Overseas.

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Hmmm… crazy racist grandpa has been mouthing off again. Trump is truly breaking all records in the bigot category, at least with respect to the modern presidency. But I digress.

There has been so much news about various story lines in the Trump scandal that a lot of consequential international news gets blown out of the water. These are extremely volatile times and we would do well to pay closer attention to what’s happening overseas, particularly when our country is playing a significant role in it. Of course, some attention is paid to the Korean crisis, perhaps in part because of the high human stakes involved, but more likely because of the insipid pissing match between Kim Jong Un and our madman president, who is singularly uninformed about the history of that region. Our news media loves pissing matches – so easy to report on.

There he goes again.The two Koreas have taken some tentative steps to de-escalation, and I for one am glad to see that. In fact, I wish they would just bury the hatchet and tell us to take a hike, frankly. But it’s the kind of detente that can easily be upended by a volatile president, and Korea is one of those issues over which even the craziest commander-in-chief can find willing allies in Congress. Israel/Palestine is another. Trump’s policy on Jerusalem is appalling, but it also happens to be the same policy Congress long ago approved and a previous president (Clinton) signed into law. This is a symbolic issue domestically and a very substantive issue internationally; I am guessing that most Americans have no idea what the implications of this policy are, no notion of how large the municipality now called Jerusalem has grown over the past three decades. Underwriting Israel’s unilateral annexation of this city essentially eliminates any chance of a two-state solution, period. Some of my countrymen know this; many more do not, or simply do not care.

Even Trump’s domestic policy, enabled by Congress’s inaction, has international implications. Take his ending of Temporary Protective Status for refugees from El Salvador. There is no way in hell that the husk of a country those people left behind decades ago can absorb 200,000 of them, even if they wanted to go back. Haiti is a similar story. But this is the reality we live in now. This executive policy shatters lives and threatens the stability (to the extent that there is any) of Central America and the Caribbean. Again, Congress could stop this … but does nothing.

Color me disgusted.

luv u,

jp

 

Donnie’s excellent adventure.

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It’s been quite a week for our low-rent gropen-fuhrer, and as of this writing it’s only Wednesday. First we saw him re-tweet Euro-fascist videos, then excoriate the FBI in response to Flynn’s indictment, followed by a full-throated endorsement of Alabama Senate Candidate, state Supreme Court Justice (twice removed), and mall stalker (many times removed) Roy Moore on Monday, opening of vast Western lands to oil and gas development on Tuesday, and U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday. Throw in little details like the travel ban being reinstated by the Supreme Court Tuesday, his allies in the Senate passing a draconian “tax” bill (larded with much else besides) the weekend before, and stepped up provocative war games on the Korean peninsula this week, and you’ve got … well … just what you voted for, America.

Trump lighst the fuse. Again.The Jerusalem announcement basically lights a fuse that’s been rolled out and set for decades. As Trump pointed out, Congress has voted for this more than once, passing resolutions in support of the shift by large bipartisan margins. In terms of the fundamentals, it’s a minor step, but as a symbolic gesture, it has the potential for disaster. I’m certain it is already being used as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, ISIS, Al-Shabab, and what have you. Another tremendous gift to jihadists the world over. Trump may as well take out full-page ads for them, plaster billboards all around the Muslim world, and flood Facebook with pop-ups – Al Baghdadi wants you!

There’s a temptation to frame this clusterfuck as something uniquely Trump, but that doesn’t even begin to hold water. Trump is truly a reflection of America’s worst tendencies, a fun-house mirror for us to peer into with fascination and horror. But having a drunk at the wheel of the wrecking machine that is Imperial America is only marginally different than having a college professor in the driver’s seat. Yes, Trump is worse than even a neoliberal Democratic administration – court appointments and judicial decisions alone confirm that much. But America as it is currently configured is designed to kill and destroy on a massive scale, regardless of who is running the show. Destruction is the default position, and like any large exploitative enterprise, this machine has its ways of perpetuating itself. Every family Trump (or Obama) shatters in Yemen or Syria or Iraq generates more hatred against us. Our bombs and policies like the Jerusalem decision are investments in future conflicts that will fuel the military machine long after we’re gone.

It’s not hopeless, people. We live in a democratic society. We can change how we do things, but we have to get started … like, now.

luv u,

jp

 

Ring out.

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It’s the year that wouldn’t die. I suppose it always seems that way – years, like any unit of measurement, are artificial divisions by which no natural or artificial phenomena need abide. Still, it feels like we’re accelerating to the finish line, and each day seems to bring more exaggerated indications of what a clusterfuck 2017 promises to be.

Yes, but what have you done for me lately?Probably the most prominent feature of a discouraging week was the fallout over UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which reaffirmed the longstanding principle that Israel’s settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem is “a flagrant violation under international law” as well as “an obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution”. The Obama administration abstained on this resolution (i.e. did not veto it), prompting hysterical reaction from Republicans and Democrats alike and a long speech by Secretary of State John Kerry, which triggered more hair-on-fire reactions.

The administration’s position on this is pretty standard – for decades, our government has been officially against the notion of settlement building and unilateral annexation of occupied territory in Israel/Palestine, while at the same time funding Israel to the tune of billions of dollars a year and – aside from a few rhetorical clucks here and there – doing nothing to pressure them to stop this illegal and destructive activity. Resolution 2334 will be ignored by Israel, just like all the rest, back to 242 and 338, and we will continue to send them money and arms, and defend them when they go on another tear in Gaza or elsewhere. Still: not good enough for Netanyahu, who is obviously using the transition to an even more congenial Trump administration to make a point.

Getting your face rubbed in it by Netanyahu is annoying enough. Hearing lamentations about the Obama administration’s abstention on 2334 from the leader of the Democrats in the Senate is just plain unacceptable. Is this the face of resistance for the next four years? A number of commentators on the left have complained about the degree to which the Democratic party seems to have no fire in the belly these days. When an issue like this appears to bring our leadership more in line with the incoming Trump administration, it becomes even more clear that the left is on its own. We can count on no one but ourselves.

So be it. Let’s work with one another. Let the leaders follow us for a change.

luv u,

jp

Another term.

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As you can see, Netanyahu (I won’t call him “Bibi”, as cute nicknames seem kind of inappropriate for mass murderers – like calling Suharto “Susu”, etc.) won re-election again. Predictions of his political demise were somewhat premature. As Ali Abunimah pointed out, he basically pulled the same tactic he used in 1996: wait until the last days of the election, then make a big push for the bigot vote, crying alarms about the Arabs “voting in droves” and how the Israeli center-left is a bunch of surrender monkeys. Works every time, apparently. Likud pulled down 30 seats in the Knesset, considerably more than was predicted and against most of the polling (including exit polls).

And THIS is the night before the election.What’s ugly about this is that the man who ordered the killing of more than 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza last year, including many children, and destroyed much of what was left of Gaza’s already distressed infrastructure, that man has been rewarded by the voters in Israel. A government whose Foreign Minister has advocated beheading Israeli Arabs, expelling them, etc. – that government appears to be sailing back into power, triumphant. It’s hard to argue that Israelis, in general, are not fully in favor of what was done last summer – terror bombing UN schools, destroying neighborhoods, hitting hospitals with high explosives, and so on. That’s pretty ugly, and disappointing, as the few Israelis I know are not supporters of blowing people up at random.

But the suggestion being circulated in the U.S. press that this outcome is somehow worse for the so-called “peace process” is frankly laughable. Israel’s center-left has no more commitment to permitting some reasonable form of Palestinian nationhood than Likud has. Settlement activity in the West Bank and the outward expansion of Israeli-held East Jerusalem has continued under both groupings. The stalemate and steady dispossession of Palestinians is settled policy in Israel; it would take a major sea-change in Israeli society to depart from it, even if many Israelis grumble about the cost of supporting West Bank settlements (a considerable drain on a society which offers little opportunity for affordable housing and a decent standard of living for its young people).

So, here comes the old boss, same as the new boss. No difference to be had here. The only thing we can do is continue to pressure our own government towards a more equitable policy with respect to Israel/Palestine. Two states, based on the pre-June 1967 borders; right of refugee return (to the Palestinian state, at least); confidence building measures, etc. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility, but it’s a steep climb, and it will never happen without a change on this side of the ocean.

luv u,

jp

Lawn mowed.

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As of this writing – and matters are tenuous at best – the bombs have stopped falling on Gaza. Not soon enough for the nearly 2,000 dead, many thousands injured, 10,000 left homeless, and an entire society cast into a kind of pre-industrial darkness, with very little energy, bad or nonexistent water, and less hope than ever. This rampage by the Israeli government was breathtaking in its ferocity, but not without precedent. Netanyahu blames Hamas for not surrendering earlier … just the kind of jibe you would expect out of a tin-pot invading general. Tell it to the Hague, BiBi. Tell it to the Hague.

Looking for innocents to save, Barry?No fear, right? We won’t see Netanyahu in the dock, because if he lands there, our leaders would be right behind him for their crucial support of his atrocities. The ICC may sound like a good idea, but make no mistake: it’s not for powerful countries; it is for defeated leaders from the developing world who have gotten on the wrong side of the United States in one way or another. You might see a Milosevic or a Sri Lankan general facing justice, but never the George Bushes, Dick Cheneys, Don Rumsfelds, Barack Obamas, Tony Blairs, or BiBi Netanyahus of the world. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s mere victor’s justice, and therefore no justice at all.

Anyone who reads this blog knows where I stand on Israel / Palestine. I happen to believe that pre-June 1967 Israel is just as legitimate and illegitimate as any other nation state. I also share the nearly universal conviction that the only workable solution to this decades old crisis is a two-state settlement based on pre-June 1967. But even more crucially, I believe it’s important to recognize that lack of accountability for massacres of this type merely encourages repeat performances. Any nation allowed to act in such a way without fear of consequence will behave like Vlad the Impaler – it’s as reliable as gravity. If there is no accountability, Israel will “mow the lawn” in Gaza again and again, perhaps starting this weekend.

There is a way to stop this. Our government holds the key, but they refuse to use it. Now that the bombs are falling again (damn it!), we need to press them to do the right thing, because that’s the only way they ever will. Just say, hey, Barry … if you’re looking for some children who are easy to save, try Gaza. No bombers necessary – all you need to do is make a freaking phone call.

luv u,

jp

How much is enough?

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Israel continues to pound the people of Gaza to a pulp, bombing yet another UN school and killing many as they slept. The Palestinian death toll is nearing 1,400 as of this writing. How is our mainstream media handling this? They’re basically ripping and reading Israeli government press releases.

Outrage upon outrageToday (Thursday 7/31), it’s been all about the “sophisticated” network of tunnels through which the diabolical Hamas can infiltrate Israel at will and attack the innocent. I heard a bloodless report on NPR in which a correspondent talked about the improved combat capability of Hamas, which they argued, surpassed that of Hezbollah during Israel’s 2006 attack on Lebanon. “Hezbollah is watching this closely,” we’re told. Cue the fright music.

It’s no mystery why most Americans don’t understand this conflict; they simply never get the facts from their news sources. This attack is completely unjustified; it is a bald attempt to destroy any opportunity for a united Palestinian front, the prospect of which emerged over the past few months. As usual, the Israeli government is not responding to the threat of war, but rather, the threat of peace. When there appears a chance that a credible diplomatic effort might emerge, they shift the ground to military conflict, something they cannot fail at. They have the fifth largest military in the world; Hamas is a bunch of guys with guns and 10-20 pound artillery charges. Does the media report that? Never.

Take the so-called “iron dome” defense system. According to Ted Postal at MIT (who appeared on Democracy Now! this week), this system, like the Patriot Missile batteries of the first Gulf War (1990-1),  is almost certainly less than 5% effective. But the United States government and our incredibly feckless media merely accept the Israeli governments unverified claims without comment. Again, it’s rip and read — if it’s coming from the Netanyahu government, it has to be right. In the midst of all this carnage, they simply can’t resist raising Raytheon’s stock a little bit.

I could say more, but suffice to say, this has to stop. I know Netanyahu and his ministers are shooting for total capitulation on the part of the Palestinians. They may get part of their wish. But there’s no way in hell we should fail to hold them accountable for what has been a really major crime against humanity, made worse by the fact that we could pressure them to stop, and yet we won’t. We have no leverage in Syria. We do in Israel, and we should use it.

Stop. the. killing. now.

luv u,

jp

Target Gaza.

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Gaza is a little sliver of land along the Mediterranean; it’s 136 square miles of impoverished territory and one of the most densely populated places on Earth. Exit and entry for the 1.8 million people who live there is strictly controlled by Israel on three sides, Egypt (in cooperation with the Israeli and U.S. governments) on the fourth. It is basically an open-air prison; that’s why when the world’s fifth most powerful military unleashes its killing machinery on the place, you get hundreds dead in a short stretch of days. That’s what we’re seeing now.

Maybe this would help at the HagueIndeed, what we are seeing now is collective punishment of the Palestinians, not the Israel vs. Hamas conflict that the U.S. media constantly refers to. Let us be clear: the Israeli government, in the normal course of screwing the Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank, took the opportunity of the kidnapping and murder of the three yeshiva students to go on a rampage in the West Bank, arresting hundreds of people, including Hamas operatives released under previous ceasefire agreements, and killing about a dozen Palestinians. It should surprise no one that that would result in a response from Gaza in the form of some very ineffective missiles.

Let’s talk about self-defense. The Netanyahu government has an option for stopping the rocket fire: cease the rampage against Palestinians you started weeks ago.  The concept of self-defense does not encompass bombing hospitals, ambulances, and U.N.-run schools. Even if the Israeli government’s extremely dubious claims about hidden caches of weapons in such places were true, it would be no justification for striking medical facilities. Just the order to evacuate from northern Gaza itself amounts to a probable war crime – if the International Criminal Court were anything other than a venue for victors’ justice, Bibi and friends would be standing in the dock at the Hague alongside Barry and John Kerry … and Bush and Cheney, for that matter.

But there is no justice, except that which we bring about ourselves through collective action. So I urge you to contact your representatives in the federal government at every level and make your opposition to this attack known in no uncertain terms. So long as the Israeli government feels it can act with complete impunity, it will continue to heap outrage upon outrage.

luv u,

jp

All hell.

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This is a week for the books. Two major conflicts going to hell in a handbasket at the same time; god help us. One at a time …

Re: Israel / Palestine: See all previous commentsPalestine. The IDF ground war has begun. At least “war” is what our media in the U.S. call this, but it’s a very misleading term. This is an attack by one of the most powerful military machines in the world against an impoverished, stateless, poorly armed populace. Our television, radio, and newsprint journalists typically describe it as a conflict between Israel and Hamas, but the attack is on the Palestinian people, and it is they who suffer, with over 200 dead as of this writing. Four boys blown to bits on a beach, and Netanyahu is just getting started.

The act of telling civilians in northern Gaza to flee their homes in itself is a flagrant violation of the U.N. charter. What does our constitutional lawyer, Nobel laureate president have to say? The same three statements he always makes in these circumstances: (1) Israel has the right to defend itself; (2) No nation can tolerate having missiles targeting their cities; (3) Isn’t that “Iron Dome” defense shield we helped them build totally awesome? Here’s how to order yours.

I’m not certain, but I think (2) galls me the most. Couldn’t you say that about Palestine? They get bombs dropped on them all the time, not to mention settlements built on their land, checkpoints everywhere they go, regular killings of its citizens by a vicious foreign army of occupation, etc. What “state” would tolerate that?

Ukraine. I won’t say too much about this; only that the shooting down of the airliner is horrible beyond belief, and it’s just the sort of thing that happens when conflicts spin out of control. This story has sucked all of the air out of the room with regard to the news media. Chris Matthews on MSNBC was practically frothing at the mouth, playing tapes of Reagan excoriating the USSR on national television and saying the “Gipper” spoke for all of us back in 1983. The hell he did. At that time, his minions in Central America were eviscerating more innocents each week than were killed on KAL 007, so he can stow the high moral tone.

Hope to post next week … if our liberal friends don’t get us blown up before then.

luv u,

jp

Kids’ crusade.

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The Israeli war machine is cranking at nearly full bore now, with something approaching 100 Palestinians killed in several days of air strikes, a ground invasion and re-occupation of Gaza threatened, and I’m sure quite a bit else that doesn’t rise to the level of mainstream reportage here in the United States. This is being characterized as a “war”, albeit an “asymmetric” one, but I don’t know how you call something a war when only one side has an actual military … that is, the fourth or fifth most powerful military in the world. The other side has very primitive rockets that they obviously can’t hit the broad side of a barn with.

Targeted.I’ll be clear, for what it’s worth: firing rockets into southern and central Israel is not only wrong, it’s strategically idiotic. But this nearly uncontrolled act of violence is a response to the ongoing assault against Palestinians, from the massive crackdown in the West Bank on the pretext of the 3 Israelis being kidnapped and murdered, to the continual expansion of settlements and other occupation infrastructure, to the steady incarceration, wounding, and yes, killing of Palestinians, young and old, in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

This assault on Gaza is just the latest chapter of the Israeli government’s practice of demonstrating their willingness to kill Palestinians in large numbers. Netanyahu has built his entire career on this, catering to some of the worst tendencies of his electorate.  More than 1,500 children under the age of 18 have been killed by the IDF since 2001. Several more have died in the last few days. Netanyahu blames Hamas, but it is he who drops bombs on one of the most densely populated place on Earth. You should expect to be held responsible for the predictable consequences of your actions. All Bibi’s government talks about is self-defense, but this is a very one-sided “war”. Must you survive by murder?

Netanyahu is a lot like Assad: He only knows one thing, and that thing is violence. This is not an intractable problem. It can be solved if the Israeli government acts responsibly, and abandons its claim to the 22% of historic Palestine that is not Israel.

luv u,

jp

Rest for one.

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After an eight-year coma, Ariel Sharon died this past week. I say good for him. I am glad that he’s gone, and I say that without malice. No one deserves what he went through as a result of that stroke, not even a heartless killer. And I regret to say that that is exactly what he was, despite the graveside accolades.

Starting with the Qibya massacre in 1953, when troops led by Sharon killed almost 70 Palestinians, as well as destroying 45 homes and a mosque, Sharon made it his business to make the Arab inhabitants of Israel/Palestine miserable, homeless, or dead. He earned his title “The Bulldozer” Sharon: Gone but not forgotten.after the 1967 war when he pacified Gaza by destroying thousands of homes. While Sharon is hailed as a hero of the 1973 war – a war resulting from the stalemate policy encouraged by super-genius Henry Kissinger – he is probably best remembered for his role in the murderous 1982 invasion of Lebanon, in the midst of that country’s civil war, culminating in the massacre of Palestinians by Israeli-allied Christian militias in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, then under the control of the IDF.

That might have ended his public career, but it’s hard to keep a good killer down. Even though he was found to be substantially responsible for the deaths of the refugees in Beirut, he was back in subsequent Likud governments as minister without portfolio, then later as housing minister under Netanyahu’s first government in the mid-nineties. I recall his exhortation to settlers on the West Bank at one point during that period that they should “take every hilltop” – this from a man now hailed as one who was willing to trade land for peace.

Sharon’s tenure as Prime Minister was launched by his provocative visit to the “Dome of the Rock” in East Jerusalem, sparking the second Intifada. He used massive force to crush the uprising, reaching into his bulldozer bag of tricks, sending IDF soldiers into neighborhoods and schools in the West Bank, and basically burning the place down. Sharon pushed the separation wall, which is designed to lock in the Israeli government’s maximalist land claims on the West Bank. His much heralded evacuation of settlers from Gaza was a farce – those settlements were never anything more than a chip to be traded away in negotiations. And it was Sharon who chose the current PA leader Abu Mazen – insisted upon it, once Arafat was out of the way.

Rest in peace, big fella. Your legacy lives on.