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In Israel, it is very clear where you can and cannot live as a Palestinian

Palestine Monitor | October 22, 2011

With the legalizing of admissions committees and strict restrictions on building in Palestinian communities, Palestinians will soon have nowhere else to live in Israel.

After a six-year legal campaign, a Palestinian-Israeli couple has been granted the right to build a home in the communal settlement of Rakefet in the Misgav Regional Council, located in the southern Galilee. However, their victory does not portend the softening of ethnically divided communities in Israel, nor the broadening of living options available to Palestinians living inside Israel. In fact, their long-awaited acceptance may just be the last of its kind.  ­

Ahmed and Fatina Zabeidat are from Sakhnin, a Palestinian town close to Rakefet in the Lower Galilee. They applied for residency in the settlement in 2005. Both architects, the Zabeidats wanted the space to design and build their own home.

The Zabeidats chose Rakefet for its spacious and quiet environment. Sakhnin, like all Palestinian towns in Israel, suffers from overcrowding for several reasons. Firstly, residents of the town live on about 2,500 acres compared to its size of 25,000 acres in 1948. Secondly, the state continually fails to implement a master plan in the town and the Misgav council rarely issues building permits, which means there are many cases of illegal building and consequent demolition orders.

At Rakafet, anyone who wants to live in the community has to pass through an admissions process. Rakefet’s admissions committee rejected the Zabeidats application, citing grounds of “social unsuitability.”

Under the sanction of the Israel Land Administration, admissions committees have been allowed to filter new residents in the interest of preserving the character of small communities.

For decades, admissions committees have operated  in the Naqab and Galilee. Such committees exist in 695 communities, accounting for 68.5% of all towns and 85% of villages in Israel. Significantly, each includes a senior member of the Jewish Agency or the World Zionist Organization.

These groups have been pivotal in the state’s continuing settlement enterprise. The World Zionist Organization was founded in 1897 as an umbrella for the Zionists’ colonising project and today consists of pro-Israel groups spread throughout dozens of countries. The Jewish Agency was created in 1948 to manage the absorption of Jewish immigrants and has since succeeded in bringing around 3 million Jews to Israel.

But the right of these admission committees to preserve its community’s character—albeit defined nebulously—was codified in Israeli law last March.

The law, known as the Admissions Committee Law gave authority to these committees operating in communities with fewer than 400 families, to filter applicants based on their “social suitability,” a caveat widely suspected of legalizing the maintenance of a place’s ethnic homogeneity. In short this law is most likely used to keep towns Jewish.

While the explicit discrimination of applicants based on their national belonging is prohibited, Suhad Bishara of Adalah, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights, argues that the requirements for entry are vague enough to facilitate the exclusion of marginalized groups, such as Palestinian citizens of Israel.

In 2005, Rakefet’s admissions committee rejected the Zabeidats on the grounds that they were socially unsuitable. Fatina was “too individualistic,” the committee told Haaretz, while Ahmed “lacked interpersonal sophistication and has difficulty integrating naturally into society.” The committee also claimed that the Zabeidats  would not be sufficiently active members in their particularly small community.

But the Zabeidats believed they were rejected because they are Palestinians. So they approached Adalah and brought a petition to the Supreme Court against the decision in 2007.

“The committee claimed Fatina and Ahmed were motivated more by challenging the system than an honest intention to live in a small community,” explains Bishara, the Zabeidat’s attorney.

The Supreme Court ruled that Rafeket needed to assemble a new team on its admissions committee and reconsider their decision to reject the Zabeidat’s application; they also ruled that while the admissions committees were permitted to conduct interviews to assess the couple’s suitability, they could not use psychological testing—a practice widely used–in the application process to communal towns.

Again, the Zabeidat’s submitted an application to be reviewed by the new admissions committee and filed an appeal to the ILA, which has the authority to arbitrate in the dispute. But they were rejected a second time.

However, in a surprising turn of events, the ILA’s new general director, Ronen Cohen Schorr, decided independently—and to the chagrin of the ILA appeals committee—to grant the Zabeidats the land they desired.

He told Haaretz he was “convinced of the honest desire of the petitioners to blend into the life of the community and believes that their acceptance is not likely to damage the community.” The High Court confirmed his decision, giving Rakefet’s authorities 90 days to allot land to the Zabeidats.

Challenging the committees

The Zabeidats may have won this battle, but Adalah claims that the mere notion of being “incompatible” with a community is severely problematic.

In June, Adalah—with support from other rights groups—filed a petition in the High Court against the very principle of acceptance committees. The stipulation of “incompatibility,” they argued, is vague enough to be applied to any marginalized candidates, such as Palestinians, single parent families, gay couples, Mizrahi Jews and people with disabilities. In the past, all of these groups have been denied entrance to communal settlements.

For Bishara, the decision to cement acceptance committees in national law—in the form of the Admissions Committee Law—came as a means of blocking criticism of this often prejudicial selection process. Fortunately for the Zabeidets, Admissions Committee Law could not be applied retroactively. “The law is meant to bypass any potential court decision” that may curtail the practice, Bishara explains.

In 2000, the Supreme Court ordered the Jewish community of Katsir in the Wadi Ara region of central Israel to allow a Palestinian Israeli couple, Adel and Iman Kaadan, to buy a house in the town.

While critics slate the Admissions Committee Law as institutionalizing racism, supporters contend the law protects the particular character of these community settlements.

One sponsor of the law, David Rotem of the far right Yisrael Beiteinu party, explained in December 2009 that it would allow Jewish Israelis the power to “establish a place where everybody is an army veteran, a Yeshiva alumni, or something of that sort.”

Yisrael Hasson of the Kadima party noted in December 2010 how the law “reflects the Knesset’s commitment to work to preserve the … Zionist dream in practice in Israel” through “population dispersal.”

But Adalah argues that communal settlements no longer follow a collective way of life, as they once may have. Furthermore, Adalah contends that since Zionism is the dominant culture in Israel and has thus already been realized, there is no need to “preserve” it.

Admission committees frequently adopt criteria that specifically vets out Palestinians. In June 2009, the communities of Manof and Yuvalim changed their communal bylaws to make loyalty to Israel as a Zionist state a prerequisite to residency. Their example was replicated in other communities before the Loyalty Oath Bill was passed in October 2010.

Palestinian voices in Israel decry the segregation efforts. Though present in most fields of life, segregation is particularly blatant in housing policies. “The map is very clear where you can and cannot live as an Arab,” Bishara notes.

Many communal settlements were built in the Galilee and Naqab throughout the ’70s and ’80s, financed by the Jewish National Fund and Jewish Agency as part of the Judaization drive, which was concentrated in these Palestinian majority areas.

No new towns or villages have been built for Palestinians in Israel since the state was created. Governments refuse to license master plans for Palestinian communities to enable socio-economic development and improve standards of life.

Observers of Israeli society point to tensions emerging between Israel’s self-image as a democracy and the anti-democratic legislation of recent years, which are becoming increasingly awkward for Israel’s exponents to account for.

While the Zabeidets had the means and energy to wage a legal battle to make a home in Rafeket, undoubtedly most Palestinian Israelis have deferred to the de facto segregation of Jews and non-Jews. However, with the growing frequency of laws such as that governing acceptance to small towns this segregation may soon become de jure.

October 23, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | Comments Off on In Israel, it is very clear where you can and cannot live as a Palestinian

As settlers disrupt olive harvest, Israeli officer declares: “I am the law, I am God.”

22 October 2011 | International Solidarity Movement

West Bank – Intimidation of Palestinians in the Israeli-controlled H2 section of Hebron continued today as the Israeli military and settlers harassed Palestinians and international observers as they attempted to pick olives on their land in Tel Rumeida.

Around 40 students from different Palestinian universities marched onto the land at 11AM Saturday morning and began to pick olives along with local families, activists from Youth Against Settlements (YAS) and international observers.

At 12:30 PM the Israeli police confiscated identity passes for 20 Palestinians and, whilst checking their details, forced the group to stand together and individually filmed their faces.

The police declined to justify their actions, only insisting that they had a right to check the details of those present. The Israeli military became increasingly belligerent as protesters challenged the legality of the actions and began to push and shove Palestinians and international observers. After around 20 minutes the police returned the passes and allowed the detained Palestinians to leave. They then ordered international observers to leave the olive groves or be arrested, claiming that the Palestinian-owned olive grove is “Israeli land” and that it was illegal to be on the land and “illegal to be in a group.”

Rafi Dagan, an Israeli commanding officer, stated “I am the law. I am God” when asked to explain why he was flouting Israeli law by forcing people to leave Palestinian land under threat of arrest, without any paperwork to show that it was a closed military zone.

Earlier in the day, Israeli soldiers had pushed photographers attempting to document the olive harvest and confiscated an international observer’s passport for several minutes. Under Israeli law, passports may be shown to the Israeli military but it is illegal for them to be taken away. The Israeli military also briefly detained a young Palestinian man, apparently for running through the olive groves with a Palestinian flag, although he was released after around 10 minutes.

In addition to intimidation by the military, Israeli settlers arrived on the Palestinian land within minutes of the olive harvest beginning and began to harass people picking olives. A group of around 10 settlers gathered in the lower olive groves in Tel Rumeida at 11:55am where Palestinians were busy picking olives. Baruch Marzel, a prominent extremist settler, stood on a Palestinian flag in an obvious attempt to provoke olive harvesters. The military intervened as anger flared between the two groups and sent settlers back to their settlement.

Badia Dwaik, 38, is the Deputy Coordinator of Youth Against Settlements, a nonviolent Palestinian group campaigning against Israeli settlements. He stressed that olive harvesting in Tel Rumeida is not just about economic necessity; it is a form of political defiance and a way to “confirm our existence and to encourage the people to resist”.

The Palestinian land in Tel Rumeida is surrounded by four illegal Israeli settlements. A Palestinian educational centre overlooks steep, dusty terraces to the south which contain around 200 olive trees. The centre, established in 2006 after the building was reclaimed from Israeli military control, and the olive groves below have been subject to repeated attacks and incursions by settlers in recent years. Anti-Palestinian graffiti and the Star of David is clearly visible under fresh coats of paint on the walls at the back of the building, only metres away from a settlement.

The olive groves contain around 200 olives trees and olives were picked on around 70 trees today. Badia Dwaik lamented the poor quality of the olives and the sparse fruit on many of the trees, saying that Palestinians are often unable to tend the land for fear of settler attacks. There is also a chronic shortage of water in Hebron and the owners of the trees are denied permits to dig the land. For example, the YAS reported having problems with water circulation for three days and discovered today that the water lines had been deliberately cut.

According to Badia Dwaik, the YAS intend to continue picking the olives in the coming weeks as “people are scared to come and pick olives alone. And it gives a message: we will continue and never give up.”

October 23, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | 2 Comments

Fjordman Back at Gates of Vienna whose Tipsters Include Caroline Glick

By Farha Khaled | LoonWatch | 21 October 2011

Islamophobic blogs like Gates of Vienna, popular with white supremacists have Israeli American fans who have adopted a hard line pro Israel agenda. It also appears that ‘Fjordman‘ is back at Gates of Vienna. He was cited recently as a tipster alongside Caroline Glick, the senior editor at The Jerusalem Post.

A closer scrutiny of Gates of Vienna the white supremacist blog which published ‘Fjordman‘ until he went into hiding after the Norway massacre shows it is run by a couple living in Virginia, USA, one Baron Bodissey whose real name is Edward May popularly known as ‘Ned May‘ and his wife who edits the blog under the pseudonym ‘Dymphna.’ It claims to focus on the ‘Great Jihad’ in Europe, regularly publishing essays promoting white supremacism, calls for a Muslim Holocaust and is filled with vile anti Islam bigotry, lies and polemics dressed up as ‘counter jihadism’.  Anders Brievik has posted comments there. In the past too, discussions of exterminating the ‘Muslim’ problem caused waves as in ‘Thinking the Unthinkable‘ in which options to rid the world of Muslims were discussed.

Gates of Vienna has a pro Israel focus which Ned and Dymphna go to great pains to emphasise. A cynic may suspect there are ulterior motives at play here. The connection between Zionism and organized Islamophobia is clear and comes as no surprise now. Fear Inc. a six month study by the Centre for American Progress, details how an Islamophobia industry is being funded and peddled by a small minority of conservatives. What is popularly known as ‘Islamism’ has its Zionist counterpart, as explored in a recent LoonWatch series ‘Why Religious Zionism, Not Judaism, Is The Problem‘.

Indeed Dymphna regularly does the rounds at right wing Zionist websites posting comments moaning about their poverty. One such blog is the rabidly anti Palestinian and Islam hating blog ‘Sultan Knish‘ run by Daniel Greenfield an Israeli sabra living in New York, who is a fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Centre the same organisation that sponsors Jihad Watch.  Daniel is obsessed with a pathological hatred for Muslims and a delusion that the US military exists to carry out his fantasy of a war on Islam. Daniel’s postings regularly dehumanise Muslims, and are filled with anti Islam screeds which he fabricates on whim, not unlike Ned May.  He also has a Torah Parsha blog and this video shows him in a debate about New Media. In a common theme amongst neo cons, Daniel complains there is a plot to destroy the US military by Obama.  In one blog post ‘Winning the War on Terror‘ he suggests genocide:

‘We would have to be willing to kill millions, directly or indirectly, while maintaining an alliance that would defy Russia, China and the First World nations that would accuse us of genocide. The real name for this war might well turn out to be World War III. It would take a Churchill or a Roosevelt to launch something like that, and while the world would be radically different afterward, it might well turn out to be radioactively different too.’

Whilst Daniel’s crowd propagate that Muslims are out to destroy the USA, the truth is these very neo conservatives bankrupted the US economy by leading it into trillion dollar wars on fake premises and fabricated evidence. As Julian Borger reported in The Guardian, the evidence for the Iraq war was fabricated by the now defunct ‘The Office of Special Plans‘ affiliated with hard line Likudniks. […]

Far right Islamophobic activists have forged alliances of convenience with radical Zionists and regard Israel as an ally, not least because they see Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as a role model  for how Muslims should be treated.  Hard line Zionists see it as an opportunity to lessen the growing Muslim presence and influence in the USA and Europe which they see as detrimental to a greater Israel. Stooges like Geert Wilders are funded in the hope they can halt Muslim immigration and influence. Marginalised as they are, some European nationalist groups are willing to shed their traditional Jew hatred in an attempt to find allies, but as often happens in marriages of convenience, it doesn’t take much for cracks to appear. Pamela Geller’s association with the EDL caused waves when Roberta Moore claimed they had Jew hating members and were not sufficiently pro Israel. In Europe, German newspaper Der Spiegel probed this alliance in ‘The Likud Connection‘ showing how some marginalized right wing populists are going the Geert Wilders way. This bizarre coupling has split the far right movement in Europe which has traditionally been anti-semitic.

Meanwhile, Ned May, an EDL activist, serves as director of International Free Press Society an American and Denmark based group whose members claim to fight threats to free speech from ‘forces within Islam’. IFPS’s board members include the familiar names Bat Ye’or, Robert Spencer, Andrew Bostom and affiliates like Aish Ha Torah. Incidentally, one of the listed advisers for IFPS is Rachel Ehrenfeld an “expert on terrorism” and author of ‘Funding Evil’ in which she made allegations of terror funding against the now deceased Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz for which he sued.

Ned often mixes in a pro Israel and pro Jewish stance liberally peppering his polemics with quotes from the Talmud and expresses a desire (like Dymphna) to be in the pay of Mossad. In this he has help from fellow bloggers like his friend, a Jerusalem based Israeli American lawyer, one Carl Mordechai Sherer, who runs Israel Matzav as ‘Carl in Jerusalem‘. Charles Johnson banned Carl from Little Green Footballs where he was a heavy commenter for posting a link to Gates of Vienna with a curt ‘I will have nothing to do with people who promote fascist creeps‘. Stung by LGF’s criticism, a blog war followed, in which Ned May tries to salvage some dignity for his cesspool.

A particularly revealing blog post is where Carl can be seen giving Ned advice on the legality of declaring Jewish rights to Israel as an indigenous people, stating he fully supported a ‘greater Israel’ though the world won’t allow it. Ned  in turn laments a common Nazi theme which he modifies to this convoluted logic:

‘Regardless of the merits of the case, I agree with Carl that the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will never be applied to Jews — or to white Europeans, for that matter.

“Indigenous Peoples” are “brown” peoples, especially Muslims, American Indians, Australian Aboriginals, and black Africans. Anything using the term that is passed by the UN will only be allowed to apply to those peoples, and never to Jews or Caucasians.’

Ned May must be unaware of the millions of Caucasian Muslims including Russians, American Muslims, British and other European converts. Carl, who did not see fit to tell his friend that most Israeli’s are non Caucasian Sefardi Jews was however, quick to hypocritically cry ‘Nazi’ at white supremacist Occupy Wall St protesters.

Incidentally, Carl, who has lauded Fjordman’s postings at Gates of Vienna gushes at Israel Matzav:

‘For those who have never been to Gates of Vienna, go check it out. It’s some of the highest level intellectual material you will ever read on the Internet.’

How high is that ‘intellectual level’ ? Let us quote Ned verbatim where he explains the purpose of Gates of Vienna is to spread lies at a grassroots level, in short; telling a lie often enough makes one believe it. Not just to lie but to oversell it. In a blog titled ‘Overselling the Meme‘ he states:

‘This must be accomplished at a level well below that of the celebrities and famous pundits, because action on that battlefield invites a massive and well-funded counterattack by CAIR, ISNA, the OIC, etc.’

Using hyperbole and flowery nonsense, he spells out his mission in life:

As a propagandist, my task is to spread the meme and not to sweat the nuances. Nuances can be argued about and nailed down by scholars in the centuries after Islam — as a culture, a political ideology, and a religion — is totally destroyed. We don’t have the luxury for such finicky scholasticism right now.’

Perhaps the best known Israeli tipster for Gates of Vienna is The Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick an Israeli American known for her right wing views, and who serves as editor for the Israeli political satire website Latma TV. Caroline was cited approvingly in Breivik’s manifesto.  It appears that Fjordman is once more back at Gates of Vienna, for on 13th October 2011, the credits included :

‘Thanks to C. Cantoni, Caroline Glick, Fjordman, heroyalwhyness, JP, and all the other tipsters who sent these in.’

When Israel was forced to offer an apology for Latma TV releasing ‘We Con the World,’ a satire mocking the dead Gaza flotilla activists, the Huffingon Post’s Eileen Read wrote ‘The Jerusalem Post Should Fire Caroline Glick for Making a Racist Video in which she opined:

‘But this is lower than I’ve ever seen someone go who carries a management title at a journalism organization. I’m ashamed to say that Glick and I are both Columbia alums. Even if she hates people of another race or religion and is allowed by her editors to poke fun at them in a tasteless and blatantly racist way, she should be fired for making fun of the dead.’

This incident was not the first time Caroline Glick had received flak for her radical opinions. In the aftermath of the Norway massacre, the Jerusalem Post published editorials that had tried to link the tragedy to Europe’s immigration policies. Norwegians took offence at sentiments expressed by Glick amongst others and voiced their objections to Israeli diplomats as to how the tragedy was being exploited. Some weeks later, the Jerusalem Post’s Editor in Chief published ‘Apology to Norway‘ an editorial in which he expressed remorse:

‘As Senior Contributing Editor Caroline B. Glick suggested in her column last Friday, the fact that Breivik’s warped mind cited a group of conservative thinkers including herself as having influenced his thinking in no way reflects on them.

“As a rule, liberal democracies reject the resort to violence as a means of winning an argument. This is why, for liberal democracies, terrorism in all forms is absolutely unacceptable,” she wrote. “Whether or not one agrees with the ideological self-justifications of a terrorist, as a member of a liberal democratic society, one is expected to abhor his act of terrorism. Because by resorting to violence to achieve his aims, the terrorist is acting in a manner that fundamentally undermines the liberal democratic order.”

It later emerged that Breivik, a Christian radical, had posted on the Internet an extremely anti-Muslim manifesto that supported far-right nationalism and Zionism.’

He then moves on to vocalise the Jerusalem Post’s stance:

‘This is certainly not the kind of support Israel needs. It is the type of Islamophobia that is all too reminiscent of the Nazis’ attitude toward the Jews. Jews, Muslims and Christians in Israel and around the world should be standing together against such hate crimes.’

Caroline has also given explicit permission for Gates of Vienna to publish a Norwegian version of Norway’s Problem which Ned did after writing:

‘Under normal circumstances, Gates of Vienna does not publish in any languages other than English (in its American, British, Canadian, and Australian variants). However, we are making an exception for the following opinion piece by Caroline Glick.’

Setting the tone for this unique honour, Ned continues:

‘The result was the column below. Several Scandinavians requested that we publish a Norwegian translation, and with Ms. Glick’s permission it was kindly translated by Cecilie.’

Indeed! We have here one of Israel’s ‘most important’ women and the Senior Contributing Editor of the Jerusalem Post giving permission to publish a translated version of her article at a hate site (that credits and links back to her) espousing views deemed repugnant by her editor-in-chief. One can recall the hue and cry when Octavia Nasr tweeted about a Hezbollah sheikh’s death that led to CNN firing her!

Gates of Vienna may be bottom feeders in the world of Islamophobia, but clearly their unsettling involvement with prominent hatemongers is more than just a cause for concern.

Farha Khaled is a columnist for the Arab News.  She can be followed on Twitter

October 23, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Islamophobia, Timeless or most popular | 1 Comment

Will Rick Perry kill another innocent man?

Mary Shaw | The People’s Voice | October 23rd, 2011

Texas governor and Republican presidential contender Rick Perry has faced criticism from the left (and applause from the right) for his heavy-handed use of the death penalty. And Perry has said that he loses no sleep over the possibility that he may have executed an innocent man.

This is despite the fact that it appears that Perry has done just that – and could very likely do it again very soon.

In 2004, Texas death row prisoner Cameron Todd Willingham was executed for an alleged arson that claimed the lives of his three daughters in 1991. However, a later forensic review of the case led to the conclusion that “a finding of arson could not be sustained.” In other words, the fire for which Willingham was executed was probably just an accident.

Instead of acknowledging that an innocent man may have been executed, and working to correct the system that allowed such a grievous error, Governor Perry appears to have taken steps to impede the investigation into the Willingham fiasco.

And now we have another Texas death row prisoner, Henry Watkins “Hank” Skinner, facing a November 9 execution date for a triple murder, despite the existence of untested DNA evidence that Skinner says could prove his innocence.

Skinner had been convicted and sentenced to death for the New Year’s Eve murder in 1993 of his girlfriend Twila Busby and her two adult sons. The DNA in question went untested during the original trial because Skinner’s attorney was afraid that it could incriminate his client – a decision that Skinner contends he never agreed with.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Skinner may pursue a civil rights claim to obtain the DNA testing. In the meantime, however, Texas has jumped the gun. Instead of waiting for the civil rights suit to unfold, and for the DNA to be tested to ensure they’ve got the right guy, the state went ahead and scheduled the November execution.

What are they afraid of – the possibility that Skinner’s conviction, like Willingham’s, might be proven wrong?

Governor Perry, as noted above, has bragged that he really does not care. Neither, apparently, does anyone else in charge of the busiest death chamber in the country.

Killing a prisoner, apparently, is more important to them than killing the right prisoner.

Killing a prisoner, apparently, is more important to them than true justice.

Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist. E-mail:

October 23, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties | 2 Comments

Imperialism and Democracy: White House or Liberty Square?

By James Petras | October 23, 2011


The relation between imperialism and democracy has been debated and discussed over 2500 years, from fifth century Athens to Liberty Park in Manhattan. Contemporary critics of imperialism (and capitalism) claim to find a fundamental incompatibility, citing the growing police state measures accompanying colonial wars, from Clinton’s anti-terrorist laws, and Bush’s “Patriot Act” to Obama’s ordering the extrajudicial assassination of overseas US citizens.

In the past, however, many theorists of imperialism of varying political persuasion, ranging from Max Weber to Vladimir Lenin, argued that imperialism unified the country, reduced internal class polarization and created privileged workers who actively supported and voted for imperial parties. A historical, comparative survey of the conditions under which imperialism and democratic institutions converge or diverge can throw some light on the challenges and choices faced by the burgeoning democratic movements erupting across the globe.

The Nineteenth Century

During the 19th century, European and US imperial expansion covered the world. In tandem, democratic institutions took root, the franchise was extended to the working class, competitive parties emerged, social legislation was passed, and the working class increased its representation in the legislative chambers.

Was the simultaneous growth of democracy and imperialism a spurious correlation reflecting divergent and conflicting underlying forces, one favoring overseas conquest and another promoting democratic politics? In fact, there was a great deal of overlap between pro-imperialist and democratic politics and not simply among the elites.

Throughout the 19th and especially in the 20th century, important sectors of the labor and social democratic parties and numerous prominent leftists and revolutionary socialists, at one time or another combined support for workers’ demands and imperial expansion. None other than Karl Marx, in his early journalistic writings in the New York Herald Tribune critically supported the British conquest of India as a “modernizing force” breaking down feudal barriers, even as he supported (with criticism) the European revolutions of 1848.

The ruling classes, the driving force of imperialism, were divided: Some saw the democratic reforms, “citizenship”, as a means of raising mass conscription for imperial wars; others feared that the democratic reforms would enhance social demands and undercut the accumulation of capital and rule by the elite. Both were right: Along with greater popular participation came virulent modern nationalism, which fueled empire building. At the same time mass access to democratic rights led to heightened class organizations, which threatened or challenged class rule. Within the ruling classes, democratic institutions were seen as an arena to peacefully resolve conflicts between competing sectoral elites. But once they took a mass character they were perceived as political threats.

Imperial and class-based parties competed for voters among the newly enfranchised urban workers and rural poor. In many cases, imperial and class allegiances “co-existed” within the same individuals. The question of which of the two, imperialist or class consciousness would become ‘operative’ or ‘salient’ was in part contingent on the success or failures of the larger competing political projects.

In other words, when imperial expansion succeeded in easy conquests resulting in lucrative colonies (especially settler colonies) democratic workers embraced the empire. This was the case because empire enhanced trade, namely profitable exports and cheap imports, while protecting local markets and manufacturers. These in turn expanded employment and wages for substantial sectors of the working class. As a result, labor and social democratic parties and trade unions did not oppose imperialism, indeed many supported it.

In contrast, when imperialist wars led to prolonged bloody and costly conflicts, the working class shifted from initial chauvinist enthusiasm to disenchantment and opposition. Democratic demands to ‘end the war’ led to strikes challenging unequal sacrifice. Democratic and anti-imperialist sentiments tended to fuse.

The conflict between democracy and imperialism became even more apparent in the case of an imperial defeat and military occupation. Both the defeat of France in the German-French war of 1870-71 and the German defeat in the First World War led to massive democratic socialist uprisings (the Paris Commune of 1871 and the German revolution of 1918) attacking militarism, ruling class domination and the entire imperial capitalist institutional framework.

The Imperialism and Democracy Debate and ‘History from Below’

Historians, especially practitioners of the fashionable “history from below”, exaggerated the democratic values and struggles of the working class and understated the prolonged and deep felt support among important sectors for successful imperial expansion and conquest. The notion of ‘inherent’ or ‘instinctual’ class solidarity is belied by the active role of workers in imperial conquest as soldiers, overseas settlers, merchant mariners and overseers. Imperial collaborators and empire loyalists were numerous among English and French workers and, especially later, within the US labor movement.

The theoretical point is that the pre-eminence of democratic over imperial consciousness and action among workers is contingent on the practical material outcomes of imperial policies and democratic struggles.

Workers and Imperialism

Empire building makes demands on workers to produce more for less in order to export and invest profitably in colonized regions. This led to capital-labor conflict, especially in the initial phase of imperial expansion. As imperial rulers consolidated their control over the colonized countries they intensified exploitation of markets, labor and resources. Imperial exports destroyed local competitors. Profits rose, wages increased and workers turned from initial opposition toward imperialism to demanding a share of the increasing income of the export oriented manufacturers. Labor leaders and trade unionists approved of the policies of ‘imperial preference’, which protected local industries from competition and privileged monopoly control of colonial markets. They did so because imperial policies protected jobs and raised living standards.

Workers who were active in social struggles, blacklisted or jailed, voluntarily moved or were exiled to colonized countries. Once settled overseas, they were given privileged access to better paying jobs as overseers, skilled employees or promoted to managerial positions. Imperial based militant workers, once overseas, became colonial collaborators. Many encouraged former workmates, relatives and friends to join them as successful settlers or contract workers. The ‘domestication’ of workers and the reconciliation of democratic and imperialist sentiments was a cause and consequence of successful imperialism.

Empire Loyalism: Not by Bread Alone

While material benefits accruing to workers from “successful imperialism” are one factor enhancing workers’ imperial consciousness, this was reinforced by symbolic gratification, the sense of being a member of the “leading country in the world” where “the sun never sets on the empire”, was equally important. It is rare to find a country where the majority of workers express “solidarity” with the exploited miners, plantation workers or displaced peasants and indigenous small landholders in the ‘colonies’. The stronger the hold of the colonial power, the greater the ‘colonial opportunities’, the longer the colonial ties, the deeper the economic penetration, and the stronger the sense of imperial superiority among the imperial states’ workers. It is not surprising that the British workers, the unions and Labor Party raised few objections to the savagery of the imperial opium wars against China , the imperial induced genocidal famines in Ireland in the 19th century and India in the 20th century. Likewise, the French workers’ parties – Socialists especially – were in the forefront of the post WWII colonial wars against Indo-China and Algeria only turning against them in the face of imminent defeat and internal disintegration. In the same vein, US successful colonial wars against Cuba and the Philippines, its invasions of Caribbean and Central American countries were supported by the American Federation of Labor and many ‘ordinary workers’, even as a minority of radicalized workers opposed these wars. The ‘partial turn’ of labor against US colonial wars which occurred during the Korea , Vietnam and Afghanistan wars was a result of prolonged losses and high economic costs with no victory in sight. It should be added that US workers, in opposing the imperial wars, expressed no solidarity with the national liberation and workers movements of the colonized countries.

Imperialism and the “True Democrats”

To argue, as some on the Left have, that imperialism does not coexist with “true” democracy, is to argue that the last 150 years have been devoid of free elections, party competition and citizens rights, however abbreviated, especially over the past decade. The reality is that imperial intervention and expansion has drawn precisely from citizens’ sense of “obligation” to uphold the democratic institutions, which has enabled imperial leaders to elicit legitimacy and active citizen support or compliance in waging bloody, even genocidal, colonial wars.

If democracy has not usually been an obstacle to imperial expansion – indeed a facilitator under certain circumstances – under what conditions have workers and citizens movements turned against imperial wars? What has been the political response of the ruling class when the majority of electorate has turned against imperial wars? In other words: When the democratic institutions no longer function as vehicles for imperial policies, what gives?

From Imperial Democracy to Imperial Police State

The past ten years provide important lessons on the relation between imperialism and democracy in the United States .

Beginning with the controversial political circumstances surrounding known terrorists’ gaining access to the US and subsequently hijacking the airplanes on 9/11/2001, the US government launched two major colonial wars and numerous overt ‘clandestine’ ground and air attacks in Somalia , Yemen , Pakistan , Libya and other countries. The “global war on terror”, launched under the Bush regime, and implemented by non-elected senior militarist – Zionist officials in co-operation with NATO and Israel was supported by the democratically elected Congress. For that matter the vast majority of the electorate, influenced by an immense propaganda campaign of fear, media manipulation and lies endorsed the wars on terror.

Given the unprecedented scope and breadth of the wars, (a global war on terror), the vast increase in military spending and the huge outlays for an all encompassing internal repressive (security) apparatus (Homeland Security), a new executive-centered police state was constructed which superseded the existing democratic institution and rights of citizens.

The trajectory of imperial politics moved from early military successes to problematic prolonged occupation. This led to escalating resistance, growing state expenditures , a deepening fiscal crises , social decay and rising political opposition.

As in the past, contemporary imperial wars that are prolonged, costly and with no decisive victory in sight, have led to citizen disenchantment, followed by increased open rejection. The wage and salaried majorities who voted for imperial policymakers and backed their enabling legislation, including laws (Patriot Act) which suspended basic civil and constitutional rights, have turned away from the imperial agenda. Today the democratic majority prioritize their class, economic interests, especially in the face of a prolonged recession and unemployment and underemployment of close to 20%. Beginning in 2008-2011 endless wars and prolonged crises have set in motion a conflict between democracy and imperialism.

In other words, the democratic majority has become an obstacle to the implementation and pursuit of imperial wars. Imperial military activity in Iraq , Afghanistan , Libya , etc. did not lead to quick victories, the conquest of lucrative export markets and take-over of natural resource. Jobs were not created and no benefit accrued to employees and workers in the imperial country. High expenditures for arms undercut public investments in labor intensive employment in critically overdue infrastructures projects. The small number of dangerous jobs in occupied countries was unattractive and too risky for the unemployed.

In other words, unlike most previous imperial-colonial wars, none of the plundered wealth was used to secure workers loyalty to the empire. The burden of empire progressively undercut wage and salaried workers’ living standards. Over time, regressive taxation gradually eroded any sense of chauvinist grandeur or superiority. Instead citizens of the empire developed a political inferiority complex. Faced with determined Islamic opposition and China’s rising economic power, exaggerated bellicosity among a minority and critical introspection among the majority took hold. Popular consciousness of “something basically wrong” in Washington and Wall Street took over. The earlier war chants and mindless flag-waving, as the armies of Empire marched to Afghanistan and Iraq , were replaced by angry defeatism directed at misleaders. Over 80% of the public now articulates a negative view of Congress, rejecting both war parties. Similar negative views are held toward the White House, the Pentagon and Homeland Security.

After a decade of war and four years of economic crisis, mass protests erupted, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement puts new options on the table, displacing the imperial agenda with a powerful denunciation of the militarist-financial elite.

The executive rulers, especially the judicial, intelligence and police apparatuses increasingly implemented arbitrary police state measures. Tens of millions are subject to surveillance by Homeland Security. The police state intercepts billions of faxes, e-mails, web sites and taps telephone calls. The link between imperialism and democracy broke at the point where declining empire no longer could secure the electorate’s support or compliance.

More and more bizarre terrorist plots were fabricated by the intelligence agencies. The Iranian bomb plot against the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington was the most primitive and crude effort to regain public support for imperial militarism in the Gulf region. Apart from the politically influential, but infinitely small, pro-Israel Zionist power configuration, US public opinion is not distracted from its domestic agenda; its quest for jobs at home and opposition to Wall Street.

As the conflict between imperialism and democracy intensifies, the previous ‘consensus’ fractures. The White House and Congress opt for imperialism backed by a profoundly anti-democratic police state. The majority of the electorate presses forward, utilizing their remaining democratic rights to change the political agenda from empire toward a social republic.


We have argued that empire and democracy have been complementary in times of ascendant imperialism. We have shown that when wars of conquest have been short and inexpensive, and when the results have been lucrative for capital and job-creation for labor the democratic majorities joined in support of imperial elites. Democratic institutions flourished when overseas empires provided markets, cheap resources and raised living standards. Workers voted for imperial parties, held positive opinions of executive and legislative officials, and applauded the colonial war veterans (our troops). Some even volunteered and joined the military. With vast citizen support for empire, the state more or less ‘abided’ by the constitutional guarantees. But the marriage of democracy and imperialism is not ‘structural’. It is contingent on a series of variable conditions, which can cause a profound rupture between the two, as we are witnessing today.

Prolonged, losing, costly imperial wars that increasingly erode living standards for over a generation have undermined the consensus between imperial rulers and democratic citizens. Early signs of this potential divergence were evident during the latter period of the Korean War, when public opinion turned against President Truman, architect of the Cold War and the US invasion of Korea . More evidence emerged during the Vietnam War. Faced with a prolonged, losing war, which imperiled the lives and opportunities of tens of millions of draft age Americans, millions in civilian life and the military opted to end the war and question imperial interventions. The repressive state was still not organized sufficiently to terrorize and contain the democratic upsurge of the 1970’s. The end of the Vietnam war represented the high point in democratic America’s quest to counter imperialism and rebuild the republic.

Subsequent small, quick, low cost and militarily successful imperial interventions in Panama, Grenada, Haiti and elsewhere did not provoke any conflict between imperialism and democracy. Nor did imperial clandestine and surrogate wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Angola, Mozambique, Afghanistan and the Balkans elicit any significant democratic opposition since they were low cost (in lives and funding) and were not accompanied by any sharp cuts in social expenditures and incomes.

The onset of the current Afghanistan , Iraq , and global offensive wars were seen by some imperial strategists in the same light: Quick, low cost victories with few domestic costs. One highly placed pro-Israel official in the Pentagon even argued that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would be “self-financing” via an oil grab.

The 21st century wars turned out otherwise: They followed the Korean-Vietnam pattern, not the Central American/Caribbean pattern. Immensely costly, the 21st century wars have not led to quick victories and, worse still, occurred in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis, without the manufacturing and market boom of the 1950’s/1960’s which had cushioned the retreat from Korea and Vietnam.

The divergence between imperialism and democracy has become acute. Democratic dissent has increased and the police state has become more prominent and direct. Imperialism increasingly relies on “fabricated domestic and external terror plots” to augment the powers of the repressive machinery and rule by fiat. White House exhortations ring hollow. The public puts less and less credence in their rulers’ claims of ‘justifiable’ arbitrary detentions, massive surveillance and extrajudicial assassinations of US citizens (and even their children).

We now face long-term, large-scale dangers, inherent in imperial democracies. Not because of “internal contradictions” but because sooner or later imperial powers meet their match in the form of protracted struggles by anti-imperialist and national liberation movements. Only, when imperials wars take their toll on the wage and salaried majority, does the rupture between democracy and imperialism take place. Then and only then are democratic forces set in motion to create a democratic republic, with social justice and without empire.

The present danger is that imperial structures are deeply embedded in all the key political institutions and are backed by an unprecedented vast and sprawling police state apparatus, called Homeland Security. Perhaps it will take a major external political-military shock to ignite the kind of mass democratic uprising needed to transform an imperial police state into a democratic republic. A growing sense of isolation and impotence affects the ruling regime in the face of overseas military defeats and unyielding, deepening domestic economic crisis. The danger is that these fears and frustrations could induce the White House to attempt to regain popular support by attacking Iran under a manufactured pretext. A US/Israeli assault on Iran will result in a world-wide conflagration. Iran could and would retaliate. Saudi and Gulf oil wells would go up in flames. Vital shipping lanes would be blocked. Gas prices would skyrocket while Asian, EU and US economies crash. Iranian troops with their Iraqi allies would lay siege to the US garrisons in Baghdad. Afghanistan, Pakistan and the rest of the Muslim world will take up arms. US forces would surrender or retreat. The war would shatter the US Treasury. Deficits would spiral out of control. Unemployment would double. This likely sequence of events would trigger a massive democratic movement and a decisive struggle between an emerging republic struggling to give birth and a decaying empire threatening to drag the world into the inferno of its own demise.

October 23, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | 2 Comments

Erekat: Freeze on govt settlements ‘false distinction’

Ma’an – October 22, 2011

BETHLEHEM — PLO official Saeb Erekat has rejected the distinction between government and private construction in Israeli settlements, the premise of Israel’s “offer” for a partial building freeze reported by Israeli media on Friday.

As all settlement building on Palestinian lands is illegal under international law, differentiating public and private-led expansion is a “false distinction,” a statement from the former chief negotiator said on Friday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed to freeze government settlement construction in an offer put to President Mahmoud Abbas by Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin on Wednesday, the Israeli daily Haaretz and a Palestinian official said.

Private construction constitutes around 80 percent of settlement activity, according to recent studies.

“Looting is not made legal under any circumstance,” Erekat said. “Attempting to draw such false distinctions exposes the true intentions of the Israeli government.”

Diplomats are trying to renew direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials as the UN Security Council considers Palestine’s application for full membership of the global body, which Israel and the US have vowed to scupper.

A Quartet proposal aired on Sept. 23 — as Abbas handed the bid to UN officials — has faltered as the deadline it set for a preliminary meeting within one month passed without an appointment.

Days later, Netanyahu told Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post that Palestinian insistence on a settlement halt was a “pretext” to avoid talks, and implied that a new settlement freeze was unlikely.

“We already gave at the office,” Netanyahu told the Post, referring to a 10-month partial settlement freeze that Israel refused to renew in late September 2010, leading to the breakdown of direct talks launched weeks earlier.

Palestinian officials say they cannot negotiate with Israel while it builds on lands needed for the viability of a future Palestinian state.

On Sept. 27, Israel approved the construction of 1,100 new homes in Gilo settlement, and in early October started building 11 units as part of a 300-home project in Pisgat Zeev settlement, both in East Jerusalem.

An Israeli peace group also revealed in October that Israel has formally submitted plans to build 2,610 homes near Gilo, including new neighborhood Givat Hamotos, which will cut off Bethlehem and the West Bank from East Jerusalem’s southern sector.

East Jerusalem was annexed by Israeli in a 1967 war, in a move never recognized by the international community. Israel claims Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while Palestinians say the occupied east must be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

“Might does not make right. We will not compromise our positions based on the power politics of the day,” Erekat said Friday. “International law has been, and will continue to be, the basis for our positions on this and all other issues.”

October 23, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | Comments Off on Erekat: Freeze on govt settlements ‘false distinction’