Archive | August 24th, 2020

Black Workers Face Higher Joblessness, But Are Less Likely to Get Unemployment

An airport worker demonstrates in front of the Delta Airlines kiosk while displaying a sign
Rashad Grant joins with unemployed airport workers, the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward and other supporters to ask that Delta Airlines contractor, Eulen America, who the demonstrators say received $25 million from the CARES Act, hire back their unemployed Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport workers on August 13, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

BYAva Kofman & Hannah FresquesProPublica

Record numbers of Americans are receiving unemployment insurance during the pandemic. That’s because of the enormous scale of jobs lost — but also because Congress greatly expanded the number of workers eligible for benefits. For the first time, thanks to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, part-timers, independent contractors and gig workers qualify for unemployment payments. Black workers are overrepresented in these nontraditional positions, which in the past has contributed to making them less likely to receive unemployment payments than other groups.

Yet despite the expansion of eligibility, a smaller percentage of unemployed Black workers are receiving unemployment benefits than white workers during the pandemic, according to national survey data from NORC at the University of Chicago: 13% of jobless Black workers received such payments between April and June, compared with 22% for Hispanic workers and 24% for white workers.

During the Pandemic, White Unemployed Workers Have Been More Likely to Receive Unemployment Benefits

According to an analysis of national survey data, Black unemployed workers were about half as likely to receive such benefits.

Source: Nyanya Browne and William Spriggs, Howard University, analysis of COVID Impact Survey, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for the Data Foundation, April 20 to June 8, 2020.

“In every recession, we see these same disparities,” said William Spriggs, a Howard University economist who analyzed the data. After the 2008 financial crisis, for example, 23.8% of jobless Black workers received unemployment vs. 33.2% for white workers, according to a 2012 study of national claims data by the Urban Institute.

Some of the continuing disparity is explained by geography, according to Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst with the National Employment Law Project. Many states have made it more difficult to access benefits in recent years. In the 1950s, an average of 50% of jobless people were able to regularly access benefits; by the end of 2019, that average had fallen to 28% of workers. The states that have made the deepest cuts to their unemployment programs are mostly in the South and have a higher share of Black residents. In states such as Florida and North Carolina, fewer than 12% of jobless individuals received benefits last year.

Many States Have Severely Limited Who Is Eligible for Benefits …

In the South, and other states shaded lightly below, it’s much harder for people to receive unemployment benefits. For example, 10% of jobless residents in North Carolina got benefits in 2018, compared with 50% in New Jersey.

Source: Analysis of United States Department of Labor 2018 data by Michele Evermore, National Employment Law Project

… And Benefits for Those Who Receive Them Are Less Generous

Among those who received unemployment benefits in 2018, the program replaced 36% of lost wages in Louisiana, compared with 53% in Iowa.

Source: Analysis of United States Department of Labor 2018 data by Michele Evermore, National Employment Law Project

The Share of Jobless Residents Who Are Black Is Higher in the South

As a result, the weaker benefits in those states disproportionately affect Black unemployed workers.

Source: ProPublica analysis of 2018 IPUMS CPS data, University of Minnesota

The inequity in unemployment benefits is all the more damaging because Black workers have been more likely to be unemployed in both the current downturn and in past recessions. Even when the economy is healthy, Black unemployment is dramatically higher — often double — that of white workers. The gap cannot be explained by gender, age or education level. (Were it not for the fact that Black workers are overrepresented in transit and service industry jobs currently deemed “essential,” the rate of Black unemployment today would be even worse.)

Black households have long suffered from lower wages, lower incomes and fewer assets to fall back on than white households. “Because Black households have one-tenth of the wealth of white households, it’s that much more important that unemployment insurance kicks in to reduce the different experiences across these racial groups,” said Damon Jones, an economist who teaches at the University of Chicago. “If you start out with less wealth and you have less access to unemployment insurance, you’re doubling down on this negative impact.”

That scenario appears to be playing out today. A Pew study in April found 48% of Black Americans were having trouble paying bills, compared with 44% for Hispanics and 26% for whites.

Even when Black workers do obtain benefits, they often receive smaller payments than white workers, since the benefits are determined by salary and Black workers earn less at every education level. “If your historical earnings reflect labor market discrimination, you’re going to get hit with lower benefits,” said Jared Bernstein, a fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “The underlying formulas of the system reflect this historical discrimination.”

Black workers are also more likely to exhaust the standard 26 weeks of benefits than white counterparts because they tend to stay unemployed longer than their white peers. Job discrimination in the labor market and fewer workplace protections mean that Black workers are typically the first to lose their jobs and the last to get them back.

If the longstanding gulf suggests a two-tiered unemployment system, that’s by design. “You wonder why this system is so messy and complicated,” Jones said. “And then you look back in the history and you see that the origins of some of these barriers were driven by racism and xenophobia.”

The Social Security Act established unemployment insurance, in 1935, as a joint federal-state system. It had a narrow definition of who deserved benefits: full-time breadwinners who had been momentarily laid off but would return to work as soon as business picked up. This definition deliberately excluded agricultural and domestic workers, jobs held predominantly by Black Americans, from its purview.

Historians have debated the extent to which these exclusions stemmed from racial animus. But whatever the motivations, the original definitions had a disparate impact: 65% of Black workers fell outside the reach of the new program, and in agrarian parts of South, that number went up to 80%, according to Larry DeWitt, a former historian for the Social Security Administration.

The economy has radically changed, but the unemployment system has remained largely the same. (Domestic workers and farmworkers were included in 1950s amendments to the bill.) “Our unemployment system has not kept up with the changing demographics of the American labor force,” Spriggs said.

It’s been decades since employers began abandoning traditional work practices, in which full-time staffers put in 40-hour weeks, in favor of part-time arrangements and independent contractors. One study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found “all the net employment growth in the United States from 2010 to 2015” took place through what it called “precarious” arrangements: temporary help agency work, on-call work, contract work and independent contracting. Such arrangements account for 40% of all jobs, according to estimates in a 2015 GAO report, and are expected to increase as the economy emerges from the pandemic.

Despite the pandemic assistance program passed by Congress in March, the outdated vision of employment in most state unemployment systems continues to put Black, Hispanic and female workers at a disadvantage. These workers not only disproportionately hold on-call, temp or contingent positions. They also get shut out of the system because they are more likely than white men to work sporadically or leave work for child care — scenarios that render them ineligible for benefits.

Meanwhile, the pandemic program that expands unemployment eligibility is temporary; it expires on Dec. 31. So far, the various rounds of negotiations on extending congressional funding for unemployment have not focused on continuing the expanded eligibility. Economists like Evermore have called for legislation that would permanently include contingent workers — and increase the amount and duration of benefits. The continuing inequities, she said, make the nation’s unemployment system “far less effective at countering recessions than it could be.”

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We Should Invoke the Genocide Convention in Response to Fatal Police Shootings

A protester holds a sign that says, "Stop Killing Black People" as the crowd stands in front of the 111th New York Police Department Precinct with police officers looking on during the Black Lives Matter protest in Bayside, Queens, NYC, on August 1, 2020.
A protester holds a sign that says, “Stop Killing Black People” as the crowd stands in front of the 111th New York Police Department Precinct with police officers looking on during the Black Lives Matter protest in Bayside, Queens, NYC, on August 1, 2020.

BYNkechi TaifaTruthout

Over 100 years ago, W.E.B. Du Bois famously predicted that, “The problem of the 20th century would be the problem of the color line.” His prognosis was audacious when he uttered those words, but the sentiment takes on a more ominous warning today. The problem facing the 21st century is the problem of genocide. The enormity of the problem suggests that even terms such as “racial bias” or “racial injustice” are too limiting.

In today’s environment, it is getting easier to talk about racial injustice. We talk about systemic racism, but what we should be thinking and talking about is the possible extermination of a people. This is because the United States has moved beyond both overt Jim Crow and beyond unconscious bias in its criminal punishment system to what I call “institutionalized genocide.” This is an arguably contentious phrase, but it represents a scientific framework which allows us to analyze conditions and appropriately characterize what is happening to Black people in the 21st century, ostensibly through the criminal legal system.

Therefore, the gross impact of the broader criminal punishment system could and should be examined. Institutionalized genocide offers an analytical frame to understand systemic destructive treatment of Black people. While genocide appears to many to singularly denote killings through massacre and annihilation, its definition also includes the creation of “conditions of life calculated to bring about destruction, in whole or in part.” Unfortunately, seldom do people examine the internationally adopted parameters of the term genocide and then compare them with the treatment of Black people in the United States by the criminal legal system. If one were to do so, state-sponsored genocide against Black people, particularly as it relates to police killings, is at least plausible, if not undeniable.

We must question why Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, went to the United Nations to obtain justice. Was it because he did not believe he could obtain accountability here in the United States? In the same way that he sought the international arena for relief, Black people must also seek to use the international law around genocide in U.S. courts as a means of preventing and punishing the police violence and abuse of our communities.

In 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It said whether committed in times of peace or war, genocide is a crime under international law. International law, as outlined by the United Nations in the Geneva Convention, defines genocide as “acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.” Those actions include “killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Pursuant to the Convention, genocide is not the only punishable act. Related acts — such as conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide and complicity in its commission — are also punishable. The international definition of genocide reminded us that those who commit genocide or related acts shall be punished, whether they are constitutional rulers, private individuals or elected officials. It took the United States 38 years from the time of the first hearing to ratify the convention. I believe the delay was rooted in fear that African Americans would use the treaty to their advantage. Segregationists believed that the ratification of the agreement would subject the United States to punishment based on its treatment of Indigenous and Black peoples.

The genocide convention was passed in 1948, and in 1951, W.E.B. Du Bois and others presented the United Nations with a heavily documented petition chronicling the genocidal suffering, mental assaults and crimes against humanity inflicted on Black people. These accounts were detailed in the book, We Charge Genocide.

The Genocide Convention set a record for being the most scrutinized non-military treaty ever to be considered by the U.S. Senate. The hearing took place over 13 days and the transcript was over 2,000 pages, according to Stephen Klitzman, the chair of an American Bar Association committee that chronicled the history of the Genocide Convention’s ratification process. Four decades after its adoption by the United Nations, and amidst a belief that civil rights progress addressed challenges, the U.S. Senate finally consented to ratification in 1988.

What is significant is that it is the only international human rights treaty adopted by the United States that is self-executing, meaning it has the ability to be directly enforced in court. The Convention against Torture, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and others, are largely symbolic gestures as applied to the U.S. as they require the adoption of specific legislation for enforcement. Indeed, legislation implementing the Convention against Torture limits its scope to civil suits against one acting in an official capacity for a foreign nation, or acts of torture committed outside the country.

Since there is already legal standing to punish perpetrators of genocide in the U.S., why are we not considering this law as the basis for lawsuits and legal action against law enforcement, state governments and federal bodies? Based on the definition of genocide, we can make an argument that the U.S. is guilty of genocide against Black people.

There is a rise of killer cops who prey on Black people, including children. The world is shocked by the horrific, unjustified and disproportionate murders, violence and abuse of Black people by law enforcement. These instances constitute a violation of Article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which guarantees “the right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual, group or institution.” Likewise, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9, guarantees the “right to liberty and security of person,” and Article 14 guarantees “equality before the courts and tribunals.” These treaties, however, ratified by the U.S. in 1994 and 1992, respectively, are limited in that they each included upon signing a declaration that the provisions would not be actionable in U.S. law absent implementing legislation, among numerous other limiting provisions.In 1951, extrajudicial killings of Black people were framed under the banner of genocide, and that frame must be resurrected today.

Our ancestors were (and in some cases, continue to be) victims of kidnapping and enslavement, convict leasing, Jim Crow, lynching, redlining, educational and health disparities, and mass incarceration. Each of these acts are human rights violations which have never been remedied. We have experienced the trauma of cases like Oscar Grant in Oakland, Trayvon Martin in Florida, Sandra Bland in Texas, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Akai Gurley in Brooklyn, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia to the seemingly unending list of Black people killed by whites operating under the color of law.

In 1951, extrajudicial killings of Black people were framed under the banner of genocide, and that frame must be resurrected today. I submit there is no other way to truly examine the systematic and routine killings of Black people across the country other than genocide. If we do not take the killing of Black people seriously and hold killer cops accountable, we will knowingly tolerate the wiping out of generations of Black people by the state.

Advocates and lawyers should go to court and use provisions of the Genocide Convention to challenge those who have attempted to destroy, in whole or part, a national, ethnic or racial group of people. Police killings under color of law, and the damaging conditions of life negatively impacting generations, constitutes genocide – the human rights crisis facing 21st-century Black America. Those who commit genocide must be held accountable.

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Lynching Is Not a Relic of a Jim Crow Past. It’s a Modern Form of Racial Terror

A protester kneels and holds up their hands in front of a row of police during a demonstration against the death of George Floyd at a park near the White House on June 1, 2020, in Washington, D.C.
A protester kneels and holds up their hands in front of a row of police during a demonstration against the death of George Floyd at a park near the White House on June 1, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

BYTerry Anne ScottTruthout

The moment haunts me. It resides in my consciousness as a harbinger of stalled progress. It grasps my existence with the tension of every maddening expression of racial othering and inhumanity I have witnessed, studied, experienced.

It was the moment when I saw the slender, round face of a young Black man, gleaming with the innocence of an unsuspecting altruist — the moment I read his last words, filled with the clemency seemingly reserved for an ethereal being. “You are all phenomenal. You are beautiful and I love you,” he averred to police officers as they wrestled him to the ground before he died. It was the moment I realized that Elijah McClain was lynched. I fell back into my chair, crestfallen.

As a professor of African American history and scholar of lynching during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I teach this as a part of the nation’s sordid past, including the destabilizing impact it has on the African American community. In recent years, I had largely shied away from making such historical comparisons out of respect for the unique circumstances that helped define and contribute to the countless lynchings that swept the United States throughout the first half of the 20th century. In recent weeks, however, the comparison has become more prescient as the world has seemingly collapsed onto its own wretched history.

The last few months have allowed us all to bear witness to a disturbing and unavoidable reality: Lynching is not a relic of a Jim Crow past; it is in fact a modern form of racial terror. The spectacular brutality once preserved and disseminated through photography and corporeal souvenirs is now captured by cell phones and body cameras, allowing society to witness racial terror in all of its modern forms. The recent asphyxiating tide of murders — the aural and visual replaying of death — has left us all gasping for breath. Still writhing from the suffocating reality of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder in Georgia, we were forced to confront the indescribable pain of witnessing George Floyd’s murder in Minnesota. And yet the term “murder” somehow fails to convey the extraordinary cruelty of their killings. Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd were all lynched.

Each case presents a set of facts comparable to the history of lynching in the U.S. as defined by the Tuskegee Institute: a killing that occurs without due process, committed by “three or more persons, done under the pretext of service to justice, race, or tradition.” Lynching victims in the first decades following the Civil War were often white. Their alleged crimes typically involved horse theft, cattle theft or murder. Furthermore, their bodies were frequently found hanging from trees in the hours or days following their deaths, and the parties that lynched them, if seen, were often masked. By stark contrast, after Reconstruction, the lynching of Black bodies was done with a visibility, impunity and fanfare that would come to define a new lynching narrative.

Once a strictly punitive and largely clandestine form of extra-legal punishment, lynching evolved into a wholly racialized, publicly viewed, well-attended, frequently commercialized exhibition of mob violence. The lynching victim was now typically Black, and a mob’s fear of judicial retribution for its murderous efforts nearly disappeared. In the process, the concept of crime shifted. This new lynching narrative punished the crime of Black existence rather than a specific criminal act. Black lives, it said, did not matter.

We tend to think about what defines crime in conventional ways, with a consensus understanding of what constitutes crime (arson, murder, etc.); but the definition of crime changes when race and a racial hierarchy are involved. During the postbellum era, in the absence of a master-slave dyad when whites sought to reinforce white supremacy, a crime committed by a Black person was perceived as particularly egregious misconduct that often signaled a broad call to action. Such incidents not only encouraged but ostensibly required a suspension of due process in an effort to maintain white supremacy.

The list of offenses allegedly committed by African Americans that forced the assemblage of a mob predictably involved crimes against the white body, including murder, rape and assault, even when evidence to support the allegations was thin or non-existent. Dubious allegations, however — such as flippantly responding to a white man, voting, writing a letter to a white woman, suing a white person and being too prosperous for a Black person — were also counted as impudence punishable by mob violence. This gamut of transgressions, wavering between modern interpretations of criminal transgressions and the fiercely ridiculous, exposes the mutability of crime. The idea of what constituted a crime had clearly become something subject to unbelievably racist and horrific interpretations.

When a local sheriff found Ben Little, an African American man arrested in Mount Pleasant, Texas, in October 1885, dead and hanging from a tree after a mob removed him from his cell, a note pinned to Little’s back featured the following message:

This negro was not hanged for the highway robbery he committed in Titus County last Wednesday, but for the slanderous talk he has had about a certain white family in Mount Pleasant, which we deem a scandal to the white race. The family is as innocent and pure as the angels in heaven, and we feel that we have not committed a sin in the sight of God, and furthermore, we feel that we have done a great and noble act for our country as gentlemen. Speak to the dead for further information.


The white patrolling of Black people’s “place” has too often served as the superlative entity in an algorithm for what renders a crime a crime; expressions of freedom, sovereignty and advancement by Black people continue to function as crime in the same manner as violent misconduct. What appear as seemingly benign activities continue to gain potency when the perceived aggressor is Black and the racial hierarchy is ostensibly threatened.

Over the last few years, we have seen increasingly that freedom expressions of Black people are still criminalized. White citizens who believe they are patrolling their local environments are in fact patrolling racial boundaries. They have in recent months called the police on Black people who are, for instance, giving a dog a treat, hosting a lemonade stand, having a barbeque, attempting to use the gym in their own residential building, picking up trash in their front yard or simply jogging. Crime, then, is still something defined by historically specific phenomena, by the nuances of an everyday existence, by social interactions, and ideas about race and identity, by sheer racism. At times, the outcome is death.

McClain was returning from the store in Aurora, Colorado, after purchasing iced tea for his brother. Donning a ski mask — a choice his sister said he often made because “he had anemia and would sometimes get cold” — McClain was approached by several police officers who ordered him to stop. The person who called the police reported that McClain seemed suspicious. Officers placed McClain in a carotid hold. “I can’t breathe. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain. That’s my house. I was just going home,” McClain exclaimed in vain. First responders administered an injection of ketamine to McClain in an alleged effort to sedate him. McClain suffered a heart attack en route to the hospital and passed away days later on August 30, 2019.

The outcomes for Arbery and Floyd were similar. When Gregory McDaniel contacted 911 after seeing Arbery, the operator inquired of McDaniel the nature of the crime being committed. He replied in part, “There’s a black male running down the street.” We can imagine that in the minds of the men who killed Arbery, he was not a young man innocently jogging down a neighborhood street on a sunny day. He was the conflation of Blackness and criminality that has pervaded an American consciousness and has been produced and reproduced across time and space. Two months following the death of Arbery, four officers apprehended and killed Floyd for allegedly attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill to purchase cigarettes. Each death points to a seemingly undeniably conclusion: The extraordinary violence exacted upon McClain, Arbery and Floyd was done so to punish the criminal act of Black existence, to demonstrate the triumph of white over black.

During the heyday of lynching, local citizens and law enforcement agents could (and did) act without — although at times with — sanction from the court and public administrators because they assumed their ultimate authority to be judge, juror and executioner of last resort. Lynchers settled into a knowledge, a comfort that their actions would not be disrupted, and they would not be prosecuted. In 1916, after the lynching of Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas, NAACP investigator Elisabeth Freeman asked Sheriff S. S. Fleming why the 50 deputies he had recently sworn in were not present to shield Washington from the crowd that removed him from the courthouse and burned him on the lawn of City Hall. Fleming rhetorically responded, “Would you want to protect the nigger?” The men who killed McClain, Arbery and Floyd similarly acted as judge, jury and executioners. None of the three victims were afforded due process nor the opportunity to demonstrate their innocence, and each of the killers seemed confident that they would not be prosecuted for their actions.

Indeed, the police killings of Floyd and McClain sit squarely on a historical continuum of lynchings committed by police officers, a reality that runs counter to many people’s notion that lynchers often acted in opposition to law enforcement. In 1892, 18-year-old William Sullivan was hanged by a mob, led by Deputy Sheriff James Augus, in Plantersville, Texas, after Sullivan claimed that a white woman was his wife. Augus chained Sullivan to a ceiling column then traveled around the area inviting local residents to witness Sullivan’s death: “This young nigger is smart and talks back to white people, and now is a good chance to remove him,” he shouted.

The state failed, in the killings of McClain, Arbery and Floyd, to exact justice initially or at all, and instead validated racial vigilantism as a viable form of justice. Mike Freeman, the county attorney for Hennepin County who first investigated the death of Floyd, said during a press conference that his job “is to prove that [officer Derek Chauvin] violated criminal statute — but there is other evidence that doesn’t support a criminal charge.” Similarly, when Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan murdered Arbery on February 23, 2020, after they saw him jogging down the street, District Attorney George E. Barnhill, who early on investigated the case, penned a letter that sought to exonerate Arbery’s murderers. “It is my professional belief the autopsy confirms what we had already viewed as shown in the videotape, with the photographs and from the witness statements taken immediately at the scene,” Barnhill stated, insisting that, “we do not see grounds for an arrest of any of the three parties.” He added that they were in “hot pursuit” of a criminal due to the baseless claim that break-ins had recently occurred in the neighborhood. Charges were eventually brought against those involved in the deaths of Arbery and Floyd. As of today, however, no charges have been filed in the death of McClain.

An autopsy conducted by the Adams County coroner declared that the cause of McClain’s death was inconclusive. His death, the coroner argued, could have been caused by the carotid hold or natural causes. As a result, District Attorney Dave Young cleared the officers involved in McClain’s death of any wrongdoing. “The forensic evidence revealed that the cause of death was undetermined,” Young argued. “Specifically, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy stated that he was unable to conclude that the actions of any law enforcement officer caused Mr. McClain’s death…. Based on the facts and evidence of this investigation I cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers involved in this incident were not justified in their actions.”

In the cases of Arbery and Floyd, the initial, state-sanctioned autopsies similarly failed to provide clear culpability for the men who murdered them. This conclusion is reminiscent of lynchings from the past when coroners’ reports worked to absolve lynchers of any wrongdoing.

In 1895, T.D. Hightower, acting coroner at the time of Nelson Calhoun’s lynching, exonerated the individuals responsible for the murder by publicly stating that Calhoun died “in the hands of parties unknown to me,” despite the fact that the lynching was committed by unmasked individuals. Hightower added that the death was “deserved.”

After completing a formal inquest into John Henderson’s mob death by burning in 1901, Justice of the Peace and Coroner H.G. Roberts, sworn to uphold the majesty of the law, drafted his ruling: “I find that the deceased came to his death at the hands of the incensed and outraged feelings of the best people in the United States, the citizens of Navarro and adjoining counties…. His death was fully merited and commendable.”

Over the course of the last several months, the bodies of at three men and one transgender woman — all African American — have been found hanging from trees in public spaces in four states. Local citizens have called into the question the veracity of official claims that the deaths were suicides, due largely to evidence that suggests medical examiners and law enforcement rushed to judgement.

Such rulings were not unusual during the mid-20th century when the hangings of dozens of Black men were ruled suicides, claims that frequently sought to absolve local authorities from further investigating what was likely a lynching. The claims also revealed the dismissive value of Black lives.

We have witnessed the passage of civil rights legislation, the election of a Black president, the slow establishment of new social and moral paradigms that have rendered such things as murdering a person for attempting to vote a relic of an iniquitous past. None of these has resulted in systemic change to prevent the type of violence and brutality that attended the murders of McClain, Arbery and Floyd, largely because some realities remain as unfalteringly timeless as the magnetic pull that drags the ocean’s waves to the shores. The Black body has historically been seen as less than — at times good only for profit, at other times as a source of terror. What these modern lynchings reveal is that for some white people in the U.S., a challenge to the supposed racial hierarchy continues to be a criminal act.

Why does this matter? Because Black lives matter.

Some things have changed, however. These brutal deaths have engendered an unprecedented call for reform. We have witnessed in the past months people come together across racial, ethnic, generational and religious boundaries, flooding streets around the world, taking to social media and calling on corporations to demand change. What a beautiful reality, one that renders the past distinct. They demonstrate the veracity of the words spoken by the late John Lewis: “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to continue to speak up, to speak out.”

May we all continue to speak up and speak out.

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Protests Erupt After Wisconsin Police Shoot Unarmed Black Man Seven Times

Jacob Blake was rushed to the hospital after being shot eight times by Kenosha police on August 23, 2020.
Jacob Blake was rushed to the hospital after being shot seven times by Kenosha police on August 23, 2020.

BYChris WalkerTruthout

Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man from Kenosha, Wisconsin, was shot seven times in the back by police officers on Sunday evening as he attempted to enter his own car.

video circulating on social media shows Blake walking toward his car while officers follow him with their guns drawn. Blake opens his car door and enters the vehicle when one of the officers pulls back on his shirt. He is then shot multiple times in the back, while witnesses at the scene scream in shock.

Blake’s three sons were reportedly in the vehicle when he was shot.

Gov. Tony Evers (D-Wisconsin) reacted to news of the shooting. “While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that [Blake] is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country,” Evers wrote.

Police had arrived on the scene in response to reports of a domestic dispute. Blake was not one of the two parties directly involved in that altercation, but he had attempted to break up a fight between two women before police arrived, witnesses to the events said. He did not act aggressively toward either of the officers and was not armed with a gun or any other weapon, they added.

After he was shot, Blake was rushed to a hospital in Milwaukee, where he was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit. As of Monday morning, he was removed from the ICU and reported to be in stable condition.

Crowds gathered near the scene where Blake was shot, and protests began later that evening. Small fires were set in the streets, and there were reports of protesters causing property damage. A city dump truck was set ablaze and a courthouse building downtown was covered with graffiti condemning the violence of the police.

Local media also reported that law enforcement used tear gas on protesters in an attempt to break up the demonstrations.

Benjamin Crump, the lawyer representing George Floyd’s family, said that Blake’s sons “will be traumatized forever” after witnessing their father being shot, adding, “We cannot let officers violate their duty to PROTECT us. Our kids deserve better!!”

Ben Crump@AttorneyCrump
Confirmed: Jacob Blake’s 3 SONS were IN THE CAR he was getting into when @KenoshaPolice shot him tonight. They saw a cop shoot their father. They will be traumatized forever. We cannot let officers violate their duty to PROTECT us. Our kids deserve better!! #JusticeForJacobBlake4:44 AM · Aug 24, 2020 from Kenosha, WI

Clint Smith, who writes for The Atlantic, expressed his frustration at witnessing another instance of an unarmed Black person being shot.

“I’m sad. I’m furious. I’m tired of seeing this happen over and over and over and over and over again,” Smith said.

Clint Smith@ClintSmithIII
Thinking of Jacob Blake’s family. Thinking of the Kenosha community. Thinking of Black folks across the country falling asleep to this news and those who will be waking up to it. I’m sad. I’m furious. I’m tired of seeing this happen over and over and over and over and over again.5:16 AM · Aug 24, 2020

“Our lives have so little value that ofcrs are using fatal gunshots as a shortcut to talking, negotiation, disabling vehicles,” Sherrilyn Ifill, President of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, tweeted. “It’s shorter; the ofcr doesn’t have to get physically involved; and the result is guaranteed.”

Sherrilyn Ifill@Sifill_LDF
Our lives have so little value that ofcrs are using fatal gunshots as a shortcut to talking, negotiation, disabling vehicles. It’s shorter; the ofcr doesn’t have to get physically involved; and the result is guaranteed. The killing of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI. Again.5:26 AM · Aug 24, 2020

Wisconsin law dictates that all police-perpetrated shootings must be investigated by the state Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI). “All involved law enforcement are fully cooperating with DCI during this investigation,” a statement from the department read. “The involved officers have been placed on administrative leave.”

Even as that investigation has begun, many are demanding that the officers involved in Blake’s shooting be issued criminal charges. A petition with those demands garnered more than 27,000 signatures as of 9:45 am Central Time.

“The cops who shot him need to be charged with at least attempted murder,” that petition reads. “Jacob Blake needs our help fighting for justice.”

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Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on Protests Erupt After Wisconsin Police Shoot Unarmed Black Man Seven Times

‘It’s a death trap:’ Angola inmate put in isolation for organizing against COVID-19

Photo of ‘It’s a death trap:’ Angola inmate put in isolation for organizing against COVID-19

John McDevitt

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Liberation Graphic: Quierza Lewis (family photo used with permission); public domain image of Angola Prison.

In response  to the COVID-19 pandemic, Quierza Lewis began organizing as inmates were dying, guards were without protective equipment and social distancing an impossibility in an overcrowded prison — especially Angola the largest maximum-security prison in the United States.

Since his email communications with outside organizers were discovered by officials, Quierza has been placed in administrative segregation–solitary. Two other inmates who were also in communication with the same activist were not targeted by the prison system.

When the prison system moved to place Quierza in solitary in May there were already eight COVID-19 deaths among inmates with life sentences in Angola.

Tanisha Lewis, Quierza’s older sister, told Liberation News: “The calls are not going to stop, they’re going to progress. We are 100 percent behind him.” Tanisha is following in the footsteps of her mother who had been Quierza’s biggest advocate prior to her death in 2014.

“Anywhere my mother thought we should go to meet with someone to help Quierza we would be there. Until the good Lord takes my last breath away I’m going to be fighting for him 100 percent,” committed Tanisha.

“Quierza is a very strong person. They tried to break him several times for three years he was in Camp J. That’s like the worst in Angola Prison,” Tanisha Lewis added. “ They really tried to break him but he has a lot of courage.

“When he first went to prison he was angry, very angry. Then he started to read; he wanted to understand the law to make conditions better for the inmates,” Tanisha explained.

Quierza’s family and activists on the outside have been pushing for his release from solitary.

But there’s more to know about Quierza’s case. Quierza Lewis, of Minden, Louisiana, is the only person from Webster Parish, a rural Parish east of Shreveport, to be serving a life sentence on a drug charge.

Quierza was also convicted prior to the passage of Amendment 2 which ended the use of non-unanimous verdicts in felony convictions. He was not convicted by an unanimous  jury– and was among the 1500 inmates impacted by the 2020 Ramos decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled these convictions by a non-unaminous jury unconstitutional.

“It’s the continuation of slavery, it really is,“ explained Tanisha. “He already have a life sentence, it’s like double locking him up.”

Prison officials still have not made it clear why Quierza is being held in solitary although it has been said that organizing and information-gathering efforts are cause to believe that he was organizing to “incite a riot.”

Quierza had been an email correspondence with activist Michaela Higgins regarding the rights and possible peaceful actions inmates could take to be safe during the pandemic.

Tanisha: “I told them y’all are locking him up on a so-called terroristic threat. I said he was only trying to get legal advice on what to do about their living conditions and safety during the pandemic.”

Quierza has struggled with asthma throughout his life and has been denied medications in the past and is still being denied medication and medical attention.

Higgins says that the GoFundMe campaign as well as the petition are going to continue on as well as looking to appeal to the governor.

“Because of COVID, you know, many are at risk due to pre-existing conditions. They can’t afford medical care in there. It’s just crazy to me that prisoners have to pay for their own medical care,” said activist Michaela Higgins.

Just as essential workers are struggling for personal protective equipment and safe working conditions so those behind bars are fighting for the same to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tanisha told prison officials: “My brother doesn’t have a voice. But I am his voice.”

All of our voices together against the horrendous conditions of prisoners will certainly be deafening. #FreedomQuierzaLewis !

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Hundreds protest shooting of Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Video shows police shooting of black man in Wisconsin

Video shows police shooting of black man in Wisconsin 01:39

Robert Penner

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Liberation photo. City dump truck on fire in Kenosha, Wisconsin near protest of police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Hundreds of people gathered August 23 at the police station in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to protest the shooting that day of Jacob Blake, 29. Blake was shot in the back by Kenosha Police as he walked away from them.

According to sources on the ground, Blake had intervened in a dispute between two people, effectively breaking up the fight. After arriving on the scene, police attempted to detain Blake who walked away, refusing to talk to the police or give a statement about the incident. As Blake walked toward his car, police drew their firearms, grabbed him from behind by the shirt and shot seven rounds into his back.

Blake is in critical condition at a Milwaukee area hospital according to Kenosha News. Any further details about his condition are unknown at this time.

Police in riot gear forced protesters back from the front doors of the police station, donning gas masks and preparing to fire rubber bullets at unarmed, peaceful protesters. After being pushed back by riot cops about 50 yards from the building, protesters linked arms to form a human wall.

The violent reaction by police to civil protest was immediate. Police deployed teargas around 10:45 p.m. in a failed attempt to disperse the crowd, which held fast and began a unified effort to push the cops back toward the building. Significantly larger amounts of gas were deployed at 11:06 p.m. forcing the crowd back momentarily. People monitoring police scanners heard that city buses were being deployed in order to conduct mass arrests of protesters.

Members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation were on the front lines and joined in chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “How many more?” A city dump truck, used to block off the road to the police station, was set ablaze while police shot rubber bullets at people recording the protest.

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NYC ‘March Against Billionaire Landlords’ hits corporations for housing crisis

Belle Brick

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Activists ranging from trade unionists, housing justice organizers and socialists to young people new to the struggle, united for a 300-person rally and march in New York City on Aug. 20. They demanded the cancellation of rents and a stop to the upcoming wave of evictions that was ignited by the pandemic.

Starting at the New York Public Library in the heart of corporate Manhattan, the protest brought attention to the real roots of the housing crisis and high rents: private investors and large firms that treat a basic human right as a financial game for profit. As part of their campaign ongoing since mid-July, lead organizers Housing Justice for All and Right to Counsel NYC listed three unifying demands at the action, each with a corresponding bill in the New York State Legislature:

Universal Rent Cancellation (A8802/A10826); An Eviction Moratorium for the duration of the state of emergency + 1 year after the emergency is over  (S8667/A10827); Housing the Homeless immediately (S7628A/A9657).

Demonstrators rallied to the headquarters of the notorious Blackstone Group, a private-equity firm accused by the United Nations of “wreaking havoc” on tenants worldwide. The action highlighted how it is investors and firms like Blackstone that fuel housing crises before and during the pandemic in New York, nationally and worldwide.

Protesters in front of the New York Public Library. Liberation Photo.

Many speakers emphasized that when closely examined, the last minute rent and eviction moratoriums put in place by the state barely protected anyone. Liberation News gathered quotes and spoke with protesters to share their thoughts:

Tiffany Khan, from Met Council on Housing, explained: “We HAD a housing crisis before COVID, and what COVID has done is exacerbate that crisis. … One thing that most New Yorkers don’t know is the cost of putting a family in a homeless shelter.” She said that if a family has fallen behind on rent, even if it’s just a few thousand dollars, it’s significantly cheaper to pay the rent than house them in a shelter.

Khan added: “We have more corporate bailout in the form of J51 and 421A tax abatements to corporate landlords. … So if you were to just take away those tax abatements and put that money into the families who are just trying to remain in their homes, you could solve this housing crisis.”

Ngozi, from Community Action for Safe Apartments exclaimed: “People are suffering in this pandemic. Children are crying, mothers are crying, having anxiety. They should try to help it, they should try to help us to have a rent freeze. Because a lot of people can’t afford to pay rent anymore because they canceled salaries.

“I personally believe that housing shouldn’t be for profit, especially not in New York City, said Lorena, a protester.

Lavi, who had come from Brooklyn, said: “I live in Bed Stuy, and just look outside my window and there’s homeless people outside, and they’re mainly Black, mainly people of color. And they’ve been here generations longer than I have as a refugee. So you don’t have to even really talk to somebody, you just walk around New York to see it.”

The Party for Socialism and Liberation joined this action. In its Cancel the Rents campaign, this group has been fighting for a national cancellation of all rents, mortgages for homeowners, small landlords and small business, for the duration of the pandemic; no shutoff of gas, electricity and water utilities, the restoration of utilities for households that are currently shut off for lack of ability to pay, no accumulation of debt; and eminent domain over vacant buildings, homes, hotels, all appropriate structures to house the homeless or people in precarious housing situations, including the undocumented and victims of domestic violence.

The march ended with chanting and a protest party outside of the Real Estate Board of New York, another major contributor to the housing crisis. Here, protesters danced together out of love for tenants’ rights and the struggle.

As of this writing, courts are still processing pre-COVID 19 eviction cases, with a halt on enforcing any evictions until Oct. 1. 

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Who is the woman challenging Belarusian President Lukashenko?

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has emerged as the main opponent of the Belarusian president in the August 9 vote.

by: Mariya Petkova

Tikhanovskaya's team has struggled to conduct campaign activities [Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters]
Tikhanovskaya’s team has struggled to conduct campaign activities [Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters]

On July 14, Belarus’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) announced the list of candidates registered for the upcoming presidential elections.

Among those who made it, along with incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko, was Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a former English teacher and a housewife with no prior political experience.

When she emerged from CEC’s building, holding her signed registration document, journalists and allies congratulated her, but she seemed hesitant.

“I’m not sure if I want this congratulations,” she said with a slight smile.

The 37-year-old mother of two had been receiving threats over her decision to run in the elections, which forced her to send her children out of the country, accompanied by their grandmother.

Tikhanovskaya has been honest about her lack of experience in politics and has said she had made the decision to join the presidential race spontaneously. It followed the arrest of her husband, Sergei Tikhanovsky, a popular Youtube blogger who had tried to register as a candidate.

Tikhanovskaya had hoped this would draw attention to his case and help get him released, but had not really expected the authorities would actually allow her to run.

Presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanouskaya attends an election campaign rally in Minsk

Tikhanovskaya, centre, Kolesnikova, right, and Veronika Tsepkalo attend an election campaign rally [Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters]

What happened next surprised Tikhanovskaya herself, the Belarusian authorities and even longtime observers of Belarusian politics.

Within days of her registration, Tikhanovskaya managed to gather massive crowds at her rallies across the country.

In Minsk, an estimated 63,000 people showed up to her campaign event on July 30. Thousands also attended her rallies in smaller provincial towns, where traditional Belarusian opposition has had a hard time establishing a foothold in the past.

Tikhanovskaya has emerged as a significant challenger to Lukashenko’s 26-year rule. Analysts predict the August 9 elections may well prove to be a turning point in Belarusian politics.

The ‘third force’

Tikhanovskaya’s transformation from a frightened housewife, who was trying to get her husband out of jail, to a popular opposition candidate happened remarkably quickly, aided by a number of factors.

First – the authorities did not seem to perceive her as a political threat.

“Tikhanovskaya, at the beginning of her campaign, appeared very weak. She was indeed under enormous pressure, she was very scared,” Katia Glod, a London-based scholar and consultant on former Soviet countries, told Al Jazeera.

“The authorities thought ‘well, she is very weak, we can easily pressure her, we can destroy her at any time’. But they miscalculated,” she said.

According to Glod, the reason for this miscalculation is Lukashenko’s own patriarchal, retrograde views on women.

In late May, as Tikhanovskaya was still gathering signatures for her nomination as candidate, Lukashenko said in a speech at a tractor factory in Minsk that he was “absolutely sure” the next Belarusian president would be a man.

Belarus activist challenges ‘Europe’s last dictator’ in election (2:40)

“Our constitution is not for women. Our society has not matured enough to vote for a woman. This is because by constitution the president handles a lot of power,” he said.

On July 17, three days after Tikhanovskaya received her registration documents, she was endorsed by two disqualified opposition candidates: Viktor Babaryko and Valery Tsepkalo.

On the campaign trail, she was joined by two other women – Barbaryko’s campaign manager Maria Kolesnikova, and Tsepkalo’s wife Veronika, who helped provide organisational and logistical support.

The three of them appeared together on campaign posters and at rallies, thus solidifying the image of a women-led campaign challenging Lukashenko’s patriarchal rule.

According to Glod, Tikhanovskaya’s popularity is also due to the fact that she has come to represent a new force in Belarusian politics, centred around Barbaryko, a former bank manager, Tsepkalo, a former diplomat, and her husband Tikhanovsky.

They have put forward a new, more positive vision for the country, different than what the traditional opposition used to offer – old political demands and nationalistic slogans.

“All these people, they are not opposition, they are a third force. They were the ones who managed in the first place to attract public support. And then Tikhanovskaya became the symbol, an instrument of change,” Glod said.

Anti-Lukashenko sentiment

Apart from being a new face in politics backed by a popular coalition of forces, Tikhanovskaya’s campaign has also benefitted from the growing anti-Lukashenko sentiment in the country.

According to Olga Dryndova, a Berlin-based researcher and contributing editor to Belarus-Analysen at the University of Bremen, the unpopularity of the Belarusian president has deepened as a result of his mismanagement of the economy and inconsistent information policy during the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

“It was surprising for me that people were so unsatisfied with the authorities, and personally with Lukashenko […], that [they] just united around this new, spontaneous candidate without political experience,” she told Al Jazeera.

Currently, there is no independent polling in Belarus and it is difficult to estimate the true extent of Lukashenko’s unpopularity, Dryndova said.

A March 2016 opinion poll conducted by the Independent Institute for Socio-Economic and Political Studies before it was forced to stop its operations nine months later, suggested that about 27 percent of respondents were willing to vote for Lukashenko.

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko

Lukashenko said he was ‘absolutely sure’ the next Belarusian president would be a man [Sergei Gapon/AFP] 

In a July 2020 poll, conducted for a state TV channel, 69.4 percent said they would vote for the incumbent president.

After the initial success of her rallies, Tikhanovskaya’s team has struggled to conduct campaign activities in the days leading up to the election, as the authorities have arrested a number of its members and started snatching from the streets people who have tried to attend her events.

Her remaining rallies were eventually banned.

State media have also reported that investigators are looking into a link between Tikhanovskaya’s husband, Sergei and a group of Russian mercenaries who were arrested on August 29 and who have been accused of preparing “terrorists acts” in Belarus. She has denied any such ties exist. 

On August 4, Lukashenko gave a state of the nation speech, in which he threatened “harsh sanctions” against any unauthorised demonstrations ahead of the elections and implicitly warned the political elite not to “betray” him.

Free and fair

According to Dryndova, Lukashenko appears to be “scared” and he is unlikely to allow for a free and fair election on August 9.

The vote will not have international observers and independent observers have already been harassed after early voting started on August 4.

In her view, Tikhanovskaya’s campaign has galvanised the Belarusian public to such an extent that repression might not stop the popular demand for change.

“There is a feeling of majority, a majority that wants a new president and this can really bring a new dynamic of developments within the society, even if the elections are not free and fair and even if [subsequent] protests are suppressed,” Dryndova said.

“It’s really a very interesting, historic moment for Belarus. We have never seen anything like that. Right now we really have no idea what could happen. Everything is possible. The Belarusian society is really surprising everybody this [electoral] season.”

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Arrests in the West Bank and Jerusalem

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem displaced following ‘Israeli’-ordered demolitions

Three Palestinian brothers and their families found themselves today homeless after the Nazi municipality of West Jerusalem demolished their three-apartment building in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan under the pretext of construction without permit.

At the same time, two other Palestinian residents of the Nazi occupied East Jerusalem were forced to tear down their homes on their own at orders from the Nazi municipality for construction without permit or otherwise be forced to pay high costs if the demolition was undertaken by the municipal staff.

In Silwan, the Nazi occupation forces escorted bulldozers into Wadi Qaddum area where they cordoned off the three-apartment building before the bulldozers proceeded to demolish it, displacing over 25 people.

Owners of the apartments were identified as Wael Tahhan along with his brothers, Ala and Nader.

A member of Tahhan family said that despite making several attempts to apply for the necessary license, the Israeli municipality did not grant them the license and instead fined them some $74,000 for building without a license.

Wadi Hilweh Information Center, a Silwan-based media center, posted a video for the demolition.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Sabia and Khaled Abu-Taa were forced to demolish their homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah purportedly for being built without license.

Abu-Taa pointed out that he received a demolition order after he built his house a year and a half ago. Although he managed to freeze the order throughout this period, an Israeli court issued a final demolition order in July, allowing him one month to carry out the demolition himself.

Using the pretext of illegal construction, the Nazi army demolishes houses on a regular basis in occupied East Jerusalem to restrict Palestinian expansion. At the same time, the municipality and government build tens of thousands of housing units in illegal Nazi Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem for Jews with a goal to offset the demographic balance in favor of the Jewish settlers in the occupied city.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Arrests in the West Bank and Jerusalem

UAE recognition of ‘Israel’: Whither the Arab and the Muslim world?

UAE-Israel friendship
By James M. Dorsey

An agreement to establish diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel and a Saudi-Pakistani spat over Kashmir coupled with feuds among Gulf states and between Turkey, the kingdom, and the Emirates drive nails into the notion that the Arab and Islamic world by definition share common geopolitical interests on the basis of ethnicity or religion and embrace kinship solidarity.

The UAE-Israel agreement weakens the Palestinians’ efforts to create a state of their own but their criticism of the UAE’s move to become the third Arab country after Egypt and Jordan to officially recognise the Jewish state is based on a moral rather than a legal claim.

Pleasing the American far right, targeting Iran

The UAE and Israel see their relations with the United States and the perceived threat from Iran as bigger fish to fry.

Both countries hope that an upgrading of their relations will keep the US engaged in the Middle East, particularly given that it puts pressure to follow suit on other Gulf states that have similar concerns and have engaged with Israel but not to the degree that the UAE has.

The UAE and Israel further worry that a potential victory by presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden in the US November presidential election could bring to office an administration more willing than President Donald Trump to seek accommodation with Iran and emphasise human rights and basic freedoms.

The establishment of diplomatic relations strengthens the UAE’s position as one of the United States’ most important partners in the Middle East and allows Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to argue that his hardline policy towards the Palestinians does not impede a broader peace between the Jewish state and Arab nations.

Netanyahu is, however, concerned that his argument may resonate less with a Biden administration that potentially could be less empathetic to Israel’s annexationist aspirations on the West Bank as well as with the rightwing in Israel that may not feel that the UAE is worth surrendering what they see as historical Jewish land.

Ironically, the price of suspending annexation in exchange for diplomatic relations with the UAE gets Netanyahu off the hook in the short term.

Netanyahu had pledged to annex parts of the West Bank on 1 July but has dragged his feet since then because the Trump administration, while endorsing the principle, opposed any tangible move on the ground. Trump feared that annexation would have pre-empted his ability to claim some success for his controversial Israel-Palestinian peace plan.

UAE embassy in Jerusalem?

Emirati officials had made clear that a formal annexation of parts of the West Bank, captured from Jordan during the 1967 Middle East war, would preclude the establishment of formal relations with Israel.

The UAE’s willingness to formally recognize Israel constitutes the latest nail in the coffin of Arab and Muslim solidarity that has been trumped by hard-nosed interests of the state and its rulers.

The question now is whether the UAE will put paid to that notion by opening its embassy in Jerusalem, whose status under international law has yet to be negotiated, rather than Tel Aviv.

So is what the UAE, alongside Jordan and Egypt, will do if and when Israel legally incorporates West Bank lands sometime in the future.

The UAE’s willingness to formally recognize Israel constitutes the latest nail in the coffin of Arab and Muslim solidarity that has been trumped by hard-nosed interests of the state and its rulers.

Saudi-Pakistani spat over Kashmir

As Trump, Netanyahu and UAE Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayid were putting the final touches on their coordinated statements, traditional allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were locked into an escalating spat over Kashmir.

India last year revoked the autonomy of the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir and imposed a brutal crackdown.

Muslim countries with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the lead, much like in the case of China’s brutal crackdown on Turkic Muslims, have been reluctant to jeopardise their growing economic and military ties to India, effectively hanging Pakistan out to dry.

The two Gulf states, instead of maintaining their traditional support for Pakistan, feted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as developments in Kashmir unfolded.

In response, Pakistan hit out at Saudi Arabia where it hurts. In rare public criticism of the kingdom, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi suggested that Pakistan would convene an Islamic conference outside the confines of the Saudi-controlled Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) after the group rejected Islamabad’s request for a meeting on Kashmir.

Targeting Saudi Arabia’s leadership and quest for Muslim religious soft power, Qureishi issued his threat eight months after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan under Saudi pressure bowed out of an Islamic summit in Kuala Lumpur convened by the kingdom’s critics, including Qatar, Turkey and Iran.

Saudi Arabia fears that any challenge to its leadership could fuel demands that Saudi Arabia sign over custodianship of Mecca and Medina to a pan-Islamic body.

The custodianship and Saudi Arabia’s image as a leader of the Muslim world is what persuaded Crown Prince Muhammad to reach out to Israel primarily to use that as well as his embrace of dialogue with Jewish and Christian groups to bolster his tarnished image in Washington and other Western capitals.

The UAE’s recognition of Israel puts Saudi Arabia more than any other Gulf state in the hot seat when it comes to establishing relations with Israel and it puts Prince Muhammad bin Zayed in the driver’s seat.

That is all about interests and competition and has little to do with Arab or Muslim solidarity.

Bahraini king holding menorah

Trump’s chaos produces results: Gulf states upgrade ties to Israel

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Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad and President Trump

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