Archive | January 26th, 2018

Women’s Rally for Ahed Tamimi And Palestine

(L-r) Karen Pomer of Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Amani Barakat of the Al-Awda coalition and Lydia Ponce of Idle No More and the American Indian Movement at the Women’s Rally for Ahed and Palestine in Los Angeles. <STAFF PHOTO S. TWAIR>


More than 200 protesters attended the Jan. 6 “Women’s Rally to Free Ahed Tamimi and all Palestinian Child Prisoners” in front of the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles. Ahed’s father, Bassem Tamimi, who called in to address the crowd, compared the struggle for Palestine to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

The event was co-sponsored by Jews for Palestinian Right of Return and Al-Awda (the Palestine Right to Return Coalition), and endorsed by Jewish Voice for Peace-Los Angeles, North America BDS, American Indian Movement (AIM), Black Lives Matter (BLM) Pasadena, CODE PINK and Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).

Karen Pomer of Jews for Palestinian Right of Return introduced Mary Hughes Thompson of the Free Gaza Movement and Women In Black-Los Angeles. Hughes Thompson was a passenger on the first boat to break the siege of Gaza in August 2008 (see November 2008 Washington Report, p. 15). Describing the 33-hour sail from Cyprus to Gaza, where they were greeted by 45,000 Palestinians, she said, “I was 68 years old when I became involved in the Palestinian cause and went to the occupied West Bank to help with the Palestinian olive harvest. I was beaten by the Israeli settlers and shot using rubber bullets, which are actually live bullets.”

“We know what oppression looks like. We know what genocide looks like,” said Idle No More organizer Lydia Ponce, citing the parallels to the Native American oppression in the U.S.

Another speaker at the rally, Estee Chandler of Jewish Voice for Peace-Los Angeles, declared: “There are two systems of justice in Palestine. Israelis are governed under and represented by Israeli law, so if an Israeli child (or adult) violates the law, they are tried within the Israeli justice system. However, if a Palestinian child, or adult, ‘breaks the law’ they are immediately subjected to a military tribunal.”

That system of justice is what 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi is facing today, in prison and denied bail as she awaits trial—possibly for months—for assaulting Israeli soldiers. That is the system that on Dec. 15 caused the severe disfigurement of Mohammed Tamimi, Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin, who was shot in the head by Israeli military police at close range with a rubber bullet. Ahed Tamimi had just heard that news an hour before she slapped and kicked the Israeli soldiers outside her home.

“Israel has a 99.7 percent conviction rate of Palestinians,” added Chandler, referencing the “10,000 children since 2000 who have been arrested and detained in Israeli prisons for refusing to submit to occupations or surveillance.”

A Palestinian woman named Abir El Zowidi shared her experience: “I lived in Palestine, and I saw the truth. Palestine and its people need your support. I witnessed the young mothers of my family suffering, watched their kids being captured by Israeli soldiers. I remember seeing them, crying and brokenhearted.”

The rally concluded with organizers calling on attendees to back H.R. 4391, the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act, in Congress. The bill, introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), requires the certification that U.S. taxpayer funds will not be used to support Israel’s violation of international humanitarian law against Palestinian children.

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Human Rights Defenders Protest Drone Warfare

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Outside the White House, activists protest drone warfare. [Staff Photo Phil Pasquini]


As they have done the second Saturday of each month, members of Pax Christi and other human rights groups gathered in front of the White House Jan. 13 to protest the U.S. government’s use of drone warfare.

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force Act drafted by the George W. Bush administration in September 2001 has consistently been criticized by civil rights groups because hundreds of innocent men, women and children have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and Libya.

Pax Christi, an international Catholic organization that rejects war, violence and racism, contends that drone killings fuel terrorism and perpetuate violence rather than deterring it.

Several organizations, including the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal (a news website), New America and Bureau of Investigative Journalism, attempt to track the number of drone airstrikes and casualties, but without accurate results, as journalists have limited direct access into how the U.S. government classifies these deaths.

In the U.S., the manufacture of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), has grown in conjunction with the winding down of combat operations, and is predicted to grow with President Donald J. Trump’s demonstrated support of the use of UAVs.

Israel also has a thriving drone manufacturing industry, although the Israeli company, Aeronautics Ltd., currently is under criminal investigation for alleged corruption and purported dealings with the Myanmar military, which is accused of ethnic cleansing for its treatment of the Rohingyas.

—Elaine Pasquini

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Making Sense of the Iran Protests

(L-r) Susan Glasser, Maziar Bahari and Suzanne Maloney discuss the Iran protests. [Courtesy Brookings Institution]


On Dec. 28, 2017, protests began in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city and home to the shrine of Imam Reza. Initially aimed at President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, protests quickly spread out of control to smaller cities such as Bandar Abbas, Ahvaz, Shiraz and Rasht. The country-wide protests led to the deaths of 21 people and the arrests of more than 400.

On Jan. 5, 2018, the Brookings Institution hosted a panel discussion on “The Protests in Iran,” moderated by POLITICO columnist Susan Glasser. She described the protests as “remarkable but little understood” developments which “seemed to surprise just about everybody.”

According to Maziar Bahari, founder of IranWire.com, “no one knows who exactly” is protesting, as there have been various slogans being chanted, including some in support of the Pahlavis and some in support of Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri, who played a key role in the 1979 Islamic Revolution and was set to be Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s successor prior to a falling out between them. Bahari, whose memoir, Then They Came for Me, (available from the Washington Report’s Middle East Books and More) describes his experience being arrested in Iran during the 2009 Green Movement, added that Iran is experiencing widespread discontent that is “fertile ground for protests.”

In comparison to 2009, Bahari said, the protesters today “do not have a clear objective,” which has kept the middle classes from supporting them. Furthermore, the regime and Revolutionary Guards are “struggling for answers” as well as for a narrative—the protests have been called a plan of Saudi Arabia, Israel and the U.S.

Suzanne Maloney, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy, added that the protests have a “lack of an obvious figurehead” and are much smaller than the protests of 2009. However, the protesters are largely coming from the lower classes, which is the base of the Islamic Republic, Mahoney noted, and “it’s got to be deeply unnerving” for the regime.

While Bahari argued that the protesters do not separate the reformists and hardliners in the government, Maloney described President Rouhani as “the last best effort” for reform in Iran. Rouhani, however, has “run up against what’s possible in the Islamic Republic,” Maloney said. Further, she added, the JCPOA nuclear agreement was sold to the Iranians as something that would open the economy, and that has just not happened.

On whether or not President Donald Trump was right to voice his support for the demonstrators, Bahari stated that “they are going to blame America for everything in Iran” no matter what the president does. Bahari emphasized that, for one thing, the travel ban needs to be lifted, as it created anger toward the U.S. Maloney added that in 2009, during the Green Movement, she supported President Barack Obama’s decision to stay silent, but has since come to regret it, calling it a “reasonable calculation” at the time because Obama did not want to do anything that would hurt the potential for nuclear talks. Maloney also stated that the U.S. “should never stay on the sidelines” when it comes to the rights of people, and that “sometimes we simply have to do what is right to do.”

The most recent protests largely faded after a week, and the long-term effects or continuation of the protests is unclear. Just as it was when the protests began, the future may be hard to predict.

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Zionism Has Distorted U.S. Foreign Policy, Says Allan Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld speaks at a Committee for the Republic event at Washington, DC’s Metropolitan Club. [Staff Photo Phil Pasquini]

Washington Report columnist Allan C. Brownfeld, also the editor of Issues, the quarterly journal of the American Council for Judaism, spoke Jan. 11 on Zionism and Jewish-American relations with Israel at Washington, DC’s Metropolitan Club. The Committee for the Republic hosted the well-attended evening event.

Briefly reviewing the history of Zionism, Brownfeld pointed out that when the nationalist movement first arose in the 19th century in Europe, the majority of Jews rejected it. “Historically, Zionism was a minority movement in Judaism,” he claimed. “If it had not been for the rise of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, Zionism would most likely have been a minority view among Jews and the state of Israel never would have been created.”

He went on to describe the Palestinians as “the final victims of the Holocaust,” noting that “People who were sitting in the Middle East minding their own business, having nothing to do with it, have paid the price.”

In the late 19th century when Zionism began, he said, “Jews constituted only 4 percent of the population of Palestine. Even in 1948, when the United Nations created the Jewish state, Jews represented a minority in that state. This is a very important point to be made, because many people do not view Zionism as a settler colonial movement, which is, indeed, what it is.”

Regarding President Donald J. Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Brownfeld said: “From my own research, it seems to me that Sheldon Adelson was the major reason for the decision being made at the present time, because of the massive amount of money he contributes to the Republican party.” The casino magnate contributed $15 million to Trump’s inauguration.

Also in response to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and the appointment of David Friedman—a man who rejects the creation of a Palestinian state—as U.S. ambassador to Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has voted to annex portions of the West Bank, Brownfeld said.

Discussing U.S. aid to Israel, Brownfeld noted, “In September 2016 the U.S. agreed to provide Israel a record $38 billion in new military aid over the next decade. The agreement equates to $3.8 billion a year, the largest bi-lateral aid package ever.” This represents a 20 percent increase from the previous agreement of $3.1 billion annually. Roughly 20 percent of the United States’ entire foreign aid budget goes to Israel. It has been the largest recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War II.

Israel recently banned all groups which support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement from entering Israel—including the American Friends Service Committee, which, during World War II and the Holocaust, rescued large numbers of Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe and today are doing the same thing for the Palestinians, Brownfeld told his audience.

At the end of World War II, Brownfeld noted, the U.S was highly thought of in the Arab world. “We were an anti-colonial power, and under our influence the British and French left Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, which became independent countries,” he pointed out. “Our anti-colonial tradition, I think, was abandoned when we imposed Israel upon the Middle East. Continuing to support the settler colonial state in the Middle East set us back and fuels ISIS and other terrorists around the world. It will be even worse if Israel annexes the West Bank.”

On the controversial topic of Judaism as a religion rather than a nationality, Brownfeld considers Judaism to be a religion of universal values, not a nationality. “I believe that American Jews are American by nationality, and Jews by religion,” he said. “But, if you believe that Jews are a people and Israel is their homeland, you have every right to believe that and immigrate to that homeland.”

Warning his audience not to be pessimistic about the future, Brownfeld noted that within the American Jewish community, especially young people, there is growing outrage at Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and its 50-year occupation. “Hopefully, in the future,” he concluded, “Judaism will return to the moral and ethical standards it brought into the world.”

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Yemen Peace Prospects Examined

Peter Salisbury speaks at Washington, DC’s Arab Gulf States Institute. [Staff Photo Phil Pasquini]

Journalist Peter Salisbury spoke Jan. 18 at Washington, DC’s Arab Gulf States Institute (AGSIW) on “Yemen: National Chaos, Local Order.” His December 2017 50-page assessment of the situation in Yemen of the same title was published by Chatham House, where he is a senior consulting researcher in its Middle East and North Africa program. Salisbury is also a non-resident fellow at AGSIW.

In his talk, Salisbury challenged current thinking on Yemen’s civil war as a binary conflict between the exiled government of President Abd Raboo Mansour Al-Hadi, backed by Saudi Arabia, and the now collapsed alliance between the Houthis—followers of Zaydism, a branch of Shi’i Islam —and Yemen’s deceased former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Instead, Salisbury argued, “We need to start thinking of a mediation strategy that includes all the different players and incentives to move it forward.” These players include Islah, a Sunni-Islamist party which is the best organized opposition group, and loyalists or allies of Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a key part of the Saleh regime who split from the regime in 2011.

“There is a secessionist movement in southern Yemen,” Salisbury explained, “but it has not been very good at becoming a coherent, single unifying force over the last two decades. You have various different networks across the south that have been able to take over areas of territory where they are indigenous or local to that area and driven by internal politics, but cooperate with key security figures in Aden. Aden remains really a contested zone between figures backed by the Hadi government and southern secessionists sponsored by the United Arab Emirates, who is the main sponsor of most of the military groups across the tribal south.” Salafists, tribal groups, women and the youth must all be represented in any peace talks, he insisted.

In addition, in Hadramawt, the Hadrami Elite Forces took over from al-Qaeda at the beginning of 2016 and built a power base in the south, Salisbury pointed out.

“Yemen has really been divided into multiple zones of influence, control and power with different external allies and internal allies,” he noted. “Many different groups control different areas on the ground and have different agendas.”

Explaining the importance for all parties to be included in peace talks, he added: “Even if the war against the Houthis were to succeed in some way and they would be disarmed, then you have won the large war but have basically opened the door to a dozen small wars all across Yemen. There is a lot of chatter that the war can be won militarily in 2018, which I do not believe is going to happen.”

Salisbury concluded by telling his audience: “It is really hard for me to be optimistic about what happens in Yemen in the next few years, simply because when you take all of these groups on the ground and all of these external actors and you look at their agendas and where they are at psychologically, Yemen is not ripe for peace right now. I think an escalation in the conflict worsens a really terrible humanitarian situation. The only solution is a diplomatic solution.”

Salisbury did not address Yemen’s continuing humanitarian crisis, often described as the worst in the world. Humanitarian relief flights are allowed to fly to Sana’a only from Saudi Arabia, which severely hampers aid efforts. Yemen’s Health Ministry estimates that since August 2016 more than 10,000 people have died from lack of desperately needed medical care, food and supplies. According to the World Health Organization, there are currently more than 1,029,700 cases of cholera in Yemen, a country of 29.5 million people. Thousands of civilians have been injured and displaced from their homes due to the continued violence.

—Elaine Pasquini

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Jerusalem Growing in Size and Depravity

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Paola Caridi’s book offers a provocative critique of everyday life in modern Jerusalem. <Available from Middle East Books and More>


Given its deep significance to the world’s three major monotheistic religions, outsiders often view Jerusalem through the prism of faith, as a place defined by ancient events. In her new book, Jerusalem Without God: Portrait of a Cruel City, Italian journalist Paola Caridi doesn’t dismiss or downplay the city’s august spiritual significance. Rather, she sets aside the city’s religious aura to reflect on the everyday functioning of today’s modern, earthly city. Her conclusion is a solemn one; she portrays a Jerusalem bereft of humanity, where cruelty reigns and the very basic characteristics of a city are absent.

Caridi began her Nov. 16 talk at Georgetown University’s Washington, DC campus by observing that “Jerusalem has more geography than history.” On its face, this is a strange assertion, given the traditionally small size of this history-rich city. Indeed, she noted, her statement is a provocation, a restructuring of Israeli professor Avishai Margalit’s 1991 statement that “Jerusalem has always had more history than geography.”

The intention behind Caridi’s prodding comment is not to question the historical validity of Margalit’s statement, but rather to highlight how Israel’s post-1967 actions have altered the concepts of space and community in Jerusalem.

Since it captured Arab East Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel has perpetuated the sublime image of a “unified Jerusalem” that serves as the country’s “undivided capital.” In reality, Caridi noted, Israel’s strategy has been to Judaize the city by promoting Jewish immigration, isolating Palestinians in heavily concentrated areas, and expanding the city’s municipal borders. “The city’s entire political destiny is caught up in its expansion,” she said. “The borders, already modified and expanded immediately after 1967, have been gradually stretched like elastic.”

It is this physical expansion of the city that leads Caridi to proclaim Jerusalem, once defined by the walls of the ancient Old City, to have “more geography than history,” as modern political ambitions have dramatically redefined the scope of the city.

Beyond the physical reality, Caridi explores in her book how post-1967 Jerusalem, suffocated by “invisible lines” and a dearth of shared spaces, casts a cold chill over the ethos of the city. The people of Jerusalem, she writes, “brush against each other without touching, pass along the few streets in which the diverse communities must inevitably meet each other, in this web of separate streets and invisible traffic signs that indicate to the residents where they may go and where, on the other hand, is for the ‘others’ to go.” Israel’s “unified Jerusalem,” she contends, is much more divided than it is united.

Reflecting on this depravity, she—again provocatively—suggests that Jerusalem is not a city—at least according to the most virtuous definitions of the concept. She juxtaposes Jerusalem’s reality against the archetype of the “heavenly city” offered by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the former archbishop of Milan. He defined the perfect city as “a place where men live in harmony, in a weave of complex and constructive relationships…[and] there is a need for squares, for agora, where people can meet and understand each other and exchange intellectual and moral gifts of which no one is deprived.” This, she said in her talk, is the opposite of Jerusalem, which she described as “an urban body where the ongoing conflict has changed the parameters of coexistence, moving from open and shared social spaces to closed social spaces where access is limited according to ethno-religious affiliation.”

Another morbid feature of modern Jerusalem is the centrality of the city’s new wall of division, Caridi told her audience. Once defined by its ancient walls, which were meant to protect the city from outsiders, the city’s new wall serves to fracture and divide the city’s own residents. “Jerusalem is still a city within walls, that is, the archetype of an anti-modern city,” she said. “The ancient walls of Suleiman the Magnificent [in the Old City] contain ‘only’ the religious and tourist dimensions of one of the most contested places in the world. Third millennium Jerusalem is enclosed by ‘the Wall,’ a concrete wall of separation to the Palestinians and a ‘defensive barrier’ to the Israelis. As a newly equipped fortress, Jerusalem is now caged inside a security system composed of the Wall and checkpoints, guarded entrances, terminals—postmodern drawbridges.”

As Jerusalem endures its schismatic modern day reality, Caridi proposes a more universal and inclusive approach—one that magnifies rather than mocks the values of the faiths that cherish the city. “Jerusalem belongs to many, not to one,” she writes. No country or group can lay sole claim to the city. “It belongs to everyone….The city is not only Israeli, not only Palestinian, not only Jewish, Muslim or Christian.”

The faithful may long for the perfect “heavenly city”—known as the “Heavenly Jerusalem” in Christian eschatology—but Caridi simply recommends trying to humanize the earthly Jerusalem. “Jerusalem cannot be divided because it is multiple,” she concludes in her book. “Jerusalem cannot be made sacred because it is made of flesh and blood inhabitants. Further than the faiths, a Jerusalem without God lives its daily drama. To this city, few unfortunately give heed.”

Jerusalem Without God: Portrait of a Cruel City is available from Middle East Books and More.

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Mathilde Krim (1926-2018): Ardent Zionist Who Influenced LBJ During Six-Day War

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Dr. Mathilde Krim and Harvey Weinstein arrive for an AmfAR Charity Event at the Le Moulin de Mougins during the 56th International Cannes Film Festival on May 22, 2003 in Cannes, France. More than a decade later, it was revealed that Weinstein had hired former Mossad agents to pressure women he allegedly harassed and assaulted from going public with their accusations against him. (STEVE FINN/GETTY IMAGES)


THE VAST MAJORITY of mainstream obituaries for Mathilde Krim, a founding chairman of The Foundation for AIDS Research, or amfAR, who died Jan. 15 at her home on Long Island, New York at the age of 91, identified her as an AIDS activist: The New York Times, for example, described her as a “Mobilizing Force in an AIDS Crusade,” while The Washington Post deemed her a “Scientist Turned Activist Who Helped Strip AIDS of Its Stigma.”

As longtime Washington Report readers are aware, however,  before Krim was an activist for AIDS patients, she was an “activist”—and a very influential one—for Israel.

According to The New York Times, Krim “was born Mathilde Galland in Como, Italy, on July 9, 1926, to Eugene Galland, a Swiss-Italian, and the former Elizabeth Krause, an Austrian. Her father was an agronomist. The family moved to Geneva when Mathilde was 6.

“At the University of Geneva, Mathilde was a brilliant student of biology and genetics. Appalled by newsreels of Nazi concentration camps in 1945, she sought out Jewish activists, joined the Zionist underground Irgun and spent a summer smuggling guns over the French border for resistance [sic] fighters against British rule in Palestine.”

In an article in the June 1993 Washington Report, however, author Grace Halsell described Krim’s adventures differently:

“While a student in Geneva, she fell in love with a young Bulgarian Jew, David Danon, who had been brought up in Palestine and exiled by the British for his association with the Irgun Zvai Leumi, a Jewish terrorist group led by Menachem Begin. Danon was studying to become a medical doctor, but spent most of his time recruiting and carrying out secret Irgun operations throughout Western Europe.…

“Mathilde became so enamored of the Jewish struggle and of Danon’s daring undercover operations in Europe that she converted to Judaism and married Danon. Then she, too, became an Irgun agent.”

As Donald Neff reported in his article “Hamas: A Pale Image of the Jewish Irgun and Lehi Gangs” (see May/June 2006  Washington Report, p. 14): “The Irgun was led by Menachem Begin, the future Israeli prime minister…[It] was the dominant Jewish terrorist organization, both in size and the number and frequency of its attacks. Its most spectacular feat up to this time had been the July 22, 1946 blowing up of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, with the killing of 91 people—41 Arabs, 28 British and 17 Jews.”

In 1953, after Krim received her doctorate, the couple emigrated to Israel. In 1954 Krim joined a research team at the Weizmann Institute of Science. After the birth of their daughter, however, the marriage ended in divorce. In 1958 Krim married entertainment lawyer Arthur B. Krim, a Weizmann trustee whom Neff described as president of United Artists Corporation of Hollywood, a New York attorney and another major Democratic fund-raiser. He served as chairman of the Democratic National Party Finance Committee and chairman of the President’s Club of New York, the most potent source of [President Lyndon B.] Johnson’s campaign funds.” (See Nov./Dec. 1996 Washington Report, p. 96.)

The Krims moved from Israel to New York the following year.

Fast forward to 1967. According to Neff—who interviewed Krim for his book Warriors for Jerusalem: The Six Days That Changed the Middle East (available from AET’s Middle East Books and More)—“Mathilde Krim stayed at the White House during much of the 1967 war and was a regular caller at the Israeli Embassy, passing reports and gossip back and forth. The Krims, like other Johnson friends, did not hesitate to advise the president on Middle East policy.”

In her June 1993 article, Halsell recalled that, as a staff writer at the Johnson White House, “On occasion I saw a strikingly attractive blonde woman who, I learned, was an ardent supporter of Israel and a woman of whom the president was fond.”

That woman was Mathilde Krim.

“LBJ often invited the Krims to his Texas ranch,” Halsell wrote. “There also were many instances in which Arthur and Mathilde were guests at the White House, and other times when, for many days running, Mathilde—without her husband—was a guest there. The Krims built a house near the LBJ ranch known as Mathilde’s house, and Johnson often traveled there by helicopter.”

Having spent the 1967 Memorial Day weekend with the Krims at his ranch, Halsell continued:

“On June 3, Johnson traveled to New York to deliver a speech at a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner. He moved on to a $1,000-a-plate dinner dance, sponsored by the President’s Club of New York, whose chairman was Arthur Krim. While at the table, fund-raiser Abe Feinberg leaned over the shoulder of Mathilde Krim, seated next to Johnson, and whispered: ‘Mr. President, it [Israel’s attack] can’t be held any longer. It’s going to be within the next 24 hours.’

“On June 4, Johnson went to the home of his close adviser and friend, Justice Abe Fortas. The following day, June 5, [Special Assistant for National Security Affairs Walt] Rostow woke Johnson with a phone call at 4:30 a.m. ‘War has broken out,’ Rostow said. The Israelis had attacked Egypt and Syria.

“Mathilde Krim was a guest at the White House and, before going to the Oval Office, and apparently before waking Lady Bird or notifying anyone else, Johnson dropped by the bedroom where Mathilde was sleeping and gave her the news: ‘The war has started.’…

“[O]n June 5, Arthur Krim wrote a memo to the president saying: ‘Many arms shipments are packed and ready to go to Israel, but are being held up. It would be helpful if these could be released.’ Johnson got the shipments on their way.…

“Mathilde Krim, still a guest in the White House, left for meetings in New York. Before departing, however, she wrote out a statement supportive of Israel which she asked the president to deliver ‘verbatim to the American people.’ Johnson was sufficiently impressed with her comments to, later in the day, read some of them to Secretary of State Dean Rusk. But the president did not, as she had asked, read them to the American people.…

“Meanwhile, on the night of June 7, the USS Liberty, a Navy ‘ferret’ ship equipped to monitor electronic communications, had approached within sight of the Gaza Strip so the National Security Agency personnel aboard could intercept the military communications jamming the airwaves. The president retired at 11:30 p.m., but White House logs reported that at one minute to midnight he got a call from Mathilde Krim, still in New York.”

The next day Israel attacked the USS Liberty, killing 34 Americans and wounding 171.

According to Neff’s 1996 account: “How influential the Krims were in forming Johnson’s Middle East policy was hinted at by notes in the president’s daily diary for June 17, 1967. The notes reported that at a dinner with the Krims and others at Camp David, Johnson openly discussed a speech he was working on that was to establish the nation’s Middle East policy for the years ahead.

“According to the notes, Johnson read from various drafts of the speech around the dinner table, ‘inserting additions and making changes, also accepting comments and suggestions from all at the table.’ Thus two passionate partisans of Israel, the Krims, helped Johnson refine what was later called the “five great principles of peace,” the pillars of U.S. policy in the Middle East for the next two decades.”

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Saint Corbyn? Words Versus Deeds

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A Response to My Detractors

Illusion and Reality

It’s interesting reading comments on the essays I write that get published around the world on various websites (at least those that permit comments) regarding Jeremy Corbyn.

What appears to generate the most ire are my views on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as the alleged vehicle for radical, social transformation. It seems the man can do no wrong. He appears to have achieved some kind of saintly status amongst those on the left and amongst progressives in general, let alone the millions who voted for him. So is it any wonder that my decidedly unfashionable views provoke such negative reactions?

I suppose it’s also understandable given as how such ‘sanctified’ individuals are so rare amongst the professional political class, that actually having one who who appears to have principles is a wonder to behold. It would seem that the adage, ‘beggars can’t be choosers’, best describes the opinions of progressives on Corbyn.

However, I live in the real world, not one of make believe or wishful thinking and notwithstanding Corbyn’s long held progressive views (40 years or so) in the Labour Party as a back bencher[1] in successive Labour governments, firstly, what have been his actual achievements over four decades and what are his chances of bringing about actual, real progressive change utilising a Labour government as the vehicle?

Notwithstanding the successes of the 1945 postwar Keynesian Labour government, the National Health Service and so on, successive Labour governments have been for the most part examples of the vilest kind of backstabbing of its supporters and especially of its alleged allies on the left and of the working class in general, never mind its gung ho imperialism and neo-colonialism!

Indeed, one can argue that successive Labour governments opened the door for successive Tory governments’ attacks on the gains made by that 1945 Labour victory, culminating in the Blair victory in 1997. Policies that without Labour governments persuading its voters that ‘there was no alternative’, Tory governments would have had a great deal more difficulty in enacting their policies, proving that the Labour Party is no more than the ‘liberal wing’ of a de facto one-party state.

Thus the privatisation (rollback) that began under the Thatcher government of 1979 was made possible by the capitulation of prior Labour governments and their attacks on the organised working class and its structures, culminating in the complete adoption of so-called neoliberalsm by ‘New Labour’ in 1997.

So what’s going on here? How can we explain firstly, the survival of Corbyn for all these decades whilst all around reaction triumphed? How is it that a handful of leftish Labour MPs survived in a swamp of rightwing, pro-capitalist Labour MPs and for that matter, governments, when by rights they should been shown the door decades ago?

Could it be that they survived in name only, sitting comfortably on their backsides, sorry benches, making all the ‘right’ noises, turning up at all the ‘right’ demonstrations and protests, in order to justify their longtime survival as tokens of the Labour ‘left’? Not that this was a conscious process, just the inevitable outcome of generations of attempts at ‘reforming’ capitalism.

Secondly, and in a way even more importantly, doesn’t/didn’t their survival help create/maintain the illusion of political diversity in the otherwise politically monochrome world of the two-party system?

I suppose that at this point the supporters of Saint Corbyn can accuse me of cynical backstabbing, that in not giving my wholehearted support to what little power we have, I’m opening the door for the right.

Well all I can say is that credits me with a whole lot of power I don’t possess, I just try to assess the situation in the real world, not the one invented by wishful thinking and I think events over the past two years, since the rise of Corbyn bear me out.

Words Versus Deeds

We need only compare his draft Election Manifesto with the one finally adopted to see where Corbyn actually stands.

Source: Red Pepper

Firstly, his capitulation to the imperialists in the leadership of the Labour Party over NATO, nuclear weapons and the right to wage war on the planet in the name of democracy and ‘humanitarian intervention’.

[T]he concessions contained in Labour’s draft manifesto have since been revealed as only a staging post for Corbyn in what his shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, described as a “journey” towards accepting NATO and nuclear war.

The qualification on the use of the armed forces contained in the draft version, “That’s why we will never send them into harm’s way unless all other options have been exhausted,” is removed in the final manifesto. –Labour’s manifesto amended to stress commitment to militarism and war By Robert Stevens, WSWS, 19 May 2017.

Secondly, his capitulation over the Tory Austerity programme, led by his ‘ally’ Emily Thornberry (with friends like this, who needs enemies?), and currently touted as the ‘replacement’ for Corbyn in some future coup by the Right in the Labour Party.

The draft, produced by the team around Labour’s nominally left leader Jeremy Corbyn, was subject to ratification by the party’s top officials on May 11. It sought to marry a watery commitment to certain social reforms and a slight relaxation in the Conservatives’ austerity agenda with a raft of measures demanded by the Blairite right wing. (ibid]

So on two, fundamental issues of principle, about which so much hot air has been exhaled, before the war had even begun, the outcome had already been decided!

The means justifying the end or the end justifying the means?

Okay, let’s give Corbyn and his Labour Party supporters the benefit of the doubt and assume that his capitulation was no more than a ‘tactical retreat’, that once ‘in power’ he would reverse his position and for example, appeal to his voters to support him and overrule his majority rightwing Labour MPs over these critical issues of principle let alone tactics (lose the battle but win the war).

Remember he is/would be heading up a Labour government more than 90% virulently opposed to Corbyn ad his policies, never mind the entrenched state machine, the Civil Service, the corporate/state media, the military and security state, big business and of course NATO and the US, that ugly big bear in the living room.

But can we see Corbyn calling on hs supporters (I calculate maybe one third of the electorate) to take to the streets and back him should the Establishment move against him (as it most surely would)? This in the light of the fact that not a single thing has been done in the way of organising and preparing for extra-Parliamentary actions, beyond the odd demonstration over single issues eg, the NHS, and possibly the only issue that commands the support of the vast majority. Even here, the upcoming February 3, 2018 demonstration is no more than a flash in the pan. Compare our campaigns to the ones taking place in France over comparable attacks on the working class for example and you get an idea of just how pathetic left opposition is here and what a failure the Labour Party has been in this regard.

Add to that, the one concession to fighting a 21st century fight, Momentum (initiated, not by the Labour Party, well not actually, but by ‘entryists’ from the Socialist Workers Party), once the Labour bureaucracy saw the writing on the wall, they took it ‘in-house’. Goodbye Momentum, been nice knowing you! But actually, it just shows what can be done, once you step outside the Labour Party straightjacket! More’s the pity, those damn opportunists from the SWP chose to use the Labour Party as their vehicle (yet again)! Just remember folks, there is history behind all this. Momentum didn’t just appear overnight like mushrooms after the rain.

And the reasons for this contrast are quite clear; Corbyn has never developed a programme that excludes the Labour Party as the central, driving force for radical, social transformation (never mind that word, socialism) and replace it with grassroots activism and organisation. How can he, when he still sees the Labour Party as the exclusive vehicle for radical social change and Parliament as the road down which it would travel?

As I’ve said several times before, in fact I’m sick of repeating myself, Corbyn is joined at the hip to the Labour Party. As the pundits are always saying, the Labour Party is in his DNA. Ultimately therefore, Corbyn’s first allegiance is to the Labour Party and it informs and determines his every move.

And it’s this, more than anything else that has and is, determining the left’s divided loyalties over Corbyn, for as long as they see a ‘reformed’ Labour Party as the only vehicle for social transformation, not only will we fail in that objective, an entire generation of repoliticised people will be, once more, disabused of political change and the power of collective action by the failure of a Labour government to honour its commitments. They will, once more, retreat into individualised activities aka ‘charities’, single issue campaigns and such like. History shows that only collective actions achieve results, and in the year that (mistakenly[2]) celebrates the centenary of womens’ right to vote (they only got the full vote ten years later, in 1928), it behoves me to remind you of that fact.

*

Notes

1. Back bencher is another way of saying that he played no part in formulating the Labour government’s policies over those 40 years. Sidelined would be a better description, held in reserve, should a ‘left’ voice be needed.

2. As a result of campaigns dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, some women were finally granted the vote in 1918. However, many women were still excluded from the franchise – the Representation of the People Act enfranchised all males and women over the age of 30 who already had the right to vote in local elections. 8,400,000 women were enfranchised. Universal franchise was finally granted with the Equal Franchise Act of 1928. – The campaign for suffrage – a historical background‘, British Library.

——————-

The Rising of Britain’s ‘New Politics’
There Is No ‘Cult of Corbyn’ – This Is a Movement Preparing for Power
Disastrous Capitalism – But Is a U.K. Labour Government the Solution?
United Kingdom: The Storm of Political Change Is Upon Us – There Is No Going Back

 

 

 

 

Posted in UKComments Off on Saint Corbyn? Words Versus Deeds

The Russiagate Stakes Are Extreme

NOVANEWS

The Republicans’ delay in releasing the summary of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russiagate investigation is giving weight to the media presstitutes’ claim that the report is not being released, because it is a hack attempt at a Trump cover-up that is not believable. Only Republicans are stupid enough to put themselves in such a situation. 

Readers ask me why the summary memo is not released if it is real. There must be some reasons besides the alleged “stupidity” of Republicans. Yes, that is so. Among the many reasons that might be blocking release are:  

  1. Republicans are very national security conscious. They don’t want to provide precedents for the release of classified information.
  2. Many Republican congressional districts host installations of the military/security complex. Upsetting a large employer and directing campaign financing to a challenger is a big consideration.
  3. The George W. Bush/Dick Cheney regime was a neoconservative regime. One consequence is that Republicans are influenced by neoconservatives who stress the alleged “Russian threat.”  
  4. The Israel Lobby can unseat any member of the House and Senate. The Israel Lobby is allied with the neoconservatives and this alliance intends to keep the US militarily active against perceived threats to Israel’s hegemony in the Middle East and against Russia, which supports Syria and Iran, countries perceived as threats by Israel.
  5. Many Republicans are themselves invested in false Russiagate allegations against Trump and would like to replace him with Pence. Other Republicans believe that Trump is undermining Washington’s expensively-purchased foreign alliances and, thereby, undermining US power.

Many Americans do not seem to understand what is at stake. What America is confronted with is a coup conspiracy organized by top officials of the Obama Justice Department, FBI, CIA, the Hillary DNC, and the presstitute media to overturn the result of a democratic election and remove the president from office.

The basis of the coup is a fake dossier purchased for money that consists of unsupported allegations against Trump and that was used to obtain warrants from the FISA count to spy on Trump and various associates hoping to find something that can be used against Trump. Regardless, the false allegations could be fed to the CIA’s media assets and used to create a scandal requiring a special prosecutor to investigate Russiagate. Once the investigation was under way, the presstitutes kept the scandal alive hoping to convince enough Americans that Trump must have done something—“where there is smoke, there is fire”—that justifies his removal. It worked against Richard Nixon, but not against Ronald Reagan, and Trump is no Reagan.

If the highest reaches of the police state agencies can get away with an attempted or successful coup against the president of the United States, then that is the complete end of democracy and all accountability in government. The House, Senate, and Judiciary will become as powerless as the Roman Senate under the caesars. We will live under a dictatorship ruled by police state agencies.  

Many Americans say they don’t need the House Intelligence Report, because they don’t believe the Russiagate BS in the first place. They miss the point. They need the report, because those responsible for this attempt at a coup must be identified, charged, and prosecuted for their act of high treason.  

This is not minor stuff. This goes to the heart of whether any form of liberty will exist. We all know that the ability of the people to hold government accountable is not assured by democracy. However, there is no prospect of holding government accountable if it is a police state, a road that the US has been going down for some time. The audacious coup attempt against President Trump is our opportunity to stop the momentum to a police state.

Despite my recent postings, many people do not understand that the somewhat redacted FISA court document that has been declassified and released and explained by myself, William Binney, and former US Attorney Joe di Genova (see this) contains admissions by the FBI and DOJ that they improperly spied and obtained warrants from the court under false pretenses. In other words, we have it on the authority of the FISA court itself that the FBI and DOJ have admitted to the court their transgressions. When Department of Justice (sic) congressional liaison Stephen Boyd says the DOJ is “unaware of any wrongdoing,” he is lying through his teeth. The DOJ has already confessed its wrongdoing to the FISA court.

(See Lendman on Boyd’s claim that releasing the memo would harm national security and ongoing investigations.  This is always the claim made when government has to cover up its crimes.)

When Admiral Rodgers, director of the National Security Agency, discovered that the FBI and DOJ were misusing the spy system for partisan political reasons, he let it be known that he was going to inform the FISA court. This caused the FBI and DOJ to rush to the court in advance and confess to “mistakes” and to promise to tighten up procedures so as not to make mistakes in the future. It is these “mistakes” and corrections that the FISA court document reveals.

In other words, the information already exists in the pubic domain that proves that Russiagate was a conspiracy organized for the purpose of bringing down the elected president of the United States.

A case can be made that it would be just as well if the coup succeeds as it would bring an end to Washington’s cover as the government of a great democracy with liberty and justice for all.  Most other governments, and one would hope certainly the Russian and Chinese governments, would see the coup as America’s final transition into a police state and give up their utopian ideas of reaching accommodation with Washington.  The constraints on Washington’s ability to bully the world would be greatly strengthened by the universal perception that the government of the United States had devolved into a police state.

Posted in USA, RussiaComments Off on The Russiagate Stakes Are Extreme

EU and IMF Conditionalities: Fatal Blow to Greece’s Labour Rights

The main question that prevailed in Greece till 2015, before the years of cynicism which started along with the rise of SYRIZA and the nationalistic right party of Independent Greeks in power, was whether the adjustment programs had succeeded or not.

The “denials” characterized them as inefficient and aimless, judging their effectiveness by the achievement of their nominal aims; Looking for example at the size of the public debt, the Greek rescue should be taught in student amphitheatres as an epic failure. Greek sovereign debt was 115% of GDP before the rescuers landed on Greek soil in May 2010 and now, a few months before the third program ends in August 2018, it has reached 181% of GDP.[1] In the preliminary report of Truth Committee on Public Debt (which was formed in the Greek Parliament in April 2015 and audited the sovereign debt and concluded that it must not be paid) we concluded that the priority of rescuing the private creditors and the neoliberal reforms had a negative effect on the debt sustainability.

Almost the same recipe is repeated in every program, by all the different governments and political parties which have undertaken the responsibility of this open-ended shock therapy since 2010. If it was a wrong direction, why didn’t they correct the route? Even the IMF has officially recognized the fallacies of this strategy.[2]

Simultaneously, the Greek economic and political elite (through the industrialists’ or the bankers’ union) never expressed objections or hesitations to the conditionalities which accompanied every Memorandum of Understanding (the agreements with the creditors) and the guidance of the midterm evaluations. It’s very characteristic that the conditionalities which have been agreed will remain many decades after the official end of the current program. For example: the primary budget surpluses will be held until 2060 and the Greek Privatisation and Investment Fund which have the aim to gather 50 bn. euros from privatisations will remain active for 98 more years.

If we want to check the success of the programs of economic adjustment we must turn our attention to the transformations they brought to the labour law and labour relations. What happened in Greece can be compared only to what happened in Eastern and Central Europe during the transition from the so-called existent socialism to the capitalism. In real terms, the political boundaries of “Eastern Europe”, countries in which the post-war achievements of the working-class movement have declined, have reached the Mediterranean Sea.

Absolute reduction of wages

The most obvious answer to the fundamental question about the success of the terms of the loan agreement is presented in the evolution of the wages. According to OECD, the 2016 annual average wage (25,124 US dollars) was lower than the 2000 wage (25,909 USD). Greek working class has thus returned to the 20th century under the rule of the creditors! Knowing that all these years the wage and social inequality has increased sharply we can suppose, with no risk, that the social situation of the lower income group is much worse because the averages have become less representative. In the age of the extremes the averages are misleading.

The unprecedented reduction of real wages is depicted even in the Eurostat figures, where it is apparent that labour cost per hour in euros was reduced from 16.7 in 2008 to 14.2 in 2016.[3] In only one other country, Cyprus, the wages were reduced during the years of the Memoranda: from 16.7 euros in 2008 to 15.8 in 2016, but even there the reduction (-5.4%) was much lower than the Greek one (-15%). During the same years the wages steadily increasing in the EU and the Euro area from 21.5 to 25.4 and from 25.3 to 29.8, respectively.

Of course, someone could respond that in a sinking economy there is nothing more predictable than decreased incomes. Yes, but in this case, there is a difference: the wages did not decrease just because of the sinking economy, but because the laws where changed. In other words, the wage share was reduced in a greater rate than in comparison to the national product. The wage share as percentage of GDP was reduced from 61.1% in 2010 to 56.7% in 2015.[4] And the unemployment reached 27% of the labour force, the highest level in the EU. In other words, the crisis didn’t lead to a symmetrical reduction of salaries and earnings. The crisis, and more specifically the conditionalities of the rescue loans, altered the balance between the working class and the ruling class, deteriorating the position of the first.

This well synchronized squeeze wasn’t the result of a spontaneous reaction of the bosses. The second Memorandum which was signed in February 2012 by the appointed government of technocrats and the creditors, as a strict precondition for the restructuring of the sovereign debt, included (among many others) the reduction of basic salaries by 22% and for the youth under 25 years by 32%. In the same law, there are two articles which abolish the collective bargaining system between the government, employers’ associations and trade unions and prohibits any kind of wage increase until the unemployment rate reaches 10 % (20.5% in September of 2017). Between 2010 and 2012, other conditionalities had imposed the abolition of the 13th (one salary during Christmas), of the 14th (half a salary in Easter and half more in holidays) salary and of many extra bonuses which were given by the employers.

Lønninger Hellas

Average wages 2000 – 2016 (Source)

With voluntary payment, exploitation haven!

These official cuts gave a push to employers to implement a working regime that reminds of medieval years. The most striking: Even now, when the official data show a return to positive rates of growth, 1 in every 3 employees is not paid regularly; either he is not paid by no means, he is paid with a delay of a few months, or he is receiving a part of his wage and taking a promise for the remaining part. There are super market enterprises which are paying their personnel by coupons, necessitating them to return the salary, spending it into the firm.

The systematic and continuous degradation of the wage labour has appeared even in the figures of the relevant Ministry. Concretely, in September 2017, and when in the power there was a party which wanted to be called left-wing, there were 126.956 employees with a salary of under 100 euros, which means that they are being paid 5 euros a day when the cheapest cinema costs 7 euros, the cheapest theatre 15 and an espresso more than 2 euros.

Another form of deregulation of labour laws that adjustment programs brought is the undeclared work. According to ILO, from a share of 29.7% in 2010 it reached 40.5% of the labour force at the end of 2013, showing that the brutal neoliberal reforms were going hand by hand with the absolute deregulation of labour. Since then one minister after the other, along with the Troika, has declared war to undeclared work. It’s a war which remains in the documents and never takes a substantial, real form. The underlying problem is the permanent lack of personnel and resources in the state agencies that have the responsibility to check the laws.

The fact that the Memoranda were a turning point for the history of exploitation in Greece has also appeared in official figures were every kind of precarious job (part time, seasonal and temporary) has every month, quarter or year a larger share than the permanent jobs. That means that the majority of the hiring is flexible and under-paid, identical to working poverty!

They will prohibit the strikes!

Contrary to the climate of high expectations that the government is cultivating, the future is much gloomier. The IMF has requested, and the PM Alexis Tsipras accepted in a letter to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, dated in July of 2017, to change the terms for workers’ strike. As a result, and as a precondition for the closure of the current evaluation, the majority of the Greek parliament will vote that a sine qua non precondition for announcing a strike by a trade union will be the accordance of the absolute majority of its members. Everyone can imagine what would happen if this rule was applied in the elections for the European Parliament, where less and less people are voting and the last elections turnout was just 42.61%.[i] In addition, everyone can imagine what would happen in every parliament if this rule had been adopted: no laws would be voted! However, IMF and EU organize these democracy contests at the expense of the working class.

Instead of conclusion: Everyone knew what the IMF conditionalities meant for labour rights, but the experience revealed the EU to be even more aggressive than the IMF, often representing genuinely the interests of the Greek economic elite.

*

Notes

[1] According to the data of the budget for 2018, which were published in December 2017.

[2] The IMF and the Crisis in Greece, Ireland and Portugal, Independent Evaluation Office of the International Monetary Fund, 2016. http://www.ieo-imf.org/ieo/fil

[3] Hourly labour costs ranged from €4.4 to €42.0 across the EU Member States in 2016. Eurostat news release, 58/2017, 6 April 2017.

[4] Statistical Annex of European Economy, European Commission, Economic and Financial Affairs, Spring 2017. Wage costs. Adjusted wage share; total economy; as percentage of GDP at current factor cost, page 72.

Posted in GreeceComments Off on EU and IMF Conditionalities: Fatal Blow to Greece’s Labour Rights

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