Entries Tagged 'USA' ↓

South Dakota and the „War on Terror“

In the age of the re-declared War on Terrorism, one state legislature has decided to buck the system, placing itself in the vanguard of those who wish to end this war, which was declared by Reagan in 1980, re-declared by Bush in 2001, and is currently being enthusiastically prosecuted by “Dove”-in-Chief Barack Obama. And they’re not taking some wishy-washy, bourgeois civil libertarian stance, either – if a bill currently in the South Dakota state legislature is passed, South Dakota will have officially taken the most radical stance against the War on Terrorism that one can imagine: South Dakota will have officially legalised terrorism.

I’m sure that some readers may be a bit surprised, to put it mildly, to hear this. A crazy, right-wing state legislature like South Dakota’s taking a stand against the bipartisan US Right’s favourite war?

It seems inconceivable, I know, but it is true. South Dakota is considering a bill that would make it justifiable for religious fanatics, egged on by foamy-mouthed fundamentalist clerics seeking to establish a misogynist, homophobic, transphobic theocracy right on US soil, to murder civilians in furtherance of that goal. That, it’s worth recalling, is the definition of terrorism Congress itself enacted in Title 18 of the United States Code: targeted attacks on civilians and civilian objects in order to intimidate a civilian population or otherwise in pursuit of political or religious ideological goals.

Assuming you heard the news at all, you probably heard things a bit differently. Most likely, you heard that South Dakota is considering making it justifiable homicide to kill abortion providers. The word “terrorism” was almost certainly not used, even though this bill would legalise precisely what we are constantly told that that the US trying to stop in Afghanistan: religious fanatics murdering anyone who dares to provide needed health care to women (yes, it’s bullshit, but it’s the official justification, and if that’s good enough for ‘progressive’ intellectuals to justify blowing up Libyan civilians, it’s certainly good enough for argument’s sake).

The federal government, and the US political class and media generally, take a more nuanced position, to be sure. To use the words of US State Department Spokesperson P.J. Crowley’s attempt to explain the US position on the Mubarak dictatorship on Al-Jazeera English, our political class doesn’t see this as an “either-or proposition”. To them, “terrorism” is a feeling, a vibe, like abstract art. You can’t just go around applying rigid legal definitions to a thing like terrorism or you miss the whole point of having the term.

Thus, it isn’t automatically “terrorism” just because religious fanatics commit cowardly murders against defenceless civilians in order to intimidate women and those who support their rights. It all depends on context. When it happens in Afghanistan, and is done by the Taliban (rather than our even more misogynistic collaborators there), it’s terrorism. Indeed, it’s even terrorism when the Afghan resistance (some of whom are Taliban as we understand the term, and many of whom are not) launch attacks on the military personnel who are illegally occupying their territory, even though that clearly does not constitute an attack on civilians.

But when enraged and deluded white men decide to kill gynaecologists, it’s not terrorism. When one of them opens fire at a member of Congress, it’s not terrorism. Indeed, even firebombing a mosque doesn’t count as terrorism (though, judging from the FBI’s surveillance practises, attending one does). And blowing hundreds of thousands of defenceless civilians to bits in an effort to “liberate” them from the idea that they should be the ones choosing their government, when that’s clearly our job, certainly isn’t terrorism. That goes without saying.

Clearly, then, this “terrorism” business is much more complex than it seems, if an act is generally agreed to constitute terrorism in one case, when identical – or sometimes much worse – acts cannot be considered terrorism in other cases.

This apparent paradox quickly evaporates once we abandon our prescriptive approach and acknowledge that the operative usage of “terrorism” bears only a faint resemblance to the actual definition of the term. Implicit in the actual usage of the term is an unspoken requirement: “…if and to the extent that such attacks harm the interests of the powerful.”

This requirement is clearly met in the case of attacks on major US financial and commercial hubs, and just as clearly met in the case of attacks on foreign governments installed or propped up by, or otherwise subservient or useful to the US. Indeed, if the requirement of harm to powerful interests is met, even clear definitional requirements – such as the requirement that the attack be directed against civilians or civilian objects – are superseded, as in the case of an attack by indigenous resistance fighters against a US military occupation, or the revelation by a journalist of documents conclusively proving US war crimes and showing US policy in general in an excessively realistic light.

However, when the paramilitary wing of the openly theocratic fundamentalist Christian movement in the US bombs a gynaecologist’s office, and/or murders doctors, nurses, and patients, the power structure is not harmed. Therefore, it is not terrorism, and those who commit these crimes need not worry about drone attacks on their homes and offices or the prospect of being abducted in the dead of night to be tortured at a clandestine concentration camp. They are not terrorists; their crimes are just deplorable excesses to some – or, to others, laudable contributions – in the ongoing public debate on whether or not women are human beings with human rights, a matter on which “reasonable” minds can clearly differ.

Revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia – So what are we waiting for?

What we are witnessing today is historic: Hosni Mubarak, who had been propped up by the US as dictator of Egypt for 30 years with massive military aid, has been forced out of power by a mass popular uprising, the second such dictator to scarper in recent weeks. Second only to Israel, Mubarak had long been the cornerstone of US power in the oil-rich Middle East, and was directly complicit in US-Israeli crimes including the murderous siege on the occupied Gaza Strip.

From the beginning, the revolutionary forces in Egypt have recognised this, calling Mubarak “the agent of the United States and Israel”. When we watch the images of the celebrating multitudes in Tahrir Square and throughout Egypt, we whose states have underwritten tyranny in Egypt (and in so many other places) would do well to remember that their description is entirely accurate.

Mubarak has scarpered, a fact that, in itself, is cause for celebration and a testament to the power of an organised, committed populace. However, Mubarak did not rule alone, and the US-backed secret police, the US-financed and –armed army, the massive USAID infrastructure that ensures that US funds go where the US want them to go – all of this is still there. The man who departed the presidential palace in Cairo like a frightened mouse was a subcontractor of the United States, and it is clear both from the history and from the reports coming out of Al-Jazeera and elsewhere that the US are busy seeking a replacement.

Now that Mubarak – the dictator whom the US had supported to the bitter end – is gone, we will likely hear public acknowledgement of what an evil bastard he was, without any acknowledgement that the US government had knowingly and, indeed, enthusiastically supported this bastard for three long and bloody decades. We may even hear US officials start to acknowledge that Mubarak was a dictator, something they had denied even throughout the weeks of upheaval in Egypt. This follows a well-established pattern: When a US-backed murderer becomes untenable (either because he can no longer hold on to power or because he stops obeying orders from the home office), the crimes he committed with our decisive support are acknowledged and condemned (without noting our critical role in committing them). We then hear that nobody ever really liked him, and calls for an “orderly transition” to democracy, ignoring that – in many cases – the same people had claimed all along that there already was democracy in the country in question.

As we hear all this, we would do well to remember the telling words of Joe Biden at the beginning of the Egyptian revolution:

„Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region, Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing the relationship with Israel … I would not refer to him as a dictator…”

This is the – usually unspoken – operative definition of “democracy” for US imperial managers. As long as a regime remains “responsible” – i.e. compliant with US interests – he is “democratic” enough for us. By definition, no one we – The Good Guys – support could be a “dictator”. At the most, our preferred dictators will be called “strongmen” or “authoritarian leaders” (though Obama refused to describe Mubarak even as “authoritarian”). “Dictator” refers to those who do not play ball. Thus, we routinely hear of the democratically-elected president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías, as a “tin-pot dictator”, even though the opposition controls 80% of the media, and even media outlets actively involved in the 2002 CIA coup attempt have not faced any real consequences for their criminal actions. Meanwhile, Colombia, where opposition journalists and activists, union organisers, and peasants are routinely massacred by US-armed death squads, is a stellar democracy by US standards. Colombia follows US orders. Venezuela not only openly flouts them, but is actively aiding others in disobeying.

We should make no mistake that the US is seeking – once again – to impose just this sort of “democracy” on Egypt.

As those of us in the United States and Europe celebrate this landmark victory of popular power over a dictator backed by the most powerful state in the world, we should never lose sight of this fact, and the responsibility for us that arises out of it:

What happens in Egypt depends critically on the amount of freedom of action the United States government has, and the freedom of action of the United States government – and its European “lieutenants” (though the fashionable word is “partner”) – depends critically on what the people in those countries do. The Egyptians and Tunisians have ejected their dictators, and it looks like the Jordanians and Yemenis are on their way to doing the same. But it is we who can ensure that no more dictators are imposed from outside on the peoples of the world. That is the power we have, and it is our sacred responsibility.

Except for a few cases in which they allowed Mubarak’s secret police to massacre demonstrators, and themselves attacked and imprisoned demonstrators, the US-backed Egyptian military have taken a studied neutral stance. They know that they have the trust – however underserved, given their role in supporting Mubarak for 30 years – of the Egyptian people, and they would have been foolish to squander that trust before they had a chance to take power outright.

Barring a rank-and-file mutiny, the Egyptian army has secured its role as heir-apparent to Mubarak’s thirty-year dictatorship. US president Obama has already called on the military to take power in Egypt (after weeks of refusing to demand that Mubarak leave power), a vote of confidence that should be deeply disturbing. If the military end up playing along with the US, we will likely soon see massive military repression, camouflaged as “protecting the population from Islamist rioters” or the like.

“The army has been here for thirty years. Why should I trust the army?” an Egyptian pro-democracy activist just asked on Al-Jazeera. Amidst the celebration, we should be asking ourselves that question as well.

People throughout the US and Europe have demonstrated in solidarity with the Egyptian people. It is time to take that solidarity to the next step. We have the power to provide more than just moral support: We can weaken and restrict the states that have long underwritten the oppression of the Egyptian people. If we truly want to support the Egyptian people, we should do in our countries what they have done in theirs. If they can do it under much more repressive conditions, then we can certainly do it. A Tahrir Square in every city in Europe and the US, a space of mass struggle and social reconstruction capable of reducing the orders of politicians and riot police to mere words, would be a huge step on the way to ensuring that the Egyptian people will not have to settle either for a chief lieutenant of Mubarak, such as Soleiman, or an Ahmed Chalabi-style carpetbagger in the mould of Muhammad ElBaradei.

And it would be damned good for us, too.

„Who Owns Jerusalem“ – A CAMERA Hoax Approved for MCLE Credit

CAMERA’s Latest Scam:

The San Remo Irrelevancy and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Sometimes the much-maligned Facebook ads have their merits. Last night, I happened upon a Facebook ad offering a course approved by the State Bar of California for credit towards the Bar’s minimum continuing legal education (MCLE) requirements entitled “Who owns Jerusalem?“.

It turned out to be an advertisement for a “course”, sponsored by the “pro”-Israeli PR organisation CAMERA and held by an obscure Canadian lawyer by the name of Jacques Gauthier, claiming that an even more obscure document from 1920 known as the “San Remo Resolution” had vested full legal title to the entirety of Palestine to Israel.

Before we turn to the content of the San Remo document, let us recall what the International Court of Justice, the supreme judicial body in the international system, concluded about the legal status of the territories occupied in 1967 (including East Jerusalem) after exhaustive analysis of the matter:

78.          The Court would observe that, under customary international law as reflected (see paragraph 89 below) in Article 42 of the Regulations Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land annexed to the Fourth Hague Convention of 18 October 1907 (hereinafter „the Hague Regulations of 1907“), territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army, and the occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.

The territories situated between the Green Line (see paragraph 72 above) and the former eastern boundary of Palestine under the Mandate were occupied by Israel in 1967 during the armed conflict between Israel and Jordan. Under customary international law, these were therefore occupied territories in which Israel had the status of occupying Power. Subsequent events in these territories, as described in paragraphs 75 to 77 above, have done nothing to alter this situation. All these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories and Israel has continued to have the status of occupying Power.

Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, paragraph 78 (emphasis added).

Put briefly, under the basic international legal principle of the “inadmissibility of territorial acquisition by war”, Israel has no claim to sovereignty over any of the territories occupied in the 1967 war. Those territories – the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem – are and remain “occupied territories”. The Court based this conclusion on an exhaustive study of the relevant legal framework, including foundational documents of international humanitarian law such as the Hague Regulations of 1907, the General Assembly’s Partition Resolution (on the strength of which the State of Israel was founded), and various Security Council resolutions calling for the withdrawal from the occupied territories (UNSC 242) and declaring “totally invalid”

„all legislative and administrative actions taken by Israel to change the status of the: City of Jerusalem, including expropriation of land and properties, transfer of populations and legislation aimed at the incorporation of the occupied section […]”

(UNSC 298).

CAMERA and Gauthier claim that the San Remo document negates all this, and gives Israel full title not only to the territory within Israel’s recognised (pre-June 1967) borders, but to the territory occupied in the 1967 war. If this is true, then the entire international legal consensus on the status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory is dead wrong.

This, of course, raises the question: Is it true? In order to answer this question, two fairly obvious requirements must be met:

(a)   The San Remo document must actually grant sovereignty to Israel (or, given that Israel would not exist for another 28 years, to a „Jewish state“ to be created on the entire territory of Mandatory Palestine); and

(b)   It must continue to be valid and applicable, meaning that any and all subsequent enactments must either not concern the subject matter of the San Remo document, or, if related, not conflict with it (the “last-in-time” principle – lex posterior derogat priori).

Note that (b) is a subsidiary question. If the San Remo document does not actually grant sovereignty over the territory in question to Israel or a future “Jewish state”, then its continuing vitality is of no relevance to whether Israel has any claim to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Thus, we must first turn to the relevant provisions of the San Remo document:

(a)     To accept the terms of the Mandates Article as given below with reference to Palestine, on the understanding that there was inserted in the proces-verbal an undertaking by the Mandatory Power that this would not involve the surrender of the rights hitherto enjoyed by the non-Jewish communities in Palestine; this undertaking not to refer to the question of the religious protectorate of France, which had been settled earlier in the previous afternoon by the undertaking given by the French Government that they recognized this protectorate as being at an end.

(b) that the terms of the Mandates Article should be as follows:


The High Contracting Parties agree to entrust, by application of the provisions of Article 22, the administration of Palestine, within such boundaries as may be determined by the Principal Allied Powers, to a Mandatory, to be selected by the said Powers. The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 8, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

In other words, the San Remo document calls for the implementation of the Balfour Declaration, which called for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, and twice provides that the “rights hitherto enjoyed”/”civil and religious rights” shall in no way be impaired by the establishment of this “national home”. There is no reference to a “Jewish state”, nor any transfer of sovereignty to “the Jewish people” or to anyone else, merely a “national home” for Jews “in Palestine”. Even more fatally to Gauthier’s claims, the San Remo document makes no determination whatsoever as to boundaries, only noting that boundaries are to be determined on some later date by the Principal Allied Powers.

When I raised these fairly obvious issues on the Facebook event page set up by CAMERA Regional Coordinator, attorney Talia Shulman Gold, she claimed that “national home” and “state” were the same thing: “Just what do you think establishing a „national home“ meant anyway, Elise[1]?“

While this assertion may have some superficial appeal owing to the peculiarity of the phrase “national home”, there remains an obvious problem. The term “state” was in common use at the time that the San Remo document was signed. The drafters of the document can be reasonably assumed to have been aware of the term “state” and of its meaning. And yet, they did not use the term “state” to describe what they were creating for “the Jewish people” in Palestine, preferring the term “national home”. If they had intended to establish a legal basis for the creation of a “Jewish state”, they could quite simply have referred to “the establishment in Palestine of a state for the Jewish people”. Instead, they specifically chose to use a different term. To claim, as Shulman Gold has (and Gauthier must), that the drafters actually meant “state” is to claim that they did not really mean what they wrote.

Even if we were to accept, for the sake of argument, that it is permissible to read “state” where “national home” is written, the central claim – that the San Remo document gives Israel full sovereignty over the entirety of Mandatory Palestine, including the Occupied Palestinian Territory – runs into an even more serious problem: The San Remo document makes no determination at all with regard to boundaries, except to provide that “the administration of Palestine, within such boundaries as may be determined by the Principal Allied Powers, [is entrusted] to a Mandatory” (emphasis added). The Principal Allied Powers left the determination of the boundaries of Palestine for a later date.

In other words, the Gauthier-CAMERA claim that the San Remo Resolution made a final and irrevocable determination that the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem should be contained within the boundaries of the State of Israel is a cynical fraud. Israel’s lawful boundaries are the internationally recognised, pre-June 1967 boundaries, and the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem are – as was authoritatively reaffirmed by the International Court of Justice – Occupied Palestinian Territory.

A Hoax Worthy of Joan Peters

It is worth noting that this blatant misrepresentation of the content and legal status of the San Remo Resolution is not the only fraud promoted by the „Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America”. CAMERA’s “suggested book list” includes such lowlights of American intellectual life as Joan Peters’ discredited From Time Immemorial, which grossly falsified archival documents in an effort to claim that Palestine was uninhabited on the eve of Zionist colonisation, and Alan Dershowitz‘ The Case for Israel, which plagiarises numerous passages from From Time Immemorial, and embellishes on it with further absurdities.

Why would an organisation ostensibly dedicated to “accuracy” in media reporting promote a long-since-exposed hoax like From Time Immemorial (absurdly claiming that “Joan Peters dispels the myth of Zionist dispossession of „native“ arabs [sic] in Palestine, drawing on rarely examined archives and statistics. She makes a credible case for Jewish indigenous habitation lasting thousands of years; a groundbreaking study necessary to any discussion of the current conflict in the region.”) and a phantasmagorical distortion of the San Remo Resolution and the legal status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory?

Obviously, these stories aren’t being promoted for their “accuracy”, so there must be some other motive. What goal could CAMERA be pursuing by promoting a work that falsely claims that Palestine was uninhabited prior to Zionist colonisation, and that an obscure 1920 document grants Israel full title to the Occupied Palestinian Territory? Simple: Promoting works such as these provides a pretext under which moral and legal objections to the constant violations of Palestinian rights by the US and Israel – from the ethnic cleansing (“Nakba”) of 1948 to the 1967 occupation and the displacement of Palestinians through state-subsidised illegal settlements – can be dismissed. It provides rhetorical cover for some of Israel’s most severe crimes.

They Give CLE Credit for This?

It is not particularly shocking that CAMERA is promoting a hoax that provides fraudulent reasons for ignoring Palestinian human rights. This is what they do, and they make no bones about it (even Dershowitz at least tried to camouflage his reliance on the Peters hoax). However, it should be the slightest bit alarming that the State Bar of California has seen fit to give attorneys continuing education credits for listening to a lecture that promotes it.

The California State Bar’s standards for approving MCLE activities are set forth in Rule 3.501 of the Rules of the State Bar, which requires that the activity “relate to legal subjects directly relevant to members of the State Bar and have significant current professional and practical content” (Rule 3.501(A)) and that the provider “have significant professional or academic experience related to its content” (Rule 3.501 (B). Unless California is a hotbed of litigation on the legal status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, it is hard to see how even an accurate lecture on “Who Owns Jerusalem?” could be considered “directly relevant” or to have “significant current professional and practical content”.

Moreover, it seems a bit of a stretch to claim that Gauthier, who, based on a Google search for ‘“Jacques Gauthier” Israel’ (the latter term added to narrow down the vast multitude of people called ‘Jacques Gauthier’ in the world), has never held an academic post, has never published in a peer-reviewed journal of international law, and whose “academic or professional experience” appears to be limited to giving lectures like this to various right-wing Israeli PR organisations, qualifies as having had “significant academic or professional experience” on the subject.

There is no explicit requirement in the rules on approval of MCLE activities that an activity provide an accurate portrayal of applicable law; however, it seems fairly reasonable to assume that the California State Bar would not grant MCLE approval to, say, the hucksters who claim that there is no obligation to pay income taxes, or the right-wing “common law” militias who claim that the Fourteenth Amendment is invalid and that the only competent courts in the US are the “common law courts” they have created. Lest these seem like somewhat extreme examples, it is worthwhile to recall at this point that we are talking about a lecturer who claims that the entire international legal consensus on the status of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem is wrong, and bases this on a blatant distortion of an obscure 1920 document that has long since been superseded, in an effort to deny the Palestinians any right to self-determination or even protection under the Fourth Geneva Convention. This is a serious fraud.

The State Bar of California needs to answer a few questions in this matter:

(a)   Is the “Who Owns Jerusalem” lecture in fact approved as an MCLE activity, as is claimed on its Facebook event page?

(b)   What representations were made in the request for approval?

(c)    Was the request signed by a member of the State Bar of California?

(d)   On what basis was the lecture found to have “direct relevance” and “significant current professional or practical content”?

(e)    How in-depth is the Bar’s review of proposed MCLE activities?

(f)     What safeguards, if any, are in place to prevent the approval of fraudulent providers?

[1] Perhaps thinking the better of allowing open debate on the original Facebook event page, Shulman Gold has since deleted it. However, in anticipation of this, I had already saved the relevant threads to a Word document.

Getting things done

It’s traditional around this time of year to nominate “words of the year“, whether they’re particularly incisive ways of expressing nettlesome concepts or particularly hideous ways of obfuscating bloody realities. I would like to contribute to this fine custom by nominating a candidate for the most inane phrase of the last twenty years:


These three words, in their various permutations, are a mainstay of what passes for a political discourse in the US. Politicians tell us that it’s time to put aside “partisanship” so that we can roll up our sleeves and “get things done”. The media praise those sleeve-rolling politicians as “pragmatists who get things done”. Any time someone raises a principled objection to a policy – say, a multibillion-dollar giveaway to insurance companies – they’re lectured for letting “ideology” get in the way of “getting things done”. There is now even a “movement”, known as No Labels, that presents itself as being about getting things done. “Getting things done”, it seems, is the political class’ equivalent of nirvana, a sublime state of being to which many aspire, but few attain.

Now, politicians wouldn’t say this, speechwriters wouldn’t write it, and pundits wouldn’t praise it unless there was some indication that a significant number of people are inspired by the very notion of “getting things done”.

At this point, a rather obvious question comes up: Do these people really exist? Has our moribund society actually gone so far around the bend that people can be whipped into ecstasy by the mere notion of “doing stuff”? Apparently, there must be. Focus groups are there for a reason.

This raises some even more disturbing questions, such as why? What exactly is the mindset that allows a person to be impressed by this? To me, it brings to mind a condemned man whose executioners are arguing about whether to use the guillotine or the gas chamber: “Enough! Just get it over with!” Judging from the population’s inert response to a government that promised “change” intensifying the most criminal policies of the government they’d just overwhelmingly rejected at the polls, I think this image is probably pretty close to the truth: “Look, guys, I know you’re going to stuff me, and I don’t care anymore. I’m used to it. I’ll even stuff myself. Anything! Just so long as you shut the hell up about it!”

Personally, I seem to be immune to the “getting things done” fever. Call it a mental defect, but my first response when I hear something talk about “getting things done” is: “What things?” and “To whom?”

“Things” is a rather broad category, after all. It applies, essentially, to everything in the universe. There are things that I’d like to see get done, and things I think we should probably give a miss. You wouldn’t, I fancy, be willing to eat a “soup with things in it” (at least not without ascertaining the whereabouts and wellbeing of the neighbours’ pets, and the neighbours themselves).

The maddening non-specificity of “getting things done” raises another question as well: Why not just tell us what things they’re talking about? Why be vague rather than painting a picture? Why not just say, for instance:

‘I’m going to roll up my sleeves and give more of your money to the top 0.5%, and then I’m going to sign an executive order that says I can execute any one of you on a whim if I believe that you’re harming US interests. And then I’m going to make you a captive market for the health insurance companies that 4% of you consider “generally honest and trustworthy”, spend hundreds of billions of dollars destroying other people’s countries, and cut what’s left of your social safety net because we can’t afford it if we’re also going to spend your great grandchildren’s money on a trillion-dollar gift to the banks that kicked you out of your home and raised your credit card interest rate to 90%. And wait till I tell you what I’m going to do after lunch…’

On second thought, I suppose “getting things done” is not without its merits.

Mein neuestes Projekt – „Wiedersehen – ein Reisebericht“

Seit einer Woche arbeite ich an einem spannenden neuen Projekt: mein erstes Buch, Arbeitstitel: Reunion – A Travelogue (Wiedersehen – ein Reisebericht).

Der satirisch-introspektive Reisebericht Reunion (voraussichtliches
Veröffentlichungsdatum der englischsprachigen Ausgabe: Mitte Januar 2011) wird mich auf einer Reise durch
Deutschland, Polen, Österreich, Italien, Spanien, Frankreich und
Tschechien begleiten, wobei ich nach 10jähriger Abwesenheit vom Kontinent die
Bekanntschaft mit vertrauten Orten erneuern und Orte explorieren werde, die ich bislang nicht kennengelernt habe. 30 Tage lang werde ichverschiedene Städte besuchen, mir die örtlichen Infoshops, Antiquariate, Nahrungsquellen und politischen Brennpunkte ansehen und mich mit alten FreundInnen, AktivistInnen und sonst allen unterhalten, die mir über den Weg laufen. 

Das Vorwort zu Reunion, das
von einer surrealen Reise von München nach Berlin im Dezember 1996
erzählt, erschient als Serie auf der Projektseite.

 Wer mitmachen will…

Wer zur Finanzierung des Projekts etwas spenden will oder im Voraus ein
Exemplar zum ermäßigten Preis von USD 12,- kaufen will, kann das hier tun. Ebenfalls wäre ich an Tipps interessiert, was ich mir in den jeweiligen Städten unbedingt mal ansehen sollte oder was sonst alles interessant sein könnte. Wohlgemerkt: "Interessant" ist nicht gleichbedeutend mit angenehm. Auch an interessant-beschissenen Tipps wäre ich natürlich interessiert. 

The Tacitus Principle: How Israel and its Apologists Defend the Indefensible

If there is one piece of ancient wisdom that has never lost even a bit of its validity over the centuries, it is Cornelius Tacitus‘ axiom that, “Crime, once exposed, has no refuge but in audacity.” Indeed, this appears to be the underlying principle of the US-Israeli PR campaign that has been launched in the wake of the almost universally condemned Israeli commando raid on the unarmed Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which carried aid to the Gaza Strip in an effort to break the siege that has strangled the 1.5 million people there since 2007.

Continue reading →

The Tea Party – Or: Laughing our way to fascism

They think Obama’s a socialist. They think climate change is a hoax. They think that Obama’s a Muslim, and that all Muslims are out to get us. A lot of them think the Earth was created sometime before last Tuesday by a magic invisible man who forgot to mention dinosaurs in his history of the universe. Some of them still think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They believe that Obama is a foreign-born Manchurian candidate who wants government “death panels” to decide whether their great aunt gets the operation she needs. They can’t tell the difference between Hitler and the Soviet Union. And they think that all their problems are due to a combination of liberal “socialists”, immigrants, uppity women and minorities, and the Homosexual Agenda. In short, they believe a whole lot of stupid bullshit.

They see their salvation in multimillionaire con artists like Rush Limbaugh and soap opera melodramatist demagogues like Glenn Beck. And every time that the protofascist Sarah Palin says something that makes us long for the eloquence and erudition of George W. Bush, they applaud her even more for enduring the ridicule of the educated classes.

It’s hilarious stuff. Really priceless. But don’t laugh too long, because if the followers of Beck and Palin ever come into any real power, these will be the stormtroopers who burn down mosques and shops suspected of being Muslim-owned, who break the windows of GLBT community institutions and lynch those inside. They’ll be the ones looting gynaecologists’ offices and that independent feminist bookstore you get your copy of Bitch from.

Ha, ha. How entertaining – and if it comes to pass, we will only have our own arrogance, laziness, and tactical stupidity to blame.

They are pissed off, and as much as many of us seem to regard anger as scary and uncouth (preferring, apparently, an attitude of detachment that borders on ennui) – they have every reason to be pissed off. Their jobs have disappeared, their wages have stagnated, their benefits have been plundered, their communities have been decimated, and their kids are probably going to be even worse off than they are. And the politicians, the Times, and the Post would have them believe they’re living in unparalleled prosperity.

They believe a lot of crazy, stupid shit. Of course they do – they wisely don’t trust the mainstream of the corporate media – and the only source they know of that even begins to acknowledge that they have a reason to be angry and scared are fundamentalist hustlers and far-right propaganda outlets like FOX News, Vdare, and talk radio. People are only as smart as the information they have access to. And who’s talking to them every day, empathising with their rage, and giving them a framework – loony as it may be – to understand it? Certainly not us. We laugh at their misspelt signs and bizarre theories, and feel so much smarter, whilst we abandon them to the tender mercies of the Beck-Limbaugh-Palin Gang.

A history lesson is in order here. The Nazis didn’t need a majority to come to power; they just had to make an electoral showing strong enough that the mainstream right had to govern with them in order to govern at all. Goebbels’ propaganda – diabolically brilliant though it was – didn’t achieve that result alone. He was aided by a “Social-Democratic” Party that had sold its working-class base down the river, a Communist Party that took its marching orders from Russians who had no understanding of German politics, and a left that ignored the countryside, preferring the safety of the cities, where they could preach to the choir. In this setting, Hitler,–who was bankrolled by rich industrialists and the deposed Hohenzollern nobility – could plagiarise Left issues and offer distorted versions of Left solutions – and win over the working class and the petite bourgeoisie as the only party that had not (yet) sold them out.

Every fascist success is also a Left failure.

What there is of a Left in the United States suffers from chronic amnesia. There is no real continuity between the struggles and organisations of one generation and the next. We start from scratch every time, and occasionally succumb to the illusion that a few good mass demonstrations and direct actions are all that is needed to have an effect on policy. We forget that there needs to be “someone operating the mimeograph machine”, as Noam Chomsky once put it, and that movement building means going to places where we’re currently absent, and talking to people who may not (at least initially) be happy to see us. These are lessons that the far right has learned. They have people going door to door, managing phone trees, and constantly talking to the people they’re looking to win over, strengthening the allegiances of the existing members and mining the prospects for new ones. They make sure that there isn’t a major issue of the day that people don’t hear their version of. Of course, they also have a bankroll fattened by the Scaifes, Coors, Schlaflys, and other sources of concentrated wealth with reactionary sympathies, a budget of which a real popular movement can only dream.

The Greek Left has passed down knowledge and insight from generation to generation – from the struggle against the Nazi occupation, to the struggle against the Allied-backed fascist-monarchist régime, to the struggle against modern state capitalism. Greece has a mass antiauthoritarian Left movement with real popular support (when the cops come after their demonstrators, people in the neighbourhood can be counted on to provide them with shelter).

We, on the other hand, have the Tea Party.

And a choice to make. Either we can continue to amuse ourselves with the latest idiotic sign or sublimely stupid claim, and chuckle to ourselves over the fact that these people have named themselves after the practise of dipping one’s scrotum in another man’s mouth, or we can start talking to the same people that they get their support from. Some of them are probably unreachable – dyed-in-the-wool, hardcore racists, fascists, and fundamentalists who won’t hear any argument, and who would be saying the same thing even if this society were run for the benefit of the working class and poor majority. Others are just there by default. How many of each there are is anyone’s guess, but if we are actually serious about creating a socially just, participatory society, we will not consider it an academic question.

(Plus ça) Change

Der masturbatorische Philosemitismus – nochmals zu den Antideutschen

Einige haben bemängelt, daß mein satirischer Kurztext zum Thema „Antideutsche“ eben keine politologische Abhandlung mit allerhand Fundstellennachweisen sei. Zwar könnte man dagegen einwenden, daß das schließlich zwei völlig unterschiedliche Genres seien, die unterschiedliche Stilmittel einsetzen und unterschiedliche Ziele verfolgen. Damit wäre eigentlich alles gesagt.

Der Kernfrage – Was sind diese „Antideutschen" eigentlich für welche? – möchte ich mich aber schon etwas ausführlicher zuwenden. Die im folgenden zitierten Äußerungen habe ich repräsentativen antideutschen Presseorganen entnommen, und zwar teils dem Aufsatz „Gegen die antisemitische Internationale“ und Teils den „Aktuell“-Artikeln des antideutschen Verlags „BAHAMAS“. Wer als Antideutsche/r der Ansicht ist, daß diese Quellen nicht repräsentativ für die ganze besondere antideutsche Denkart seien, ist selbstverständlich herzlich eingeladen, in den Kommentaren repräsentativere Quellen zu verlinken (bitte beachten, daß Umlaute nicht angezeigt werden können – woran das liegt, ist mir ein Rätsel, also bitte: Keine Umlaute und keine Sonderzeichen).

Zum antideutschen Judenbild
Für den Nazi bin ich Hassobjekt. Für den Antideutschen bin ich Wichsvorlage.
Für keinen von beiden bin ich Mensch.

Die Antideutschen haben ein wirklich merkwürdiges Verhältnis zum Judentum. Zum Ausdruck kommt dieses Verhältnis u.a. im Untertitel des Aufsatzes Israelkritik – die zarteste Versuchung seit es Antisemitismus gibt: „Warum den Antisemitismus nicht kritisieren kann, wer mit Israel nicht solidarisch ist.“ Die grammatischen Besonderheiten dieser Äußerung sollen uns nicht weiter aufhalten. Wichtig ist zunächst die Frage, was man nach Auffassung der Antideutschen unter „mit Israel solidarisch“ zu verstehen hat. Diese Frage haben die Volksgenossen bei BAHAMAS mehrfach beantwortet. „Solidarität mit Israel, so weiß antideutsche Kritik“, heißt es in einem Beitrag von Tjark Kunstreich, der unter Antideutschen als so etwas wie ein Intellektueller zu gelten scheint, „ist entweder bedingungslos oder sie ist keine.“ So stellt schon „die trotzige Beanspruchung [des Rechts], Israel kritisieren zu dürfen“ einen „Verrat an Israel“ dar.  In der „Verteidigung Israels gegen jede Kritik“, so der Aufruf zu einer antideutschen Konferenz (auch bei BAHAMAS zu finden), liege eine der Hauptaufgaben der antideutschen „Kritik“.
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Der Satz ist in aller Munde: „Israels Existenzrecht darf nicht in Frage gestellt werden.“

Man muß fairerweise anmerken, daß dieser Schwachsinn mitnichten neu ist. So reden sich die Tel-Aviver Regierung und ihre Washingtoner Vorgesetzten schon seit Jahren aus Verhandlungen heraus. Das ist die Wunderwaffe, die immer wieder die Gefahr einer diplomatischen Lösung aus der Welt schafft.
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