Archive | August 25th, 2020

Manchester university divests from firms complicit in ‘Israeli’ occupation

Asa Winstanley Activism and BDS Beat 

Students campaigning for Manchester to divest from Caterpillar in 2018. BDS UoM

The University of Manchester has divested more than $5 million from Caterpillar and the parent company of travel site

Activists on Monday said it was “a colossal win for the Palestine solidarity movement in Britain” and a “watershed moment.”

The university has been a focus for campaigners since 2016 due to its investments in firms complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

Last year students crashed a board meeting to demand divestment from Caterpillar.

Caterpillar supplies bulldozers to the Israeli army which are weaponized to destroy Palestinian homes and carry out extrajudicial killings.

Booking Holdings Inc. is in the United Nations database of companies involved in Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank which was published earlier this year.

The parent firm and are both on the blacklist due to their listings of rental properties in Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land in violation of international law.

Campaign continues

Data seen by The Electronic Intifada, released by the university in response to freedom of information requests, confirms the divestment took place sometime between April 2019 and 31 March 2020.

In a 23 July 2020 email replying to the request by campaigners, the university’s information officer released its latest investments listing.

She said that the university’s ethical investment guidelines now exclude companies based on a variety of factors, including supply of “controversial weapons.”

In a statement sent immediately after publication of this article, a University of Manchester spokesperson denied that the divestment had any connection to the BDS campaign. “The decisions taken on our specific equity holdings are made by our investment managers with the aim of delivering our overall investment goals,” they said.

But activists are defiant. “The investments in companies upholding Israel’s apartheid regime should have never existed in the first place,” said activist Huda Ammori. “University of Manchester divesting from complicit companies shows the power of the grassroots student movement to hold our institutions to account.”

Ammori founded the BDS campaign at University of Manchester when she was a student there in 2016.

In a statement on Monday activists from Apartheid off Campus, a new student network, said that “The divestment victory at Manchester, the largest university in Europe, is expected to be a watershed moment for the BDS movement on campuses in the UK.”

But activists said they would continue to target Manchester university for BDS campaigns.

According to Apartheid off Campus the university “still has many ties with Israel’s apartheid regime, including its exchange program with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem which sends students to study on occupied and stolen Palestinian land.”

Leeds became the first English university to divest from Israeli apartheid in 2018, when it pulled more than $1.2 million from several firms involved in the arms trade with Israel.

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Scottish “friend of Israel” faked anti-Semitism for years

Asa Winstanley Lobby Watch 

Edward Sutherland monitoring Palestine solidarity activists. SPSC

A pro-Israel lobbyist in Scotland may lose his teaching job over a series of anti-Semitic posts he has admitted making.

Edward Sutherland is being investigated by the Scottish teaching regulator, The Daily Record reported on Sunday.

Sutherland is head of religious and moral education at the Belmont Academy in Ayr.

A leading figure in the Confederation of Friends of Israel, Sutherland created a fake Facebook profile and used it to post anti-Semitism online.

Using the profile, he posed as a Palestine solidarity activist.

Under the invented persona “Stevie Harrison,” Sutherland is alleged to have attacked a pro-Israel Jewish lawyer by posting in 2018 that his “big nose is out out joint.”

Screenshots released by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign suggest that the lawyer – Matthew Berlow – may even have been in on the deception.

“Typical SPSC behaviour. Criminal,” Berlow replied to one of the fraudulent postings by “Harrison.”

Berlow responded in an email to The Electronic Intifada that it was “not my intention to smear the SPSC.”

He also claimed that Sutherland’s “posts were not anti Semitic” according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s defintion.

The bogus “working defintion” of anti-Semitism has been pushed by Israel and pro-Israel groups for years.

Could lose job

But Sutherland’s anti-Palestinian comrades are standing by him: “We’re worried that he might end up losing his job,” Sammy Stein, a fellow Confederation of Friends of Israel activist told The Daily Record.

Stein said that “Ed is no anti-Semite. In fact, he’s a friend of Israel. He helps man our stall in Glasgow every Saturday.”

Edward Sutherland campaigning for Israel in Glasgow.

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign activist Mick Napier responded to the news saying it was “a disgrace” that Sutherland’s group enjoys charitable status.

The Confederation of Friends of Israel has “an extensive record of publishing racist materials” he wrote. “The Scottish body charged with overseeing charities should revoke COFIS’ charitable status immediately,” Napier said.

The Confederation of Friends of Israel did not reply to a request for comment. After publication of this article, Belmont Academy declined to comment, but passed the buck to South Ayrshire Council – who also declined to comment.

This is far from the first time Israeli and pro-Israeli groups have fabricated anti-Semitism.

In 2016 the Mossad-linked Israeli law firm Shurat HaDin admitted posting a series of violently anti-Semitic comments to Facebook in order to frame Palestinians and solidarity activists.

In 2019, an investigation by The Electronic Intifada exposed a network of fake Twitter trolls systematically posting violent anti-Semitism in order to frame Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and the Muslim community. The culprits remain unknown.

Being a “friend of Israel” in no way excludes one from the charge of anti-Semitism. On the contrary, some of the most important Zionists in history have also held vile anti-Jewish attitudes.

And some of the world’s worst contemporary anti-Semites are militantly pro-Israel.

Updated on 20 August with no-comments from the school and council.

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What do ‘Israel’ and UAE have in common?

What do Israel and UAE have in common?

By Mahmoud El-Yousseph

Pakistanis protesting the United Arab Emirates-Israeli deal to establish full diplomatic ties between the two countries, in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

The UEA is now opening full diplomatic ties with Israel, thus making it the third Arab nation to recognize Israel and the first Gulf Arab state to do so. The other two Arab countries that have diplomatic ties with Israel are Egypt and Jordan. Before you pour the wine and cut the cheese, let’s take a look back at both countries’ dark history, corruption, and immorality. Both countries earned all the qualifications to be named rogue nations. The rogue nation is a term that describes a state that does not respect other states’ sovereignties or follow the rules of civilized nations. So what do both countries have in common? Both Israel and UAE are currently engaged in war crimes. The UAE bombs civilian targets in Yemen and Israel routinely do the same in Gaza and Syria. They both serve as safe havens for criminals and terrorists who fled justice in the US and elsewhere around the world. Here are some of the cases:
Mossad Agents and Natenyahu wanted for murder

The head of Israeli Mossad  confessed to Israel’s murdering of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, (Press Canada, 07/31/2011)

* On February 16, 2010, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was assassinated in his hotel room in UAE by 11 members of the Israeli Mossad hit squad. Mossad agents used stolen passports from various European countries to carry out their murders. Seven of the 11 suspects wanted by Dubai police for the murder of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Images released by the authorities in Dubai showed seven of the 11 suspects wanted in connection with the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Photograph: AP

* In 1997, Samuel Sheinbein, an American, fled to Israel after committing a gruesome murder in Maryland. Israel refused to extradite him, prompting protests from senior officials, including then-Attorney General Janet Reno. In 2014, Sheinbein was shot dead by Israeli special forces inside a prison compound after he seized a guard’s weapon and shot three of the guards.

*  According to the Jewish Community Watch organization who started tracking accused pedophiles in 2014, there are more than 60 have fled from the U.S. to Israel. Those wanted men and women have been able to exploit a right known as the Law of Return, whereby any Jewish person can move to Israel and automatically gain, thus enabling them to travel freely around the world.

* The FBI website is offering $1,000,000 for the capture of Keith Fuchs and Andy Green, members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), for the killing Alex Odeh. Alex, who was born into a Palestinian Christian family, was killed in 1985 after his office was bombed in Santa Ana, California. Both suspects fled to Israel after Alex’s murder and Israel refused to extradite them to the US or allow the FBI to question them.

* The former king of Spain fled in a private jet to UAE days before his court hearing where he was charged for receiving $100 million dollar bribe from Saudi Arabia.

*  In 2016, the former Pakistani president Ashraf Perez arrived in Dubai after he was sentenced to death in his country.

* Mohammad Dhahlan is a Palestinian spy who fled to UAE after he was implicated for the murder of Palestinian leader Yaser Arafat. He is now serving as a National Security Adviser to the UAE ruler.

* The former PM of Thailand fled her country to the UAE in 2017 after she was found guilty of big corruption scandal.

* Several Egyptian ministers who served under the regimes of Mubarak and Sisi fled to UAE to avoid fraud, waste, and abuse charges.

* Let’s not forget that sodomy is not a crime in either Israel or UAE and that both provide “tramp’s tax” for prostitution.

*Sodomy in ISISrael is not illegal and the government provides ” tramp’s tax ” for prostitution. Ironically, being homosexual is illegal in the UAE, but not participating in homosexual acts.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, UAEComments Off on What do ‘Israel’ and UAE have in common?

Trump’s Presidency is a Death Cult


Photograph Source: Zachary McGee – CC BY 2.0

When President Donald Trump was challenged by Axios national political correspondent Jonathan Swan to respond to the fact that, “a thousand Americans are dying a day” due to COVID-19, the president responded as though the grim tally was perfectly acceptable, saying, “They are dying, that’s true. And it is what it is.” While observers were aghast at the callousness of his statement, it should not have surprised us. Trump had warned that the death toll would be high, and he had asked us months ago to get used to the idea. In late March, the White House Coronavirus Task Force had projected that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans would die from the virus. Rather than unveil an aggressive plan to tackle the spread and prevent the projected mortality figures, the president had said, “I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead.”

The New York Times saw this warning as a contradiction to Trump’s stance in February and early March when he had said that “we have it totally under control” and “it’s going to be just fine.” The paper seemed to heave a sigh of relief that a few weeks later, “the president appeared to understand the severity of the potentially grave threat to the country.” But the report’s authors failed to grasp that Trump is willing to accept anything—including mass deaths—in service of his political career.

In fact, mass death appears to be part of Trump’s reelection strategy as per a July 30 Vanity Fair report on the administration’s strategy to contain the pandemic. The investigative piece explained that Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was part of a group of White House staffers that corresponded frequently to discuss the rapidly spreading virus. According to a public health expert who was described as being “in frequent contact with the White House’s official coronavirus task force,” one of the members of Kushner’s team had concluded that, “because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically.” The unnamed expert told Vanity Fair, “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy.”

If it is true that Kushner embraced the idea of COVID-19 deaths as part of a political strategy for Trump’s reelection, there can be no clearer evidence that the Trump presidency fits the definition of a “death cult.”

But Trump’s team is also deeply inept, and its macabre tactics appear to have backfired. If Kushner expected a highly contagious virus to follow his political rules and relegate itself to Democratic-run states, he was proven very wrong, very quickly with Republican-run states like Florida, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Arizona being among the hardest hit.

For years, the Republican Party has cast itself as a self-righteous force for morality, embraced the “pro-life” movement, and claimed to align with “Christian values.” But just as Trump—arguably the most criminal of all U.S. presidents—has adopted a mantle of “law and order” with no hint of irony, the GOP as a whole has also shown time and again that its embrace of morality and law is a purely political tool. Now, as the nation grapples with mass deaths from a disease that a Republican president spectacularly and willfully failed to contain, conservative politicians appear willing to simply accept it. Their silence is deafening compared to the angry denunciations many Republican lawmakers hurled at President Barack Obama over his response to the Ebola epidemic—a crisis that resulted in a nationwide total of 11 infections and two deaths.

Ultimately it may be Trump’s own base that suffers as it internalizes the president’s mixed and confused messaging on ignoring social distancing guidelines, eschewing protective masks, swallowing hydroxychloroquine preventatively, and even accepting the inevitability of their own death (because “it is what it is” according to Trump). Even after more than 150,000 Americans have died from the virus, a majority of Republicans trust Trump’s coronavirus comments.

When Trump loyalist and former presidential candidate Herman Cain died of COVID-19, testing positive 11 days after attending Trump’s Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally without a mask on, his death did not change minds. The 74-year-old was reportedly on a ventilator during his last days, but conservatives are vehemently opposed to “politicizing” Cain’s death. Right-wing commentator and talk show host Ben Shapiroslammed those who made a connection between Cain’s refusal to take the virus seriously and his own infection and death. Shapiro said, “The kind of dunking on people after they die of COVID is pretty gross.” Certainly, Cain did not deserve to be vilified for his own sad fate. But his death offers a cautionary tale about the dangers of the Trump death cult—a point Shapiro of course refused to acknowledge.

We should hardly be surprised at this acceptance of death as inevitable. For years, conservatives have responded to gun violence with angry renunciations of any links to gun proliferation or lax gun control laws, offering instead “thoughts and prayers.” The one exception where Republicans express outrage is over the “death” of fetal cells inside women’s bodies—indicating that the fight is less about “murder,” as the anti-abortionists like to call it, than it is about controlling women’s bodies. By and large, the nation’s right-wing factions have for years wanted us to accept mass deaths and preventable mortality as a price for our “freedom.” They expect the same during a pandemic.

But we do not have to all be members of the death cult. According to a new study, states where people live the longest also have the strictest environmental laws, stronger gun control and stronger protections for minorities. These are also states that tend to be run by Democrats. California, for example, which has among the most stringent protections for minorities and the environment, also has one of the highest average life expectancy rates in the United States.

COVID-19 infections and deaths are hardly inevitable, and Americans are starting to see it. A Texas woman named Stacey Nagy penned an obituary for her late husband David that has garnered widespread attention. She wrote in her local paper that, “Family members believe David’s death was needless. They blame his death and the deaths of all the other innocent people, on Trump, [Gov. Greg] Abbott and all the politicians who did not take this pandemic seriously and were more concerned with their popularity and votes than lives.” Nagy also blamed “the many ignorant, self centered and selfish people who refused to follow the advice of the medical professionals, believing their ‘right’ not to wear a mask was more important than killing innocent people.”

Perhaps the only way out of Trump’s death cult is to speak out as Nagy has done.

The Washington Post, which interviewed Nagy, explained, “Feeling helpless, Stacey approached her husband’s obituary as a chance to speak out about how she felt her country had failed her family.” While Trump’s most loyal supporters might choose death in his service, the rest of us need not be bound by their blind, cultish and suicidal ideology.

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Nazi Soldiers Tear-gas Patients, Staff at Jerusalem Hospital

Nazi forces, on Friday, invaded Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem while firing of tear-gas bombs, the Palestinian Information Center reported.

Local sources said that dozens of patients and medical staff suffered breathing difficulties as a result of tear-gas inhalation, making it necessary to evacuate many patients.

Sources added that Nazi soldiers violently stormed the hospital, searched several rooms and offices while firing tear-gas canisters.

Field interrogations were held with a number of Palestinian civilians before the Nazi armed troops withdrew from the hospital.

The Makassed Hospital administration has complained in the past to the International Committee of the Red Cross and human rights organizations about the Nazi army’s attacks on the hospital.

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This is the bogus anti-Semitism report that sank Jeremy Corbyn

Asa Winstanley The Electronic Intifada 

Michael Rubin at Labour’s annual conference in 2016. Al Jazeera

The road to Jeremy Corbyn’s political downfall began at Oxford University Labour Club in February 2016.

A rogue inquiry by a Labour staffer with close ties to the Israeli embassy included fabricated allegations of anti-Semitism.

It destroyed the lives of several pro-Corbyn students sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

It also triggered Labour’s “anti-Semitism crisis” in earnest. The manufactured crisis continues today, even with Corbyn now marginalized.

After an internal Labour disciplinary investigation, some of the accused were cleared of anti-Semitism the following year.

But by that time the damage had been done.

After a four-year investigation, The Electronic Intifada has obtained the full Rubin report, which has never been published.

Michael Rubin, who wrote it, was chair of the right-wing group Labour Students. But the “inquiry” was his own initiative and had not been mandated by either Labour’s leader or its ruling National Executive Committee.

Rubin was also collaborating with Shai Masot, an Israeli “diplomat” who would be kicked out of the UK the following year.

Soon after writing the report, Rubin was hired by Labour Friends of Israel, a group which secretly coordinates with the Israeli embassy in London.

Masot was caught in undercover footage recruiting to the Israeli front group.


After years working for them, Rubin was promoted in July this year to director of Labour Friends of Israel.

He also met with Corbyn’s right-wing successor, Keir Starmer, to discuss their opposition to the party’s policy of sanctions against Israel.

The inquiry conducted by Rubin directly influenced the far better known Royall and Chakrabarti inquiries into alleged Labour anti-Semitism.

The Electronic Intifada has protected some names in the report so as not to further Rubin’s disinformation campaign. You can read redacted extracts below.

The document shows how vague or fabricated allegations of anti-Semitism against left-wing supporters of Corbyn were laundered into serious accusations.

It states that Rubin reported to Labour staff six Oxford University Labour Club students he claimed were guilty of “repeated and potentially criminal anti-Semitism over a sustained period of time.”

But the document fails to support this allegation.

Rubin’s “evidence” is at best tenuous. But it also includes outright falsehoods.

Israeli embassy spy Shai Masot worked closely with Michael Rubin for several years. Al Jazeera

The timing is also notable: The club had just voted to endorse Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual fixture in the Palestine solidarity movement’s calendar.

One former student attacked in the report, who asked not to be named, told The Electronic intifada that the document had misattributed an anti-Semitic quote to them.

According to the student, someone had falsely inserted the word “Jewish” into a statement the student had made about the influence of the wealthy over elections.

“As I recall, what I actually said was that there is ‘influence wielded over elections by high net-worth individuals.’ I would never blame this on Jewish people,” the former student said.

“The sections of the report on me are false. Labour Students never even contacted me to get my side of the story.”

In other examples, one of the six allegedly “rolled [their] eyes” when a Jewish student spoke. On another occasion, the same accused individual supposedly “jeered” when the name of a former Israeli prime minister was mentioned.

One anonymous Jewish student alleged only that they were sent “a message that was aggressive and delegitimized the feeling I had.”

But astonishingly, Rubin concluded that all four of these allegations constituted “sufficient evidence” of anti-Semitism to report to Labour’s disciplinary staff.

The document also inadvertently proves that Rubin’s “witnesses” were often only relating hearsay and gossip.

One anonymous student said they “heard from other students” that one of the accused “engaged in songs which glorify rocket attacks against Tel Aviv” but admitted that they hadn’t actually seen this.

No one seems to be able to explain what this song supposedly was, how its lyrics went, or to have heard it sung.

Rarely in the Rubin report are there any specific or dated incidents, or any direct claim to have actually witnessed anti-Semitism.

Yet in such cases, Rubin often still claimed there was “sufficient evidence” to report individuals for disciplinary action.

Right-wing racism

The full document also suggests Rubin covered up allegations of racism by right-wingers in the Labour club – even alleged anti-Semitism.

It records several such allegations against right-wingers, but they were either ignored or marked “not sufficient evidence.”

One anonymous student quoted in the document states that during the club’s debate over Israeli Apartheid Week, a Palestinian student was “shouted down by the chair of the meeting, Alex Chalmers, called a terrorist sympathizer and subject to particularly aggressive questioning and speeches,” especially by David Klemperer, another right-winger.

A Jewish campaigner for Palestinian rights reported being on the receiving end of hostility from Chalmers: “Alex wanted to make me feel I was a traitor” and “a self-hating Jew,” the individual said.

Chalmers’ main right-wing accomplice, former club co-chair Klemperer, was accused of anti-Semitism too.

According to an anonymous student quoted in the report, Klemperer allegedly said: “You’re exactly the sort who should’ve died in the Holocaust.”

Rubin recommended no disciplinary action against either of the two, claiming there was “not sufficient evidence.”

Chalmers quit Labour and Klemperer was kicked out after they supported Liberal Democratic candidates in local elections. But Klemperer now appears to be back in the party.

Chalmers did not reply to a request for comment. Klemperer set both of his Twitter accounts to private soon after The Electronic Intifada emailed him a request for comment, but did not otherwise respond.

The lie that got around the world

Chalmers’ false allegations of anti-Semitism against the Oxford University Labour Club made international headlines after his resignation as co-chair on the night of the vote for Palestinian rights on 15 February 2016.

The Israeli embassy accused Oxford students of “disgraceful activity.”

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband canceled a speaking event there and the government’s minister for universities Jo Johnson demanded Oxford investigate Chalmers’ allegations – despite how blatantly false they appeared even at the time.

As The Electronic Intifada revealed soon after, Chalmers had also worked for BICOM, a pro-Israel advocacy organization.

The “Labour anti-Semitism” controversy rages on to this day. Some Israel lobbyists are even calling for Corbyn to be kicked out of Labour.

It has for years been reported that two of the main targets of the Rubin report’s false accusations were James Elliott and Max Shanly – then leading pro-Corbyn activists in Labour’s youth wing.

Shanly was a left-wing member of Young Labour’s national committee and a supporter of Corbyn. Elliott had advised Corbyn on youth policy during his 2015 leadership campaign.

Elliott was also standing for election to a seat on Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee.

Rubin’s “inquiry” was wrapped up in about a week. Details from the report were then almost immediately leaked to the right-wing press – days before the NEC election.

After the press smears about the pair, combined with a whispering campaign organized by Elliott’s right-wing rival, Elliott lost the seat by a single vote.

“Mental health destroyed entirely”

In 2018, on his podcast All the Best, Shanly opened up about the effects of what he called a smear campaign against the pair.

He revealed he had been suffering from serious depression for the previous two years, from “February 2016 when all the [Oxford University Labour Club] stuff kicked off.”

“I had my mental health destroyed entirely,” he said.

Shanly explained that in the years he was under investigation, the Labour Party refused to hear his side of the story – even Janet Royall when she did her investigation into Oxford. He said that Labour Students also never bothered to speak to him.

“The allegations that were made against me were all false,” he said. “There was no evidence. It was all ‘I heard of.’ It all comes down to Michael Rubin’s report.”

“The reason I ended up getting so depressed is that no one wants to employ someone” at the heart of an internationally reported, alleged anti-Semitism scandal, he said.

That same year, Shanly was hospitalized after a severe mental health crisis.

All that summer, Labour’s civil war over allegations of anti-Semitism had been raging.

“I knew Shai… we did a couple of things together”

Michael Rubin and Labour Friends of Israel did not reply to requests for comment for this article.

In 2016, The Electronic Intifada asked Rubin in person if he regretted his part in the smear campaign against left-wing students at Oxford.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, before rushing away.

But he has admitted to conducting the investigation, in undercover footage released in 2017. The document itself confirms this in its metadata.

Rubin had been close with Israeli embassy agent Shai Masot even before he started working for Labour Friends of Israel in May 2016.

In the undercover footage Rubin admitted: “I knew Shai in my role at Labour Students, we did a couple of things together.” You can watch him make this admission in the video above.

The footage was filmed by Al Jazeera for its investigative series The Lobby.

Masot was expelled from the UK after it hit headlines in January 2017.

The footage shows Rubin admitting to an undercover reporter that Labour Friends of Israel was essentially a front for the Israelis, but that “publicly we just try to keep the LFI as a separate identity to the embassy.”

It also revealed that the embassy finances Labour Friends of Israel’s activities.

Rubin discussed launching a youth wing with events funded by the Israelis: “the Israeli embassy are able to get a bit of money.”

Masot apparently told Rubin he would “help fund a couple of events.”

“I don’t think money should be a problem,” Rubin told Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter, who had been posing as a pro-Israel Labour activist.

After Al Jazeera’s film was broadcast, Boris Johnson – then foreign minister – said in Parliament that Masot’s “cover” had been “well and truly blown.”

Posing as a “senior political officer” at the London embassy, Masot was according to all indications an agent for Israel’s secretive Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which is staffed by former officers from Israel’s spy agencies.

Since 2015, the ministry has been Israel’s semi-covert dirty tricks agency dedicated to fighting a war against BDS, Palestine’s boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

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Ignore at your peril: Palestine ranks high in Arab public opinion

Palestine is still the issue
By James M. Dorsey

Rare polling of public opinion in Saudi Arabia suggests that Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman may be more sensitive to domestic public opinion on foreign policy issues such as Palestine than he lets on. The polling also indicates that a substantial number of Saudis is empathetic to protest as a vehicle for political change.

The poll conducted on behalf of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy is likely to reinforce Prince Muhammad’s resolve to crackdown on any form of criticism or dissent at a time that the kingdom is struggling with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and a steep fall in oil prices and demand.

The Washington Institute survey is consistent with polling by others, including James Zogby, an Arab-American researcher and activist, and author of The Tumultuous Decade: Arab Public Opinion and the Upheavals of 2010–2019.

Saudi reluctance to follow in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates in recognising the state of Israel suggests that autocratic Arab leaders, despite denying freedoms of expression and the media, and cracking down on dissent, are at times swayed by public opinion. Polls are often one of the few arenas in which citizens can voice their views.

“I know that the Saudi government under MbS (Prince Muhammad) has put in a lot of effort to actually do its own public opinion polls… They pay attention to it… They are very well aware of which way the winds are blowing on the street. They take that pretty much to heart on what to do and what not to do… On some issues, they are going to make a kind of executive decision… On this one, we’re going to ignore it; on the other one we’re going to… try to curry favour with the public in some unexpected way,” said David Pollock, a Middle East scholar who oversees the Washington Institute’s polling.

Pollock’s most recent polling suggests that Palestine ranks second only to Iran among the Saudi public’s foreign policy concerns.

Zogby’s earlier 2018 polling showed Palestine as ranking as the foremost foreign policy issue followed by Iran in Emirati and Saudi public opinion. The same year’s Arab Opinion Index suggested that 80 per cent of Saudis see Palestine as an Arab rather than a purely Palestinian issue.

Speaking in an interview, Pollock said that with regard to Palestine, Saudi officials “believe that they have to be a little cautious. They want to move bit by bit in the direction of normalising at least the existence of Israel or the discussion of Israel, the possibility of peace, but they don’t think that the public is ready for the full embrace or anything like that”.

Arabs know what they want and what they do not want. They want their basic needs for jobs, education and health care to be attended to, and they want good governance and protection of their personal rights. While they are focused on matters close to home, at the same time they continue to care deeply about the denial of legitimate rights and the suffering of other Arabs, whether in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, or Yemen.

James Zogby, Arab-American researcher and activist

Much of the internal polling is conducted by the Riyadh-based King Abdulaziz Centre for National Dialogue, initially established in 2003 to promote government policies in the wake of the 9/11 bombings and Al-Qaeda attacks in the kingdom itself.

Pollock concluded in 2018 on the basis of three years of polling of Saudi public opinion that only 20 per cent favoured open relations with Israel prior to resolution of the Palestinian issue.

Saudi Arabia last week said it would formalise its relations with Israel only once the 2002 Arab peace plan, which calls for a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, had been adopted by Israel.

The UAE said its move had been in part designed to prevent Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, occupied during the 1967 Middle East war, which would have rendered the Arab peace plan irrelevant.

Zogby suggested that widespread doubt that an Israeli-Palestinian peace can be achieved may have softened public attitudes towards relations with Israel.

“This should not be overstated, however, since it appears from our survey that this shift may be born of frustration, weariness with Palestinians being victims of war, and the possibility that normalisation might bring some benefits and could give Arabs leverage to press Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians,” Zogby cautioned.

Public responses in the Gulf to the formalisation of the UAE-Israeli relationship have been divided, often more diverse in countries with a greater degree of freedom of expression and assembly.

Voices in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, countries with tightly controlled media and no legal political groupings, spoke out in favour of the UAE move.

Political groups, civil society organisations, trade unions and professional associations in Kuwait and Bahrain, many associated with the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, were more critical.

A statement by more than half of the members of Kuwait’s parliament insisted that there could be no normalisation without a resolution of the Palestinian problem.

Oman’s grand mufti, Ahmed bin Hamad al-Khalili, sought to dampen potential Omani aspirations of following in the UAE’s footsteps by declaring the liberation of occupied land “a sacred duty”.

The importance of public opinion in the Gulf was highlighted in the Saudi poll by responses to the notion that “it’s a good thing we aren’t having big street demonstrations here now the way they do in some other countries” – a reference to the past decade of popular revolts that have toppled leaders in among others Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Algeria and Sudan.

Opinion was split down the middle: 48 per cent of respondents agreed, and 48 per cent disagreed.

Saudis, like most Gulf Arabs, are likely less inclined to take grievances to the streets. Nonetheless, the poll indicates that they may prove to be more empathetic to protests should they occur.

“Arabs know what they want and what they do not want. They want their basic needs for jobs, education and health care to be attended to, and they want good governance and protection of their personal rights. While they are focused on matters close to home, at the same time they continue to care deeply about the denial of legitimate rights and the suffering of other Arabs, whether in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, or Yemen,” Zogby said.

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Posted in Palestine Affairs, Middle EastComments Off on Ignore at your peril: Palestine ranks high in Arab public opinion

The Nazi occupation army arrested 5 young men from the West Bank

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Expressive image

The Nazi occupied Bank: The occupation forces arrested a number of young men, during raids in the cities of the Nazi occupied West Bank, at dawn today.

According to local sources, the Nazi occupation forces arrested the young man, Muhammad Amin Lahlouh, after storming his family’s home, in the town of Arraba, south of Jenin.

While the occupation forces arrested two young men from Nablus governorate, at dawn today.

The sources said that the occupation forces arrested the liberated prisoner, Badr Hussam Al-Raza, from Al-Makhfiya area in Nablus.

She indicated that the force that arrested al-Razza entered disguised as sanitation workers and carried sterilization tools.

The Nazi occupation forces also arrested Muhammad Walid Sawalmeh, after they raided his home, in the northern town of Asira.

The Nazi occupation arrested the two young men, Yaqoub Abu Lawy, and Ihab Al-Kalouni, from Ain Al-Sultan camp, west of Jericho.

It is noteworthy that the occupation forces launched arrests and raids campaigns in the occupied West Bank on a daily basis.

30 Palestinian prisoners spent more than 25 years in the occupation prisons

The captives

Gaza: The specialist in the affairs of prisoners and freedmen, Abdel Nasser Farwana, said that (30) Palestinian prisoners have been detained in the Nazi occupation Camps for more than 25 years continuously, and these Palestinians call them the term “generals of patience.

Farwana added in a statement, today, Monday, that the two prisoners Karim and Maher Younes, who have been detained since January 1983, are the oldest, as they have been detained for nearly 38 years, and they are the most continuously imprisoned throughout history.

He explained that (12) prisoners among these are residents of the West Bank governorates, and (12) others are from the occupied territories in 48, and (5) prisoners are from Jerusalem, in addition to one prisoner from the Gaza Strip, indicating that these old men belong to Various Palestinian factions.

He pointed out that among these prisoners (24) prisoners were sentenced to life imprisonment, one time or several times, and the rest (6) are prisoners who are serving prison terms ranging between (35-45) years.

Farwana called on all concerned authorities to give these prisoners more attention in highlighting their aggravating suffering and harsh conditions of detention, keeping their case on everyone’s priority list, and working seriously to break their record and release them.

The Al Al-Akhras prisoner continues his strike since 21 days


Nazi occupied Palestine: Prisoner Maher Al-Akhras (50 years) from the town of Silat Al-Dhahr in Jenin continues his open hunger strike for the twenty-first day in a row. Rejection of his administrative detention in the Nazi occupation Camps.

The prisoner club pointed out that the mute prisoner is being held in the cells of Ofer Nazi Camp, and several days ago, the military court of the occupation confirmed his administrative detention order, which lasted for four months.

The Nazi occupation forces arrested the Al-Akhras prisoner on July 27, 2020. It

is noteworthy that he is a former prisoner who spent a total of four years in the occupation prisons between sentences and administrative detention. He is married and the father of six children.

The Nazi occupation has issued 665 administrative detention decisions since the beginning of the year


Nazi occupied Palestine: The Palestine Center for Prisoners Studies has monitored the issuance of 665 administrative detention decisions by the Nazi occupation military courts since the beginning of this year.

The center confirmed in a statement today, that despite the spread of the Corona virus and calls for the release of administrative prisoners detained without charge, the occupation military courts continued to issue administrative orders against Palestinian prisoners.

The center said: “The occupation has not stopped issuing administrative orders against prisoners on a large scale without taking into account the standards and conditions laid down by international law that limited its use, except in a narrow framework, as the orders affect all segments of Palestinian society from; Representatives, faction leaders, women, children and sick people, to become a sword hanging over the necks of the Palestinians.

Researcher Riad Al-Ashqar, the media spokesperson for the Center, explained that among the administrative decisions issued since the beginning of the year 426 were the decisions to renew administrative detention for other periods that extended between two to six months, and reached 6 times for some prisoners, while 239 administrative decisions were issued against prisoners for the first time, most of them. Of the editors who were re-arrested.

Al-Ashqar considered that the continuation of the occupation in issuing administrative orders in light of the exceptional circumstances that the world is experiencing with the spread of the Corona virus, disregarding all customs and laws and disregarding international institutions that called for their release out of fear for their lives, instead of the occupation using administrative detention as a collective punishment against the Palestinian people.

PCHR indicated that the Nazi occupation is still detaining 370 administrative prisoners in its prisons, most of whom are freed prisoners who spent different periods in prisons and were re-arrested again, and most of them were renewed for other periods, including two deputies in the Palestinian Legislative Council. 

The Palestine Center for Prisoners Studies called on international institutions to urgently intervene to release administrative prisoners who have been detained without charge, in light of the concern for the lives of prisoners from the arrival of the Coronavirus to prisons.

Prisoner Amir Kulaib from Jerusalem was infected with the Corona virus

Corona prisons

Nazi occupied Palestine: The Prisoners and Executives Affairs Authority reported that the prisoner Amir Kulaib, from the village of Issawiya, north-east of Jerusalem, had been infected with the Corona virus.

The commission clarified that the prisoner Kulaib was subject to house arrest, and an actual five-month detention order was issued against him, as he surrendered himself three days ago to the Nazi occupation police and intelligence in Nafha Nazi Camp.

She indicated that after undergoing a corona virus examination, it was found that his result is positive, that is, he carries the virus.

The authority revealed that the administration of Nafha Nazi Camp, as soon as the result of the Corona examination of Prisoner Kulaib appeared, transferred him to “Raymond” prison, where the place reserved for stone.

Prisoners’ institutions: the Nazi occupation arrested 429 Palestinians during July

Prisoners’ institutions reported that the Nazi occupation forces arrested 429 Palestinians during the month of July.

In its monthly report, released today, the Prisoners’ Institutions stated that 32 children and 10 women are among the detainees.

 The Prisoners’ and Human Rights Institutions (Prisoners’ Affairs Authority and Executives’ Affairs, Palestinian Prisoners Club, Addameer Prisoner Care and Human Rights Foundation, and Wadi Hilweh Information Center – Silwan) indicate that the Nazi occupation forces have arrested (201) Palestinians from Jerusalem, and (46) from Ramallah and Al-Bireh. (35) from Hebron, (34) from Jenin, and (22) from Bethlehem.

It also arrested (20) Palestinians from Nablus, (15) from Tulkarm, (17) from Qalqilya, eight from Jericho, (15) from Tubas, three from Salfit, in addition to (13) from Gaza.  

During the month of July 2020, the number of Palestinian prisoners in the Nazi occupation Camps reached nearly 4,500.

Among the prisoners are (41) female prisoners, while the number of child detainees is about (160) children, and the administrative detainees are about (360), and the number of administrative detention orders issued reached (98) administrative detention orders.

Prisoner Abdel Fattah Zamel .. 18 years of deprivation from meeting his mother


Exclusive to Al-Quds Al-Akhbariya : They all visit him except her, and she has not had any meeting with her son since his arrest in 2003, but his voice remains what makes her savage whenever she yearns for his life, all of them return from the visit to reassure her of his condition, and she waits for the phone ringing every day, perhaps it will be him.

Prisoner Abdel Fattah Riad Zamel (45 years), from Nablus, was arrested by the Nazi occupation forces from his home on the 29th of May 2003. After a period of investigations by the Shin Bet, he was sentenced to 24 years in prison for carrying out operations against the Nazi occupation.

Eighteen years in captivity did not see Nour Aynah and his mother, Souad (72 years), who did not give birth to him, but she is still hoping to meet him, despite the occupation’s refusal to visit him because of the lack of “proof of lineage” (as she breastfed him). He spoke on the phone with grief and pain over his absence, and longing To him, and he speaks to her, and he confides about her and laughs at her.

Prisoner Abdel Fattah made his marriage to one of his female relatives in captivity, while he was on a date with freedom and his wedding after serving the remainder of his judgment or perhaps it would be released before he makes up for it.

The brother of the prisoner, Tariq Zamel, told “ Quds Al-Akhbariya ” that Abdel-Fattah moved between several prisons and is being held today in the “Negev” desert prison, where he received many courses during his detention, including courses in; International and humanitarian law, cultural creativity, national constants, strategies of popular resistance, principles of political action, at a rate of 60 hours per session.   

He adds that four years ago, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in history from Al-Aqsa University in Gaza with good grades, and more recently he obtained a second bachelor’s degree in education / social education from Al-Quds Open University in Nablus.

He confirmed that he plans to continue his education and obtain a master’s degree in the occupation prisons, and that he is currently giving organizational courses for prisoners.

Tariq confirms that his brother Abdel-Fattah is very patient. His health and conditions. ”

The oldest prisoner of Jerusalem in age .. The Nazi occupation extends the administrative detention of MP Abu Tir


The Nazi occupation Court renewed the administrative detention of the deputy deported from Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Abu Tir (70 years), for a second period of four months.

MP Abu Teer is one of the symbols of the captive movement inside the occupation prisons, and he spent nearly 36 years in captivity castles, and he has been deported from his city, Jerusalem and his hometown, Umm Tuba (to the south) since December 8, 2010.

He was subjected to many arrests, summons, and harsh investigations at the hands of the occupation intelligence, and he also moved between several prisons and spent his detention periods between an actual and administrative prison, to spend half of his life in prison bars, and he is considered the oldest prisoner of Jerusalem in age.

Abu Tir was born on the 16th of April 1951 in the village of Umm Tuba, south of occupied Jerusalem, and completed his secondary education at the Al-Aqsa Islamic School, and worked as an imam, teacher, and preacher in the village mosque.

He traveled to Beirut in 1972, and joined the ranks of the Fatah movement in the name of Harki (Tariq bin Ziyad), then he met Saad Sayel and began the phase of military work until his arrest in 1974, and his sentence to 13 years imprisonment.

He was released in (Operation Galilee) in 1985, in conjunction with the escalation of the Islamic work that culminated in the launch of the “Hamas” movement, so Sheikh Abu Tair worked early under the name (Sidi Omar) to prepare for military action with “Hamas” in coordination with the Popular Front, the General Command, until He was arrested in 1989 and imprisoned for 13 months.

He was re-arrested in 1990 after completing an arms deal in favor of “Hamas” movement, and he was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. During the period of detention, he got acquainted with a large number of leaders of the military action who worked from inside the prison to establish a central military wing, but the discovery of the matter led to the imprisonment of Sheikh Abu Tir 7 Other years spanning 2006.

After his release from prison, Sheikh Abu Tir was elected on January 25, 2006, as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council for the Change and Reform Bloc, and he was the second person on the list that Hamas nominated to run in the legislative elections after Ismail Haniyeh.

However, this did not prevent him from being re-arrested on June 30, 2006, and then in 2010 he was deported from Jerusalem to the occupied West Bank.

And the occupation authorities decided to withdraw his identity and those of the Jerusalem representatives and the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs also after their victory in the Legislative Council elections, accusing them of not being loyal to the occupation state.

The detention stations of MP Abu Tair:

He was arrested on 9/12/1974 and released on 5/20/1985 (exchange deal)

He was arrested on 1/2/1989 and released on 3/1/1990

He was arrested on 3/9/1990 and released on 2/28/1991

He was arrested on 3/11/1992 and released on 1/2/1998

He was arrested on 9/21/1998 and released on 6/6/2005

He was arrested on June 29, 2006, and released on May 20, 2010

He was arrested on June 30, 2010 and released on December 8, 2010 

He was arrested on 6/9/2011 and released on 5/9/2012

He was arrested on July 2 2013 and released on July 30, 2015

He was arrested on January 28, 2016, and released on May 30, 2017

He was arrested on 4/8/2017 and released on 1/2/2018

He was arrested on 3/13/2019 and released on 10/10/2019

He was arrested on 4/13/2020 … and he is still under administrative detention

Prisoner Nidal Abu Aker … constant suffering due to medical negligence

Bethlehem – Quds News Special: Prisoner journalist Nidal Abu Aker, from Aida camp in Bethlehem, suffers from health problems, in light of intentional health negligence by the occupation prison administration.

His son, Muhammad Abu Aker, told “Jerusalem News” that his father suffers from “ulcers”, and the administration of “Ofer” prison, where the occupation is currently holding him, does not provide him with adequate treatment and medication.

A special force from the Nazi occupation army arrested the prisoner Abu Aker, from Bethlehem, at the beginning of last July, then the intelligence services transferred him to administrative detention for a period of 6 months.

Muhammad indicated that his father is boycotting the occupation military courts, just like a number of administrative prisoners, who refuse to appear before them.

Muhammad, who was arrested by the occupation, also said that his father has spent more than 16 years now, in several arrests, most of them administrative, “without a case or charge.”

Days after the arrest of the prisoner Nidal Abu Aker, his father, Haji Naim Abu Aker, passed away, without being able to cast his last farewell look at him.

The suffering of repeated arrests began with Nidal when he was a 14-year-old boy, whose brother Muhammad was shot by the occupation forces in the first intifada.

Five prisoners will continue their strike until their demands are met

11 thousand Palestinians have been arrested by the occupation from occupied Jerusalem since 2015

Prisoners Authority: The deterioration of the health status of the sick prisoner, Mohamed Salah El-Din

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on The Nazi occupation army arrested 5 young men from the West Bank

Meet the Activist Who Is Driving the Push to Reclaim Nature for Black People

BY: John de GraafTruthout

Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro, has devoted her life to encouraging Black Americans to connect more closely with the natural world.

Nature and wild spaces are appreciated by many, but they can sometimes be rendered inaccessible or dangerous to people of color, as a recent incident in Washington State shows. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As the founder of the national organization Outdoor Afro, Rue Mapp has devoted her life to encouraging Black Americans to connect more closely with the natural world. In this interview, Mapp discusses how she approaches this work given a context in which forests are often not seen by Black people in the U.S. as healing spaces due to the terrors of the Jim Crow era. Meanwhile, she also takes on the importance of balancing accessibility to nature with rent control policies to prevent gentrification of green cities from shutting out people of color.

John de Graaf: Rue, how did you become so connected with the outdoors?

Rue Mapp: I got it from my parents. They were African Americans who came to California in the big waves of migration from the Jim Crow South, when people got on trains and kept going until the train didn’t go any further and wound up in places like Oakland, California. What they brought with them was their relationship to nature and the land. And they had their house in Oakland, but they invested in some property up in Lake County [about a hundred miles north of Oakland]. That place became a ranch where we had cows, we had pigs, we hunted, we fished, we had a bountiful garden. I loved being able to go there as a child and just observe the changes in the seasons.… It was really magical and gave me a chance to just have this quietness and comfort in relating to nature.

But the thing that was also important in those experiences was connecting to other people. My parents often hosted family gatherings and celebrations at our “ranch.” And my dad had this standing invitation, meaning that if you’ve been invited once, you never have to be invited again; the door is always open…. So nature and hospitality were really hand-in-hand for me. Those are the underpinnings of the work that I do today.

Tell me about how Outdoor Afro got started, what it does, how the idea came to you. You must have seen that other kids weren’t getting the experience that you had.

As I grew older, I started to see that the experience I had was actually pretty unique. And even though I had this nature-based experience growing up, I still had a lot of exploration that I got to do as a Girl Scout. I did Outward Bound. And the more I went out into wilderness areas, the less I saw people who looked like me. And I knew that people wouldn’t get to those wilderness areas if they didn’t have the foundation for connecting to nature. I thought a lot about things that were just peculiar to me and my family upbringing, and not necessarily special or needed to be celebrated or amplified in any way. But I knew that they had a deep value and a transformational effect in my life.

I was at this crossroads in my life. I was in my thirties and I was thinking about going to grad school. I had three children who were young. I was divorced. And I was wanting to do something different. I had a mentor and my mentor asked me a question that I think everybody should answer at some point in their lives. She said, “If time and money were not an issue, what would you do?” And I opened my mouth and my life fell out. I said I’d probably start a website to reconnect African Americans to the outdoors. And that wild moment was my revelation. Outdoor Afro began maybe two weeks after that conversation. I blogged about the story of my growing up wild, talking about all the important nature milestones that I had in my life.The more I went out into wilderness areas, the less I saw people who looked like me.

And what surprised me was that there were people I respect who responded and said, “I love nature, too. I have those experiences to share as well.” And that’s when I knew that by using digital technology you could talk to anybody; that there was a whole population that had been unheard and uncelebrated in their connection to nature, just like me. So Outdoor Afro set about doing something about that. And we became very much about helping to shift the visual imagination of who gets outside. Outdoor Afro filled that void. And since then, we’ve continued to grow and we’ve continued to evolve to a national not-for-profit organization. It’s now all I do for a living. And I’m proud to say that we have trained people to get youth and their families outside and we now have a presence in 30 states. There’s 80 men and women who are teaching…. These are not people who have gone and gotten this formal education in outdoor recreation or anything like that.

It’s fantastic. And do you also see the problem of “nature-deficit disorder” in youth the way Richard Louv, author of The Last Child in the Woods, does?

I love Richard Louv. I consider him a friend. And the entire network that he built, the Children and Nature Network, were early supporters of Outdoor Afro. It’s been great to be a part of that network of reimagining what childhood can look like when it has nature in it and how we’ve gotten so far away from those connections that we have a childhood that’s unrecognizable to someone who’s even my age, when we grew up playing and having all this great unstructured time in the outdoors. But today, we’re in a different world. We do have to look at the reality that how we move in the world is different. We’ve got cameras that surveil us all the time. We’ve got the reality of brutality that happens, that is informed, unfortunately, by race. When white people see Black children out, it’s more likely to arouse suspicion than encouragement. Outdoor Afro is needed because, unfortunately, we do have a legacy that does not permit all bodies and all people to have that unstructured freedom to be outside and to enjoy the wild.

And our whole culture has changed. There used to be a time when, if a kid was playing baseball outside and broke a window, it was all part of what we expected to happen. Or if kids climbed a tree and built a structure, they weren’t looking at a zoning or code violation for doing so. The Children and Nature movement has done a great job of noting how we’ve criminalized what used to be very routine childhood exploration and behavior. Look at places where people move because they want to be safe. And there are no children outside playing in those communities.

I know that for some Black families, the woods are seen as a scary place. Does that keep families away?

Absolutely. There’s another reality that is present for Black people that is also worth mentioning. And that’s the lived experience of lynching and what that terror that took place in the woods meant for people, how it defined people’s relationship to nature, how it defined people’s relationship to safety among trees. We can turn to the plaintive lyrics of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” to understand that trees have not always been seen as a place of refuge. We forget how close that reality was for Black Americans. And there’s still a living generational memory of that terror in the woods where grandparents will ask people like me, “Are you going out in the woods? Are you gonna be OK? Who’s with you?”

There’s just not this feeling of freedom to go and be in the wild and stand alone and observe the sweeping vista because of that unfortunate heritage that we still have not acknowledged or atoned for in this country. And so that’s one of the reasons why Outdoor Afro exists. It’s a way of helping us find healing and to find that reconnection.

You just mentioned healing and community. Can you say just a little bit about what nature does for all of us?

Yeah, we have seen more and more studies that measure how we are healthier, how we’re happier, that we actually need to see green. There is amazing research coming out of Children’s Hospital [in Oakland] that is measuring the cortisol levels of people before and after they actually have a nature experience and showing the calming effect of being outdoors and how important that is for children as well as the adults in their lives. So there’s a growing body of research that supports what we already know. And that is that we feel better when we’re outside, that we have a calm about us when we have the chance to engage with the outdoors. We in this country have experienced a lot of challenges in very recent years around police-involved violence. And there are people who have taken to the streets to protest, to express their grief, their anger. And I asked myself, What is it that Outdoor Afro needs to do in these times?

Around the time the Ferguson riots were really at their peak … I invited about 35 folks together to go into the Oakland redwoods and we went into a clearing and we did some yoga exercises. We were in a place where there were no police in riot gear. Not everybody thought the same thing or had the same ideas about the way forward.We can turn to the plaintive lyrics of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” to understand that trees have not always been seen as a place of refuge.

But we all needed something different. And as we wound ourselves down … I could feel the stress just leaving. I mean, I just felt like those trees had this absorptive quality on us. And we were walking by the stream, and that’s when I had the epiphany that we were doing what Black people have always known we could do, and that was to lay down our burdens down by the riverside. And that was the moment that I understood nature as a healer. And we need that now more than ever…. That was the moment that I knew how important this work was that I was doing, that there was a bigger opportunity to find healing in this country that has a lot to heal from, especially around race.

Do people, and especially poor people, ever say to you that given how bad things are now, beauty and nature are just sort of a luxury?

I think people know — we know in our bones that we need nature. We may not want to do it the way that the next person does it. For instance, if someone says to me, “I don’t do that nature stuff,” you know, they’re thinking about camping. They’re thinking about roughing it. They’re thinking about hanging off the side of a cliff. They’re thinking about some extreme outdoor experience. Right? And I have to wean people out of that. So I say, “But you like to barbecue, don’t you? And they say, “Yeah, yeah. I like to go to the park and have a cookout with my family in celebration.” And I say, “That counts. Do you like to walk around on a local trail with your dog or take a lap during your lunch break around the building where you work?” So what I do is help people see that they already seek out ways to be in nature. And they’re already connecting to nature, and that the outdoors and nature is really everywhere around us. I can see beauty in falling leaves as well as in pristine places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It is so much about just taking a moment to slow down and look at what’s around you. Because beauty is not some place over there. It’s right in front of our face.

Do you think that sometimes, if we’re not careful, beauty can drive artists and people of color out of a community through gentrification?

I think that a lot of where it goes wrong has everything to do with bad policies. And we do need to be thinking more deeply about green spaces in particular. We talk a lot about park-poor communities and making sure we’re helping make parks and green spaces more accessible. But at the same time, we’re accelerating gentrification because guess what happens when you’ve got this beautiful park next to where people live? Their property values increase, the desirability of that area increases, the rent increases.

So we have to be having a more multidisciplinary conversation around housing policy than we are, really looking at the whole community of stakeholders and making sure that when we’re talking about accessibility to nature and greening areas, we are also thinking about our rent control policies and how might they protect or reduce access for populations that may have been waiting for a long time for their neighborhoods to come together and suddenly can’t afford them anymore. And that to me is a real tragedy. And I’ve seen that happen in other cities where it wasn’t good for a long time. And then a lot of those older residents who had been holding on were now being forced out because there’s the new co-op down the street and the great park and other people naturally wanting that.

Everybody wants a chance to be able to afford a decent place to live, to have a place where our kids can be safe and go to a decent school and have some green nearby. You know, we all want the same thing. And I think there is enough. But I think that our policies have to articulate that better.

This interview has been edited for length.

Posted in USAComments Off on Meet the Activist Who Is Driving the Push to Reclaim Nature for Black People

Reforms Are Won When Social Movements Inflict Real Costs on the Economic Elite

Protestors form a human chain during a protest, organized by Charlotte Uprising in uptown Charlotte near the site of the 2020 Republican National Convention in North Carolina on August 22, 2020.
Protestors form a human chain during a protest, organized by Charlotte Uprising in uptown Charlotte near the site of the 2020 Republican National Convention in North Carolina on August 22, 2020.

BYJustin VassalloTruthout

There’s a tendency in U.S. progressive politics to focus on rehabilitating capitalism for working people. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign for president had the patina of an “anti-corruption” crusade, giving a populist spin to technocratic fixes that would update the embedded liberalism of the postwar era for the twenty-first century. Think tanks and public intellectuals likewise emphasize antitrust as a means to improve the welfare of consumers and workers while giving smaller firms a better chance to succeed. Even during a global pandemic, the underlying concern is that neoliberal governance has become dysfunctional, but that it can be replaced with something akin to social democracy without losing American capitalism’s purported dynamism. This tendency is a response, in part, to the Trump administration, whose pursuit of tax cuts, corporate bailouts, and deregulation exemplifies not so much artful subterfuge but a brazen contempt for proper oversight of industry. While the progressive wing of the Democratic Party reasserts its voice, its arsenal of proposed reforms ultimately promises to mend a grossly inequitable system, not challenge it outright. The problem with the reformist approach, as Levers of Power, by Kevin A. Young, Tarun Banerjee, and Michael Schwartz, shows, is that it doesn’t admit the deeper, fundamental structure of policymaking in capitalist societies, and the intrinsic control economic elites wield over it.

With principal case studies from the Obama era, Levers of Power illustrates the degree of institutionalized policy capture within Congress, federal agencies, and the White House itself. Even in the throes of an economic emergency, elites maintain several ways to impede reform. These include capital strikes, or disinvestment; narrowly-defined cost-benefit analyses that exclude measures of public well-being; the culture of the “corporate compromise” and attendant political pressures to maintain it; and legal challenges by business to sabotage or at least curtail the reach of reforms during their implementation phase, if they manage to survive the “sausage-making” of congressional legislation. The effect is to both preclude ambitious, change-seeking insurgents from leading the Democratic Party and compel the potential reformers that do win election to greatly constrict their goals.

In an interview over email, co-author Kevin A. Young discussed the limits of electoral politics to advance a more egalitarian social contract and the strategies today’s social movements can employ to fight injustice. The challenges are formidable, especially given the Trump administration’s exercise of a new and despotic federal police power in reaction to nationwide Black Lives Matter protests against police violence. As Levers of Power demonstrates through examples from the labor movement and Civil Rights Movement, the path to enduring change requires mobilization that inflicts real costs on capitalists and disrupts the nexus of elite interests. This means that while progressive political allies are instrumental when it comes to implementing reform, they are never its true locus.

Justin H. Vassallo: In Levers of Power, the process of policy capture doesn’t come across the way corruption is popularly conceived. Instead, it’s depicted as a negotiated circumscription of policy choices between elites that then limits what the public believes to be politically possible. How does this differ from the relationship between the state, business, and labor during mid-twentieth century capitalism?

Kevin A. Young: The common usage of the term “corruption” is far too limited for understanding how political power operates. Rarely is the process a directly transactional one in which economic elites bribe policymakers to obtain a specific end. The more typical function of campaign contributions is to purchase access to the policymaking process – that is, a guarantee that their interests will be prioritized, and that they’ll be consulted before any policy changes are made.

My sense is that the relationship between the state, business and labor has not fundamentally changed since the mid-20th century: Even at the height of labor’s political power, business was deeply involved in policymaking discussions and the key sectors typically had to give their consent prior to major changes. There is a difference from that period, but it’s one of degree: Wealth has become even more concentrated, the floodgates have been thrown (further) open to corporate campaign donations, and labor has been greatly weakened. If the working class was sometimes able to force changes on business and government, now there are fewer countervailing forces that policymakers have to take into account.

I’ve been reading Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean and Dark Money by Jane Mayer in tandem. What distinguishes this process from the evisceration of the mixed economy and state capacity as pursued by the Koch network and other radical libertarians?

Those books are important contributions, but they can be read to imply that devious right-wing billionaires and their “stealth plan” are the primary enemies of democracy and egalitarianism – which is an oversimplification. The Koch brothers and James McGill Buchanan are truly vile, but we should understand them as only the most extreme incarnations of a far broader anti-democratic consensus among U.S. elites, including liberal politicians, investors and executives, and intellectuals. It’s useful to remember political scientist Samuel Huntington’s warning in 1975 against an “excess of democracy,” which he felt the upsurge of the 1960s and early 1970s had produced.

As we argue in the book, anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian policies are not just dependent on the preferences of individual elite leaders. There are profound structural constraints on all policymakers due to the way that our economy and state are organized. So even “maverick” politicians are subject to larger forces they can’t control. Social movements can alter that balance of forces, but in the absence of mass disruption, elite preferences usually win.

Your book builds on research that explains how inequality has worsened over the last forty years, but where it departs is in its examination of how much consultative authority business-friendly, unelected officials have. If this is a missing link when it comes to policy capture, what conditions enabled it?

The consolidation of this authority (and politicians’ deference) is a process that has compounded over time. Roughly, campaign contributions and threats of disinvestment ensure that business-friendly politicians get elected, or at least that they appoint business-friendly advisors and regulators. Those appointed personnel then help usher in institutional changes, such as the 1996 legislation signed by Clinton that expanded the use of cost-benefit analysis and gave it a more business-friendly definition. Those changes further restrict the autonomy of elected politicians and their appointees, and increase the incentive to accommodate business. The weakness of countervailing progressive forces since the 1980s has removed some of the disincentives for politicians to accommodate business.

Should a social democrat ever win the presidency in the future, what can they do differently to overcome corporate threats? Or does the globalization of capital flows ineluctably limit their options?

We need more case studies of how corporate opposition – including in the era of footloose capital – can be overcome. We argue that even a President Bernie Sanders would’ve been severely constrained, even in attempts to take executive actions that a president is legally allowed to take.

There is some wiggle room, and [it] can be increased when mass disruption of elite interests is added into the equation. As we argue, conservative elite interests have themselves ended up pressuring politicians for progressive reforms in order to avert more radical outcomes. There’s reason to believe that moments of deep crisis, like the current one, give politicians more latitude to defy corporate interests. What’s clear is that if elites are not bearing any real costs, they will ferociously oppose progressive reforms, and a social democratic president (or governor, or mayor) will have a tough time countering them.

Most ideas offered by progressive Democrats seem to spring from a political and intellectual culture that lacks real proximity to social movements. How would you characterize the dynamic between the world of reformist elites and the world of non-electoral activism? What do social movements need to do to obtain more leverage in developing and influencing policy without diluting their autonomy?

I agree that most ideas coming from liberal Democrats lack real proximity to social movements. Those voices envision solutions that are often technocratic and modest, even by the standards of the Eisenhower or Nixon eras. Some proposals from more progressive Democrats [go] somewhat further, but even [then], systemic solutions are rarely discussed. Stronger regulations on business are great, but why should private banks or corporate executives have any power to determine investments? Higher wages are great, but why should some people be consigned to a life of monotonous, unpleasant, unhealthy labor while others get to do creative and fulfilling work? Those discussions are unlikely to be broached in Washington. Labor and other movements need to do it. As for how movements can obtain more leverage, I favor engagement with electoral politics on a limited basis. Most of the policy solutions – at least the reform solutions – are out there and politicians or their staffs can find them if they bother to look. I suppose direct consultation between politicians and movements can be a good thing – for instance, if a liberal Dem solicits advice from a movement. But movements should never be fooled into thinking their power comes from access to policymakers. The fact they’re consulted at all reflects a preexisting power that the politician realizes they need to take into account.

Did Bernie Sanders’ campaigns demonstrate the limits of forging a social movement within electoral politics? Or were they part of a dialectic — channeling energies from Occupy, the Fight for 15, the teachers’ strikes, Black Lives Matter, and the immigrant rights movement — that has now fed back into local, and sometimes non-electoral, strategies for change?

I’d be interested to see studies of how activists have been mobilized: Did people get excited about Bernie, then join other movements, including non-electoral ones, because of the Bernie campaign? Or did the activists in non-electoral movements gravitate to the Bernie campaign because of their prior experience in non-electoral movements, while the people who got politicized by Bernie faded away again after his campaign ended, meaning that the long-term impact of the Bernie campaign was minimal?

I do wish Bernie had done more to encourage non-electoral organizing, but it wasn’t in the campaign’s short-term interest, since they naturally wanted people making calls and knocking on doors for the campaign. That problem is arguably inherent in electoral politics.

How do current social movements transcend the common desire for reform and press for a transformational future? The world that carceral state abolitionists and climate activists envision entails far more than a robust welfare state, crucial as that is.

The left has a crucial role to play in articulating a vision for a liberated society in all realms. It’s impossible to offer a precise blueprint but a basic vision is important, for two reasons: It can foster debate about the key principles that should govern society, and show there are realistic alternatives to our current system.

The left needs to be engaged in building unions, tenants’ councils, and other mass organizations, and fighting for reforms within the current system. The process of struggle is itself educational: collectively confronting oppressive institutions sharpens our understanding of the world and exposes the limitations of reform. Once a movement wins a reform, the inadequacy of that reform soon becomes apparent. That’s the way many people radicalize. The presence of an organized, visible left that is promoting radical analysis can help, by offering people tools for the fight. Meanwhile, the infusion of new voices can enrich the left’s own analysis, vision, and strategy. The left should also pursue what Robin Hahnel calls “experiments in equitable cooperation”: alternative institutions like worker-owned cooperatives, mutual aid networks, and restorative justice programs. The dominant institutions won’t allow these to get very big, but they still serve an educational purpose in that they demonstrate that humans can organize themselves based on values other than greed, individualism, and vengeance. Practically speaking, they prepare us for the tasks of running a future society (skills which are especially vital in moments of acute crisis like a pandemic in which the state has all but abdicated its responsibility for the general welfare).

To what extent can today’s movement against police violence reconcile civil disobedience with more overtly militant tactics, without losing the public support it’s garnered?

It would be unwise to prescribe universal guidelines. Sometimes “overtly militant” tactics are strategically advantageous to a movement, sometimes not. Riots and other property destruction sometimes produce beneficial outcomes, but they can also subject a movement to more repression. Organizers need to weigh the potential consequences. And we should bear in mind that the most “militant” actions are not always the most disruptive to dominant institutions.

Movements should pay attention to public opinion without being too obsessed with it. Most of the iconic social movement victories in U.S. history, from the abolition of slavery onward, have happened without majority support. In the case of the current movement against police terror, disrupting business interests is probably one key to confronting the police, since business can compel politicians to rein in the cops.

How can activists impose sufficient costs on capitalists to divide elites and create a pathway toward real reform, as Levers of Power’s theory of change suggests? Is it harder and more dangerous for today’s movements to replicate some of the successful strategies the book expounds upon?

We face a slew of deeply authoritarian institutions with awesome capacity for repression. They’ve gotten bigger, more militarized, and more empowered in recent decades. But all things considered, I don’t think the terrain is more daunting or dangerous than it was in past eras. From the last decades of the 19th century up until the 1940s, employers and the state murdered and maimed hundreds of striking workers, usually with impunity. Likewise in the Jim Crow South, where state-sanctioned terrorists killed, raped, and tortured thousands of people to enforce white supremacy, segregation, and labor control. Yet those movements found creative ways to cause disruption while enabling their members to withstand repression. For instance, in Birmingham they didn’t try to fight the cops in the streets – which would’ve been suicidal – but instead targeted downtown businesses with boycotts, which led the businesses to command the cops to stand down.

If prioritizing alliances within the electoral system has dubious worth, where should activists devote energy beyond disruptive strategies?

I think movements must develop our capacity to take care of each other independently of authoritarian institutions like the state and private business. That doesn’t mean we should completely ignore the state. Government has vast resources at its disposal and we should demand that those resources be used for collective welfare. Absent alternative institutions that can reach everyone, government services are often the best option available to us in the short term.

While autonomist, localist, or sectoral activities are sometimes idealized, the communities that constitute socialist hopes are stronger when they position particular struggles toward a greater project of solidarity and liberation. What should labor, climate, and racial justice movements do to elevate their international dimension?

We must avoid an overly “autonomist, localist, or sectoral” focus. There’s often an aversion among organizers to “mixing issues,” particularly in the NGO world, probably due to concerns about funding. But that phrase implies that it’s even possible to neatly compartmentalize issues, which is empirically absurd — we all have a class position, a race, a national identity, an interest in a safe and healthy environment, and so on. Those interests can’t be artificially separated.

The left should focus on building organizations that can do two things: confront predatory institutions and build alternatives. Our movements need to do both simultaneously.

Kevin A. Young is co-author, with Tarun Banerjee and Michael Schwartz, of Levers of Power: How the 1% Rules and What the 99% Can Do About It.

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