Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Detroit and the International War of the Rich on the Poor

By RICH GIBSON – CounterPunch – March 28, 2013

Every Detroit teacher was fired in the fall of 2012.

Apparently, the nation did not notice. Hence, this story.

On March 26, 2013, 78% of the voting members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers ratified a contract which DFT president, Keith Johnson, called, “terrible.”

The contract mirrors, does not improve, an edict imposed on the union by an “Emergency Manager,” Roy Roberts, a black 74-year-old former manager at the failed General Motors corporation, once the most powerful company in the world now commonly called Government Motors. Roberts was appointed by Michigan Governor Snyder, effectively setting aside all the key actions of the elected Detroit School Board–the third state takeover in 25 years. None of them repaired the school system.

The DFT contract, though, does allow the union to continue to collect dues, the pacified labor of its members sold to Roberts for the term of the contract. DFT president Johnson will continue to receive his $142,000 salary as the rank and file accept another set of wage and benefit concessions.

Concessions, DFT members should have learned, don’t save jobs. Beginning in 1996, the DFT made concession on concession until, in the fall of 2012, every Detroit public school teacher was effectively fired and forced to reapply for a position. Hundreds of them, including teachers with 20 years and more seniority, one of them a former DFT vice president, have never been recalled.

Even before Roberts arrived, Detroit Public Schools had been shifted into a “Good School/Bad School” system, somewhat parallel to the “Good bank/Bad Bank” plan of the bailout days. Good schools get funded. Bad schools organize decay.

GM, at nearly the time of Robert’s birth, was, faced down in the Great Flint Strike of 1937 by the militant, class conscious, United Auto Workers union–seizing buildings, fighting back cops and troops. The first industrial contract was won by direct action. Where is the resistance today?

We shall see how the DFT, UAW, Johnson, Roberts, and the union movement reflect one another as the world, Detroit, and Michigan, writhe in a rising tide of barbarism–booming inequality and a real promise of endless war–that can only be combated by the potential of a mass, activist, class conscious movement which connects reason to power–for equality and justice.

The parent body of the DFT, the American Federation of Teachers, was among the first, along with the UAW, to openly redefine the relationship of unions, their members, and employers. Once defined best by the term, “contradiction,” both unions at the top adopted what once AFT president Al Shanker, and later NEA presidents, called “New Unionism.” The UAW was more direct: “Partners in Production.” Long before the 2008-09 bailouts, the union tops joined government officials and corporate bosses to declare their unity, not noting that meant the rank and file, and most of the rest of the world, would be on the other side.

The DFT now has but 4,000 members, one-third its size a decade ago, while the UAW looks at the same fate, but about 25% of its size in the union’s heyday. Wages for Detroit school workers, like auto workers, have collapsed while, in the schools and the factories, new hires work for half what the more senior employees earn.

The Detroit Public Schools were once heralded as the finest urban school system in the US, serving more than 299,000 students. Those schools, like all capitalist schools, were never truly public but always segregated by class and race, even within the city. Depending primarily on birth-class, students were taught different “facts,” by teachers (whose dress differed) using different methods, in distinctly different facilities.

Today, the divide is even more glaring. The Detroit Federation of Teachers, in 90% black Detroit, is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, the smaller of the two national teachers’ unions, representing for the most part, urban areas.

Suburban Michigan, overwhelmingly white, is represented by the Michigan Education Association, linked to the larger National Education Association. The racial divide between DFT and MEA hasn’t been demolished by the union leaders, and now it’s being used to demolish their members. MEA stood aside and let Detroit rot, doing nothing. Detroit’s conditions, and management demands for concessions, spread throughout the state–an injury to one preceding an injury to all, a slogan too dangerous for today’s labor bosses.

The same conditions prevail nationwide. Eighty percent of the US teaching force is white. Minority teachers mostly remain located in the most urban areas while suburban school kids are taught by a white teaching force. The national school system is as segregated as it was at the time of Brown vs. the Board of Education; white students being the most fully segregated body.

Not too long ago, most youth could project a somewhat better life than their parents. No more. The false promise of the Obama ruse, “Anyone can make it,” is statistically shattered by the fact that the generation exiting school will do worse that their elders; probably much worse.

It follows that the commonplace call to “Save Public Schools,” is rooted in myth. It’s a demand to more deeply empower what is now a full blown corporate state, promoting a unity which never existed, insisting on a tax increase that will invariably be aimed at those working people who still have jobs, and, importantly, it is a fountain of school worker opportunism: “Save my job, pay me, and I will implement the national curriculum, proctor racist high-stakes exams, and be silent about the militarization of every level of schooling.”

Inherent in “Save Public Schools” is the nationalist view that we all share a common goal to educate all kids in a democratic society. That’s never been the case. It is, though, a good way to make a war popular.

Better: Rescue Education from the Ruling Classes! 

“Save Public Schools” is usually followed by: “Stop Privatization;” targeting charter schools.

But privatization misreads reality.

The education project is an imperfect, but true, merger of the corporate, government, and military levels of US government–as were the bi-partisan bailouts of 2008 and the current bi-partisan wars.

Nearly all charter schools are, in fact, publicly funded, subject to public–if corporatized regulations.

In a word: state fascism. It cannot be made gentle nor more democratic. Why offer this perverse structure a cover of legitimacy and more power still?

Today, in fully segregated Detroit, there are less than 55,000 students. A charter system, mostly owned by private operations but funded with public money, holds another 55,000–if internal DPS figures can be trusted. Typically, they cannot. In DPS, for example, every employee at every level has had an interest in inflating attendance numbers. In capitalist schools, every child actually in a schoolroom represents a dollar value.

Corruption and incompetence ran rampant at every level of public life in Detroit for a century, but it hurt more as wealth left the city.

Days before the March 26th DFT contract ratification, the Council of Foreign Relations, led by war-hawk Condoleeza Rice (“We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,”) issued its Education Task Force Report, demonstrating in clear terms that the education agenda is a war agenda: class and empire’s wars.

“Human capital will determine power in the current century, and the failure to produce that capital will undermine America’s security…Large, undereducated swaths of the population damage the ability of the United States to physically defend itself, protect its secure information, conduct diplomacy, and grow its economy.”

In the midst of World War I, a general demanded that the schools become “human munition factories.” That capitalist schools serve a capitalist state is key to grasping the war project at hand.

We can restate that the education agenda is a war agenda from another standpoint: The school unions’ relationship with The National Endowment for Democracy and Education International. NED is a well-recognized CIA front while EI is the inheritor of the CIA sponsored international teacher unions.

Leaders from both school unions retire to Education International where their salaries are not disclosed. But NEA’s ex-president, Reg Weaver is there. He was paid $686,949 for his last year in office, in a union where many teachers live in house trailers. Former NEA president Mary Hatwood Futrell is at EI. Current NEA president Dennis Van Roekel ($465,000 a year and an expense account he can live on) will surely be there. He’ll join Ed McElroy who “serves on the board of directors of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Education International, and ThanksUSA. McElroy is a member of the board of directors for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)-a private, nonprofit organization created to strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts.” (AFT web site).

The vacillating reactionary, current for-profit press and education “reform” favorite, Diane Ravitch served at the NED and is still saluting the flag and God-blessing America with the best of them.

Labor imperialism, theoretically propelled by the idea that US workers will do better if the world’s workers do worse, and in practice the AFL-CIO’s backing of CIA-corporate adventures all over the world, may have served a relatively tiny number of US workers for a short time, but at the end of the day, it inevitably failed. The lack of international solidarity of working class people is destroying the lives of workers all over the world, and the members of the AFL-CIO as well. That the class war is also a classroom war is, due to de-industrialization, a significant particular, developing world-wide.

Inside the USA, both school unions’ leaders participated in the construction of the Bush No Child Left Behind Act, the Obama move of Race to the Top, and now the nationally regimented curricula, the Common Core standards which will redouble the frenzy around high-stakes testing–and merit pay. Elites know why they have schools, if the work force never considers it.

School workers produce value in capital’s markets. When educators and kids arrive in school, they confront a billion dollar business, more powerful than unorganized kids and teachers. This is part of the answer to the critical question that is rarely asked: Why have school? Educators shape the next generation of workers and military volunteers, labor power, and they generate hope, real or false; a lynchpin of social order, control. People in pacified areas become instruments of their own oppression.

In 2012, Michigan labor, the AFL-CIO and NEA combined, placed a bill on the state ballot to make collective bargaining a legal right. They were reacting to a legislative right-to-work bill the Governor said he would not sign. In effect, the bill sought to win by a vote what had never been won in that manner–rather, victory through building seizures a la Flint in 1937, strikes, and related job actions.

In an atmosphere in which unions had proved themselves to be concession machines on the one hand, and gobblers of the public treasury on the other, Michigan electors rejected the measure. Seeing that, Governor Snyder signed the right-to-work bill, which became law in 2013.

Instead of a vote; why not build for a statewide strike?

The last thing a labor leader in the US wants is a mass of truly class conscious workers who are ready to take direct action in order to control their work places on a daily basis. On one hand, if that was the case, the labor leaders would have nothing to sell the bosses, i.e., labor peace would not be theirs to peddle, but democratically controlled by the members and, on the other hand, such a conscious mass of people would never tolerate labor leaders who make four and five times the wages of average rank and filers, live completely different lives, more in common with employers.

Simultaneous to the issuance of the Council on Foreign Relations report, the Michigan legislature passed a bill that would spread “Emergency Manager” school powers throughout the state in an Education Achievement Authority. The EM is to identify and take over up to 50 state schools, those in the bottom five percentile on test scores. The school workers may be effectively fired, as in Detroit, and, if re-hired, have no collective bargaining rights. New hires would be placed outside the Michigan retirement system.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers, since 1997, did fight back. The members launched both authorized and wildcat strikes–the latter led by radical dissident Steve Conn, a teacher at Detroit’s Cass Tech High School. Conn led the 1999 wildcat, initiating it by shouting, “All in favor of the strike walk over here,” in a mass meeting in Cobo Hall. At least 90% of the members moved.

The DFT members struck again in 2006.  One of the more famous quotes by a teacher: “We asked for nothing and won less.” Time and again, DFT leaders lied about the nature of the contracts put up for ratification, until well after the votes were counted.

In each instance, the members were defeated, in the main, by their own elected leaders. In contract after contract, the DFT leaders, from John Elliot to Keith Johnson, urged concession on concession. Conn, who I believe was robbed of the DFT presidency in a fraudulent vote count in 2011, was “suspended” from membership for months–sidelined. He’s been silent since.

On the management side, a low was reached in 2010 when General School Superintendent Teresa Gueyser complained that Otis Mathis, school board president, “repeatedly fondled himself,” in front of her. Mathis was removed but not before current school board member Reverend (changed his name, not a “reverend”) David Murray complained, “well men do have these urges. He’s a young man. That’s just the way it is.” Murray has had his children removed from his care by Protective Services. And he was re-elected.

From the material angle, Detroit’s Takeover School boards, imposed by a succession of Governors beginning in the mid-nineties with former Wayne State University president David Adamany, did nothing to improve DPS by their own standard: test scores. School reform in the absence of social reform fails: think devastating poverty.

The Takeover leaders did build a dozen new schools in a district losing ten thousand students a year–and completely refurbished others, to the delight of suburban developers.

Now, the new schools sit empty, stripped by “Scrappers,” a respected local profession. When the district put fences around the empty buildings, scrappers took the fences.

In 2012, Arne Duncan, education attack dog for the demagogue Obama, called Detroit, “the worst school system in the country.” It’s a tough competition for the bottom, especially in Michigan, what with Flint, Benton Harbor, and other cities destroyed much like Detroit, but smaller.

When the Michigan right-to-work law banned dues check-off in 2012, DFT’s, Keith Johnson, complained in the union’s newspaper, the “Detroit Teacher,” that 86% of the teachers quit and wouldn’t re-sign.

Only a subsequent judge’s injunction now keeps the DFT financially afloat, a double-edged indicator-the courts want the union to exist since it has so helped heap concession on concession on the work force (10% pay cuts last year, gutted health benefits, etc., and this year, the contract imposed by the Emergency Financial Manager-EFM–even worse).

Interviewed in late 2012, Joel Scott, a former 15 year Cass Tech teacher, said, “Keith and AFT’s boss, Randi Weingarten, killed their own golden goose. What were they thinking? They must have known that even the last contract would kill the union, and now this one did. I think they must believe that the end is coming; they’ll grab whatever they can, keep deceiving people, and run away at the last moment. They’re the flip side of finance capitalists.”

Scott went on, “The real tragedy is for the kids and the rank and file members. Detroit kids will get doubly mis-educated, learn again not to like to learn, and the members are going to lose homes, after all their sacrifices.”

Now in Detroit, Scott says, “It’s a vampire city. All the lights on Warren are off; pitch darkness. [Warren is a major street on the west side]. Nobody is going to send their kids to a failed Detroit school. That will be the end of the system. It’s done.”

Emergency Manager Roberts projects a gloomy DPS future–but brighter than probably reality. He believes there will be 38,488 students by 2015. His predecessor, Robert Bobb, paid $450,000 a year, projected 58,000, but the slide continues while false hope in shape shifter forms is dangled before the kids and parents of the city–perhaps in real hopes of preventing another urban uprising.

The steady loss of students places the school system, like the city, on the edge of bankruptcy.

The ongoing sorting to the suburbs and to charters means that 20% of DPS kids are in special ed, requiring extra finances the system does not have.

In December 2012, the US Department of Education issued a report saying that only 7% of DPS kids in the 8th grade were “proficient in reading.” Only 4% were found proficient in math.

Schools, everyone from the Skillman Foundation to for-profit reporters to me, knew, are the key to the city’s survival. Detroit needed young people with kids, central to recreating the city’s tax system, filling the empty homes to overcome the scary crime rate and to make Detroit truly liveable, as it was, a delight, 40 years ago.

In the nineties, several literacy studies reported that nearly 50% of Detroiters are functionally illiterate. That is not my experience, not at that level, and having lived there half of my adult life, I say it’s a stretch, but I’ll agree the adult educational levels are more than troubling. A recent study concluded that half of Michigan residents read below the 6th grade level. In many cases, four generations of Detroiters never had a job. Unemployment among city youth is well over 50 percent.

Crime grows. Rapes and robberies were up 23% in the first months of 2013. Murders often do not get investigated: statistics are murky. Officially, murders were up about 10% at 379. A top official said, “We have lost respect for life in Detroit.”

Two-thirds of the buildings in the city, public and private, are vacant, the Mayor making unfulfilled promises year after year to bulldoze thousands of them.

Like the schools, Mayor Bing (yes, the suburban basket-baller) wants to divide the city into the Good Area/Bad Area zones. Pockets of the city are still peopled. Bing hopes to force those in areas which are mostly vacated to move into the more densely populated areas. But homes in Detroit are nearly worthless. Who will pay the moving expenses?

Detroit city government itself was taken over by an Emergency Manager on March 25th. The city, like the school system, is broke–in every conceivable way.

Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his father were convicted, in March, of a variety of felony embezzlement charges. The former police chief is in jail. Monica Conyers, wife of Congressman John, was just released. The chief of homicide has been charged with corruption and perjury. City Council President Charles Pugh had his home foreclosed.

The city has not produced a single honest and competent top leader since the death of popular radical lawyer Ken Cockrell Sr., more than twenty years ago: 1989.

Emergency Detroit Manager Orr is a bankruptcy specialist; worked on the auto bankruptcies. Many, probably most, see him using the weapon he plainly declared he held: a bankruptcy that could wipe out contracts, wages, benefits, and pensions, a la the auto bailout which cut auto workers pay by nearly half, with the UAW’s blessing and their cheers for the demagogue, Obama.

One way rulers stay in power is to choose and back the opposition’s leaders. Orr promised to keep City Council members’, and Bing’s, pay at current levels. A hug-fest ensued.

Poverty hustler Jesse Jackson quickly arrived in Detroit while the local preachers mounted a fake resistance. Mysticism, on the rise world wide, will not solve Detroit’s crisis. Proof? The counterfeit Arab Spring.

Other than the courageous fall 2012 Chicago Teachers Union strike, which has profound problems with its cries to “Save Public Schooling,” and “Save Our (sic) Schools” an ideological cul-de-sac which fails to address the whole of the problem, silent about the wars as well, there has been virtually no resistance from the US school worker force, the most unionized people in the US.

Indeed, even after four years of bashing from Democrat Arne Duncan, the personification of George W. Bush’s education program on hyper-speed, more than 95% 9,000 members of the NEA, rank and file teachers, voted to endorse an Obama second term. By the same percentage, they voted not to discuss the bi-partisan wars, an indicator of the power of the empire’s bribe.

What explains the absence of resistance in poor and working communities? Surely, there have been false flags. The Occupy movement, declaring neither leaders nor ideas, occupied nothing significant, was swept away by “hope and change!” and some minimal, if co-ordinated, police violence.

More:

*The initial anti-war marches involved hundreds of thousands of people early in 2002, yet they have vanished, evaporated. Why?

*The massive Mayday Immigrant Rights marches have been repeated, but only under nationalist and religious banners as they to begin to disappear.

*The anti-tuition hike actions, mainly in California but all over the US, were attacked, and seduced—gone.

*Wisconsin and Michigan were farcical electoral moves and both states are right-to-work bastions—where once unionism originated.

*The Arab Spring, posed in the corporate press as a series of revolutions, became the Muslim Brotherhood’s Summer.

Consumerism plays a role. With two-thirds of the US economy based on debt-driven consumption, American society is not likely to produce the solidarity built into industrial work places. Rather, the buyer faces the seller, at odds, each playing to get the better of the other.

Spectacles: the best in the Southwest being the annual Miramar (north San Diego) Air Show’s conclusion: The Wall of Fire. There, 250,000 people, adults holding babies aloft for a good view, witness a massive series of explosions, not merely a wall of fire, but burning napalm. Nobody seems to remember the burning children of Vietnam, echoing Chalmers Johnson’s thought: “Americans know so little history they cannot connect cause and effect.” Johnson predicted, before his death, the Drones would fly at home. Now they do.

Militarism: war means work and now, the military poses its mission as “a job, not an adventure,” as it moves to recruit women for combat because American men are too uneducated, too addicted, too convicted, and too unfit to fill the numbers needed for cannon fodder.

Nationalism. Racism. Sexism. The usual suspects added in do not sum up to a good explanation of the mass hysterical conversion crisis that produces a world of barbarians, top to bottom, Obama to Hillary to Kerry to Afghanistan’s Karzai to Morsi of Egypt to the guardians of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and the lowliest 14-year-old suicide bomber purchased by the Pakistan Taliban, or Al Qaeda, for $4,000.

With many people of the world rejecting Soviet-style socialism, never much more than capitalism with a party at the top promising benevolence in the distant future–which was all of socialism–and either rejecting, or failing to grasp, the West’s twins, capitalist exploitation and imperialist war, the project noted at the outset, connecting reasoned class conscious to unified power for equality and justice, is more urgent than ever, and surely more interesting than the shopping decade of the nineties.

More united than ever by systems of capital–transportation, communications, technology, science, exploration, marketing and more–the world is as divided as ever through nationalism, racism, sexism, mysticism, and the rise of fascism as a popular movement in varying forms–picking sides perhaps for World War III.

Even so, school workers are situated at the centripetal organizing point of North America’s de-industrialized life. They do not have to operate the school-to-war pipeline. Indeed, if they begin to recognize the contradiction between why they think they are there, and why elites want them there, perhaps those educators can rescue education from the ruling classes—then help to expose the false mandate from heaven that offers dishonest and incompetent leaders legitimacy they do not deserve,

At base: it’s vital to grasp the whole of why things are as they are and that it is right to rebel. Justice, however, demands organization. It is that, or barbarism.

Dr Rich Gibson is emeritus professor of Social Studies at San Diego State University. He lived most of his adult life in Detroit, most of that at Ardmore and Seven Mile Road. He worked as a foundry worker, an ambulance driver, a pot and pan washer, a teacher, a social worker, and as a Wayne State University professor in the College of Education. With about ten other people, he helped to found what is now the largest local in the UAW, local 6000, not auto-workers, but state employees. He can be reached at rgibson@pipeline.com

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

France may permanently station soldiers in Mali

RT – March 27, 2013

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has suggested the creation of a peacekeeping force in Mali that would include West African troops already operating in the country. He also said that a “parallel force” must be built to confront Islamist threats.

“Given the anticipated level and nature of the residual threat, there would be a fundamental requirement for a parallel force to operate in Mali alongside the UN mission in order to conduct major combat and counter-terrorism operations,” Ban wrote in his report on Mali.

Such a force could be built on the French troops already active in Mali, some diplomats say.

Once the African nations’ soldiers become a UN peacekeeping force, most of their troops and police would operate in northern Mali, while there would be a “light presence” based in the country’s capital, Bamako, Ban suggested.

“The force would operate under robust rules of engagement, with a mandate to use all necessary means to address threats to the implementation of its mandate, which would include protection of civilians,” he said.

The parallel force proposed by Ban Ki-moon would specifically target Islamist extremists, and could be based in Mali or elsewhere in West Africa. Diplomats expressed hope that the UN Security Council will vote on the peacekeeping proposal in mid-April.

France launched its military intervention in Mali in January to combat Islamist groups that had taken over the north of the country a year ago. The French army succeeded in driving the Islamists out Mali’s main northern cities and into desert and mountain hideouts. Still, Ban’s report said Mali suffered from a “crisis of governance” marked by “endemic corruption,” and a lack of state authority.

The 11,200 African troops converted into peacekeepers could only cover the main towns “assessed to be at highest risk,” Ban explained. The bulk of the contingent would come from a West African force known as AFISMA (African-led International Support Mission to Mali), comprised of armed forces from many African nations and already operational in Mali.

France said it would start withdrawing 4,000 of its troops in late April as part of a handover to the UN-backed African force. French President Francois Hollande has repeatedly vowed that the troops will remain in the region only until a legitimate government can take over.

The Mali intervention has cost France more than 100 million euros so far.

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Scrap Subs Say Scots

MSPs-thumbs-down-for-Trident

Press TV – March 28, 2013

Scottish anti-nukes campaigners are gearing up for a three-day showdown with the British government leading to the blockade of Faslane Naval Base, which is the Royal Navy’s Scottish headquarters and home of Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons.

The Scrap Trident campaigners have planned the blockade for April 15 that will follow two days of demonstration and anti-nukes workshops in the Scottish capital of Glasgow.

Scrap Trident is now calling for elimination of nuclear weapons in Scotland, Britain and around the world saying the social priorities in Britain should be “redefined” so that the huge cost of Trident goes into protecting the disabled in a “nuclear-free society”.

“Scotland and the UK have had nuclear weapons for 50 years. With spending on health, education, pensions and disability benefits being slashed, the government is replacing Trident at a cost of £100 Billion,” the campaign group said.

“We want Scotland and the world free of immoral nuclear weapons and call for Trident to be scrapped and human needs funded,” it added.

The Scrap Trident demonstration has been supported by 22 members of the Scottish Parliament.

The British government has announced annual welfare cuts of £18 billion until 2015 with a £10 billion-cutback also planned from 2017.

A research published in The Guardian on Wednesday revealed that British disabled people will lose an estimated £28 billion due to the welfare cuts by 2017-2018, with some people losing up to £23,000 each over five years.

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Deutsche Bank braced for £256 mln Iran sanctions charges – report

Trend | March 24, 2013

Deutsche Bank is bracing for more than 300 million euros (256 million pounds) in charges linked to suspect violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran, a German weekly reported on Sunday.

Deutsche Bank, Europe’s biggest bank by assets, on Wednesday increased its provisions for litigation by 600 million euros to 2.4 billion euros, citing mortgage-related lawsuits and other regulatory investigations, Reuters reported.

Without specifying its sources, magazine Der Spiegel said the money set aside could be a sign U.S. investigations of possible Iran-linked transactions had reached an advanced stage.

Deutsche Bank on Wednesday declined to lay out in detail why it had increased provisions. On Sunday, it would not comment on the magazine report.

The U.S. government is cracking down on foreign banks it accuses of undermining its effort to throttle Iran’s economy. In the most prominent case, London-based Standard Chartered last year agreed to pay $667 million (437 million pounds) to settle charges it violated sanctions against Iran and other countries.

Other lenders in the crosshairs of U.S. investigators include Commerzbank , Unicredit division HVB, and HSBC in Britain.

Der Spiegel said that apart from the Iran probe, Deutsche Bank’s 2.4-billion-euro legal provisioning included 500 million for a probe of suspected manipulation of interbank lending rates.

Several sources familiar with the investigation told Reuters on Thursday that German markets watchdog Bafin is set to rebuke Deutsche Bank over how it supervised its contribution to the setting of the lending rates.

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Economics, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Constitution Applies When the Government Bans Americans From the Skies

By Nusrat Choudhury & Hina Shamsi | ACLU | March 28, 2013

The government does not have the unchecked authority to place individuals on a secret blacklist without providing them any meaningful opportunity to object, the ACLU argued in a brief filed last Friday with the federal district court in Oregon.

We made the filing in Latif v. Holder, our lawsuit asserting that the government violated the Fifth Amendment due process rights of 13 Americans, including four military veterans, by placing them on the No Fly List and refusing to give them any after-the-fact explanation or a hearing at which they can clear their names.

Our brief highlighted the utter irrationality of the government’s No Fly List procedures. The plaintiffs in Latif all flew for years without any problems. But more than two years ago, they were suddenly branded as suspected terrorists based on secret evidence, publicly denied boarding on flights, and told by U.S. and airline officials that they were banned from flying perhaps forever. Each of them asked the government to remove them from the No Fly List through the only “redress” mechanism available—the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. But the government has refused to provide any explanation or basis for their inclusion in the list. Our clients have been stuck in limbo ever since.

We submitted evidence to the court showing that the No Fly List burdens our clients’ constitutionally protected liberties, with devastating consequences for their personal and professional lives. It deprives them of the ability to fly—an essential means of travel in modern life. It also stigmatizes them as suspected terrorists, although they have never been charged with any crime, let alone convicted of one.

Our brief argued that the Constitution’s core promise of procedural due process requires the government to provide at least some explanation and some hearing where Americans can defend themselves after it deprives them of their liberties. The government’s categorical refusal to provide either is unconstitutional. We explained:

Defendants’ refusal to provide the bare rudiments of due process stems from their embrace of an explicit policy—known as the “Glomar” policy—of refusing to confirm or deny any information concerning a person’s status on the No Fly List. The Glomar policy and Defendants’ inadequate process cannot be reconciled with governing due process doctrine. Courts routinely require notice and some form of hearing for much less severe deprivations of liberty than Plaintiffs have suffered. Thus, the government cannot suspend a student from school for ten days, or recover excess Social Security payments, or terminate state assistance for utility bills without some kind of notice and hearing.

In its own brief to the court defending its “redress” program, the government’s arguments boiled down to two sweeping—and extraordinary—claims. First, according to the government, the Constitution has nothing to say about the adequacy and fairness of the procedures the government provides Americans to challenge their inclusion on the No Fly List because “alternatives” to flying are available. We countered that argument in a separate brief (also filed on Friday) showing that the government relied on the wrong law, and by providing evidence confirming what is obvious: the No Fly List so severely restricts Americans’ ability to travel that it triggers due process rights. Not only does the list ban Americans from the skies, it even bars them from travel on boats. As a result, two of our clients have been effectively banned from traveling from the United States to be with their families in Ireland and Yemen.

The government’s second sweeping claim is that even confirming or denying No Fly List-status (much less actually providing notice of the reasons and basis for inclusion in the list) will cause a parade of national security horribles, including the disclosure of sensitive or classified information. Our brief, however, showed that this argument is based on a fiction: all of our clients already know they are on the No Fly list; they were each prevented from flying and explicitly told that they are on the list. We also pointed out that the mere possibility that sensitive national security information might be involved is no reason to categorically foreclose the hearings that due process requires.

Americans have a right to know what kind of “evidence” or innuendo is sufficient to land them on the No Fly List, and to have a hearing where they can defend themselves. Without this bare minimum, there is no meaningful check to correct the government’s mistakes or ensure that it uses the blacklisting power it claims fairly and appropriately. We are asking the court, therefore, to vindicate a basic yet fundamentally important proposition: a government black list that denies Americans the ability to fly without giving them an explanation or fair chance to clear their names violates the Constitution.

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UN Sanctions on Iran: The Dance of Mutual Deniability

By Joy Gordon | Fletcher Forum | March 27, 2013

The comprehensive economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the UN Security Council in the 1990s fundamentally changed the way we think about sanctions. Sanctions had been seen as a middle route, which was nonviolent, yet more robust than diplomacy. But in Iraq, the humanitarian impact was devastating: child mortality spiked, malnutrition was widespread, the middle class disappeared, and critical infrastructure, such as electricity and water treatment, declined precipitously and never recovered. As the humanitarian crisis continued, activists, practitioners and scholars questioned the ethical legitimacy of sanctions.

The response was the development of targeted “smart” sanctions, which would ostensibly harm only the political or military leadership of the targeted state, or block prohibited goods, without impacting the civilian population. Targeted sanctions included arms embargoes, asset freezes of individual persons and companies, visa denials, and targeted trade sanctions, such as conflict diamonds. There were still unilateral measures that were patently indiscriminate, most prominently the U.S. embargo against Cuba. But by the late 1990s, the Security Council was no longer imposing new measures that were comprehensive.

In the last couple of years we have seen a return to aggressive, deeply damaging measures that are designed to cripple the target nation’s economy as a whole, particularly in the case of Iran. The U.S. sanctions on Iran have been extreme, broadly prohibiting trade, shipping, banking transactions, and investment in Iran’s energy sector. In the last few years we’ve seen the U.S. expand these prohibitions, to restrict not only American companies, but foreign banks and companies as well. The U.S. has aggressively prosecuted major global financial institutions for violations of U.S. sanctions law, and in the last two years there have been a number of cases where banks paid penalties on the order of half a billion dollars each.

Unsurprisingly, the result has been a considerable chilling effect: it is now common to see companies refusing to engage in any transactions at all with Iranian nationals, even for clearly legal purposes. For example, a Swiss organization, the GAVI Alliance, provides vaccines to developing countries. The GAVI Alliance is not subject to U.S. law, but its efforts to provide medical goods to Cuba and Sudan are hampered by U.S. restrictions on shipping companies. Canada’s TD Bank summarily closed down the accounts of Iranians residing legally in Canada. In the U.S., there are growing reports that Iranian-Americans, who in principle are permitted to send remittances to family members in Iran, cannot find any bank in the U.S. or elsewhere that will transfer the funds.

No one could plausibly claim that the U.S. sanctions on Iran are “smart” sanctions. They have crippled Iran’s ability to export oil, to buy gasoline, to import goods of all kinds, to extract and refine oil and natural gas, and to manufacture pharmaceuticals. The irony is that the UN Security Council measures on Iran are perceived to be narrowly crafted to avoid exactly this outcome. The Security Council resolutions only require member states to address cargo, technology, or financial transactions that could contribute to Iran’s nuclear program or ballistic missiles. No one would think that such a specific mandate could have humanitarian consequences—how can depriving a country of nuclear weapons affect education and food security?

But the resolutions contain “hooks” that are then invoked by U.S. allies to impose measures that mirror those of the United States, in a kind of dance of mutual deniability. The Security Council resolutions invite nations to “exercise vigilance” in their dealings with Iran, specifically with Iran’s Central Bank, and with two of its leading banks, Bank Saderat and Bank Melli. It is hard to imagine a term that is more vague and less informative than “exercise vigilance.” After all, we exercise vigilance every time we cross a street or lock a door. But a number of U.S. allies, known as the “like-minded” countries—the European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan, and South Korea—have invoked the call to “vigilance” as justification for imposing broad, damaging measures on Iran, approaching the blanket nature and severity of the U.S. sanctions. Last year, the EU cut off gasoline sales to Iran, and blocked Iranian access to European ports and shipping lines. SWIFT, the global hub for financial messaging critical for international commercial transactions, cut off access to Iran last year.

This disconnect between a seemingly narrow mandate and its broad application is far from a coincidence; it is a deliberate strategy that affords the international community mutual deniability. The EU and the “like-minded” countries can claim that they are not acting unilaterally; they are just being vigilant, as the Security Council has asked them to. At the same time, the Security Council can maintain that it has not imposed unreasonable measures on Iran; its sanctions only concern nuclear weapons and are meant to minimize the humanitarian damage.

In the end, the result is not so different than what we saw in Iraq two decades ago. If you cripple a nation’s access to shipping, energy, and banking, that will cripple its ability to provide health care, food security, electricity, transportation, and other basic needs of its population. The dance of mutual deniability may mean that it’s harder to see how the sanctions work. But that doesn’t mean they’re doing any less harm.

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Riots, deportations sweep through Syrian camps in Jordan and Turkey

Al-Akhbar | March 28, 2013

Turkey has deported at least 600 Syrians staying at a refugee camp near the border after clashes with Turkish military police in a protest over living conditions, a Turkish official said on Thursday.

“These people were involved in yesterday’s violence, they were seen by the security cameras in the camp,” an official in the camp told Reuters by telephone. “Between 600 and 700 have been deported. The security forces are still looking at the footage, and if they see more they will deport them.”

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency says a riot has broken out at a refugee camp for Syrians in Jordan after some of the refugees were told they could not return home.

Ali Bibi, a UNHCR liaison officer in Jordan, says it’s unclear how many refugees were involved in Thursday’s melee at the Zaatari camp. The riot broke out after some Syrians in the camp tried to board buses to go back to their country.

He says Jordanian authorities refused to let the buses head to the border because of ongoing clashes between the rebels and President Bashar Assad’s forces in southern Syria, just across the border from Jordan.

Bibi says there were no immediate reports of injuries.

He says Jordanian authorities promised to organize the refugees’ return home at another time.

Over 70,000 people have been killed during Syria’s two year old uprising.

(Reuters, AP, Al-Akhbar)

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Unfree in Palestine – Book Review

By Ludwig Watzal | Palestine Chronicle | March 27 2013

(Unfree in Palestine. Registration, Documentation and Movement Restriction by Nadia Abu-Zahra and Adah Kay, Pluto Press, London 2013, pp. 232, L 17.99.)

The latest visit by U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama to Israel has demonstrated to the world on which side the Empire stands. Obama promised an occupying power absolute support and eternal loyalty. Behind this background, the reader of “Unfree in Palestine” is befallen from a kind of bitterness when hearing Obama’s unrestricted support for a heinous form of total control of a whole population under occupation. A slap in the face for the Palestinians and for some critical Israeli intellectuals was Obama’s sentence that he admires Israel’s “core values”! Perhaps he did not know what he was talking about. Israel betrays all the “core values” the U. S. American civil rights movement was fighting for, not to speak of many laws that discriminate against non-Jews in Israel.

Palestine_unfreeThe authors, Nadia Abu-Zahra, Assistant Professor of Globalization and Development at the University of Ottawa, and Adah Kay, Honorary Visiting Professor at Cass Business School, City University of London, describe the role played by identity documents in Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, from the red passes of the 1950s to the orange, green and blue passes of today. They show how millions of Palestinians have been denationalized through the bureaucratic tools of census, population registration and a highly discriminatory pseudo-legal framework. They show how identity documents are used by Israel as a means of coercion, extortion, humiliation and informant recruitment.

In the book the authors provide a review of identity documentation and movement restrictions in Palestine from the 1800s till today. They focus on population and how it is divided and affected using bureaucratic instruments. In the introduction chapter terms such as “population registration”, “identity documentation”, and “movement restriction” are defined and explained by examples from other countries in order to demonstrate the power that such tools can have on denationalization, discrimination, displacement, dispossession, coercion, collaboration, and death.

The main part of the book deals with the history of the census, the population registry, denationalization, blacklists, coercion, collaboration and how movement restrictions of millions of Palestinians became possible. The authors exemplify on the health and education sectors, how the above mentioned policies affect the social life of the people. Both sectors are undermined through restricted access for patients, students and teachers. Despite all odds, the Palestinians resist inducements to leave their homeland.

Although international law declared denationalization illegal, the international community did not care about the forced displacement of Palestinians. Their “right of return” has been ignored by Israel, despite the fact that the United Nations has called for it since 1948, and it was a requirement for Israel’s entry into the UN. On the basis of denationalization, the Israeli occupier has striped the Palestinians of any personal security. Israel has been issuing over one hundred permits so far that curb the movement of the people in the occupied territories and abroad. Permits and identity cards can be revoked arbitrarily. Acquiring an ID card or granting permits became a bargaining chip for the Israeli authorities to recruit informants and collaborators among the Palestinians.

The book gives an excellent overview of a military and bureaucratic Kafkaesque system of control used by Israel to deprive the Palestinians of their rights and freedoms. Perhaps Obama meant, inter alia, these “core values” the U. S. shares with the Israeli occupying regime. The Palestinian people want their rights and not charity from the international community. Despite having made the lives of the Palestinians unbearable, the people resisted and stayed to the chagrin of the Israeli colonizers. The great value of this book is that the authors have brought light into the fate of 1.4 million denationalized Palestinians.

Dr. Ludwig Watzal works as a journalist and editor in Bonn, Germany. He runs the bilingual bog “Between the lines”: http://between-the-lines-ludwig-watzal.blogspot.com

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Book Review, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Leave a comment

Burning out Another Room in the Arab House

By Jeremy Salt | Palestine Chronicle | March 27, 2013

Ankara – In the ugly panorama that is the contemporary Middle East a light hardly flickers on the horizon. Iraq has been destroyed as a unitary Arab state and jihadis unleashed in Syria are burning out another room in the Arab house. Lebanon has again been brought to the brink of implosion through the intrigues of outside governments and local proxies incapable of putting the interests of their country ahead of their sectarian and power intrigues. The Palestinians are divided between those who live under the authority of one man who has bound himself to Israel and the US and two others who have bound themselves to Egypt and Qatar. Fitna – the spreading of division and sowing of hatred amongst Muslims – is being fanned across the region by governments brazen enough to call themselves Muslim. Whether in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, Shiism is the enemy. Ceaselessly stirring this pot from the outside are governments that feast on division in the Arab world.

There are those who loathe Bashar so much that they are willing to commit or tolerate any crime in the name of getting rid of him, including the deliberate bombings of civilians, one taking the lives of a leading Sunni Muslim scholar and 48 other worshippers in a Damascus mosque only recently and another killing 100 people, amongst them children waiting for their school bus. A country Gamal abd al Nasir once described as the ‘beating heart of Arabism’ is being destroyed. Its enemies have their hands inside the body and they intend to rip the heart out. The cooperative at work on this venture includes the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the local and foreign-born jihadis who are their tools whether they realize it or not.

That the Syrian system needs changing goes without saying. In Syria possibly no-one understands this better than the much reviled Bashar al Assad. He could go tomorrow but that would solve nothing because the system would stay the same; for those who hate him, someone worse might take his place. Bashar has made serious mistakes, including the adoption of free market policies which have enriched the merchant class while further impoverishing the peasantry, who are now said to be many of the foot soldiers of the armed groups, but Syria is an easier place than it was under his father. The abolition of the Baath as the central pillar of state and society and the multi-party elections held last year were a start to political reforms. The elections were not perfect but if anyone is looking for perfection in the Middle East, they should look somewhere else. These are threads that could have been teased out if the collective calling itself ‘The Friends of the Syrian People’ had any serious interest in the best interests of the Syrian people. A process of national dialogue has begun in Damascus but this has been ignored, too, because these ‘friends’ want nothing less than the destruction of a government which is a strategic ally of Iran and Hezbollah and forms with them the ‘resistance axis’ to US-Israeli hegemony.

The achievements of this axis need to be set against the record of collaboration of those Arab governments who are now bent on destroying it. Iran and Syria have been solid in their support for the Palestinians, hosting resistance movements and working together to provide Hamas with the weapons it needed to defend Gaza. No weapons came from the direction of Saudi Arabia or Qatar. It was Hezbollah, the non-state partner in this alliance, that finally drove Israel from occupied southern Lebanon after nearly two decades of struggle involving not just the bravery of part-time soldiers but the mastery of electronic warfare, enabling Hezbollah to penetrate Israeli communications, including drone surveillance, as was made clear when Hasan Nasrallah produced intercepted film showing that an Israeli drone had been shadowing Rafiq Hariri for three months and was overhead when he was assassinated in February, 2005. When Israel tried to take revenge in 2006 it was humiliated. Hezbollah stood firm, destroyed its supposedly invincible Merkava tanks, disabled one of its warships in a missile attack and prevented its ground forces from advancing north of the Litani river. At the time, it might be remembered, both Egypt and Saudi Arabia vilified Hasan Nasrallah for bringing on this war, as they saw it.

It was Hezbollah which scored another triumph by breaking Israel’s spy network in Lebanon, now in the public eye because of the revelations that an Australian-born Mossad agent, Ben Zygier, had provided it with the names of two of its agents. The official Israeli version of the Zygier affair is that he handed over this information with the ultimate intention of setting up the assassination of Hasan Nasrallah. However, as the case is regarded as one of the most serious threats to national security in Israel’s history, much more might be involved than the collapse of a spy network. It is hard to imagine any agent who was not in fact a double agent doing what Zygier is reported to have done. What other information he might have passed on is a matter of conjecture but Israel’s nervousness about this affair could be a sign that far darker secrets are involved than the exposure of two spies.

Both Iran and Syria have been targeted with economic sanctions because of their disobedience. Iran has been threatened with military attack ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and now that the attempt to destroy the government in Damascus through armed proxies has clearly failed, if more than two years of trying qualifies as failure, the US is sending out signals that it is prepared to intervene directly despite the regional and global risks. The collapse of the Syrian National Council last year has now been followed by the disintegration of the Syrian National Coalition, with ‘president’ Mu’adh al Khatib resigning and the chief of its military wing refusing to recognize the authority of new ‘prime minister’ Ghassan al Hitto. Riad al Assad, the displaced former commander of the self-styled Free Syrian Army, has just been carried back across the border into Turkey with only one leg, the other having been blown off by a roadside car bomb. Some sources say it was only a foot but either way he is out of action for a long time to come. As the leading armed groups do not recognize the authority of Mr Assad or the squabbling coalition of which the FSA is supposed to be the military arm, his absence from the scene is not going to make a great deal of difference.

For Muadh al Khatib to be given the Syria seat at the recent summit of the Arab League in Doha is farcical in more than one respect. Al Khatib is no longer even a member of the group Qatar is trying to set up as an alternative government. The group itself is in a state of complete collapse, with al Khatib walking out and other members rejecting the appointment of Hitto, a Syrian-born American who has not visited the country of his birth for decades. That Al Khatib should demand that his ragged, motley crew be given Syria’s seat at the UN goes beyond preposterous. The government of Syria sits in Damascus, not Doha, and Bashar al Assad is still its president, not the former imam of the Umayyad mosque. Compounding this theatre of the absurd, it was the ruler of Qatar who directed that Al Khatib be given the Syrian seat at the Doha summit, underlining the degree to which the Arab League has become no more than an instrument of this gentleman’s drive for regional dominance. That King Abdullah should have stayed away from Doha is a sign of the deepening rivalry between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, especially over how to manage Syria. The determination of the ruler of Qatar to persevere with this chaotic bunch of exiles is the measure of his determination to destroy the government in Damascus.

On the ground the armed groups are taking a beating at the hands of the Syrian army but like an irresponsible trainer sending a punched-out boxer out from his corner for the next round, their outside sponsors are pouring arms into Syria to keep them on their feet. The tactics of these groups include bombings aimed at civilians that in other circumstances their backers would not hesitate to call terrorism but steadfastly refused to call terrorism when Syrians are the victims and their proxies are the perpetrators. Al Khatib’s dissatisfaction with his ramshackle coalition was possibly brought to a head by the assassination in Damascus of Sheikh Muhammad Said Ramadan al Bouti, a former colleague and a man he greatly admired. Al Bouti and close to 50 other worshippers were murdered in the Iman mosque by a suicide bomber. Two days earlier an armed group had loaded CL 17 chlorine – an ingredient normally used in swimming pool cleaner – into the warhead of a small missile and fired it at a Syrian army checkpoint, killing 26 people. Soldiers were among the dead and the army was there to look after the survivors, so the claims of activists that ‘the regime’ was responsible had even less traction than usual. Having warned of direct intervention in Syria should chemical weapons be used, the US had little to say now that such a weapon had been used, not by the Syrian army, but by the ‘rebels’ it has been supporting.

Hezbollah, Syria and Iran’s record of resistance has to be compared with the long Saudi and Qatari record of collaboration with the US and Israel. Having deserted Damascus in its hour of need, what does Khalid Mishaal think he is going to get from the ruler of Qatar besides money and somewhere to stay? What is Ismail Haniyeh expecting from Muhammad Morsi, who began his presidency by blocking off the tunnels into Gaza and confirmed where he intends to take Egypt with his letter calling Shimon Peres ‘my dear friend’? Is it forgotten already, apart from his record in violence and destruction going back to 1948, that it was Peres who authorized the attack on southern Lebanon in 1996 which took the lives of more than 100 people sheltering inside the UN compound in Qana? If the friend of my enemy is my enemy, where does that leave Haniyeh, Misha’al and Abbas?

The beneficiaries of intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria are outside and regional governments who have combined forces to reshape the Middle East in their own interests. As Ibrahim al Amin has remarked (‘Partitioning Syria at the Doha summit’, Al Akhbar English, March 25, 2013), they are fighting a global war against Syria in the name of bringing the people freedom and justice. In truth, western governments only intervene in their own interests and the people always end up being sliced and diced on the chopping board of their grand designs. There has been no exception to this rule. Civilization, liberation, freedom, democracy, the rights of the people and the responsibility to protect are the unctuous phrases that have rolled off the lips of western prime ministers, foreign ministers and presidents for two centuries. This is the rhetorical buildup to a self-assigned ‘duty’ to intervene: the only real difference between intervention in the 19th century and intervention in the 21st lies in the vastly increased killing power of western governments and the development of weapons that would have been regarded as science fiction until only recently.

As they always get away with it, there is no reason for them to stop. Iraq was a terrible crime but while the UN Security Council or the International Criminal Court points the finger at Robert Mugabe, Umar al Bashir or Saif al Islam al Gaddafi it never points the finger at western politicians whose crimes are infinitely greater. Slobodan Milosevic was a rare exception but even his crimes do not measure up to what George Bush and Tony Blair authorized in Iraq in and after 2003 – not to speak of the horrors that Bush senior, Clinton and Blair authorized through the decade of sanctions which followed the attack of 1991. Because they are protected by a world system which is highly selective about who it punishes, the politicians who follow them feel free to repeat the experience. They know that whoever suffers, whoever is bombed, whoever has to look at the faces of dead parents, children, aunts, grandfathers and neighbors being dug out of the rubble of bombed cities and towns, it is not going to be them. William Hague is perfectly comfortable in his desire to give more weapons to the ‘rebels’ because he knows that the calamitous consequences of decisions he takes are never going to bounce back on his own doorstep.

It is obvious but needs to be said anyway that the first priority of people across the Middle East should be solidarity rising above ethnic and religious divisions. No problem can be solved without it and certainly not the core issue of Palestine. In his recent Edward Said memorial lecture, Noam Chomsky drew attention to what is going on while the world’s attention is diverted by the ‘Arab spring.’ In 1967 the Jordan Valley had a Palestinian population of 300, 000. The policy of ‘purification’ pursued by the Israeli government has now reduced that population to 60,000. On a smaller scale the same policy has had the same results in Hebron and elsewhere in the occupied territories. There is nothing accidental or incidental about this. Netanyahu is no more than faithful to the racist policies set in motion by Theodor Herzl and David Ben-Gurion. Continuing without letup for 65 years these policies are neither forgettable nor forgivable.

It is not surprising that Israel’s strongest supporters always have been similar colonial settler states. There are no exact parallels but the Zionist settlers in Palestine and the American colonists both turned on the mother state while setting out to crush the native people. Thomas Paine had much to say about the American ‘war of independence’ that is relevant to Palestine. First of all, it was an ‘independence war’ being fought on land long since inhabited by another people. The colonists wanted to be independent of the mother country, which planted them in this foreign soil in the expectation that they would maintain it as part of the king’s domains. A loyal colony was what the British also sought in Palestine but the American settlers and later the Zionists had other ideas. The war between Britain and the American colonists was brutal, generating deep hatreds on both sides, just as the Zionist war against the British did in Palestine.

Paine was writing of settler feelings towards the savagery of the mother country but the words equally apply to the people who were the victims of double colonialism in North America or, nearly two centuries later, in Palestine:

‘Men of passive tempers look somewhat lightly over the offences of Great Britain and still hoping for the best are still apt to call out come, come, we shall be friends against for all this. But examine the passions and feelings of mankind; bring the doctrine of reconciliation to the touchstone of nature and then tell me whether you can hereafter love, honor and faithfully serve the power that hath carried fire and sword into your land. If you cannot do all these then you are only deceiving yourself, and by your delay bringing ruin upon posterity. Your future connections with Britain, whom you can neither love nor honor, will be forced and unnatural and being formed only on the plan of present convenience, will in a little time fall into a relapse more wretched than the first. But if you say you can still pass the violations over, then I ask hath your house been burnt? Hath your property been destroyed before your face? Are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or child by their hands and yourself the ruined and wretched survivor? If you have not, then you are not a judge of those who have. But if you have and can still shake hands with the murderers, then are you unworthy the name of husband, father, friend or lover; and whatever may be your rank or title in life you have the heart of a coward and the spirit of a sycophant.’

Paine was a democrat within the limitations of his time. He was writing for the settlers and had no thought of admitting the indigenous people of North America to representation in the colonies. Except for the passage of almost 250 years Paine might be a Zionist today, but the two and a half centuries make all the difference. Israel was an anomaly from the beginning, a colonial state arising at the tail end of colonialism. It would be no more possible to imagine Thomas Paine supporting an America in which native and Afro-Americans did not have the vote now than it would be to imagine him supporting a situation where a people not only did not have the right to vote but had been denied the right to live on the land where they or their forebears had been born.

In today’s world Paine could not support an Israel built on blatantly racist and discriminatory lines. Everything he says in the passage quoted above applies to Israel. The wounds it has inflicted have gone deep and far from making any attempt to heal them Israel has endlessly inflicted new wounds. The state of Israel – to be differentiated from those pockets of its citizens who oppose its brutal mindset – is not interested in any kind of genuine settlement with the Palestinians. It is not interested in them as a people. It is not interested in their stories of suffering. It is not interested in its own guilt because it is blind to its own guilt. It has no humility and would scoff at the idea of penance for crimes it refuses to admit it has committed, like the worst recidivist offender hauled before a court. It is interested in the Palestinians only as a problem to be solved and the solution is for them somehow to disappear or to be made to disappear. Hence the ‘purification’ in the Jordan Valley and the daylight oppression of the Palestinians in Hebron and the racist demographic war being waged in East Jerusalem. These are crimes against humanity.

If we substitute Israel and the Oslo process for the reconciliation proffered by the British monarch the result is the same: the policy, wrote Thomas Paine, is there ‘in order that he may accomplish by craft and subtlety in the long run what he cannot do by force and violence in the short one’. His conclusion that ‘reconciliation and ruin are nearly related’ sums up the consequences for the Palestinians of the Venus fly trap known as the ‘peace process.’ Violence works but ‘peace’ has a deadly potency of its own: whatever the means employed, the Zionist aim of reducing the Palestinians to dust that will eventually be whirled away by history has not changed in 100 years.

By themselves, however bravely they have resisted, the Palestinians have never had the power to fend off the forces arrayed against them. This has been true from the time Britain implanted the Zionist project in Palestine until the present day. Britain and the US were not just any countries but the two most powerful states of their time and with their support both Zionist success and Palestinian failure were assured. Never have the Palestinians been able to draw on anything like such sources of strength despite the immense potential in their own backyard. Israel’s dominance as a regional power is still sustained by the US while being continually replenished by Arab weakness: Arab weakness is built on chronic Arab disunity, now being promoted in sectarian form by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. As long as there is no way out of this trap the Palestinians will remain stuck in their trap.

Sectarianism is a powerful weapon but would be useless if people were not susceptible to it. A people divided are doomed to be dominated. George Antonius prefaced The Arab Awakening with a quote from Ibrahim Yaziji: ‘Arise Arabs and awake!’ That was in 1938. An Arab awakening did follow and while it would be tempting to say the Arab world has gone back to sleep, in reality what is happening is far worse than sleep. A fire is raging and it is hard to see how and when it will be put out.

Jeremy Salt is an associate professor of Middle Eastern history and politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment