Marching Season

(Melody)

Inauguration Day draws near, and the fascists think it’s clear:
Get out your guns, at last our day is here!
Now it’s time to fill the streets, with the sounds of marching feet,
And to make a lot of people live in fear.
‘Sieg Heil’ they’ll yell as they march, looking for something to torch.
‘Remember 1933’ they yell.
But now it’s 2017,
And how that ends, we all have seen.
Which is why it’s time to send them back to hell.

 

CHORUS: Oh, you won’t be marching in Montana with your rifles and your flags
For it’s time you learnt: The people won’t lie down.
And we will not endure your taunts,
Or the swastikas you flaunt.
Remember: If you play with fire, you will burn.
So just stop and count the cost, because the battle will be lost.
Soon you’ll envy all the others, safe at home.

So, when Adolf married Eve, tell me: What lesson did he leave?
How to celebrate a fascist honeymoon:
First you go and you get hitched, then you find yourself a ditch,
And you consummate your marriage with a BOOM.
He’s your leader, take his lead,
His example you should heed.
If you don’t, it will hurt more than if you do.
If you want to go unharmed,
Hit the snooze on your alarm
Just say ‘Fuck it’ and your kneecaps will thank you.

(CHORUS)

Here’s to Marek Edelman, and the Bielski Partisans,
To Durruti and the Panthers and the MIR.
They all fought you way back when, and now we’ll fight you once again,
For your bonehead bullshit isn’t wanted here.
Here’s a piece of free advice:
Don’t expect us to be nice,
And do watch out for surprises from above.
All the people in the know,
Say ‘Bring aloe if you go’:
For every Ribbentrop must meet his molotov.

(CHORUS)

At night when I’m not sleeping

(Melody)

At night when I’m not sleeping,
I see those armoured cars,
The air unfit for breathing –
From my mind it’s never far.
The city in full blackout
Save for the flaming streets
Prepared by brave young compas
Who defended our retreat.
Along the Alameda
We marched, and we weren’t few
Till we reached La Moneda
In the president’s full view.
The voices full suddenly silent,
That had just been raised in song
As the cops began the riot
They’d been preparing all along.
Some things are soon forgiven,
Some sights soon fade to black.
But I’m forever living
The moment they attacked.

 

Armoured cars and water cannons
My heart began to race
Stifling the urge to panic
As poison mist inflamed my face

 

Though by sunup the bastards
Had left no trace of their shame,
To my eyes, the Alameda
Will never look the same.

 

They took my fear and turned it
Into incandescent rage
That in my eyes is burning
Like a thousand gas grenades.
And when I see a cop now,
I clearly see the day
When our lines are advancing
And they all run away.

 

Whenever that proud day might be,
And let it not be far
Perhaps I’ll close my eyes
And see no fucking armoured cars.

A True Statesman

Mr Speaker, these are frightening times. Everywhere I go, I see ordinary people going about their lives gripped by a profound sense of insecurity, even foreboding. As Members of this House, it is our duty, indeed our honour to do something about that. I’d go so far as to say that the desire to improve people’s lives is why we went into politics in the first place. I know that’s why I did.

All my life, both before and since I came to Parliament, I have been guided by my belief that there are no trivial problems. No problem is trivial for those who suffer it. All people want and deserve solutions to the problems that plague their lives, no matter how small those problems may seem to those of us who can claim tens of thousands of pounds in expenses every month.

And just as there is no such thing as a trivial problem, I believe there is no such thing as a drastic solution. Solutions either solve the problem, or they are no solutions at all. All anyone wants, and all anyone can ask for, is a solution that does what it says on the tin.

That is why I, as a member of the opposition, am proud to stand in solidarity with our Government in their bold and innovative proposals to deal with the problem of young criminals nicking things out of shops. Trivial, you say? Then you must not be a shopkeeper.

I have disagreed with the Government on many things, and I am sure I will disagree with them on many more in the future, but when someone gets something right, it is incumbent upon us to acknowledge that. The Government recognise that the only way to deal with this problem is to strike at the root. The Government seek to cure the disease rather than just treating the symptoms by asking the obvious questions: Where do these criminals congregate? Where do they plan their attacks on our nation’s economy? Where do they find a safe haven when the deed is done?

I have in my hands the Government’s White Paper, which summarises the findings of their extraordinarily exhaustive review of the available evidence. I hope that everyone in this House, including those who disagree with the Government’s plan, has at least taken the time to read it, because it deserves to be read.

After months of investigation, the Government’s researchers came to the conclusion that these criminals hide and conspire in the very symbol of innocence itself: Our nation’s playgrounds. It is from these cradles of our children’s dreams that they launch their daily attacks on our economy and on the brave men and women on duty every day at our nation’s off-licences. Greater cynicism than this is hard to imagine.

I have yet to hear any opponent of the Government’s proposal deny any of what I have just said, and so I believe I am entirely justified in taking it as common ground. We are all in agreement that there is a problem. We are in agreement about what it is. We are all in agreement that it is serious and that something must be done. Am I mistaken?

I would like it noted in Hansard that not even the left wing of our party disagrees with the Government’s and my analysis of the issue.

Ah. I’ve just been informed that he’s popped out to the lav. Well, we can’t deny him that, can we?

So all of us – supporters and opponents of the Government’s plan alike – agree about the nature of the problem, with one possible exception. One cannot help but notice, however, the gulf between the well-reasoned, thoroughly researched proposals offered by the Government and the simplistic response offered by the opponents of the plan.

Do they offer any alternatives? No, at least they offer no alternatives that are worthy of the name. All they say is that it’s ‚wrong‘ to put landmines in children’s playgrounds. They question whether it’s ‚moral‘. They claim it goes against their ‚principles‘.

‚Principled objections‘ are what separates the pontificating moralist from the statesman. We should always be suspicious of these appeals to principle, because they eliminate options. Moralists may have no problem eliminating potential solutions from consideration based on their ‚principles‘, but statesmen have no such luxury.

Imagine where we would be if statesmen were guided by a politics of principles rather than one of pragmatism and possibility. It hardly bears thinking about, for it is a world where the Spanish royal family might even today be denied their rightful place on the throne, a world where the arts would forever be impoverished because Picasso would never have been inspired to paint his masterpiece Guernica, Shostakovich might never have composed his Leningrad symphony, and Churchill might never have had the good fortune to be Prime Minister in what might never have had the chance to be Britain’s finest hour.

Where moralists can see nothing but maimed bodies and ruined lives, statesmen see the enrichment of history.

And whilst there are no trivial problems, there are always trivial obstacles, and statesmen do not allow trivial obstacles to deter them from great solutions. Great solutions like the Government’s Safe Playgrounds Initiative.

I do not wish to seem heartless here. The opponents of the Safe Playgrounds Initiative do not hold a monopoly on humanity. I, too, feel strongly that innocent lives must be protected, and I would not support the Initiative if the Government had not gone to such great lengths to craft safeguards in order to do just that.

Because I trust that everyone here has read the proposal, I note merely for the record the scientifically tested fail-safe mechanism that is built in to the proposal. According to the proposal’s safeguards, the mines will be used according to a strict formula, and will be laid in playgrounds in direct proportion to their proximity to council estates and comprehensive schools. But it does not stop there. The proposal further provides that not a single mine will be laid in playgrounds belonging to estates in  a council tax band higher than F.

This is how statesmen show humanity, not by closing doors, but by opening the window to opportunity.

The opponents of the Safe Playgrounds Initiative, or, to put the matter more bluntly, the proponents of inaction in the face of the plight of our great British shopkeepers, seek to terrify us with spectres of limbs and lives lost, and have even soared to heights of alliterative wizardry to deem the Safe Playgrounds Initiative the ‚charnel house of childhood‘. This pathetically pornographic, petty pusillanimity, Mr Speaker, is synonymous with siding with those who are sullying the sanctity of our stores. They have decided to take up the cause of our enemies. Shame on all of them.

It is time that we all came together and did our bit to make Britain once again safe for shopkeepers, and that, Mr Speaker, is why I urge this House to support the Government’s motion and implement the Safe Playgrounds Initiative.

CounterPunch or Suckerpunch?

How ‚America’s Best Political Newsletter‘ Mainstreams the Far Right

Introduction

CounterPunch, which bills itself as ‚America’s best political newsletter‘, offering ‚independent investigative journalism‘, tends to figure quite prominently in the reading lists of left-leaning activists, who doubtlessly appreciate its consistent antiwar stance, its critical analysis on US economic and foreign policy and US-sponsored Israeli apartheid, and the regular contributions from such leading Left writers as John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Paul Street, Jeremy Scahill, and Tariq Ali. Indeed, CounterPunch generally tends to be thought of as a Left media outlet. However, in writing for, and sharing articles published on, CP, Leftists are unwittingly helping to promote the agenda of the far right. Continue reading →

Understanding the Chilean Elections: Part II, Pinochet’s Worthy Successors

Chile, ¡la alegría ya viene!

Chile, the joy is coming!
– NO Vote campaign jingle

Nos prometieron que llegaría la alegría
pero mintieron, gobiernan pa una minoría.
Nos oprimieron con injusticias cada día,
pero siguieron naciendo hijos de la rebeldía.

They promised us that the joy was coming,
but they lied – they govern for a minority.
They oppressed us with injustices every day,
but the children of rebellions kept being born.

Vamos, Conspirazión

In the official narrative, Pinochet’s handover of his office to Patricio Aylwin (himself an unabashed supporter of the Pinochet coup), is known as the retorno a la democracia (‚return to democracy‘). Painted on walls throughout Chile, however, we find the words Aún vivimos en dictadura (‚We’re still living in a dictatorship‘).

In the book discussed in Part I, Chilean social historian Gabriel Salazar explains:

 

Los partidos políticos, golpeados como estaban, flotaron agarrados al vértigo de nuestro movimiento (aunque algunos pretenden convencernos de lo contrario) hasta que llegamos a 1990. Y fue allí entonces, en 1990, cuando, olvidando nuestra laboriosa autonomía y nuestra fuerza, depositamos de nuevo nuestra confianza en la clase política civil…Como si ‚ella‘ hubiera sido la ‚gran‘ vencedora en la retirada de Pinochet.

Y hemos estado más de 20 años esperando que ‚ella‘ mostrara su declamada vena democrática, su supuesta lealtad a la voluntad soberana del pueblo. O por lo menos su profesión de fe nacionalista.

The political parties, beaten as they were, were dragged along by the current of our movement (although some would have us believe otherwise) until we reached 1990. And it was then, in 1990, that, forgetting our hard-fought autonomy and our strength, we once again put our trust in the civilian political class…As if they had been the great victors in Pinochet’s departure.

And we have been waiting for more than 20 years now for them to show their oft-proclaimed democratic credentials, their alleged loyalty to the sovereign will of the people. Or at least their profession of nationalist faith.

(ellipses and emphasis in original)

Continue reading →

Understanding the Chilean Elections: Part I, Setting the Stage

Si la presidenta no te cuenta la pulenta, lo hago yo
Chile está en venta desde que la Concerta ganó el NO
Aylwin, Lagos y también Frei dieron paso a Bachelet
Donde el mercado se hace rey y el subcontrato se hace ley
Mi canto no es de mala fe, tengo evidencia suficiente
Pa’ condenar a muerte a veinte dirigentes malolientes
Solamente basta con mirar las calles desde el Transantiago
4 millones de detalles cotidianos
Me confirman que la ciudadanía está pintada
Elección tras elección, la votación no cambia nada.

If President Bachelet won’t tell you what’s up, I’ll have a go:
Chile’s been for sale ever since the Concertación won one for NO.
Aylwin, Lagos, and then Frei made way for Bachelet,
where the market is king and outsourcing’s the big thing.
I’m not singing in bad faith. I’ve got sufficient evidence
to condemn to death twenty foul-smelling leaders.
All you need to do is look through the windows of Santiago’s buses,
4 million pieces of evidence every day,
confirming that the people are are the ones that always take hits,
we’ve had vote after vote, and the elections never change shit.
– Infórmate, Subverso

 

The international coverage of the recent Chilean elections, particularly in the English-language media, has been in keeping with the standards of depth and quality that have consistently been observed by the English-language press in its reporting on the current cycle of mass popular mobilisations that began roughly in 2011. That is to say that it has not been very good.

Guardian readers, for example, were presented with the image of a democratic process leading to a popular, implicitly left, victory in the form of the first round re-election of ex-president Michelle Bachelet Jeria and the entry into the National Congress of former university student union leader Camila Vallejo Dowling. The groundwork for this superficial and misleading picture has been laid over the past two years by articles that equate Vallejo (and, occasionally, her fellow élite university students Giorgio Jackson and Camilo Ballesteros) to the student movement as a whole, as if they (or their organisations) had in fact initiated the student mobilisations (they didn’t) and were the undisputed leaders of the movement (they never were). The much larger contingent, the secondary students, grouped in the horizontally organised ACES (Asamblea Coordinadora de Estudiantes Secundarios – Secondary Students‘ Coordinating Assembly), have been as thoroughly ignored by the foreign press as they have been by the Chilean government and the dominant media oligopoly there. Similarly, one would search in vain for any mention, let alone detailed reporting or analysis, on the other major popular movements that have mobilised in recent years, which all share with the majority of the student movement the desire to sweep away the repressive, neoliberal institutional legacy of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet Ugarte and refound Chilean society on a new, egalitarian basis. The Chilean political and economic system is in a profound crisis of legitimacy – one utterly unaffected by the recent election, which was boycotted by 51% of the electorate – but readers of English-language media won’t hear about it. Continue reading →

Plumbing the Depths of Greta Berlin’s „Secret Group“

Part I of a Series on Racism and Infiltration

In the aftermath of the racist tweet and multiple, contradictory „explanations“ by Greta Berlin, much attention has been focussed on the letter published as an appendix to Larry Derfner’s second article on the subject, in which a number of purported members of the „secret group“ corroborate Berlin’s claim that nothing untoward or anti-Semitic was going on in the group in question. Benjamin Doherty revealed, in successive articles on Electronic Intifada, that a number of the signatories were in fact sockpuppets controlled by one Ofer Engel. Another central figure, however, has largely avoided the spotlight.

Before we proceed, however, it is important to keep in mind that the following is not about any one individual, though a number of individuals will be given their time to shine. No, this is about the Palestinian solidarity movement as a whole: What we are and seek to do as a movement, and those who would hijack us for their own purposes.

Yani Haigh and The Trollpen

Jon "Yani" Haigh: Not One for Subtlety

Jon „Yani“ Haigh: Not One for Subtlety

The final signatory on the „nothing to see here“ letter is a Queensland web designer and photographer by the name of Jon „Yani“ Haigh. He is, in Facebook terminology, the „owner“ of the „secret group“ Any Topic NOT Israel (and a regular in a number of related groups), and operates a number of anonymous and aesthetically nondescript websites, including thebestplans.org and peacearchitects.org.

This article, the first in a series dealing with the activities and associates of Jon „Yani“ Haigh, will seek to provide a brief introduction to Haigh himself, and his close associate Kamal Nawash of the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism. In future articles, we will look at other figures on the „Free Muslims“ Board, including the inimitable Ray Hanania, and other organisations and agencies with which Haigh and his associates collaborate.

Jon "Yani" Haigh: Jews suck

Jon „Yani“ Haigh: Jews suck

A recurring theme in his posts is that „Jews suck“, and can only redeem themselves by being baptised Christian, and by boycotting Jewish community institutions and events (along the lines of Herskowitz‘ schul picket). Alternatively, repentant Jews may simply send money to peacearchitects.org. Conflict, unsurprisingly, follows Haigh like the CIA follows Julian Assange.

The same can be said of other regulars of the „secret group“ and affiliated groups, such as fellow signatory Kyle O’Laughlin, who divides his time in Any Topic NOT Israel fairly evenly between complaining that African-American pride is welcomed whilst „White Pride“ is – shockingly enough – considered racist and posting links together with his comrade James Linden Rose on how the KKK and other white supremacist groups are in fact Jewish front groups designed to make white people look bad and thwart Ron Paul’s perennial presidential run.

"KKKyle" O'Laughlin Laments That "White Pride" is Considered Racist

„KKKyle“ O’Laughlin Laments That „White Pride“ is Considered Racist

Whilst the groups Any Topic NOT Israel, Our Land, and Free Muslims all have anodyne descriptions about getting to know each other and coming up with plans for peace, etc., and mission statements banning racism and flaming, the groups themselves bear little resemblance to these noble sentiments. In point of fact, the groups operate as a breeding and training ground for trolls, particularly those (like O’Laughlin, Linden Rose, and Haigh) of the white supremacist variety, mixed together with a few of the more vocal Zionist trolls. There, they engage in their preferred versions of racism, and hurl accusations back and forth about collaboration, snitching, and participation in world conspiracies of one sort or another, with little to no moderation in sight. One does have to wonder what the purpose of creating and administering a network of racist trollpens would be.

Greta Berlin, as luck would have it, is a member in several of these groups, though the exact

James Linden Rose on "Rule By Jew"

James Linden Rose on „Rule By Jew“

circumstances of her joining them will likely remain unclear, given the fog of bullshit that surrounds her and her cohorts‘ descriptions of the groups.

 The Company He Keeps

             Yani Haigh, it must be said, is a rather embarrassing person to have vouch for one’s anti-racist credentials. Indeed, were it not for his signature on the „nothing to see here“ letter and the creepily detailed set of mindmaps with which, by his own account, he monitors over 200 Facebook groups „to track troublemakers“, he would be an annoying boor of little consequence; he would merely be someone to avoid sitting in front of at the Gabba when the footie’s on, but would not merit much attention beyond that.

However, over the course of the past week, facts have emerged to place Haigh’s combination of racist boorishness and meticulous surveillance into a broader context. One of the websites Haigh designed and operates, thebestplans.org, is that of an organisation founded by one Kamal Nawash, Esq., Haigh’s employer and fellow member of the groups in question.

Kamal Nawash is a Palestinian-American lawyer, with an LL.M. from American University’s Washington College of Law.

After a stint as counsel for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), in 2003, apparently with the support of hard-right Republican activist Grover Norquist, Nawash stood for election to a seat in the Virginia state Senate. His Senate run was ultimately unsuccessful due to the general climate of scapegoating and criminalisation of Muslim and Arab life in the US.

Some might be led by such an experience to campaign against racism and bigotry. Not Kamal Nawash. Shortly after his electoral defeat, Nawash founded the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terror (and later, its Facebook counterpart, the group „Free Muslims“), an organisation largely dedicated to providing public relations cover to US government repression of the Arab and Muslim community. One view one finds repeated throughout the autobiographies of the Free Muslims Board members is that it is Muslim ideology – and not, say, decades of murderous US and US-sponsored violence against them and their countries – that is at fault for any problems in the Muslim community and the Middle East.

In 2004, the Free Muslims organised a March Against Terror, which was endorsed by a diverse cross-section of people and organisations dedicated to bigotry against Arabs and Muslims (such as Daniel Pipes), to organisations and people dedicated to more general bigotry (RIGHTALK.com), to fellow alibi Muslims such as Zuhdi Jasser of the „American Islamic Forum for Democracy“, to a wide assortment of right-wing organisations that no one had ever heard of and/or offer no proof that they actually exist (such as the „Government of Free Vietnam“, made up of former officials from the US puppet dictatorship who claim to be the legitimate government on account of having been elected fair and square to the position by four US presidents in a row).

Apparently, Nawash’s March Against Terror (and explicitly in support of Bush) caught a few eyes in Washington, because, in 2005, he was rewarded by the Bush White House with an appointment as US envoy to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Around the same time (2003-2007), Nawash began contributing to FrontPagemag.com, the far-right blog run by Stalinist-turned-fascist David Horowitz, who also operates the neo-McCarthyite campus group CampusWatch and the right-wing private intelligence organisation Discover The Networks. Nawash’s articles include titles such as We Are So Sorry for 9-11, French Riots: A Gift from the Open Borders Lobby, and the KCNA-esque Free Muslims Congratulate President George Bush.

This period in the life of Kamal Nawash has been very helpfully chronicled by none other than Daniel Pipes himself. As of 11 September 2003, Nawash earned a strong blast of scorn from the Pipes for suggesting that the Bush administration’s „anti-terrorism“ (i.e., pro-repression) plan raised concerns about „basic Constitutional rights“:

Of particular interest (given that several 9/11 hijackers used a student cover), is Nawash’s objection to the U.S. government tracking foreign students, protesting (nonsensically) that this step would indicate „a willingness to restrict scientific knowledge and scholarship to certain classes of people and to flout, basically, principles of academic freedom.“ Sounds like this man opposes the war on terrorism; in any case, he sure makes for a strange Republican candidate.

Throughout 2003, Pipes had nothing but contempt for Nawash, who was raising objections to the Clinton-era Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which allows the executive branch unilaterally to ban organisations as „terrorist organisations“, and criminalises anyone associated with them, criticising the designation of Palestinian groups disfavoured by the US regime as „terrorist“, and generally raising fairly mild questions about the human rights implications of the „war on terror“. Of US Senator John Warner (R-VA), who had endorsed Nawash’s candidacy for the Virginia state Senate, Pipes wrote: „Virginians might wish to inform their senior senator that he is, to put it mildly, going out on a limb on this one.“

By 2004, however, another tune began to be blown on the Pipes. In noting Nawash’s formation of the Free Muslims group, Pipes writes:

It sounds good and it has been getting lots of good publicity, but given Nawash’s record on terrorism, as established here (his dismissing the concept, his close ties to a person alleged to fund terrorism), I need to be convinced that this leopard has changed his spots.

By 2005, we find Pipes explicitly endorsing the Free Muslims March Against Terror, particularly chuffed that one Khaleel Mohammed „denounc[ed] CAIR“.

Whilst Pipes begins expressing sceptical endorsement (and Pipes has no other kind of endorsement on offer for Arabs and Muslims), by 2006, some within the exceedingly mild-mannered antidiscrimination group CAIR were expressing concern with Nawash and the way in which his remarks were eagerly snapped up by the likes of Daniel Pipes.

In two short years, Kamal Nawash went, in the mind of racist „smearcaster“ Daniel Pipes, from something akin to the 20th hijacker to one of the Good Muslims. A remarkable transformation, to say the least.

Pipes‘ timeline ends in 2008, but one can imagine that he would see no reason to reconsider his assessment in the light of subsequent events. In 2011, Nawash endorsed the neo-McCarthyite hearings chaired by Rep. Peter King on the „radicalisation of American Muslims“, and condemned the Muslim and Arab-American antidiscrimination organisations for their opposition to King’s efforts to further scapegoat and criminalise the Muslim community. When it was revealed this year that the NYPD had, for years, been carrying out a massive, illegal programme of spying on virtually the entire Muslim community of the Five Boroughs, Nawash, along with representatives of other Muslim astroturf groups organised a joint rally in support of the NYPD spying effort with none other than Rep. King himself.

Looking at this trajectory, one might be excused for speculating that Nawash’s conversion from moderate Republican and defender of Muslim and Arab-American rights to Pipes pet was not entirely free of opportunism.

Opportunism, as we will see as this series progresses, is something of an overarching theme.

*    *     *    *    *   *    *

UPDATE: In the twelve hours since this post went live, someone temporarily shut down my Facebook account, and there was an attempt to hack this blog. It appears someone might have succeeded in changing my blog password, thus preventing me getting in. All appears well now, but it does seem that someone is not exactly chuffed to bits that this article was published. They will be positively unecstatic about the subsequent parts of this series.

Meanwhile, Ali Abunimah has published his „final word“ on the debacle that gave rise to this series:

Should I have been more explicit about what I saw? Perhaps, but I had my reasons to take a more restrained approach. I had hoped that by sounding the alarm, and signaling that Berlin’s explanations were not credible, Berlin herself would begin to take the issue seriously, and that the new Free Gaza board would do the same. Sadly that did not happen.

The most dispiriting spectacle over the past two weeks was seeing Berlin disseminating, and a small group of people embellishing, outlandish stories intended to distract and shift the blame on to those who were asking for accountability.

Almost every day, I’ve received emails alleging, among other things, that I am a “Zionist agent,” that I’ve been “conned” by Israel into attacking Berlin so that Israel can steal Gaza’s natural gas, that I am engaged in a “vendetta” because Berlin endorsed a book I didn’t like, and so on. A few of these messages came from people I had previously believed to be reasonable and sensible, which added to the disappointment.

Read the full article here.

Bekah Wolf of Mondoweiss has also come out with a piece very germane to the topic of this series, documenting what some of us had been saying since this began: This wasn’t just one accidental tweet. Alas, Greta Berlin has form.

Some people have come to Greta’s defense, accepting her assertion that this was a technical mistake, that she did not support the content of the video, and that those who have criticized her response to the “mistake” are on a witch hunt. I’d like to acknowledge that the Free Gaza Movement was not synonymous with Greta Berlin; some of my good friends and people I deeply respect were leaders of that movement and their work and commitment should in no way be minimized by this.

Setting aside Greta’s woefully inadequate explanations for the tweet (of which there were several), the fact remains: Greta is an active administrator of a Facebook group that is full of unabashedly anti-Semitic rhetoric and has been called out before by activists for it but has never done anything to challenge or stop it. Since the controversy broke, the “Our Land” group has attempted to cover some of its tracks. The fact that Greta remains an active administrator of a Facebook group that accommodates this kind of bigotry raises serious issues about her commitment to building an anti-racist movement committed to justice and equality. Moreover, her unprincipled, vicious andIslamophobic attacks on the Palestinians who have called her to task for her behavior should alarm all of us who are committed to Palestine solidarity work.

The full article can be found here.

The „B“ in Obama Stands for „Balls“

Almost four years into the carnival of horrors that is the Obama administration, there are still delusional people out there who think Obama just needs to „grow a pair“.

There are a lot of things that can be said about Obama, but to say that he lacks balls is to announce that one lacks contact with reality. We’re talking about the guy who ran on „protect whistleblowers“ only to declare an unprecedented war on whistleblowers the minute he was elected. The guy who ran on „protect civil liberties“ only to make Bush II’s human rights record look good. The guy who brazenly claims to have outlawed torture despite the fact that torture was already outlawed and his own executive order explicitly allows torture. This is the guy who accepted the Nobel Peace prize with a speech on how important it was to him to keep killing lots of people.

This is the guy who is so openly laughing at all of us that he rammed an attack on Social Security through as a „Jobs Bill“, and then followed it up by championing a law that legalised securities fraud by calling it the „JOBS ACT„. This is the guy whose administration helped coordinate the violent nationwide crackdown on Occupy.

From the minute he started choosing the cabinet to the minute his administration announced that it has the right to execute any of us without trial, Obama has been running around the globe screaming „FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! BOW DOWN, MOTHERFUCKERS! I’M YOUR GOD NOW!“

Grow a pair? The man has balls as big as all outdoors.

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.