewish homeland? After all, many non-Jewish commentators take as hard-line a position on the Palestinians as Jewish Zionists – among them Cal Thomas, Michael Novak, Bill Bennett, and George Will. Thomas, who has even called for the expulsion of the Palestinians from Israeli territory, is of course a Christian Zionist, but Novak and Bennett are both Catholics and Will is an Episcopalian. Some would say that their voices are an indication that Zionism in America is merely the expression of support for the natural security concerns of an ally.

That argument is not tenable on several counts. First, the record indicates that on certain issues the American media apparently takes its cue from the Israeli lobby and does not operate with genuine independence but in a prearranged concert.

Edward Hermann, author of several influential works on the American media, describes instances of Israeli scripting of media language on important issues. In 1979, when Israel was under world pressure to end the “redemption of the land” program, the Jonathan Institute in Israel brought US officials and journalists like Bush, Will, Senators Jackson and Danforth, the historian Paul Johnson and others together to set the tone: the PLO was to be labeled a terrorist group tied to Moscow and Israel was to be portrayed as the victim. In Washington in 1984, the same script was reiterated to Secretary of State George Shultz, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Senator Moynihan, Daniel Schorr and Ted Koppel of NBC. Hermann argues that the Israeli lobby in America, no longer satisfied with the pro-Israeli slant of the NYT, WP and CNN, now seeks to actually black-out inconvenient facts or viewpoints with the charge of anti-Semitism. Elected officials who dare to criticize Israel, from Republican Senators Percy and Findley to black representatives Hilliard and McKinney, have been thwarted in their bids for office. On campus, the campaign for divestment of stock in Israel has been dubbed “anti-semitic in effect, if not intent” by Harvard President Lawrence Summers.

Publicists simply toe a line enforced by the Israeli lobby and to regard them as having an equal power outside their conformism on Israel is unsupported by the facts. The influence or beliefs of the Christian right can be denounced – and is so routinely – without heads rolling but any imputation of a pro-Israeli bias is liable to call down an avalanche of letter-writing orchestrated by the Anti-Defamation League, the B’nai Brith and a host of Jewish groups whose influence on Capitol Hill is the elephant in the room that everyone acknowledges and no one talks about. Jewish Zionists have made an alliance of convenience with the Christian right, but there is little doubt who the senior partner is. In any case, Jewish groups themselves boast of their influence, and as Michael Kinsley puts it, “you shouldn’t brag about how influential you are if you want to get hysterically indignant when someone suggests that government policy is affected by your influence.”

The second reason the anti-Semitic charge founders is evident from the language of the debate on Palestine which shows something quite different from simply nationalist concerns. Which nationally influential ultra-right Christian group in America, for instance, could get away with couching its appeals in the nakedly racial language used by some influential Zionists in Israel? Jewish ultra-nationalists like Gush Emunim are not simply nationalists but assume instead that that Jewish people “are not and cannot be a normal people,” because “their eternal uniqueness” is “the result of the covenant God made with them at Mount Sinai” which transcends the “human notions of national rights.” This refutes entirely the classical Zionist claim that only by emigrating to Palestine and forming a Jewish state there can the Jews become like any other nation. According to Rabbi Aviner of Gush Emunim, “while God requires other normal nations to abide by abstract codes of ‘justice and righteousness’, such laws do not apply to Jews.” When the Israeli Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) refused to donate or receive blood transfusion from non-Jews, because their blood is “impure,” they were supported by many distinguished Israeli rabbis, including former Chief Rabbi, Mordechay Eliyahu. With religious parties representing 25% of the electorate, ultra-nationalists and fundamentalists heavily influence the Israeli government, especially Ariel Sharon’s right-wing Likud. Gush Emunim members, who constitute a significant percentage of IDF’s elite units, reportedly exhibit greater brutality toward Palestinians, a brutality justified by the twin senses of historical persecution and incipient crisis that attends Jewish exceptionalism. To such exceptionalists, criticism of Israel is inextricably linked with a desire to destroy Jewish people. Criticism invokes the holocaust. Neo-conservative publicist David Horowitz, for example, refuses to accept any Israeli accountability in Palestine, “The Middle East struggle is not about right versus right…it is about the desire (of the Arabs) to destroy the Jewish state.” Moreover, it is not only ultra-nationalists but many other Jews, both conservative, as Berg was, and reform, who are deeply committed to the Zionist dream of reestablishing the Jewish dream of Eretz Yisrael. For all of them “Aliya [the return to Israel] is the highest expression of Zionist fulfillment, because it allows for the most direct involvement in shifting Jewish values from the realm of theory into the practice of statehood.”

Zionism is an ideology of blood and soil and the ideology of even secular Zionism involves “Jewishness” even though there is no racially pure separate group of Jews. The most powerful and numerous group – the Ashkenazi – are ethnically Eastern Europeans from Khazar who converted in the middle ages. It is the Sephardic Jews and Arab and Christian Palestinians – second-class citizens in Israel – who actually share the blood of the original Jews of the Bible. For this reason even while many religious Jews reject Zionism, secular Zionism itself needs religion for its raison d,etre for there is no real tie of blood to which they can otherwise appeal. Among secularists, political Zionists like Theodore Herzl may have once thought of Argentina and Uganda as possible choices for the Jewish people, but after 1905, only Palestine, the Biblical land, was considered. Similarly, cultural Zionism does not conceive of simply a state for the Jews but a Jewish state, one where Hebrew learning, culture, and Judaic studies are central. Even Labor Zionism manages to marry the socialism of the kibbutz movement to Jewish consciousness.

You would not know these things from the American media, however, which characterizes Israel as a western liberal democracy in which all citizens are equal before the law and treats Zionism as any other nationalism, tacitly condoning the existence of a “Jewish” race-based state, while nevertheless repudiating the notion of a white or Christian state in America.

Charles Krauthammer writes in the Jewish World Review :

“Kofi Annan’s personal representative in Iraq now singles out the policies of the world’s one Jewish state, and the only democratic state in the Middle East, as “the great poison in the region.”

While the Los Angeles Times even editorializes that “Israel must remain a Jewish state.” (Oct 11, 2004)

Consider the policies of this bulwark of secularism, human rights, and democracy: Employment, housing, and access to services follows a discriminatory pattern with Ashkenazi Jews from Europe getting the best, Sephardic – Middle Eastern – Jews the next, followed by Moslem, Druze and Christians, many of them the original inhabitants, and at the bottom “Israeli Arabs,” that is, Palestinians within the 1948 borders. By the Law of Return, Israel must accommodate any Jews from anywhere who might at any time migrate to Israel but cannot accommodate the indigenous Palestinian population which fled Israeli terror in 1948 if they wished to return. Israeli identity cards can list the official ethnicity of a person – Jewish, Arab, Druze … – but not the nationality – Israeli. Since 1967 to date, Israel has arbitrarily detained over 630,000 Palestinians. In 1989 alone, Israel detained 50,000 Palestinians, representing 16% of the entire male population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip between the ages of 14 and 55. By contrast, that same year, out of a total African population of 24 million in South Africa, no more than 5,000 or 0.2% were detained for security offenses under apartheid. Palestinians have the highest rate of incarceration in the world – approximately 20 percent of Palestinians in the occupied territories have, at one time, been arbitrarily detained by Israel.

Without knowing this history, we cannot follow the trail of blood that leads from Iraq to Palestine, from the torture at Abu Ghraib to the practices of the IDF. And not seeing that trail, we think of Abu Ghraib as error, or incompetence, or folly when it was none of these. It was not a matter of “security” or “law and order,” but a part of a war on the population, a war in which torture had a specific role, the same role it has in Gaza, to intimidate the population into submission.

Yet having said this, it is also true that Zionism as a racial and political ideology of itself is not unique and does not operate alone in a vacuum and that therefore as an analytic tool it becomes somewhat elusive. Simply put, Zionism explains why some of the prominent players act as they do, but it does not fully explain why, for one thing, what they do finds a receptive audience and is effective. The real question is why the language of religious chuavinism that masks itself in a discourse of superior civilization has such purchase with the American public.

THE LANGUAGE OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM

We understand this only when we look at America,s own history of exceptionalism. Zionism finds a responsive chord because America itself is convinced of its unique national destiny, a belief that powerfully influences its foreign policy. “Manifest destiny,” as it is termed, ultimately also has religious roots that can be traced to the Calvinist doctrine of the elect, those 144,000 souls who are predestined for salvation not because of their inner righteousness but because the worldly success that accompanies their deeds is seen as a mark of providential favor. Today this exceptionalism is no more purely religious but a secular ideology as well; it is the American civic religion.

In this secular religion, to believe oneself “favored” rather than “blessed” is to believe that one’s essence rather than one’s acts set one apart. One’s status as the chosen, whether American or Jewish, is thus derived from the success, not the rightness, of one’s acts; from the power that makes one’s representations alone real and others, unreal. It is this power to which the will of our enemies is irrelevant that is behind both the shock and awe bombing of Iraq and its virtual counterpart, the pornographic torture of prisoners. Thus a senior Bush aide states in a much quoted exchange, “That’s not the way the world really works anymore… We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality… We’re history’s actors.., and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Abu Ghraib is the end result of this solipsism of the Promethean state that is shared by both Zionist as well as non-Zionist American actors.

Both secular and religious exceptionalists also share a unique relationship to the law that suggests that law and legal institutions are themselves implicated in the policies of Abu Ghraib and clarifies why it may not be possible to look to them alone for salvation.

Both groups share the heritage of covenant theology which reads holy scripture as the record of legal contracts between God and man, a heritage which both privileges the law while simultaneously also promoting a sense of not being subject to it. The written contract binds us, but the interpretation of that contract remains with the state whose favored status has been granted by the law. Take for instance a January 9, 2002 memo from the Justice Department. It refuses to find international law applicable to President Bush in his detention of Al Qaeda or Taliban members but it finds the same law applicable to terrorist suspects and insists that they can be prosecuted under it. Perhaps this is only common hypocrisy, but one can also see it as inextricably bound up with the Promethean doctrine of an American state beyond law because it embodies the very contract between God and man that under-girds all law. We can see in it a parallel to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, resonant in American religious history, which recognizes the Bible as the Word of God not primarily because of logical or historical arguments but by the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit,s “internal testimony,” a mystery which is ultimately impenetrable to rationality. In the Promethean state the thin veil of reasoning that the law normally draws over state action has been rent and power radiates alone. Unchecked by any countervailing force it is by virtue of that fact touched with the divine.

From covenant theology also derives the literalism of the brand of nineteenth century evangelism – dispensationalist – that Falwell and Roberts practice which permeates even secular culture. Dispensationalists read the final book of the Bible, Revelations, as a literal account of a post-war progression to a world-consuming conflagration, Armageddon. In doing so, they discount the importance of reason, learning, or social consensus in their interpretations in favor of what they see as a literal reading of the Biblical text. Parallel to this is their reading of the unfolding of human history as also a literal record where that text transparently reveals itself. Dispensationalists, who like to make an ought of is, are thus Hegelians. Like Fukuyama, they too see the winding-down of history, although in their version it ends in apocalypse.

Fundamentalists lend another trait to secular culture, a distaste for any mediation between God and man, whether through priesthoods of men or through the elaborate rationality of philosophy. This distaste would lead one to infer that they also have an aversion for the regulations of contracts and laws. But paradoxically in a popular culture filled with anti-intellectualism, the written Constitution like the written scripture holds a privileged position. The paradox might only be apparent. Just as fundamentalism disdains mediation, an anti-intellectual culture might find an oral tradition based on a continuing interpretative dialogue between past and present actually less attractive than the fixed guidelines of a written contract, whether made between one nation and another or between nations and God. In other words, the mechanism of the constitution, like the text of scripture or the language of law, could actually become a convenient tool to avoid working out the ongoing difficulties of the political world and to elude rather than meet its demands. Politics ultimately demands mastery over reality whereas the law requires only external conformism to certain specified criteria. So, the mechanism of the law not only tends to relieve us of the burden of competence, it ultimately fails to check aggression. Instead, aggression expresses itself not outside law, but through it. Scriptural and legal limits come to mark the boundary beyond which feelings of empathy or compassion need not run. Those not chosen become, in Kipling’s words, the lesser breeds without the law. The literalism of the Armageddonists, their faith that the Biblical text they read translates directly into events unfolding in history, is bound up completely with this sense they have of enacting history as subjects and being set apart through history and through law from those others whose histories and beings are objects to be written or acted upon.

It is this sanctified contempt for the other that is at the heart of Abu Ghraib and militates against any reading of it as a war-crime of errant individuals. The half-a-dozen reservists are no more than scape-goats in a program of racial and religious abasement that was conceived as completely legitimate. The photographs horrify precisely because they express this sense of legitimacy very much as the post-cards of the 1920s depicting laughing crowds watching Negroes being lynched convey their perfect acceptability at the time.

Such sanctified terror is rooted not only in Zionism then but equally in the sectarian beliefs of fundamentalist Christians that feed many elements of the Promethean ideology. From Biblical righteousness, the Promethean sense of the state as virtue incarnate; from Christian dominionism, the impetus to expand; from apocalyptic ruminations, the Promethean obsession with terror. And through all of these runs an unexamined sense of supreme moral satisfaction, a Puritan certainty about the nature and precise physical location of evil in the other that is translated not simply in the messianic language of Americanism but even in the shibboleths of liberalism. Evil is outside, out there in the world, radically disordered, deserving of eradication. To fully understand Abu Ghraib, therefore, we need to shatter the linguistic policing behind which torture masquerades as “national security,” “necessity,” and “protecting our freedoms”; we need to free ourselves from the control of the singular language of Babel, the empire of universal law and reason. We need to comprehend the extent to which the totalizing discourse of reason itself masks those local meanings and sufferings in which humanity resides.

When we do so, what appears behind the mask is a confusion of meanings that evades easy categorization. A study of hundreds of communications by Bush, Ashcroft, Powell, and Rumsfeld between September 11, 2001 and spring 2000 found four characteristics common to them – a set of Manichean distinctions between good and evil and security and danger; a description of the war on terror as a “mission”; conflation of the will of God and the export of freedom and liberty by America; and claims that dissent is a national and global threat. Quasi-religious language is deployed here on behalf of exceptionalism but the exceptionalism is only superficially crafted to appeal to religious sentiment. Underlying the religious veneer, the language is intensely inflected with attachment to the soil and fear of its violation and echoes the Zionist ideology of soil. We find repeated terms and phrases, such as “homeland” with its distinctly Germanic flavor and “we fight them there so we don’t have fight them here.” Not ethical or spiritual religion, but a state-religion, a religion of territory and power speaks in these words.

I have termed this ideology Promethean for its refusal to submit to objective criteria of the good or the just while claiming to represent them. Not so much abrogating law as assuming the function of law-giver, the new messianism uses the language of law for its content – human rights, justice, liberty – but its framework is intensely revolutionary. In public, then, Zionism in America, Christian or Jewish, does not speak its name but prefers to use the language of secularism and democracy inspirationally to press its claims. This is understandable. Overtly religious rhetoric has a poor chance of success in a country where even Christianity has many faces and where immigration is encouraged. The self-image of America today is of a melting pot and direct appeals to racial or religious chauvinism would shatter this image of multiculturalism.

In any case, those who believe in the unquestioned “goodness” of American force have included not only Zionist neo-conservatives (and Max Boot has admitted that Israel is the non-negotiable heart of neo-conservatism) but before them Cold War hawks who once saw in the spread of communism a similar radical threat to the West. What the decoding of language demonstrates is that despite its religious overtones, the rhetoric of American empire is fundamentally neither conservative nor religious in a traditional sense but expressive of an ideology of power in which religion has been consciously deployed. Subtle words and phrases appeal to the religious, evoke their support, play on their sympathies, and yoke the two strains of exceptionalism. Under the defense of civilization, a war of religion is invoked; but the rhetoric of religion itself conceals the more familiar language of territory and resources, the struggle of political interests.

What interests and for whose benefit? The Americanist language would suggest American national interest; the pervasive influence of Zionism would suggest Israeli. Of course, publicly if not privately, Zionists like to argue that there is no difference between the two. Ideology which grows more powerful as the total state accelerates smoothes over these discrepancies in words, these failures of meaning. It throws out vague threats to the “national interest” and postures aggressively behind the official narrative of a global war on terror by the universal empire. This is the propaganda discourse of Babel but what does Babel conceal? When the propaganda narrative of terror is pierced, what lies behind?

~

Lila Rajiva is a free-lace journalist in Baltimore and author of “The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media” Monthly Review Press. She can be reached at: lrajiva@hotmail.com

February 23, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

AIPAC Vetos U.N. Resolution on Israeli Settlements U.S. Casts the Actual Ballot

By Philip Giraldi | Council for the National Interest | February 22, 2011

Last Friday’s American veto of the United Nations Security Council resolution that would have called Israeli settlement activity on the West Bank illegal was not only shameful, it was possibly the low point of the already foundering Obama presidency.  To be sure, United States UN Ambassador Susan Rice accompanied the veto with a stirring rendition of “I’ll cry tomorrow” as she described how the Obama White House really is opposed to the settlements.

Really.

It’s just that supporting or even abstaining on a resolution criticizing Israel, however mildly framed, might setback the peace process, which, as Rice well knows, died completely over six months ago.  But let’s not get hung up on the details.  Rice should have said instead that her boss in the White House is so afraid of the Israel Lobby that he has to ask permission when he goes to the bathroom.  At least that would have been completely credible, something you can believe in from an Administration that has otherwise delivered squat to the many voters who supported Obama in hopes that he might actually be interested in peace in our times.

And Obama has a lot to be afraid of, mostly from the old knife in the back trick from the Israel boosters in his own party.  “This is too clever by half,” said Representative Anthony Weiner.  “Instead of doing the correct and principled thing and vetoing an inappropriate and wrong resolution, they now have opened the door to more and more anti-Israeli efforts coming to the floor of the UN.” Representative Nita Lowey agreed, “Compromising our support for Israel at the UN is not an option.”

And over at the GOP side of the House, shortly before the veto, the new Chair of the Foreign Affairs committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen criticized the resolution: “Support for this anti-Israel statement is a major concession to enemies of the Jewish State and other free democracies.  Offering to criticize our closest ally at the UN isn’t leadership, it’s unacceptable.”  Last Wednesday sixty-seven freshmen Republican House members sent a letter to their party’s leadership supporting full funding of aid to Israel.  The letter cited the lawmakers’ “recognition that the national security of the United States is directly tied to the strength and security of the State of Israel.”

Nice one, Anthony, Nita, Ileana and all those new congressmen who were elected because they promised to do some budget cutting, but I don’t detect anything about what the American national interest might be, just a bit of nonsense about “support for Israel,” “our closest ally” and even more ridiculous bleating about how arming Israel makes America safer.  In fact, none of you even mentioned the United States.

Excuse me, I thought you dudes were serving in the US Congress, not the Knesset, but I might be wrong about that.

And lest anyone go wobbly on support of Israel there was the usual media claque screaming outrage because Rice had dared to criticize the settlements policy even though she was casting the veto.  Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post put it nicely “The US representative, while reluctantly casting a veto, joined the pack of jackals that seek to make Israel the culprit for all that ills (sic) the Middle East.”

The 1600 Pound Gorilla

For those who have been asleep a la Rip van Winkle for the past twenty years, let us recap what has been going on in this country.

There is an extremely dangerous domestic enemy out there, and it isn’t the naturalized Muslims that the redoubtable Congressman Peter King is investigating.  It is an organization that calls itself the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC.

AIPAC is the most powerful foreign policy lobby in Washington, by far.  It was founded in the 1950s with the support of the Israeli Foreign Ministry to create an organization that would lobby for sustained American financial, diplomatic, and military support of Israel, but, curiously, it has never been required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act or FARA, which would require full public disclosure of finances – details of income and expenditures – as well as periodic reports on the nature of the relationship between the organization and the foreign government in question.

AIPAC is the focal point of the Israel Lobby in the United States.

On its website it describes itself as “America’s pro-Israel lobby.”  It is located in Washington DC but has branches nationwide, has a budget of $70 million a year, and has several hundred full time employees.  It hosts an annual conference, this year in May, which attracts 6000 supporters and is a required stop for politicians and civic leaders from both parties, all attending to pledge their support for Israel.  Presidents, Vice Presidents, Secretaries of State, and congressional leaders all have spoken at the AIPAC conference.  Hundreds of congressmen regularly attend its sessions.  During the past two years the conference was focused on the issue of Iran as a threat to Israel and the world.

AIPAC wants the United States to have only one true friend in the world and that friend will be Israel.  That means that uncritically supporting Israeli interests has sidelined American foreign policy objectives and led to at least one war, against Iraq, in which thousands of Americans and some hundreds of thousands of foreigners have died.

If AIPAC is successful in its desire to convince Washington to solve the Iran nuclear problem by force if necessary, it could lead to another war that almost certainly would have catastrophic global consequences.

The point of all this is that AIPAC is why the UN veto took place.  AIPAC and its friends (including the powerful Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which also pressured Obama to veto the resolution, own congress, the White House, and the mainstream media in its reporting on the Middle East. They are also powerful enough to set policy or overturn initiatives that they disapprove of.

AIPAC takes the Hill

AIPAC operates by forcing all American politicians at a national level to respond to various positions supported by the Israel Lobby.  Congressional candidates are carefully screened for their views on the Middle East and are coached to modify positions that are regarded as unacceptable.  Those who pass the test are then vetted on their degree of reliability and, if approved, become recipients of good press from AIPAC’s friends in the media and cash contributions from the numerous PACs that have been set up to support the pro-Israel agenda.

Once in office, the politicians are bombarded with AIPAC position papers, with visits from AIPAC representatives, and are expected to conform completely to the positions taken by the organization.  That is why resolutions in congress relating to Israel generally receive nearly unanimous approval no matter how frivolous or injurious to the US national interest.  AIPAC lobbyist Steve Rosen once bragged that he could get the signatures of seventy senators on a napkin if he chose to do so.

AIPAC’s influence over congress and the White House is such that the centerpiece policy of successive US administrations, the so-called peace process with the Palestinians, has been essentially fraudulent.  Even though it is undeniably in the US national interest to broker some kind of peace agreement, Washington has instead never failed to lean heavily towards the Israeli point of view.  The recent discussion of developments in Egypt has frequently been framed in terms of what it means for Israel even though the proper line of inquiry for the US media and politicians should be what does it mean for the United States.

Other instances of AIPAC supported policies that have damaged US interests have been the acceptance of occupations of and attacks on Lebanon, the acquiescence in the January 2009 bombing of Gaza, opposition to the Goldstone Report, and silence over last year’s Mavi Marmara incident in which a US citizen was killed.

By taking positions that are lopsided and ultimately untenable, Washington’s hypocrisy has been visible to the entire world and has rightfully done much to fuel mistrust of American policies in general.

Why do office seekers and congressmen put up with the pressure?  It is because they know that crossing AIPAC frequently means that the media will turn sour, funding will dry up, and a well resourced candidate will suddenly appear in opposition at the next election.  Ask congressmen Paul Findley and Pete McCloskey or Senators William Fulbright and Chuck Percy, all of whom were perceived as critics of Israel and all of whom were forced from office in exactly that fashion.

Opposing AIPAC can be a political death wish.

Even the appointment of senior government officials to positions that in any way deal with the Middle East is subject to the AIPAC veto.  The blackballing of the highly qualified and outspoken Chas Freeman as chairman of the National Intelligence Council was orchestrated by AIPAC and its friends in congress because Freeman had been critical of Israeli policies.  Candidates for Director of Central Intelligence and Director of National Intelligence regularly have their resumes examined to determine how they stand on the Middle East.

So if we Americans are ever to regain control over our destinies we have to start by removing the poison from our body politic.  A good start would be by first registering and then marginalizing AIPAC and any other organizations like it that represent pernicious foreign interests.

It would also be nice to send Weiner, Lowey, Ros-Lehtinen and the 67 GOP freshmen representatives who want to keep shoveling money to Israel packing in the next election.

And also Obama and Susan Rice since they don’t appear to know what country they live in.  We really don’t need their kind of hyphenated patriotism anymore and we certainly don’t need vetoes at the UN that demonstrate to everyone that we are a nation of amoral hypocrites.

Philip Giraldi is a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues. He is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served 18 years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was Chief of Base in Barcelona from 1989 to 1992 designated as the Agency’s senior officer for Olympic Games support. He is a contributing editor to The American Conservative, a columnist with AntiWar.com, and his frequent media appearances include 60 Minutes, al-Jazeera TV, National Public Radio, and the British Broadcasting Corporation.

February 23, 2011 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | 2 Comments

6 Threats to Free and Open Access to the Internet

Activist Post | February 23, 2011

Many of us believe the Internet to be open and free for us to explore all known information.  Indeed, it is true that we currently can surf to any active website with our browser, and we can start a website or blog on any topic we wish to discuss.  And it is quite a profound concept that everyone with a smart phone literally has all of the world’s knowledge in the palm of their hand.

Ben Franklin knew well the importance of free access to information when he founded the first public library in America to share knowledge with those without the means to their own books.  Today, he surely would consider the Internet’s unprecedented access to information, and ability to communicate it instantly, as the ultimate level playing field of economic mobility and freedom.

However, this access is now under threat of authoritarian control.  First, it is important to note that the gears of the Internet have always been controlled by central authorities, as Douglas Rushkoff recently wrote, “From its Domain Name Servers to its IP addresses, the Internet depends on highly centralized mechanisms to send our packets from one place to another.”

Therefore, the idea that our movements on the Web are even remotely private or untraceable is false.  The central “authorities” who control the gears of the machine know exactly where you have been, while Google and the CIA have even developed ways of knowing where you’re going next as well.  It’s very creepy to know that our every move is being tracked, traced, and databased, but it has been happening from day one on the Internet, and will likely continue to happen despite the violation of basic rights to our privacy.

Because Internet privacy has never been possible in the current web infrastructure, any proposed “privacy law” would just seem to pay lip service to the idea if it doesn’t address decentralizing the control grid.  As Rushkoff pointed out, “I’m not trying to be a downer here, or knock the possibilities for networking. I just want to smash the fiction that the Internet is some sort of uncontrollable, decentralized free-for-all, so that we can get on with the business of creating something else that is.”

The focus here will be on the multitude of threats to our free access to the current Internet.  As Ben Franklin understood, information should be free and open to all, not just the select few.  Although the books in Franklin’s first library were indeed copyrighted material, they were freely shared.  We should think of the Internet as a gigantic open-source public library.  A place where information such as news, books, movies, and music should be free to view while we’re visiting the library.

Unfortunately, those who have control over the grid and influence over policymakers do not view the Internet in the same light.  It appears that they view it as an economic and propaganda playground — the last one that they don’t fully control.  Well, given the blight of proposed Internet control laws and web censorship tactics, it seems there is a calculated effort to control the free flow of information.

Below are 6 threats to our free and open access to the World Wide Web:

Legislation

The Protecting Cybersecurity as a National Asset Act, aka the “Internet Kill Switch” bill, has recently been reintroduced with a new Orwellian name, the Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act. This bill would give government the unchecked power to restrict access to the Internet if they declare a “national cyberemergency.”  CNET recently reported:

But the revised wording (PDF) continues to alarm civil liberties groups and other critics of the bill, who say the language would allow the government to shut down portions of the Internet or restrict access to certain Web sites or types of content. Even former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak didn’t actually “shut down” the Internet: at least at first, a trickle of connections continued.

The second piece of legislation that’s being reintroduced this year is the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA).  This bill, clearly written by the mega-media entertainment cartel, would empower the U.S. Department of Justice to shut down, or block access to, websites found to be illegally sharing copyrighted material.  It gives the government the authority to force Internet Service Providers to block access to websites from certain IP addresses, much like how the U.S. recently blocked the Al Jazeera feed during the Egyptian protests.  COICA has also been referred to as the “Blacklist” bill because it allows the government to blacklist or seize any domain name suspected of infringement — even if located outside the United States.

DHS Seizures

Who needs there to be laws on the books when the Department of Homeland Security appears to already be above the law. DHS has been on a rampage of arbitrarily seizing websites without due process.  In November 2010, they seized over 70 websites suspected of copyright infringement.  Just before the Super Bowl, DHS seized another lot of domains for illegally share-streaming sporting events — some merely for linking to copyrighted material.  Most recently, DHS erroneously seized 84,000 domains accused of being affiliated with child porn in some way which the DHS later admitted was done by accident.

Clearly, DHS has displayed its technical ability to censor the Internet by removing these websites. And although the domain seizures were technically accompanied by a court order, it seems that the DHS has partnered with large media outlets and sports entertainment to protect their profits. Finally, these court orders are a guilty-until-proven-innocent ruling which can irrevocably damage small businesses and the livelihoods of many people whose path to justice remains unclear.

Civil Lawsuits

Again who needs laws when you can be frivolously sued in civil court over copyright issues and bullied into settling the claim. Copyright infringement trolls like Righthaven are suing blogs and sites, and despite the only court ruling to date being a dismissal of charges due to Fair Use rights, they are still forcing many settlements.  In fact, even Internet giant Drudge Report was forced to settle a civil suit involving a copyrighted image and link.

According to Steve Green, who’s been diligently covering these lawsuits for the Las Vegas Sun, claims they are a new type of legal enterprise:

Attorneys say the Righthaven lawsuits are unprecedented in recent memory because, in the past, newspapers dealt with online copyright infringement by simply asking infringing websites to remove the infringing material and to replace it with a link to the source newspaper. Most Righthaven defendants say they were sued without warning.

Not surprisingly, most of the cases are settled out of court.  However, this tactic is a very effective intimidation tool against small websites who seek to share information.  In some cases the costs and aggravation of combating the lawsuit can force the closure of these website defendants.

Net Neutrality

It would seem that net neutrality should fall under the legislative category. However, it is actually considered more of a “market based” regulation than actual law, yet the taxpayer still funds its enforcement through the FCC.  Before identifying the reasoning behind and specific aspects of net neutrality rules, it’s worth noting that Internet futurist, Douglas Roshkoff, views the details as irrelevant because:

The moment the ‘net neutrality’ debate began was the moment the net neutrality debate was lost. For once the fate of a network — its fairness, its rule set, its capacity for social or economic reformation — is in the hands of policymakers and the corporations funding them — that network loses its power to effect change. (source)

The concept behind net neutrality is just what it says; to keep Internet access neutral for all users. But again, it is a very Orwellian term where true supporters of a free an open Internet can be tricked into supporting so-called neutrality rules.  Blogger Timothy Karr wrote, “The rule is so riddled with loopholes that it’s become clear that this FCC chairman crafted it with the sole purpose of winning the endorsement of AT&T and cable lobbyists, and not defending the interests of the tens of millions of Internet users.”

What they are, in fact, are rules to allow service providers to charge tiered price levels depending on the amount of broadband used by individual web-surfers or websites.  In other words, certain access will be discriminated against through reduced access speeds or additional fees.  Besides limiting size of the surfer’s information wave, this tiered approach to the Internet will likely make it very difficult for smaller websites to compete with the big boys who can afford to pay ISPs for unadulterated access.

Technical Censorship

Google, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Wikipedia have become the most powerful information sharing tools the world has ever known. Combined, these five websites could literally rewrite history or shape the entire flow of current information if they chose to do so. Indeed, each of these virtual libraries has been repeatedly accused of censorship in many various forms; from blatant removal of content to manipulating the searchable strength of disapproved content.

Google, who seems so powerful that they may actually run the world, recently revealed that they are tweaking their search algorithm to weaken the search engine ranking of information aggregating websites referred to as “content farms.”  It seems that Google seeks to reduce websites with little original content to the level of spammer status in their search results. What’s more, Google can wield the power of their Google Page Ranking for individual sites.  Their constantly changing algorithm may actually penalize websites for search engine optimization, as with the recent case of JC Penney losing business due to Google penalizing them for SEO.

Taxes

If Congress or local governments elect to tax websites, the level playing field on the Internet is finished.  In May 2010, the Federal Trade Commission proposed the “Drudge Tax” which would seek to tax news aggregators as if they are brick and mortar media companies. The FTC report also suggested that news aggregators be forced to pay copyright fees to link to mainstream news sources.  And in perfect wealth distribution fashion the report also discusses the “possibility of offering tax exemptions to news organizations, establishing an AmeriCorps for reporters and creating a national fund for local news organizations.”

More recently, some states have proposed taxing online retailers such as Amazon, arguing that it’s not fair for local retailers who must pay taxes for selling the exact same items.  In the past, Amazon has terminated its contracts with third-party affiliates in states who have adopted online tax laws. California Congressman, Dan Lungren, introduced the resolution Supporting the Preservation of Internet Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses aimed at preventing states from imposing these new taxes on online retailers.

What’s more, some states and even municipalities are beginning to impose a blogger fee referred to as a “privilege license” as a sort of business license for blogs.  Philadelphia has forced bloggers to pay a $50/year, or $300 lifetime, fee for the privilege of expressing ideas online.

Conclusion

It seems clear that the powers-that-be are engaged in an all-out assault the free flow of information on the Internet.  Blogs and websites must be prepared to combat the coming onslaught of news laws, regulations, and fees.  For those who believe information should be free for all who pay for Internet access, we must fight to maintain this liberty.  Stay tuned to the new blog Sites & Blogs for breaking Internet news and legal commentary about online copyright and privacy rights.

February 23, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on 6 Threats to Free and Open Access to the Internet

Breaking the siege of Gaza is high priority for Egypt’s young revolutionaries

MEMO | February 23, 2011

Young participants in the 25th January Egyptian revolution have told the Palestine Information Centre that Egypt has been freed from a tyrannical regime and breaking the siege of Gaza is high on their list of priorities. Ousting Hosni Mubarak was difficult, they said, but it was just the beginning of the revolution, not the end. In Tahrir Square, they added, all sections of Egyptian society were united, including Muslims and Christians; leftists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ahmed Bahaauddin Shaaban, one of the founders of the Egyptian Movement for Change (Kifaya), told the PIC, “We took part in a real battle pitting the Egyptian people against the corrupt regime, which was heavily entrenched. However, the Egyptian people were able to uproot it.” The people of Egypt have taken one step on a long road, said Shaaban, by overthrowing a dictator and his oppressive regime. “However, we still have a lot to do. We have a programme for democracy, social reform, and the creation of a modern, developed state. We have shaken the regime, as can be seen clearly in the fall of its corrupt symbols.”

Mr. Shaaban warned that the struggle will be long. “The fall of an oppressive dictator like Mubarak affects the entire regime structure but we will be able to deal with its remnants,” he said. “In the past few days we have defeated the most oppressive forces in the country – the Central Security Force and the State Security Force – which have vanished into thin air.” So, he added, has the former ruling party, the National Democratic Party, which had three million members.

Arab issues are at the top of the revolution’s priorities, stressed Shaaban, and the people of the Gaza Strip are delighted by its success because they also suffered at the hands of Mubarak’s regime. “The people of Gaza will feel the effects of the revolution because the siege of Gaza will end and the kinship between the people of Egypt and Palestine will be restored.”

Amr Ibrahim, another of the young leaders of the revolution and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood chipped in: “The most important characteristic of this revolution was that it was impossible to tell people apart on the basis of which political movement they belonged to. Everyone in Tahrir Square was there under the banner ‘I am an Egyptian’. You couldn’t tell who was a leftist and who was a Muslim Brother, or who was a Christian and who was a Muslim.”

According to Mr. Ibrahim, the youth of the Muslim Brotherhood were involved in the revolution from its beginning on the 25th January having asked for permission from the movement’s leaders. As the demonstrations increased in intensity and the occupation of Tahrir Square by the demonstrators grew, instructions were given by the leadership of the Brotherhood to their younger members to enter Tahrir Square in great numbers. In the end, claimed Ibrahim, Muslim Brotherhood youth members made up between 40 and 50% of the demonstrators.

A spokesman for the 6th April Youth Movement asserted that the resignation of the president was not one of the demands of the youth of the revolution when they were preparing for the 25th January. “We wanted the sacking of the Interior Minister and the implementation of a court decision setting the minimum wage at 1200 Egyptian pounds per month,” said Ahmed Maher. “The groups taking part in the movement are very diverse but together they organised protests, using Facebook and on the ground, on the 25th January and on the Day of Anger on Friday 28th January, in addition to organising the million man demonstrations on the 1st February and the ‘Day of Departure’, 4th February.”

Maher believes that it is important for Egyptians to cooperate in planning Egypt’s future post-Mubarak; he proposed the formation of a delegation of youth and members of the Front for the Support of the Demands of the Revolutions to negotiate with the army’s leaders. It is necessary for the government of Egypt to be transferred to civilians, he said, adding that the revolutionary youth can still achieve a great deal in bringing forth the fruits of the revolution.

With regards to lifting the siege of Gaza, Maher said that the issue cannot be ignored. It is, he stressed, one of the demands of the revolution: “Pressure exerted by the revolutionaries as well as Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s call to end the siege has obliged the army to fulfil this demand.” It is time to end the suffering of the people of Gaza, he said. This, ended Maher, has made the government in Israel “fearful” of Egyptian youth. “If young Egyptians demonstrated on the borders of occupied Palestine,” he grinned, “I wouldn’t rule out the Zionists packing up and leaving.”

~

Egyptian authorities open Rafah crossing in both directions

RAFAH, (PIC)– The Egyptian authorities on Tuesday opened the Rafah border crossing with Gaza Strip in both directions after three weeks of closure but to a limited number of people.

A Palestinian source said that the Egyptian authorities allowed only 300 passengers daily to cross the terminal, noting that the crossing was closed following the outbreak of the Egyptian revolution that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak.

He underlined that travel will be allowed only for patients, students, those with residence permits in Egypt, and holders of visit visas to other countries.

He noted that 3,000 Palestinians wishing to travel had registered with the borders authority over the past few days.

February 23, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | 2 Comments

The Attack on Social Security

The Power of Incompetence

By DEAN BAKER | CounterPunch | February 23, 2011

The folks insisting on cuts to Social Security and Medicare have revved themselves up and are now in high gear. They see their final victory on the horizon with the possibility of a bipartisan deal involving substantial cuts to both programs. They argue that the large deficits facing the country make it imperative that we address the long-term budget problem, meaning the cost of these programs, immediately.

Before anyone prepares to surrender it is worth remembering once again how we got into the current situation. Before the downturn the budget deficits were relatively modest. Even with the cost of fighting two wars, the Bush tax cuts and a poorly designed Medicare drug benefit the deficit was just over 1.0 percent of GDP in 2007, the last year before the downturn. This was arguably bigger than desired, but a deficit of this size certainly posed no imminent danger to the economy.

Then the economy ran off the track. The reason was the collapse of an $8 trillion housing bubble. This bubble was easy to see for people who knew basic economics and third-grade arithmetic. It was also easy to see that the collapse of this bubble would derail the economy and lead to a serious downturn. That is why some of us were warning about the bubble as early as 2002.

But where were the current group of anti-deficit crusaders back in 2002-2006, when it might still have been possible to do something to stem the growth of the housing bubble before it reached such dangerous levels? Well, they were crusading against the budget deficit of course.

Peter Peterson, the Wall Street investment banker who is the patron saint and financier of much of the deficit crusade was paying for the “Fiscal Wake-Up Tour,” which was supposed to alert people to the dangers of the country’s budget deficit. This traveling road show of policy wonks and economists had nothing to say about the growing housing bubble that was about to explode and sink the economy.

Then we have the Washington Post, which is continuously setting new records for imbalance on this issue, for example by running six different columns by deficit hawks on the same day. As the bubble grew to ever more dangerous levels the Post had no room for those warning of the risks it posed. In fact, its main source for information on the housing market was David Lereah, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors and the author of the book, “Why the Housing Boom Will Not Bust and How You Can Profit From It.”

The same story can be told about National Public Radio, the major news networks and all the politicians now leading the charge to cut Social Security and Medicare. When the country actually did face a real economic disaster, these people were nowhere in sight. They were diverting attention to other issues and dismissing those of us who tried to warn of the real danger.

Now that we are experiencing an economic disaster – 25 million people unemployed or underemployed, millions of people facing the loss of their homes, more than ten million underwater in their mortgages — as a direct result of their incompetence, these same people are telling us again about the urgent need to cut Social Security and Medicare. The deficit hawks somehow think that their case is more compelling because of the damage done by their incompetence.

It should not work this way. In most lines of work incompetence is not a credential, it should not be one in designing economic policy either. Anyone who cares to tell us about the urgent need to deal with the deficit should first be expected to tell us how they managed to overlook the growth of an $8 trillion housing bubble. They should also be expected to tell us why they have a better understanding of the economy now than they did before the collapse of the housing bubble.

Social Security and Medicare provide essential supports to tens of millions of retirees and disabled workers. The projections are clear. The financing of Social Security poses no major problem – it is projected to be fully solvent for almost 30 years with no changes whatsoever. Medicare poses a problem only because the private health care system is broken.

Honest people talk about the need to fix the health care system. Less-honest people scream about the need to reform “entitlements.” And, they think that the public somehow should listen to them because of their record of incompetence.

Supposedly responsible news organizations, like the Washington Post and National Public Radio, have gotten in the habit of telling their audiences that we have to cut Social Security and Medicare. The need for cuts in these programs is often put forward as an unquestioned fact, not just in editorials and opinion pieces, but in supposedly objective news stories.

~

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy and False Profits: Recoverying From the Bubble Economy.

This column was originally published by The Guardian.

February 23, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 1 Comment

Israel bars ICRC aid from reaching homeless Bedouin

Ma’an – 23/02/2011

HEBRON — Residents of the tiny Bedouin hamlet of Amniyr crowded into a small cave in the rocky hills south of Hebron to sleep on Wednesday night, after their tent homes were destroyed by Israeli demolition crews claiming the hamlet as state land.

Village elder Hajj Mahmoud said the three families that live in the area spent the day in the open air, trying to salvage items from the buried heaps left by Israeli demolition crews.

Hajj Mahmoud said the International Committee for the Red Cross had attempted to deliver aid and supplies, after calls from residents and observers from the Christian Peacemaker Teams to provide new shelters.

The elder said he was unsure what the ICRC had brought, however, because Israeli troops prevented ICRC crews from unloading the supplies.

An informed official in Hebron confirmed to Ma’an that the ICRC encountered difficulties delivering the supplies, which were sent back.

An attempt was made to deliver several housing kits, food and blankets to the families, the official said, adding that it was the first time such a delivery had been barred.

“We stayed out in the air until late,” Hajj Mahmoud said, explaining that the families retired to a small cave.

“We found a snake inside the cave, we had to kill it before we slept.”

The five tent shelters, a cistern and water well were buried on Monday, and olive trees uprooted then covered with earth.

Residents had moved back to the area during the winter, saying settler harassment at a second location one kilometer away had driven them out. Years earlier the same harassment had forced them from the location where the tents were demolished.

Ownership papers for the land existed at one point, residents said, but according to the CPT observer every week for the past month Israeli officials from the Civil Administration have delivered notices saying the community was living on state land and must evacuate.

On Tuesday morning, CPT observers published a video of the destruction in the hamlet, and issued a release saying teams would continue to have a presence in the area.

February 23, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Video | 2 Comments

Israeli fire injures 13 Palestinians

Press TV – February 23, 2011

At least thirteen Palestinians, including children, have been injured in two separate Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip, medics say.

The incident took place during a brief incursion by Israeli forces into eastern Gaza City on Wednesday, a Press TV correspondent reported.

Eleven Palestinians were injured after an Israeli tank shell hit eastern part of the Gaza City.

The incident came shortly after a number of Israeli tanks and bulldozers rolled into the Palestinian territory in an apparent effort to destroy agricultural lands along the occupied border zone.

Three members of the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, and three children are among the injured.

“Three of our fighters were injured while firing two mortar shells towards Israeli tanks which were operating inside the (Gaza) border,” a statement released by the group said.

Some of the injured are reported to be in critical condition, Gaza emergency services Chief Adham Abu Selmeya said, adding that they had been taken to the city’s Shifa hospital.

Separately, two Palestinian workers were shot and injured by Israeli gunfire as they were collecting cement particles left behind from the houses that were destroyed in north of the town of Beit Lahiya near the border during the Israeli war on Gaza at the turn of 2009.

Due to a crippling Israeli blockade, Palestinians living in Gaza have no other choice but to obtain the required material for construction work from other buildings that have been destroyed in Israeli attacks.

Since March 2010, more than one hundred Palestinians have been shot by Israeli soldiers while collecting construction material.

Israel laid an economic siege on the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after Hamas took control of the enclave.

The Israeli-imposed blockade has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip.

Some 1.5 million people are being denied their basic rights, including freedom of movement, and their rights to appropriate living conditions, work, health and education. Poverty and unemployment rates stand at approximately 80 percent and 60 percent, respectively, in the Gaza Strip.

More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed during the three-week Israeli land, sea and air offensive in the impoverished coastal sliver during the winter of 2008-2009. The offensive also inflicted $ 1.6 billion damage to the Gazan economy.

A United Nations inquiry led by the former South African judge, Richard Goldstone, detailed what investigators called Israeli actions “amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity,” during Israel’s offensive against the Gaza Strip.

February 23, 2011 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | Comments Off on Israeli fire injures 13 Palestinians