Archive | February 7th, 2014

Socialist Kshama Sawant sworn in as Seattle city council member

  • NOVANEWS
  • by Associated Press
  • SEATTLE — A former community college professor who won a surprising citywide election last year was sworn in Monday as the first socialist City Council member in Seattle’s modern history.

Kshama Sawant of the Socialist Alternative party took her oath and served in her first City Council hearing, then gave a speech to throngs of supporters in a ceremonial swearing-in at a packed City Hall.

“I will do my utmost to represent the disenfranchised and the excluded, the poor and the oppressed, by fighting for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, affordable housing, and taxing the super-rich for a massive expansion of public transit and education,” said Sawant, 41.

Even in this liberal city, Sawant’s win surprised many. The incumbent, Richard Conlin, was backed by the city’s political establishment. But bolstered by a grass-roots campaign that harped on economic inequality, Sawant toppled the 16-year incumbent.

“Here in Seattle, political pundits are asking about me: Will she compromise? Can she work with others? Of course, I will meet and discuss with representatives of the establishment. But when I do, I will bring the needs and aspirations of working-class people to every table I sit at, no matter who is seated across from me,” she said.

But just days into the new year, Seattle’s new mayor, Ed Murray, has already had a public spat with her. Last week, Murray issued an executive order to raise the minimum wage for city workers to $15 an hour, a move that would affect about 600 workers. Sawant was quoted in The Seattle Times as saying she that Murray’s move “shows the mayor’s office is feeling the pressure from below to act on the rhetoric from the campaign.”

Murray responded with a lengthy public letter on his Facebook page.

“My commitments during the campaign, including on the minimum wage issue, were just that—sincere commitments—not just rhetoric, as your quote implies,” he wrote.

On Monday, though, the mood was celebratory and resolute.

“I wear the badge of socialist with honor,” she exclaimed.

Seattle City Council staff estimate she’s the first socialist to be elected to office in 100 years.

Murray, who led the efforts to legalized gay marriage in Washington state over two decades, was also ceremonially sworn in Monday. The veteran state lawmaker defeated incumbent Mike McGinn.

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Zio-Wahhabi Regime behind terrorism in Pakistan

NOVANEWS

A prominent Pakistani cleric says Saudi Arabia is behind increasing terrorist attacks in the South Asian country.

Sayyed Shafaqat Hussein Shirazi, the deputy secretary general of Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, which is the largest Shia political organization in Pakistan, made the remarks during a interview with Press TV on Thursday.

“Not one day passes without a martyr falling in Karachi, in Peshawar, in all Pakistani cities. If we have thirty days in a month, we have more than 100 martyrs every month. And they are being killed by the Saudi support. Saudi Arabia is supporting those who are behind these attacks,” Shirazi stated.

The cleric went on to say that some Pakistani officials have been practicing policies favored by Riyadh for their own personal gains.

Thousands of Pakistanis have lost their lives in terrorist attacks in recent years across the country. Terrorists target Muslim communities, especially Shia population.

About 400 Shia Muslims, including many professors, doctors and schoolchildren, were slain in 2013 in Pakistan, and dozens have been killed since the beginning of 2014, Human Rights Watch says.

According to former Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik, the anti-Shia terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is reportedly sponsored by Saudi Arabia, has been involved in 80 percent of terrorist incidents in the country.

Last month, a top Malaysian Sunni cleric said a plot involving the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia had been hatched to cause sectarian conflict among Muslims.

“Saudi Arabia has been influenced by a US and European political game,” Abdul Hadi Awang told Press TV on January 18.

“The Saudis and other Arab countries have turned their lands into Western bases. They do this not to support Islam but to gain power,” added Awang, who is the president of the Parti Islam SeMalaysia, an Islamic political party in Malaysia.

“This makes us (feel) sorry that the Saudi government has been made to serve Israeli and Western interests,” he stated.

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47 years a slave: A new perspective on the occupation

NOVANEWS
Very few struggles in history have centered on how a nation should  treat a third group of people, but there are strong parallels between black  slavery and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
Palestinian workers from Hebron at Tarqumiya Checkpoint

Palestinian workers from Hebron at Tarqumiya Checkpoint. Photo by Emil Salman

Open Haaretz on any given day. Half or three quarters of its news items will invariably revolve around the same two topics: people struggling to protect the good name of Israel, and people struggling against its violence and injustices.

An almost random example: On December 17, 2013, one could read, on a single Haaretz page, Chemi Shalev reporting on the decision of the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions in order to “honor the call of Palestinian civil society.” In response, former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers dubbed the decision “anti-Semitic in effect, if not in intent.”

On the same page, MK Naftali Bennett called the bill to prevent outside funding of left-wing NGOs in Israel “too soft.” The proposed law was meant to protect Israel and Israeli soldiers from “foreign forces” which, in his view, work against the national interest of Israel through those left-wing nonprofits (for Bennett and many others in Israel, to defend human rights is to be left-wing).The Haaretz editorial, backed by an article by regular columnist Sefi Rachlevsky, referred to the treatment of illegal immigrants by the Israeli government as shameful, with Rachlevsky calling the current political regime “radical rightist-racist-capitalist,” because “it tramples democracy and replaces it with fascism.” The day after, it was the turn of Alan Dershowitz to call the American Studies Association vote to boycott Israel shameful, “for singling out the Jew among nations. Shame on them for applying a double standard to Jewish universities” (December 18).

This mudslinging has become a normal spectacle to the bemused eyes of ordinary Israelis and Jews around the world. But what’s astonishing is that this mud is being thrown by Jews at Jews. Indeed, the valiant combatants for the good name of Israel miss an important point: the critiques of Israel in the United States are increasingly waged by Jews, not anti-Semites. The initiators and leaders of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement are such respected academics as Judith Butler, Jacqueline Rose, Noam Chomsky, Hilary Rose and Larry Gross, all Jews.

If Israel is indeed singled out among the many nations that have a bad record in human rights, it is because of the personal sense of shame and embarrassment that a large number of Jews in the Western world feel toward a state that, by its policies and ethos, does not represent them anymore. As Peter Beinart has been cogently arguing for some time now, the Jewish people seems to have split into two distinct factions: One that is dominated by such imperatives as “Israeli security,” “Jewish identity” and by the condemnation of “the world’s double standards” and “Arabs’ unreliability”; and a second group of Jews, inside and outside Israel, for whom human rights, freedom, and the rule of law are as visceral and fundamental to their identity as membership to Judaism is for the first group. Supreme irony of history: Israel has splintered the Jewish people around two radically different moral visions of Jews and humanity.

If we are to find an appropriate analogy to understand the rift inside the Jewish people, let us agree that the debate between the two groups is neither ethnic (we belong to the same ethnic group) nor religious (the Judith Butlers of the world are not trying to push a new or different religious dogma, although the rift has a certain, but imperfect, overlap with the religious-secular positions). Nor is the debate a political or ideological one, as Israel is in fact still a democracy. Rather, the poignancy, acrimony and intensity of the debate are about two competing and ultimately incompatible conceptions of morality. This statement is less trivial than it sounds.

For a long time, the debate between different factions of Jews was framed as an ideological, strategic or political one (“when, how and what to negotiate with Palestinians”). But with time, in the face of the systematic colonization of the land, the pervasive exclusion of Arabs from the body collective, the Judaization of Israel, the tone of the debate has changed and been replaced by a question about the moral nature of Zionism. Moral evaluations – whether we think people are “good” or “bad,” “just” or “unjust,” “worthy” or “unworthy” – are more fundamental to judgment than political opinion or aesthetic taste. In that sense, moral evaluations are far less negotiable than any other form of evaluation.

I will call one group the “security as morality” group. For this group, Israel is twice morally beyond reproach. First, because Jews were the super victim of history and because of Israel’s inherently vulnerable state amidst a sea of enemies. The status of victim – whether potential or actual – disculpates Israel from the crimes of the strong. Second, because its weakness commits it to the forceful defense of its military security, its land and its identity.

Surveying history, the “security as morality” group observes that might has regularly been right, and that Israel is no less entitled to its violent policies than America or other countries have been to their own. For this group, then, Israel is exonerated by the fact that it’s at once a victim and doesn’t have a worse historical record than the strong nations of the world. Israel’s morality becomes defined by the outrages of its enemies, Nazis or Hamas, and by the worst deeds of the enlightened nations.

The second group of Jews derives its positions from universal standards of justice, and from the observation that Israel is fast moving away from the pluralistic, multiethnic, pacific democracies of the world. Israel stopped being a valid source of identification for these Jews not because they are self-hating, but because many of them have been actively involved, in deed or thought, in the liberalization of their respective societies – that is, in the extension of human, economic and social rights to a wider variety of groups.

From the standpoint of that struggle, successfully waged in most Western countries, Israel makes an unacceptable demand: it requests from Jews loyalty to its policies, claims to have a moral and political status superior to that of its neighbors, yet consistently violates the human rights of Palestinians, Arabs, and liberal Judaism; uses violence; violates international law; and practices state-sanctioned discrimination toward non-Jews. For liberal Jews, Israel bullies like a Goliath, yet persists in wanting to be admired as a David.

Interestingly enough, there are not many episodes in history where groups have fought over moral issues. Most struggles in history are usually connected to belief and dogmas (e.g., religious wars), economic interests (class struggles) or to political power (nationalist liberation movements). Very few struggles have been about a moral debate on how a group or nation should treat a third group of people.

There is, however, one well-known episode of history in which a single group divided itself in two sides around the moral question of how a third group of people should be treated, and this episode was the American antislavery movement.

In using this example as a soundboard to think about the moral debate that is dividing the Jewish people, I do not claim that slavery and the occupation are equivalent. They differ significantly. But there are some analogies, in that the Jewish world has become splintered around two intractable moral claims about the treatment of Palestinians. An analogy is nothing more than a tool to probe thinking. Suppose someone didn’t know what a tiger was. If I had to explain what a tiger is, I’d say: “It is like a lion, only with stripes.” In giving this answer, I remain fully aware that a tiger is not a lion, but only like a “lion,” and this is because a tiger is closer to a lion than it is to a fish, a bird or a horse. An analogy helps us imagine and think about something we do not fully grasp, even when that analogy is an imperfect one.

The debate about the occupation is not equivalent to the debate about slavery, but it bears, here and there, some resemblance to it. And it is for this reason that I use it as a strategy for thinking.

****

The United States was established as a British colony in the 17th and 18th centuries. Slavery was a crucial part of the violent colonization of the American territory. Great Britain then allowed the slave trade with the Caribbean, the Americas and Brazil, thus enabling the wide use of slaves in the vast and powerful plantation system in the South and in cities such as New York. Both the North and South enjoyed the benefits of labor produced by slaves in houses, farms, land and small workshops. At the beginning of the 19th century, however, Britain – who had a vast and brutal Empire – forbade the transatlantic commerce of slaves. This was because Britain, like much of Europe, was caught in its own contradictions: it became aware that the violent use of other people went against the value of “progress” and “enlightenment” it otherwise used to justify its own superiority over world populations.

Arguments against slavery were advanced in the 18th century, but only in the 19th century did the argument against slavery gain momentum and become widespread, especially among city dwellers. Many reasons were offered for the striking change of attitude, the most obvious being the circulation of enlightenment ideas about the basic rights of human beings; the emergence of mass circulated newspapers and novels that depicted stories of suffering and made empathy into a civilized emotion; the increasing recognition that distant strangers were human beings equal and similar in rights. The eminent historian of slavery, David Brion Davis, claims that, ultimately, it was a moral argument that compelled England to claim the Transatlantic Commerce of Slaves illegal, and it was a moral argument that gave rise to what historians have called “humanitarian sensibility” in Britain and in the United States – that is, a new awareness for the suffering of strangers and for the sacredness of the human person.

In the United States, once the American Constitution was written, many started to question the flagrant contradiction between the ideals it endorsed and the brutal domination of an entire group of people that slavery represented. Christians (Quakers and Methodists mostly) joined in this struggle as well, because some slaves were converted to Christianity – and as Christians, they had a soul, and if they had a soul, they could not be animals and were by definition free. (As early as 1772, James Somersett, a black man who had escaped from his master, was freed by the judge because the slave had been baptized.)

In the United States, abolishing slavery proved to be a difficult task, as the internal slave system was very lucrative (slaves being sold within the American territory rather than imported) and so much of the plantation economy relied on slave labor. But the most significant obstacle was the proslavery ideology that was everywhere: in schoolbooks, political speeches, Church sermons, laws and fictional literature. As is always the case in history, once a group of people controls economic, human or territorial resources, it justifies its domination over a group with an ideology.

What is ideology? The set of beliefs and stories a group that dominates another tells to itself in order to make its domination seem natural, deserved and necessary (for example, if Jews are both powerful and dangerous, it is easy to justify their persecution; or if Mizrahim are stupid and uneducated, they naturally deserve to live in the periphery). When the ideology is pervasive, present in different arenas (school textbooks, politics, newspapers) and when it is sustained by concrete economic and political interests, ideology becomes an automatic way of thinking, an irresistible way of explaining reality and acting – or not acting – in it.

In order to defend and justify their domination over Africans, the proslavery camp used a number of arguments and diffused them widely: the first argument was a hierarchical view of human beings. Whites were unquestioningly superior to Africans, who were compared to animals, and as animals they were dangerous, to be domesticated and controlled. It is interesting to note that here, as in other and subsequent forms of racism, blacks were viewed both as weak (inferior) and strong (dangerous).

Proslavery people in Britain and the United States further argued that Africa itself practiced slavery, and that Britain and America in fact were contributing to the cultural development of the slaves – because African societies were unskilled and primitive, they stood to benefit by being exposed to the “advanced” European civilization. The domination of a people is not only caused by the belief that a people is inherently inferior and dangerous, but the very act of domination makes these beliefs seem true: the proof of the racist was in the pudding of the plantation owner.

Proslavers also argued that the land itself was crucial for the nation and for economic prosperity. Owners of farms and plantations viewed the land as something to fight for and cherish, a source of national pride and moral identity. In England and America, the proslavery lobby despised industrial and wage capitalism, which they viewed as creating a society of selfish strangers. They, the plantation owners, defended a less selfish view of society and the nation. Slaves were a part of the household and could help maintain a society of large units who cared for each other.

But perhaps the strongest element justifying the proslavery outlook was the use of the Bible. For the many Christian believers who made up the South, control over human beings was based on, and justified by, the famous Bible passage (Genesis 9:18-27) in which Noah curses Ham (presumably of dark color) and dooms him to be subjugated by Japheth (presumably of lighter color). This biblical narrative played a crucial role in justifying slavery because it made God and the holy scriptures give it a seal of sanctity and inevitability (it was later shown by Christians themselves that this interpretation had no basis in the actual biblical text). Any domination of human beings is far more powerful if it uses grand historical and collective narratives that lend to it an aura of historical mission.

Slavery provoked one of the greatest moral wars of modern times and, for a while, threatened to divide the nascent American nation into two distinct national entities. The two camps went to war and although the reasons for the war were not only connected to slavery, both parties saw slavery as the essential moral cause to oppose or defend.

***

Roman law defined human beings as either slaves or as free, and history has inherited this dichotomous division. Because of this legal division, we conventionally think that slavery has disappeared from the modern world. But slavery has not disappeared. It is more accurate to think of slavery on a continuum, as one of the most extreme forms of human domination, characterized by the fact that a human being is treated as the property of another person, and can be sold and bought like an object or animal.

But slavery is not only that. If a person or group creates mechanisms to alienate the freedom and life of another, that person is not technically speaking a slave, but s/he is subject to conditions of slavery. If an immigrant worker’s passport has been taken away from them by their employers and made to work 12 hours a day without legal rights and protection, they live in conditions of slavery. If women are trafficked for sex purposes and held in conditions of quasi-captivity by their pimps, they live in conditions of slavery. Slavery, then, is not only the fact of being turned into a tradable property. It is a set of social conditions that make someone’s existence closely determined by someone else’s decision, will and power.

Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson, a specialist in the history and sociology of slavery, defines slavery thus: “The permanent, violent and personal domination of natally alienated and generally dishonored persons” (quoted in Brion Davis’ “Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World”). Note that this definition does not assume that a slave is necessarily a tradable property. Rather, as Patterson defines it, a slave is someone who is born in a condition in which his life at birth is dependent on the will of a master; it is someone who is born in a condition of dishonor. From this definition, we can describe a condition of slavery as having a number of characteristics.

Slavery is a state where one does not have access to citizenship. In that sense, slaves are by definition deprived of the security that membership to a sovereign political community provides. It also means that they don’t develop the skills that come with the exercise of rights and duties toward a political community. This is what Patterson means when he speaks of general “dishonor”: a slave is deprived of the possibility of being recognized by a sovereign cultural or political community.

Another characteristic follows: a slave is submitted to a different legal system than the one by which the ordinary, free population is regulated (in many cases in the American South, the law was changed so as to be applied specifically to African-Americans). Hence, in a slave society, the law is naturally made to fit the needs of the ruling group, to exonerate them when needed, and to be especially harsh on the slaves.

Third, slaves are used to maintain and extend the property of a master but are denied the right to acquire or extend their own property, through various legal and forceful means. The capacity of slaves to own or increase land and property is very limited or nonexistent.

A fourth characteristic is that slaves are the object of arbitrary physical punishment, and their life and death are often the master’s decision. Slaves live in fear, because they know that they can be physically punished, beaten, lashed, killed at any time.

Fifth, slaves have very limited social space to move in and out of. In the 19th century, seeing an unknown African-American somewhere was enough to raise suspicion that he had run away. Sixth, the personal life – sexuality and marriage – of slaves is controlled by the master – such as the fact that slaves could marry only with the permission of the master (in the Roman world, masters had almost unlimited rights to rape slaves).

***

Ideology is made of stories and powerful metaphors that define how we perceive and understand reality. Thus, when Israelis cast their relationship to Palestinians as a purely military one, the label of “military conflict” has a number of logical, moral and political consequences. Palestinians are “soldiers,” not civilians; they are enemies to be subdued, not ordinary civilians; they threaten Israelis, are not helpless; they must be subjugated by force, in a zero-sum game – if one loses, the other wins.

But the military metaphor with which Israelis have made sense of their relationship to Palestinians hides a disturbing fact: what started as a national and military conflict has morphed into a form of domination of Palestinians that now increasingly borders on conditions of slavery. If we understand slavery as a condition of existence and not as ownership and trade of human bodies, the domination that Israel has exercised over Palestinians turns out to have created the matrix of domination that I call a “condition of slavery.”

The Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Ministry has documented that between 1967 and 2012, Israeli authorities arrested some 800,000 Palestinians by power of the “military code.” (A more conservative assessment from Israeli sources documented that 700,000 Palestinians were detained between 1967 and 2008.) This number is astounding, especially in light of the fact that this represents as much as 40 percent of the entire male population. When a large part of the adult male population is arrested, it means that the lives of a large number of breadwinners, the heads of a family, are disrupted, alienated and made into the object of the arbitrary power of the army. In fact, which nation would create a Prisoner Affairs Ministry if imprisonment was not such a basic aspect of its life?

These facts also mean that a significant portion of the non-incarcerated population lives under the constant fear and threat of imprisonment. The Israeli NGO Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) has established that, once arrested, hundreds are categorized as “ticking bombs” or “serious threats.” Once labeled as such, they are treated with a violence prohibited by international law: prisoners are bound to their chairs in painful positions for hours, held in isolation, beaten, shaken, prevented from sleeping, verbally abused, cursed and psychologically humiliated.

The violence exercised by the military does not stop there. During Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, the IDF used Gazan civilians as “human shields,” a practice prohibited by Israeli and international law and conventionally viewed as barbarian. Using others as human shields consists of taking civilians as hostages, using them for Israeli military purposes, threatening their families with injury if they don’t cooperate with the Israel Defense Forces’ attempt to obtain information.

Palestinian boys, from age 13-17, are frequently arrested by the IDF. Military Court Watch, an Israeli NGO, has found that 50 percent of these children are arrested in night raids, and that 80 percent  are blindfolded. In a widely publicized news story, PCATI found that children are also the object of treatment that is equivalent to torture, and that the IDF engages in such practices as putting Palestinian children guilty of minor crimes in cages (for two days), exposed to the cold in the deep of winter.

To the military violence, we must add the fact that Palestinians are regularly exposed to acts of violence by civilians. The settlers known as “hilltop youth” and “price tag” attacks aim to hurt Palestinians in various ways, in their lands, property or body. These acts are only sporadically prosecuted by Israel, and when they are, more often than not it ends with no conviction.

Indeed, Palestinians are subject to a legal system that is different from the one in Israel. As the Calcalist blogger Yossi Gurvitz writes: “[R]esidents of one street in Hebron are judged according to one legal system, and residents [of a] nearby street under a different legal system. If a Palestinian child is suspected of throwing stones at soldiers, IDF gunmen break into his home at night, take him, blindfolded, to interrogation, accompanied by torture at times, and he will be put in custody. If a settler is suspected of throwing a stone at a soldier, it is likely nothing will happen to him. Naturally, no one would think of breaking into his house during the night.”

Another example of the stringency of the laws existing in the territories is that there’s no possibility for a Palestinian to get a verdict of “non-conviction” in relation to petty crime. Or a Haaretz editorial titled “An apartheid legal system just got worse,” which addresses the new military order issued by the GOC Central Command, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, prohibiting Palestinians from appealing military court decisions to confiscate their property.  As the article argues, the order “embodies the essence of the story of the occupation and demonstrates the different law applied to Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories. This order violates the rights of the Palestinians, and allows arbitrary damage to them, contrary to international law and the laws of basic justice. The military can make decisions of this nature – contrary to justice – due to the existence of two different legal systems in a given geographical area: one for Jews and one for Arabs.”

These facts mean, de facto, that Palestinians live not only with a legal system different from the one used in Israel, but without serious legal protection as well. Moreover, since the 1990s, Israel has imposed severe restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank. During the second intifada, Israel placed dozens of checkpoints in the West Bank that impede the movement of Palestinians within the area itself. To the Israeli, this seems only a problem of wasted hours, but the hindrance of movement touches on the very essence of freedom. It creates a wide-reaching feeling of imprisonment. (As prime minister, Ariel Sharon cut Gaza City from Ramallah, for no other reason, probably, than to create such constraints on movement.)

This feeling of spatial imprisonment is accompanied by economic strangulation. An essential part of Israeli domination is achieved by making Palestinian livelihoods depend on Israel, and monitoring permits of entry to Israel. By making entry to work in Israel conditional upon good behavior, Israeli powers create fear and extreme psychological dependency. Moreover, because Israel restricts Palestinians’ capacity to build new industries, they force them to work in the very settlements that take their own land, thus increasing their sense of humiliation and expropriation.

As for the capacity to own property, Israel has long practiced land expropriation, and made it impossible for Palestinians to extend their property. The NGO Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) established that, in 2013 alone, 634 Palestinian buildings were demolished, 1,033 people displaced and 3,688 injured by the IDF. From these figures, it can be inferred that a basic condition of life – to have a shelter and home – has been systematically and widely undermined by the policy of house demolition.

Finally, when it comes to marriage, here, too, the occupation has torn families apart. According to a report by B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Israeli restrictions on the passage from and to Gaza Strip split families and force on couples – where one of them is from Gaza, and the other the West Bank or Israel – a series of bureaucratic restrictions, with no possibility of conducting a reasonable routine. The simplest thing – raising a family, living with spouse and children, and maintaining contact with families of origin of both partners – become unachievable.

In traditional Palestinian society, the custom is that the women will move in with the husband’s family, so the procedures established by the Israeli offensive affect mainly women: Married Gazans living in the West Bank are forced to leave their family and familiar surroundings, without any possibility to visit the Gaza Strip, except for the most exceptional cases. Those who failed to update their address are in constant danger of expulsion from their homes.

We can say conservatively and impressionistically that 70 percent of the Palestinian population live with a permanent sense of dishonor, conduct their lives without predictability and continuity, live in fear of Jewish terror and of the violence of the Israeli military power, and are afraid to have no work, shelter or family. When we put these numbers under a single coherent picture and ask sociologically what kind of life this is, we are compelled to observe that a large quantity of Palestinians live in conditions in which their freedom, honor, physical integrity, capacity to work, acquire property, marry and, more generally, plan for the future are alienated to the will and power of their Israeli masters. These conditions can only be named by their proper name: conditions of slavery.

It should be clear, however, that the occupation is a condition of slavery, but not slavery: a striped lion is like a tiger, but isn’t a tiger. The occupation started as a military conflict and, unbeknown to itself, became a generalized condition of domination, dehumanizing Palestinians, and ultimately dehumanizing Israelis themselves. This magnificent people – which distinguished itself historically by its love of God, its love of texts and its love of morality – has become the manager of a vast enterprise of brutal military domination.

***

Without ever intending to, Israelis have become the Lords and Masters of a people, and the only interesting question about this is not how we got there (domination has its own internal incremental and implacable dynamic), but why so many Jews outside and inside of Israel are not more disturbed by this.

The reason for this is that Israel has its own proslavery lobby, which is now in the corridors of power, shapes Israel’s policy and has successfully managed to make the occupation appear to be a containable casualty of war and nation-building. The settlers’ discourse – which only 20 years ago was marginal in Israeli society –has become mainstream, and one can only be struck by its resemblance to the 19th-century American proslavery ideology.

***

The idea that Jews are inherently superior to Arabs is so widespread, deep and unquestioned, that it is hardly worth my time dwelling on it here. The idea of Jewish superiority exists everywhere in Israel, but is most blatant in the territories. Like the whites in the American South, Jews view themselves as obviously more moral, superior, civilized, technologically and economically far more accomplished than the inferior Arabs (Arab nations are indeed politically and economically backward, but this in no way makes Arabs inferior). In the same way that it was entirely obvious to proslavers that Africans were primitive and animal-like, Arabs are viewed as unreliable, liars, stupid and dangerous. These views dictate official policy. And in the same way that the whites in the South claimed to be civilizing the primitive Africans, one can frequently hear that Arabs have benefited from the technological and political enlightenment of Israel.

An example of Jewish supremacy can be seen in the book “The King’s Torah” (“Torat Hamelech”), written by the head rabbi of Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai (which was located in Nablus and then moved to the Yitzhar settlement). According to the book, Jews are superior to non-Jews, with Gentiles being close to animals because they did not accept the Seven Laws of Noah. In an amended world, killing a non-Jew who does not accept the commandments of Noah will become necessary. The book also suggests that because Jews are now at war, it is permissible – based on traditional sources – to kill Gentiles, including children, because of the fear that they will grow and become dangerous adults. In a review of the book, the highly respected historian Yehuda Bauer suggests that the book is not a marginal phenomenon of a handful of extremists. According to him, the book was endorsed by famous rabbis, such as Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg (the former head of Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai) and the well-known Hebron Rabbi Dov Lior. Yeshivas teach this book or at least contents that are very similar to it, and Yeshiva students are recruited into the IDF in increasing numbers. Some of these young people become an important nucleus of hilltop youth and price-tag launchers who reject the laws of the state, illegally take possession of the land, and attack Palestinians. Even the Hebrew University Hillel hosted an official event to discuss the book with its author, thus putting it on a par with academic books.

Prof. Bauer concludes that the book should be taken seriously because it indicates the direction of a growing part of the settlers’ movement. One hopes that the price tag attacks, which have grown at a staggering rate in the last few years, create an atmosphere of (Jewish) terror among Palestinians and have remained unpunished by the state, do not end up resembling the Ku Klux Klan in the American South.

Like their 19th-century counterparts, the settlers hold in contempt the “individualism” and “egoism” of the city dwellers of Tel Aviv, the city most likely to oppose the occupation – much like the white farmers held in contempt the abolitionists of America’s urban east coast. They view the “state” of Tel Aviv as a place in which raw economic forces and crass materialism destroy the idealism of the land.

Israel Harel, the first chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements, claimed in a Haaretz article that the environment in Tel Aviv projects an atmosphere that encourages evading military service, and that Tel Aviv conveys a degree of detachment from Israel’s survival needs. In his book on the settlement movement (“The Settlers and the Struggle over the Meaning of Zionism”), Gadi Taub quotes Harel as saying that the Israelis have lost their identity and spine, and are a metastasis of the West. Using fears of decadence familiar to the European right, Harel claims that the West has observed a steady deterioration in values, materialism and Nihilism.

Finally, and most strikingly, exactly like their southern 19th-century counterparts the settlers have abundantly sanctified the land through Bible narratives and see themselves, like the proslavery owners, as executing God’s will. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the son of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, claimed that the “Lord of the universe has its own politics, according to which the politics of Earth is managed … part of this redemption is the conquest of the land and settlement in it. No earthly politics can stand against this assertion of divine politics.” Hanan Porat, one of the leaders of the settlement movement, argued that the “commandment to settle the land increases the lifetime value of the individual.” The Bible has been used both as a way to sanctify the land and justify its conquest.

Given what precedes them, the positions of MKs such as Miri Regev, Yariv Levin, Danny Danon and Naftali Bennett seem to be a “vanilla” version of the worldview defended by settlers. If indeed the settlers and their representatives in the Knesset have “mainstreamed” views that are strangely reminiscent of those of slave owners, then this only begs further the question of why so many are unable or unwilling to grasp this.

I will venture one explanation. Jews around the world view themselves as a minority in need of protection. Israel itself, because of its inherent connection to the Jewish people, has kept alive the memory of persecutions. Jews around the world live their identity as a weak one, as belonging to a minority, as bound to a history of perennial struggle against Amalek. Such vision is bound to project its own existential anxieties and sense of vulnerability, even on a military superpower such as Israel and to view its justification of military violence as a simple strategy of (ancestral) survival.

Undoubtedly, there are major differences between Palestinians and black slaves: Some Palestinians are virulently anti-Semitic and are supported by even more violent anti-Semites in the surrounding Arab countries; Palestinians have their own police force; from time to time, they send suicide bombers or launch missiles on Israel.

But my point is precisely the following: The occupation is like a photomontage that superposes two different pictures of two different realities. I ask my reader to see two images at once: the occupation as a humanitarian disaster, superposed on the occupation as a military conflict. More than that, the enslavement of the life condition of Palestinians has prevented the possibility of making this conflict into a military one. Israel, the most security-conscious state on the planet, has failed to make its conflict with the Palestinians into a military one. Instead, it has been dragged into a humanitarian disaster that has provoked a moral war and unbridgeable rift within the Jewish people. The public relations strategies of the state will not silence this moral war.

***
Conclusion

What does it mean for a country to have created such conditions of slavery for a people, and yet fail to register it? The question here is not only about the (im)morality of the occupation, but, more fundamentally, about the increasing difficulty of articulating a moral language to grasp the very nature of the occupation – initially the result of a military conflict and now a humanitarian disaster. If 19th-century slavery was known as slavery to all involved, the occupation has not produced its own adequate moral label.

We do not know what the occupation is, and we do not know what it is because language itself has been colonized. By defining it in military terms, Israelis fail to see what the world sees. Israelis see terrorists and enemies, and the world sees weak, dispossessed and persecuted people. The world reacts with moral outrage at Israel’s continued domination of Palestinians, and Israel ridicules such moral outrage as an expression of double standards. The world sees Israeli tanks and military technology against Palestinian, homeless people, but Israel sees these denunciations as self-hatred or anti-Semitism. The world wants a just solution, and Israel sees the demand for justice as a threat to its existence.

In that sense, the debate dividing the Jewish people is more difficult than the debate about slavery, because there is no agreement even on how to properly name the vast enterprise of domination that has been created in the territories. If Britain at the beginning of the 19th century understood that it couldn’t keep claiming that it represented the enlightened values of freedom and humanity and engage in the barbaric commerce of slaves, Israel is more embarrassed, for in a way it doesn’t know that it’s engaged in an enterprise it cannot justify.

Israel is dangerously sailing away from the moral vocabulary of most countries of the civilized world. The fact that many readers will think that my sources are unreliable because they come from organizations that defend human rights proves this point. Israel no longer speaks the ordinary moral language of enlightened nations. But in refusing to speak that language, it is de facto dooming itself to isolation. Israel will not indefinitely have the cake of “democracy” and eat it in the occupation.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on 47 years a slave: A new perspective on the occupation

ISLAM AND REVOLUTION [I]

NOVANEWS
ISLAM AND REVOLUTION [I]

Written by Adamu Adamu[Nigeria].

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it. Karl Marx said this, but the revolution his economic philosophy unleashed didn’t so much change the world as divided it into two. And when the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the revolution that would challenge the international system on its every assumption came, Marxists and capitalists banded together to oppose it. In four days, the Islamic Revolution in Iran will be 35 years—a far cry from the one week given to it by Saddam Hussein and his Arab and Western sponsors.

In all this period, Iran had stood alone without the support of any country or organisation in the world; and even after more than three decades of death and deprivation caused by comprehensive Western political, economic and diplomatic sanctions and an eight-year long imposed war, it never wavered.  But within these 35 years, Iran has been transformed from the diplomatic backwaters of the United States to a veritable regional power that has become the cynosure of all diplomatic eyes; and, from the Western standpoint, its high point would seem to have been reached when the world saw two sitting American presidents waiting expectantly in the hallways of the United Nations hoping,, almost begging, for a handshake from two reluctant Iranian presidents. What could have been responsible for this transformation?

According to Ivor Benson, South African dissident analyst, “An exploration of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and its meaning for the rest of the world can begin with three wide-ranging generalizations: [t]he Iranian Revolution showed that religion can still be a more potent mobilizer of mass political action than can secular ideologies; the revolution challenges the cultural hegemony of Western ideas, not only as a religion but as an alternative social model and way of life; and the Iranian Revolution thus can be regarded as one of the most important happenings in modern history, comparable to the French Revolution in the 18th century and the Russian Revolution in this century...[and it]...conveys two great truths with vast implications: religion can still be a more potent mobilizer of mass political action than can secular ideologies, and the long-time hegemony of Western social models has ended.”

But for those who know, no revolution could ever come near the Islamic Revolution in its appeal or people’s popular participation in it. The French Revolution was a Freemason enterprise and the only role played by the French public was no more than that of the Mob, which in the end couldn’t eat even the cake of Mary Antoinette. The Russian Revolution was an exploit of a handful of New York Zionists over the heads of the Russian Mensheviks, though none dared call it that. In neither revolution was popular participation up to ten per cent of the population but the revolution in Iran sprang, and was sustained by pressure, from all the mosques, bazaars, factories, streets and seminaries in the vast country. For long the world was reeling from what happened, and it inspired global messianic expectations. 

In 1980, less than a year after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, I asked the late Sheikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi whether it could be considered a fulfilment of the prophecy contained in verse 47:38 of the Holy Qur’an: “... If you turn back [from the path], He will substitute in your stead another people; then they would not be like you!”
According to Suyuti and ibn Kathir’s exegesis of it, following the revelation of that verse, Companions of the Holy Prophet [SAW] asked him [SAW] who were the people referred to in it with whom Allah would replace the Arabs if they turned back. He [SAW] patted Salman and said, “These are his people, and even if Islam were to have been taken to Thurayyah, they would bring it back to earth.” Thurayyah, Pleiades, was the farthest star known to the observable universe of Arab proto-astronomy.  
While affirming the authenticity of the hadith, Sheikh Gumi said the Islamic Revolution was not its fulfilment; and, after a long pause, he added that the prophecy had in fact already been fulfilled. When I asked him what the fulfilment was, he said it could be seen in the fact that almost all the classical works of Islam on hadith, tafsir, tarikh and the sciences, on which Islamic theology and scholarship came to depend, had been written by the scholars of Islamic Persia. But whether it was the revolution that was the fulfilment of that ayah or it was the literary output of Persians, what was undeniable was that an event had occurred in Iran that had forever changed the world.  

And the first and most notable effect of the revolution on Islamic political theory has been to close the hitherto unbridgeable gap between the Sunni and Shii positions. With the doctrine of Wilayat al-Faqih, Imam Khomeini [qss] empowered the ulama in Iran to participate and even assume leading positions in governance. Before him this was unthinkable in Shi’ism, because of the Shiite belief of the illegitimacy of all authority except that which is exercised by the designated members of the Household of the Holy Prophet [SAW]; but in Sunnism, Wilayat al-Faqih was organic to it and had been the norm wherever a jihad tradition had existed.  

The meaning of the doctrine of Wilayat al-Faqih is simply ‘the rule of the [most learned] alim;’ and when Sheikh Usman Danfodiyo led his revolution here, it was a wilayah of the faqih that he created, though he didn’t have to call it that since his followers had no problem with the leadership of the ulama, whom both traditions recognise as the inheritors of the prophets. Imam Khomeini [qss] had to spend his entire life preaching and writing books to convince the Shia of its necessity and practical implication. In the very early years of the revolution I had myself met some ulama in Iran who had, on account of his formulation of the doctrine, accused the Imam [qss] of being a crypto-Sunni! 

So, it is really sad to see people, who, for want of a better term, may have to be called commentators, relying on no more knowledge than the misrepresentation of some wilfully ignorant Western analysts of Islam, repeat the lie that the Imam [qss] had to invent something, as if it was outside Islam. And when this charge is parrot-copied and repeated by those who think they are Sunni, the irony becomes even more grotesque and laughable. The tragedy is that they do not even know what it is to be themselves, yet they are busy hurling takfir at others. 

In contradistinction, the revolution has given the world a chance to see the true visage of an accommodating faith: it showed the world that there is another type of Islam that is not at war with Christianity though it has eternal, unceasing hostility to imperialism; that there is an Islam that is not anti-Semitic but is virulently anti-Zionist. 

And thus, though of its 76 million people, the entire non-Muslim population is less than half a million, but 14 of them today sit in the country’s 290-member Majles—five Armenian Christians, four Assyrian Catholics, two Zoroastrians and three Jews. If representation was strictly determined by population, none of the religious minorities would have been able to elect a single representative, but the rights of minority is guaranteed by the constitution—and the Imam [qss] had given them his personal guarantee.

The revolution has also given the lie to the claims of that world of superficiality, still reeling from the effects of medieval obscurantism that has continued to deny the efficacy of philosophy and the necessity for philosophical inquiry in interpreting and understanding the world. Today, the nucleus of the atom may be invisible to the naked eye but it holds more secrets from the disciples of Jabir bin Hayyan; for, in the case of nuclear chemistry, more than any other modern example, is knowledge the lost property, and therefore the inheritable estate, of the believer. 

Thus, while Sheikh Abd al-Aziz bin Baz, the late chief exponent and leading cleric of Wahhabism, died in 1999 insisting and teaching that the world is flat and stationary, Iran has split the atom, is today one of the leading nations in stem-cell research, and has, after harnessing nuclear know-how, already joined the race for the conquest of space. Imam Khomeini [qss] led a revolution that has changed the world forever and become the prelude and harbinger of the total disinheritedness of imperialism. It was a revolution that has rescued Islam from the image given to it by gambling princes and pie-eyed oil sheikhs in hot pursuit of catwalk models and Hollywood actresses; and it reminded the world that there is an alternative tendency that is steeped in knowledge and the pursuit of spiritual purity; and it revived the idea of believers as strugglers by day and devotees of God prostrate in worship at night as a heedless world slept.

After smashing Karl Marx’s opium thesis and hitting the final nail on the coffin of Marxism, effectively sending it to the dustbin of history; and then, here comes a tumultuous revolution taking place in full view of the world inspired by nothing other than religion, which they had said was an opium—and it put everyone in his place, and including the world powers in theirs. 

Without doubt, it is the epic and most momentous of all the titanic, ideological struggles of modern times—a struggle to free Islam from the suffocating embrace of Zionism, deliver it from the stranglehold of a myriad of atheistic ideologies and the effect of a duplicitous, complicit international media, and establish God’s rule in the most Westernised country in the Muslim World. 

This revolution has challenged the cultural hegemony of West: telling it that the brigade of God is back to put Caesar where he belongs—back in the backburner, and to give unto God what is God’s and take from Caesar what he has appropriated that isn’t his.
ISLAM AND REVOLUTION [I]

Written by Adamu Adamu[Nigeria].

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it. Karl Marx said this, but the revolution his economic philosophy unleashed didn’t so much change the world as divided it into two. And when the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the revolution that would challenge the international system on its every assumption came, Marxists and capitalists banded together to oppose it. In four days, the Islamic Revolution in Iran will be 35 years—a far cry from the one week given to it by Saddam Hussein and his Arab and Western sponsors.

In all this period, Iran had stood alone without the support of any country or organisation in the world; and even after more than three decades of death and deprivation caused by comprehensive Western political, economic and diplomatic sanctions and an eight-year long imposed war, it never wavered. But within these 35 years, Iran has been transformed from the diplomatic backwaters of the United States to a veritable regional power that has become the cynosure of all diplomatic eyes; and, from the Western standpoint, its high point would seem to have been reached when the world saw two sitting American presidents waiting expectantly in the hallways of the United Nations hoping,, almost begging, for a handshake from two reluctant Iranian presidents. What could have been responsible for this transformation?

According to Ivor Benson, South African dissident analyst, “An exploration of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and its meaning for the rest of the world can begin with three wide-ranging generalizations: [t]he Iranian Revolution showed that religion can still be a more potent mobilizer of mass political action than can secular ideologies; the revolution challenges the cultural hegemony of Western ideas, not only as a religion but as an alternative social model and way of life; and the Iranian Revolution thus can be regarded as one of the most important happenings in modern history, comparable to the French Revolution in the 18th century and the Russian Revolution in this century…[and it]…conveys two great truths with vast implications: religion can still be a more potent mobilizer of mass political action than can secular ideologies, and the long-time hegemony of Western social models has ended.”

But for those who know, no revolution could ever come near the Islamic Revolution in its appeal or people’s popular participation in it. The French Revolution was a Freemason enterprise and the only role played by the French public was no more than that of the Mob, which in the end couldn’t eat even the cake of Mary Antoinette. The Russian Revolution was an exploit of a handful of New York Zionists over the heads of the Russian Mensheviks, though none dared call it that. In neither revolution was popular participation up to ten per cent of the population but the revolution in Iran sprang, and was sustained by pressure, from all the mosques, bazaars, factories, streets and seminaries in the vast country. For long the world was reeling from what happened, and it inspired global messianic expectations.

In 1980, less than a year after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, I asked the late Sheikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi whether it could be considered a fulfilment of the prophecy contained in verse 47:38 of the Holy Qur’an: “… If you turn back [from the path], He will substitute in your stead another people; then they would not be like you!”
According to Suyuti and ibn Kathir’s exegesis of it, following the revelation of that verse, Companions of the Holy Prophet [SAW] asked him [SAW] who were the people referred to in it with whom Allah would replace the Arabs if they turned back. He [SAW] patted Salman and said, “These are his people, and even if Islam were to have been taken to Thurayyah, they would bring it back to earth.” Thurayyah, Pleiades, was the farthest star known to the observable universe of Arab proto-astronomy.
While affirming the authenticity of the hadith, Sheikh Gumi said the Islamic Revolution was not its fulfilment; and, after a long pause, he added that the prophecy had in fact already been fulfilled. When I asked him what the fulfilment was, he said it could be seen in the fact that almost all the classical works of Islam on hadith, tafsir, tarikh and the sciences, on which Islamic theology and scholarship came to depend, had been written by the scholars of Islamic Persia. But whether it was the revolution that was the fulfilment of that ayah or it was the literary output of Persians, what was undeniable was that an event had occurred in Iran that had forever changed the world.

And the first and most notable effect of the revolution on Islamic political theory has been to close the hitherto unbridgeable gap between the Sunni and Shii positions. With the doctrine of Wilayat al-Faqih, Imam Khomeini [qss] empowered the ulama in Iran to participate and even assume leading positions in governance. Before him this was unthinkable in Shi’ism, because of the Shiite belief of the illegitimacy of all authority except that which is exercised by the designated members of the Household of the Holy Prophet [SAW]; but in Sunnism, Wilayat al-Faqih was organic to it and had been the norm wherever a jihad tradition had existed.

The meaning of the doctrine of Wilayat al-Faqih is simply ‘the rule of the [most learned] alim;’ and when Sheikh Usman Danfodiyo led his revolution here, it was a wilayah of the faqih that he created, though he didn’t have to call it that since his followers had no problem with the leadership of the ulama, whom both traditions recognise as the inheritors of the prophets. Imam Khomeini [qss] had to spend his entire life preaching and writing books to convince the Shia of its necessity and practical implication. In the very early years of the revolution I had myself met some ulama in Iran who had, on account of his formulation of the doctrine, accused the Imam [qss] of being a crypto-Sunni!

So, it is really sad to see people, who, for want of a better term, may have to be called commentators, relying on no more knowledge than the misrepresentation of some wilfully ignorant Western analysts of Islam, repeat the lie that the Imam [qss] had to invent something, as if it was outside Islam. And when this charge is parrot-copied and repeated by those who think they are Sunni, the irony becomes even more grotesque and laughable. The tragedy is that they do not even know what it is to be themselves, yet they are busy hurling takfir at others.

In contradistinction, the revolution has given the world a chance to see the true visage of an accommodating faith: it showed the world that there is another type of Islam that is not at war with Christianity though it has eternal, unceasing hostility to imperialism; that there is an Islam that is not anti-Semitic but is virulently anti-Zionist.

And thus, though of its 76 million people, the entire non-Muslim population is less than half a million, but 14 of them today sit in the country’s 290-member Majles—five Armenian Christians, four Assyrian Catholics, two Zoroastrians and three Jews. If representation was strictly determined by population, none of the religious minorities would have been able to elect a single representative, but the rights of minority is guaranteed by the constitution—and the Imam [qss] had given them his personal guarantee.

The revolution has also given the lie to the claims of that world of superficiality, still reeling from the effects of medieval obscurantism that has continued to deny the efficacy of philosophy and the necessity for philosophical inquiry in interpreting and understanding the world. Today, the nucleus of the atom may be invisible to the naked eye but it holds more secrets from the disciples of Jabir bin Hayyan; for, in the case of nuclear chemistry, more than any other modern example, is knowledge the lost property, and therefore the inheritable estate, of the believer.

Thus, while Sheikh Abd al-Aziz bin Baz, the late chief exponent and leading cleric of Wahhabism, died in 1999 insisting and teaching that the world is flat and stationary, Iran has split the atom, is today one of the leading nations in stem-cell research, and has, after harnessing nuclear know-how, already joined the race for the conquest of space. Imam Khomeini [qss] led a revolution that has changed the world forever and become the prelude and harbinger of the total disinheritedness of imperialism. It was a revolution that has rescued Islam from the image given to it by gambling princes and pie-eyed oil sheikhs in hot pursuit of catwalk models and Hollywood actresses; and it reminded the world that there is an alternative tendency that is steeped in knowledge and the pursuit of spiritual purity; and it revived the idea of believers as strugglers by day and devotees of God prostrate in worship at night as a heedless world slept.

After smashing Karl Marx’s opium thesis and hitting the final nail on the coffin of Marxism, effectively sending it to the dustbin of history; and then, here comes a tumultuous revolution taking place in full view of the world inspired by nothing other than religion, which they had said was an opium—and it put everyone in his place, and including the world powers in theirs.

Without doubt, it is the epic and most momentous of all the titanic, ideological struggles of modern times—a struggle to free Islam from the suffocating embrace of Zionism, deliver it from the stranglehold of a myriad of atheistic ideologies and the effect of a duplicitous, complicit international media, and establish God’s rule in the most Westernised country in the Muslim World.

This revolution has challenged the cultural hegemony of West: telling it that the brigade of God is back to put Caesar where he belongs—back in the backburner, and to give unto God what is God’s and take from Caesar what he has appropriated that isn’t his.

Posted in Education, IranComments Off on ISLAM AND REVOLUTION [I]

Are Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Ambitions Clouding Her Morals?

NOVANEWS

Whether or not Clinton has formally announced her candidacy, her silence on Iran speaks louder than words

Hillary Clinton. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images North America)Asked in an interview this week about her presidential ambitions, Hillary Clinton gave an answer that qualified as a howler even by Clinton standards: “I’m not thinking about it.”

Clinton is widely considered the presumptive Democratic nominee for president in 2016. Given the atavistic chaos that afflicts the Republicans, many view her as the virtual president-elect. Time magazine ran a cover story this month headlined “Can Anyone Stop Hillary?” The New York Times Magazine followed with a cover story of its own, the latest in a stream of media coverage of the juggernaut that is Clinton’s unannounced presidential campaign.

One of the surest signs that Clinton is running for the presidency is her refusal to take a position on the greatest geopolitical question now facing the United States. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are engaged in a high-stakes effort to end 35 years of hostility between the United States and Iran. Debate about this initiative is intense in Washington. No one, however, knows the opinion of the woman who was Kerry’s immediate predecessor and is evidently seeking to govern the United States beginning in 2017.

Kerry has asserted that negotiations with Iran are “one of those hinge points in history,” and argued that they give the United States “a chance to address peacefully one of the most pressing national security concerns that the world faces.” Senator Dianne Feinstein, who heads the Senate Committee on Intelligence, has warned that those who seek to block reconciliation are on a “march toward war.”

Sentiments are just as strong on the other side. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israelhas denounced negotiation with Iran as a “historic mistake” that is making the world “a more dangerous place”. His partners in Washington vigorously echo that view. One of them, Senator Mark Kirk, has accused Obama of behaving “like Neville Chamberlain” and charged that he is setting the stage for “a large and bloody conflict in the Middle East involving Iraniannuclear weapons“.

This is the most far-reaching foreign policy debate that has broken out in Washington in more than a generation. The stakes for the United States, Iran, the Middle East and the world are huge. American politicians are falling over one another to press their views. Clinton is the glaring exception.

Throughout her career, Clinton has stayed well within the Washington paradigm on foreign policy issues. Like many American politicians who came of age during the Cold War, she takes an us-versus-them view of the world. She has never dissented from the Washington chorus that portrays Iran as an irredeemable font of evil. Had she remained on the job as secretary of state rather than resigning and paving the way for Kerry, the United States would certainly not have made an effort to engage Iran.

Now that a preliminary agreement has been struck and international inspectors are monitoring Iran’s retreat from its nuclear program, it is reasonable for Americans to expect their leaders to say whether they favor or oppose this process. That is especially true of Clinton, who until a year ago was the global face of US foreign policy. Yet her silence has been deafening.

Clinton has a habit of not taking any position until it is clear which position will be most politically beneficial. “No doubt we will find out HRC’s true convictions just as soon as her focus groups report in or her major donors tell her what to think,” Stephen Walt wrote in his Foreign Policy blog.

Here lies the dilemma. A strong statement by Clinton in favor of reconciliation would be a game-changer in Washington. She would be giving a centrist, establishment endorsement of her former boss’s most important foreign policy initiative. That would provide political cover for moderate Democrats terrified of antagonizing the Netanyahu government and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is leading the anti-reconciliation campaign in Washington.

Such a statement, however, would risk outraging pro-Netanyahu groups and individuals who have been among Clinton’s key supporters since her days as a Senator from New York. Having spent years painstakingly laying the ground for a presidential campaign, she does not want to risk a misstep that would alienate major campaign contributors.

Clinton’s choice is clear. If she opposes détente with Iran, she will look like a warmonger who prefers confrontation to diplomacy. If she supports it, she will alienate a vital part of the base she is relying on to finance her presidential campaign. With this in mind, she has chosen to remain silent on the central foreign policy issue of the age. It is a classic act of political cowardice – the kind that often leads to victory at the polls.

Posted in USAComments Off on Are Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Ambitions Clouding Her Morals?

Geneva Talks Falter as Secret US Flow of Arms to Syrian Opposition Revealed

NOVANEWS
Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem, Sr

Weapons were approved by Congress in closed-door meetings

Sarah Lazare

Besieged area of Homs January 27, 2014. (Photo: Reuters/Yazan Homsy)The Geneva talks between the Syrian government and some opposition forces faltered Tuesday upon revelations that U.S. Congress secretly approved arms shipments to Syrian opposition forces.

By: Sarah Lazare

After representatives of the Syrian government expressed anger at the covert weapons flow, the United Nations’ top mediator decided to discontinue the talks planned for Tuesday afternoon.

Reuters revealed on Monday that the U.S. government is sending small arms, as well as the more powerful anti-tank rockets, to “moderate” rebels —identified as “non-Islamist” forces — through Jordan.

The weapons flow has been green-lighted by Congress through the end of the 2014 fiscal year, which concludes next fall, in classified defense appropriations legislation decided in closed-door meetings.

The arms flow contradicts U.S. lawmakers’ public reluctance to send weapons to Syria over stated concerns they might end up in the control of Al Qaeda affiliates.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Geneva Talks Falter as Secret US Flow of Arms to Syrian Opposition Revealed

Corruption Costs European Union $162 Billion Each Year

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AP
The EURO logo is pictured in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, on February 3, 2014. (DANIEL ROLAND/AFP/Getty Images)

BRUSSELS (AP) — An EU report says corruption affects all 28 member countries of the European Union and costs their economies around 120 billion euros ($162.19 billion) a year.

The report, the EU’s first on corruption, was issued Monday by European Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.

The report, summarized in a news release before publication, finds that EU member states have taken many steps in recent years to fight corruption, but that the results are uneven and that more needs to be done.

Malmstrom said in a statement that “Corruption undermines citizens’ confidence in democratic institutions and the result of law, it hurts the European economy and deprives states of much-needed tax revenue.

“Member states have done a lot in recent years to fight corruption, but today’s report shows that it is far from enough.”

Posted in EuropeComments Off on Corruption Costs European Union $162 Billion Each Year

New Saudi Counterterrorism Law Alarms Activists

NOVANEWS

AP

 by  AYA BATRAWY

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia put into effect a sweeping new counterterrorism law Sunday that human rights activists say allows the kingdom to prosecute as a terrorist anyone who demands reform, exposes corruption or otherwise engages in dissent.

The law states that any act that “undermines” the state or society, including calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, can be tried as an act of terrorism. It also grants security services broad powers to raid homes and track phone calls and Internet activity.

Human rights activists were alarmed by the law and said it is clearly aimed at keeping the kingdom’s ruling Al Saud family firmly in control amid the demands for democratic reform that have grown louder since the Arab Spring protests that shook the region in 2011 and toppled longtime autocrats.

Saudi activist Abdulaziz al-Shubaily described the law as a “catastrophe.” And Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle warned: “The new law is draconian in spirit and letter, and there is every reason to fear that the authorities will easily and eagerly use it against peaceful dissidents.”

The measure was approved by the Cabinet on Dec. 16 and ratified by King Abdullah. It was published in its entirety for the first time on Friday in the government’s official gazette Um Al-Qura.

In defense of the law, the Saudi minister of culture and information, Abdel Aziz Khoja, was quoted in December as saying that the legislation strikes a balance between prevention of crimes and protection of human rights according to Islamic law.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s last absolute monarchies. All decisions are centered in the hands of 89-year-old King Abdullah. There is no parliament. There is little written law, and judges — implementing the country’s strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam — have broad leeway to impose verdicts and sentences.

An attempt to pass a similar counterterrorism law in 2011 was shelved after rights groups in Saudi Arabia and abroad leaked a copy online.

Since then, dozens of activists have been detained, a prominent rights organization was shut down, and authorities more aggressively monitor social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, where jokes about the aging monarchy are rife and anger over corruption, poverty and unemployment is palpable.

The new law defines terrorism as any criminal act that “destabilizes the society’s security or the state’s stability or exposes its national unity to harm.” It also states that terrorist acts include disabling the ruling system or “offending the nation’s reputation or its position.”

Activists said that simply exposing corruption could be seen as a violation of the law. Some also warned that Saudi women who get behind the wheel of a car in violation of the ban on female drivers could be tried under the new anti-terror law.

The law also gives the interior minister the power to end sentences and drop charges. It says only the interior minister can order the release of a person on trial. Judges would have no say.

Other worrying aspects, activists said, include an article that says police can raid homes and offices on suspicion of anti-government activity without prior approval from a judge or even a superior. Suspects can also be held incommunicado for 90 days, and lawyers are not required to be present during the initial interrogation.

Lori Plotkin Boghardt of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy said the new law will not likely have a huge impact on the way in which the Saudis fight militants. She said the law provides technical cover for many of the measures the authorities were employing.

Coogle of Human Rights Watch said the law “enshrines some of the unlawful practices that Saudi authorities were already committing,” such as detention of suspects for many years without trial. He said it also does not specify the punishment for crimes committed under the new law.

However, he said the measure does not include some of the most controversial language of the 2011 draft, which went further by criminalizing insults against Islam and protests as acts of terrorism.

Al-Shubaily is among 12 activists in the country who founded the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights, known in Arabic by its acronym HASEM. The group was shut down, eight of its founding members were imprisoned, and he is facing trial.

“If I call for the release of someone from jail for being held longer than their sentence, I can be tried for ‘asking the state to take action,'” al-Shubaily said. “When I call for a constitutional monarchy, I can now be charged with terrorism.”

“They characterize you as a terrorist because you ask the kingdom to do something it does not want to do” he added.

Posted in Saudi ArabiaComments Off on New Saudi Counterterrorism Law Alarms Activists

Snowden Nominated For Nobel Prize By Norwegian Politicians

NOVANEWS
AP  | by  MARK LEWIS

STAVANGER, Norway (AP) — Two Norwegian politicians have jointly nominated former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, saying his disclosures of secret U.S. documents have contributed to making the world more peaceful.

Anyone can be nominated for the prestigious award, so the submission Wednesday by Socialist lawmakers Baard Vegard Solhjell, a former environment minister, and Snorre Valen just means Snowden will be one of scores of names that the Nobel committee will consider.

“We do not necessarily condone or support all of his disclosures,” the two lawmakers said in their nomination letter. “We are, however, convinced that the public debate and changes in policy that have followed in the wake of Snowden’s whistleblowing has contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order.”

The five-member Nobel committee won’t confirm who’s been nominated. Saturday is the deadline for nominations from a range of people, including members of national parliaments and governments, university professors or previous laureates.

Valen agreed that the documents leaked by Snowden “have damaged the security interests of several nations.”

“But to have the debate, you have to be aware of what is going on,” he told The Associated Press.

The Nobel prize committee members can add their own candidates at their first meeting after Saturday’s deadline. The winner will be announced in October.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Posted in USAComments Off on Snowden Nominated For Nobel Prize By Norwegian Politicians

Syria Peace Talks See First Tentative Step Forward

NOVANEWS
Syrian Opposition delegation spokesman Louay Safi gestures during a press briefing on peace talks at the United Nations on January 29, 2014 in Geneva. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Mariam Karouny

GENEVA, Jan 29 (Reuters) – Talks aimed at ending the war in Syria took a first tentative step forward on Wednesday as both sides agreed to use the same document as the basis of discussions, although they disagreed about how the negotiations should proceed.

Both sides said they agreed to use the “Geneva communique”, a document agreed at a previous international conference in Geneva in June 2012, and which sets out the stages needed for an end to the fighting and a political transition.

“We have agreed that Geneva 1 is the basis of the talks,” opposition spokesman Louay al-Safi told reporters, referring to the 2012 communique.

Bouthaina Shaaban, a Syrian presidential adviser, said there was agreement on using the text, but with some reservations.

While the opposition wants to start by addressing the question of the transitional governing body that the talks aim to create, the government insists that the first step is to discuss “terrorism”, and not jump into the middle of the text.

The government describes those fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad as terrorists. The opposition says transitional arrangements must include the removal of Assad, which the government rejects.

Despite the differing interpretations of Geneva 1, organizers of the talks at United Nations headquarters in Geneva have been at pains to keep the process going and dissuade either of the sides from walking out.

Syrian state television said the government wanted to discuss the text of Geneva 1 “paragraph by paragraph”.

“Mr Brahimi said tomorrow they are going to discuss terrorism because stopping terrorism is the first issue that should be handled,” Shaaban said. “Even in Geneva 1 the first item is to stop violence which has turned to terrorism.”

There was no immediate confirmation from international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, who is chairing the talks. On Tuesday he said both sides were talking to the media too much and should respect the confidentiality of the talks and not overstate their case. (Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva and Stephen Kalin and Oliver Holmes in Beirut, editing by Giles Elgood)

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Syria Peace Talks See First Tentative Step Forward

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