As Thanksgiving approaches, we reflect on what we were once thankful for …
Prosperity and fascism are oxymoron
By Khalid Amayreh
According to the latest reports from Cairo, Egypt’s ranking in the Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum has fallen for the 4th consecutive year.
The fall reportedly became more pronounced and more acute especially since the bloody military coup in July, carried out by Abdul Fattah Sisis, in collusion with secular and anti-Islamic elements, against the democratically elected President Muhammed Mursi.
In the 2013-2014 Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), the country slid to 118th position from 107 last year, falling from 3.7 to 3.63 points, to be placed in the lowest quartile of 148 countries included in the report.
The report pointed out that Egypt’s competitiveness was compromised due to deteriorating security circumstances and the consequent instability besetting the country.
“The deteriorating security situation and tenacious political instability are undermining the country’s competitiveness and its potential for growth,” according to the authors of the report.
The report defines competitiveness by the institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country.
Fascism could ruin Egypt
The latest reports from Egypt should not raise the eyebrows of observers following up Egyptian affair. The present military junta simply doesn’t have the ability and necessary skills to run the country and efficiently manage its already shaky economy.
The military leadership may well be able to murder peaceful protesters at will at Rab’a and shut down non-conformist media outlets. It can also round up political opponents and incarcerate elected officials on concocted charges leveled against the Islamists by a notoriously corrupt justice system utilized as a rubber stamp by the fascist-minded ruling junta.
But the military can’t really do what should be done to revive the economy, create jobs for millions of unemployed Egyptians, create social peace and harmony among Egyptians and heal the wounds and scars of the catastrophic coup. Yes, it can kill, maim and incarcerate, but it can’t heal. It can destroy, but it can’t build. It can bully, but it can not reconcile.
It is really difficult to pin any real hopes on the military junta to stop Egypt’s slide to the unknown. That is because the fate of the country is being entrusted to an ignorant junta that thinks, behaves and acts like Third World coup makers did during the cold war between the West and the Soviet Union especially in the 1950s and 1960s.
What really makes things look even worse is the scandalous utilization of Egyptian courts to give the fascist junta a thin façade of legitimacy and legality.
But then, what are we to expect from a “justice system” that keeps a democratically elected president in captivity while setting free a vicious dictator who utterly ruined Egypt morally, politically and economically for more than 30 years?
Didn’t the same justice system abruptly cancel all parliamentary and other elections in Egypt for the purpose of depriving the Islamists of their victories, as the infamous Judge Tahani Jabali of the Constitutional Court told the New York Times in 2012?
Clearly, these are the hallmarks of fascism, pure and simple.
Indeed, with the Egyptian army effectively morphing into a full-fledged repressive police force, murdering and terrorizing its own people, it is hard to expect the occurrence of any economic improvement in the county.
This is why bankruptcy will become more rampant, foreign investors will flee Egypt and millions of Egyptian will lose the impetus to rebuild their country, given the depressive atmosphere overwhelming the country as a result of the usurpation of the Egyptian people’s will by a group of ignorant military officers, devoid of any morality.
To be sure, Egypt doesn’t lack the brain power to transform itself from a wretched, poor country into a modern state where the rule of law is respected and human rights and civil liberties are observed and upheld. But in order to reach this point, the right people ought to be in the driver’s seat.
The democratically-elected Islamists tried their best to rescue Egypt from a hopeless situation brought about thanks to decades of failed management, political tyranny and secular fascism.
They may not have succeeded in solving all Egypt’s problems, especially in light of the monumental conspiracies to thwart their efforts at the hands of a virulent clique of conspirers, including the despotic-minded armed forces, a notoriously dishonest and vehemently anti-Islamic media, and a vindictive Coptic Church that is hell-bent on de-Islamizing a country where Muslims constitute about 95% of the population.
But the Islamists tried despite the paucity of resources and the rampant conspiracies devised by the “deep state” and Mubarak’s supporters who were hell-bent on aborting the “Islamic experiment.”
None the less, Egypt and its great people will pay the price for the perfidy and treason of the military junta. To be sure, Egypt is already paying the price for the criminal vagaries of its armed forces which, we are told, are trying to rebuild democracy by decapitating it.
We can only hope that the Egyptian people will wake up sooner rather than later in order to save their country from the worst possible scenarios. For sure, no one would want Egypt to morph into another Somalia or another Syria.
However, even the unthinkable could happen if this ignorant and stupid military junta remains at the helm.
(Reuters) – A decree issued by Egypt’s interim head of state on Monday means people no longer face jail for insulting the president, after a surge in such cases under deposed leader Mohamed Mursi including that of a popular comedian dubbed “Egypt’s Jon Stewart.”
The legal change by interim President Adli Mansour was welcomed by activists who had voiced concern over the high number of investigations during the one-year rule of ousted Islamist Mursi, who was toppled on July 3.
But Human Rights Watch Egypt said the decree did not go far enough, arguing that insulting the president “should not be an offence in the first place.”
Several Egyptians were investigated for insulting Mursi during his brief term in office, fuelling fears that the Muslim Brotherhood politician was trying to crush freedoms won in the 2011 uprising that ousted veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
The most high profile case was that of Bassem Youssef, a popular comedian likened to U.S. satirist Stewart, who regularly poked fun at Mursi.
The prosecutor general ordered Youssef’s arrest in March, drawing criticism from Washington, but the cardiologist was released on bail.
Youssef hosted Stewart on his show in Cairo in June, and Stewart took aim at Mursi and his government, saying: “A joke has never shot teargas at a group of people in a park. It’s just talk.”
The army removed Mursi from power following mass protests against his rule and replaced him with Mansour, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court.
Under the decree, those found guilty of insulting the president face a fine of up to 30,000 Egyptian pounds ($4,300). Under the previous law, they could be jailed for up to three years.
“We were hoping (such cases could be dealt with) through civil litigation and compensation, not fines, but it is still a good step,” rights lawyer Gamal Eid said.
“We are against imprisonment and we prefer no criminal courts forpublishing crimes,” he said.
He added the 28 cases of “insulting the president” brought during Mursi’s year in office compared with a total of 24 cases over the 115 years that preceded his election win last June.
Many of the cases were brought by private citizens sympathetic to Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
But Egypt director at Human Rights Watch, Heba Morayef, called on the interim leadership to go further.
“This amendment, while a general step in the right direction, doesn’t go anywhere near far enough, because it doesn’t address the multiple provisions in the penal code that limit freedom of expression,” she told Reuters.
Under the amended law, anyone found guilty of insulting the president would face a minimum fine of 10,000 pounds.
($1 = 6.9949 Egyptian pounds)
(Reporting By Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Tom Perry and Mike Collett-White)
Balad, a party representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, has released an election ad that shows some of Israel’s most notoriously racist politicians, including recently resigned foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, dancing to an Arabic rhythm.
Balad – also knows as al-tajammu or the National Democratic Assembly, currently has three members in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, and was founded by the now exiled Palestinian intellectual Azmi Bishara in the mid-1990s.
Last month Israel’s election commission forbade one of its members, Haneen Zoabi, from running for re-election in the 22 January national election, a ban that was later overturned by the Israeli high court.
At the beginning of the ad, an animated Lieberman puts forward one of his notorious loyalty laws, including the requirement that Palestinian citizens sing the Israeli national anthem “Hatikva.”
Palestinian citizens of Israel generally do not identify with “Hatikva” because it is an explicitly Zionist and Jewish supremacist song that contains the words:
As long as in the heart, within,
A Jewish soul still yearns,
And onward, towards the ends of the east,
An eye still gazes toward Zion …
But, the cartoon Lieberman says, “I have become convinced of the need to change the anthem a bit so that the Arabs can learn it and sing it.”
The gag is that the altered version Lieberman and other right-wing politicians perform is simply the same Zionist lyrics to an Arab beat. The result is quite catchy and hilarious.
Justifying the ban on broadcasting the ad, election commission chair and high court judge Elyakim Rubinstein said, according to Times of Israel that “the Arab party’s campaign ad ridiculed the national anthem and that insulting national icons is unacceptable in election campaigns.” However the ad does not alter any of the lyrics of the anthem. It only puts them to a typically Arab tune and rhythm. It does however ridicule Israeli politicians.
At the end of the ad, the narrator says “Are you done laughing?” and makes the argument that for Palestinian citizens of Israel the upcoming election is no joke.
The ad urges Palestinian citizens of Israel to vote so that Balad can act as a defense against racist laws and loyalty oaths of the kind Lieberman and his ilk push. The turnout rate among the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, which once peaked at over 90 percent, fell to just 53 percent in the 2009 election.
The plummeting turnout perhaps reflects a growing sense that there is no way for Palestinian citizens of Israel to push back the rising tide of racism and incitement within an Israeli political system that is rigged against them.
Other ads by Balad can be seen on the party’s YouTube channel.
Right-wing, Arab activists clash in Supreme Court after judges discuss Arab MK’s disqualification from elections. Zoabi: I broke no law
The Supreme Court on Thursday discussed an appeal of the disqualification of Arab Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi (Balad). A panel of nine justices presided over by Supreme Court President Asher Grunish discussed the motion.
Soon after the hearing ended a violent riot broke out outside the court room. Right-wing activists including MK Michael Ben Ari shouted “Go to Syria” at Arab activists and tried to approach Zoabi. The Arabs in response accused the right-wingers of being racists. Security guards tried to restore order.
Prior to the hearing Zoabi said, “I expect the court to overturn the decision. I did not break any law, there is no basis for disqualification. The court should try racists instead. To disqualify me would be to disqualify all Arab citizens.”
Hanin Zoabi in court (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
“MK Zoabi was never convicted of any charge, was never indicted, and never uttered a racist word,” Zoabi’s attorney’s claimed.
‘I have been subjected to demonization’ (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
They pointed to the fact that Zoabi, out of all Knesset candidates, was the only MK to be disqualified “based on 4-5 quotes most of which are untrue and inaccurate and all of which are irrelevant.”
In a deposition filed with the court, Zoabi said that her disqualification “is another step in the process of demonization I have been subjected to since my participation in the flotilla.
“All of the claims regarding the flotilla are false, there had been no complaint made against be by the soldiers who took part in the Marmara raid.”
The controversy generated by Newt Gingrich’s outrageous statement last year that Palestinians are “an invented people” should have led to greater caution in the formulation of politicians’ public statements on Israel and Palestine. However, this seems not to have been the case: Mitt Romney recently offered the judgment that “Palestinians have no interest in peace” as if he were making an uncontested factual observation.
This was the moral equivalent of saying that African Americans were never interested in ending Jim Crow or that black South Africans did not want to see Apartheid dismantled.
It is revealing that Romney proposed this characterization of Palestinians’ political stance in the same speech (at a fund-raiser among the ultra-wealthy in Florida) in which he insisted that 47 percent of the people in this country believe that they are entitled to government assistance and do not want to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The convergence of backward positions regarding governmental guarantees of universal availability of food, health care, housing, and other necessities and retrograde policies on settler colonialism practiced by Israel might be expected. But the Democratic Party scarcely fares better when it comes to Israel and Palestine.
At its recent national convention, the party leadership chose to disregard voting preferences of delegates by passing a two-thirds voice vote — despite the fact that the convention’s oral response clearly indicated otherwise — asserting that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Such flagrantly undemocratic behavior summons up such past moments in convention history as the conduct toward Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964.
In my home state of California, elected officials have gone so far as to encourage the violation of First Amendment rights in order to control opposition to Israel. Largely in response to University of California students’ support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, state legislators recently passed an Assembly Bill (HR 35) that, while unbinding, calls upon campus authorities to restrict student activism that is critical of Israel.
Such desperate measures implicitly proclaim that curbing criticism of Israel is more important than safeguarding constitutional rights. Perhaps those who support these measures fear the increasingly widespread use of the “apartheid” label to describe Israel, employed not only by students but also by such prominent figures as President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
If they fear the emergence of a new anti-apartheid movement, this time directed against Israel, they may very well be correct. The BDS movement is rapidly gaining support: this past spring, the Eighth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week was observed on campuses in South Africa and throughout Europe, North America and the Arab World.
Shortly after the passage of California Assembly Bill HR 35, the University of California Student Association passed a strong resolution that not only opposed HR 35 but recognized “the legitimacy of boycotts and divestment as important social movement tools” and encouraged “all institutions of higher learning to cleanse their investment portfolios of unethical investment in companies implicated in or profiting from violations of international human rights law, without making special exemptions for any country.”
We here in the U.S. should be especially conscious of the similarities between historical Jim Crow practices and contemporary regimes of segregation in Occupied Palestine. If we have learned the most important lesson promulgated by Dr. Martin Luther King — that justice is always indivisible — it should be clear that a mass movement in solidarity with Palestinian freedom is long overdue.
*Angela Davis is Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of California Santa Cruz and a member of the jury for the 2012 Russell Tribunal on Palestine. She is author of many books including “The Meaning of Freedom” and New Critical Edition of Frederick Douglass’s ”Narrative of a Life of a Slave,” both published in the Open Media Series by City Lights Books, www.citylights.com.
By John Lantigua
Evelyn Garcia, a member of the Democratic National Committee from Palm Beach County, resigned the post Monday after emails surfaced in which she sharply criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Garcia, a candidate for the State House of Representatives from District 88, which includes parts of West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach, said she would continue to campaign for that seat. She apologized for her remarks and called them “ugly” and “hurtful.”
The emails were provided anonymously to local Democratic Party leaders late last week, those leaders said. In each case, the recipient’s name was blacked out. Some of them appear to have been written to a South Florida Congressional aide.
“The continued Israeli occupation of Palestine is ugly on moral, ethical, religious and legal grounds,” Garcia said in an email dated July 26, 2011. “Palestinians had nothing to do with the holocaust and it is time that this guilt trip was taken off their backs…. And I deeply resent U.S. taxpayer funds being used to continue Israeli aggression.”
In that same email, Garcia accused Israel of confiscating land and building illegal settlements in occupied territories, as well as “incursions that kill people, destroy civilian homes and infrastructure all over; mass concentration prison camps, etc.”
In A May 24, 2011 message, Garcia wrote: “Slavery was ended, apartheid was ended and so this occupation must end.”
County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Alan Siegel accepted Garcia’s resignation Monday afternoon. He called the emails “grossly inappropriate.”
“I was shocked by her choice of words,” Siegel said.
He said he was surprised because Garcia “had never shown any animus toward Jews she encountered in her work for the party. “This wasn’t the Evelyn we knew,” he said.
County Commissioner Burt Aaronson was angered by the emails.
“She can say what she wants but not as an executive of the Democratic Party,” Aaronson said. “The party, locally, statewide and nationally, supports the state of Israel. I am personally offended as a Jew, as a Democrat and as a supporter of the state of Israel. The Democratic Party is better off without her.”
Garcia, a Haitian-American, was elected to the Democratic National Committee in 2008, after serving as a delegate to the party’s national convention in Denver earlier that year.
She issued a resignation statement Friday afternoon, saying that’s she wrote it “with great sadness and a heavy heart.” She said the private emails had been released “by someone I believed was my friend.”
“In passionately advocating my position supporting the rights of people I felt were being harmed, I used language that I now regret,” she wrote. “The gist of the conversation had to do with my concern for innocent people being oppressed, but such support for the oppressed does not diminish my support for the good people of Israel.”
In a separate statement emailed later Friday to The Palm Beach Post, Garcia said: “My comments were not only inappropriate and hurtful, they are exactly the kind of ugly rhetoric that is not conducive to the overall atmosphere needed to create a prosperous peace and security for both parties. I apologize to anyone I offended and to my friends in the Democratic Party, in particular, members of the Jewish faith whom I have worked with for years.
“My continued presence would merely serve as a distraction to the good work of Democrats and it is for this reason I have submitted my resignation,” she wrote.
Garcia is up against three other Democrats – Charles Bantel, Bobby Powell and Nikasha Wells — for the District 88 House seat. The GOP has no candidate in the race, so the winner of the primary will win the seat. All registered voters can vote in that primary Aug. 14.
June 14, 2012 at 11:26 (Democracy)
New York City’s most radical city councilman could end up representing the city’s most politically conservative Jewish community in the U.S. Congress.
In an only-in-Brooklyn clash, New York City Council member Charles Barron, a former Black Panther, has a realistic chance of winning a June 26 Democratic primary that could send him to congress representing Brooklyn’s Russian-speaking Jews.
The possibility has inflamed Russian-Jewish activists. But though Jews make up 20% of the population of the district, the unusually early date of the election and the confusing redistricting process could keep them from the polls.
“They are saying if such a person like Barron will come to Congress, it’s unbelievable,” said Vladimir Epshteyn, an activist and retired community organizer. “He represents for us a huge danger.”
Epshteyn and other activists point to Barron’s history of provocation, his harsh criticism of Israel and his staunch black nationalism to justify their rhetoric. Their concern doesn’t seem shared, however, on the streets of Little Russia by the Sea, as signs on Brighton Beach Boulevard call the neighborhood.
Just a subway stop from hot dog stands and freak shows of the Coney Island boardwalk, shop owners in Brighton Beach assume patrons speak Russian. And though the key congressional primary is just weeks away, no signs are posted under the elevated subway tracks for Barron, or for his opponent, New York State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.
A few older Russian-speakers sitting in a playground near the boardwalk recognized Barron’s name when they were asked on a recent morning, but most seemed unaware of the impending race. Few spoke English.
New York’s Russian-speaking Jewish community is self-contained. Many members came to the United States in the past few decades. They listen to Russian radio, read Russian newspapers and shop in Russian supermarkets where signs are written in Russian.
They are conservative, even Republican — an anomaly among New York Jews, and New Yorkers generally. Russian-speaking Jews were credited with playing a major role in the 2010 victory of Republican Bob Turner, who won the special election for the congressional seat vacated by Democrat Anthony Weiner.
Though grassroots awareness of this race appears slight, Barron’s candidacy has elicited particularly vehement passions among community activists.
“For me — I’m talking about my personal opinion — to me he’s a bad guy, let’s put it this way, he’s not good people,” said Yelena Makhnin, an activist who works as executive director of the Brighton Beach Business Improvement District. “I come from the communist country, so I do see some things differently.”
Others also said the depth of their distaste for Barron stems from their Soviet pasts. “The disaster is coming and I know it because I am from the Soviet Union,” said Epshteyn. “The system looks so strong, unbelievably strong. [But] it takes a few seconds, a few minutes, and it can change absolutely the situation.… To have a Barron in Congress.… The Russian Jews from the Soviet Union, we can understand. American Jews living for so many years in prosperity and wealth… they are blind, they don’t see the changes to the world.”
Barron, 61, has served in the City Council for a decade. An outspoken black nationalist, he is as noted for his political skill as for the often-controversial positions he’s taken, including the defense of Third-World dictators. In October, Barron mourned the killing of Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi. “Out there, they don’t know that Qaddafi was our brother,” Barron said, according to press reports. “The man was a freedom fighter.”
In 2002, Barron hosted Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe at City Hall. Mugabe, who led the southern African country’s liberation struggle in the 1970s, has been criticized for his increasingly oppressive rule in recent decades and his mass expropriation of white-owned farms.
“I was very much pissed off when he gave a proclamation on behalf of City of New York to Robert Mugabe,” said Ari Kagan, an activist, former New York State Assembly candidate, and reporter for the Russian-language newspaper Vecherniy New York.
Barron has also been critical of Israel. In a much-cited June 2010 statement, Barron, at a rally criticizing the Israeli raid of the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara protest ship, compared conditions in Gaza to “a concentration death camp.”
A resident of the working class Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York, Barron has long had a base of support there. His City Council district also included the largely African-American neighborhoods of Brownsville and East Flatbush.
But a scrambling of New York’s legislative districts has sent Barron looking for votes among Russian Jews. As part of the once-a-decade redistricting process, parts of what was once Turner’s district have been mashed together with parts of a congressional district previously represented by Upper West Side liberal Democrat Jerrold Nadler, and parts of another district represented by longtime Democratic Congressman Edolphus Towns.
The new district spans from Bedford-Stuyvesant to East New York, down through Canarsie to Brighton Beach. The population of this area is 70% black and Hispanic, according to the governmental body that drew the district lines. An analysis by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York estimates that it is 20% Jewish, and that the vast majority of those Jews are Russian speakers.
Towns is retiring and Turner is running for Senate, leaving an opening. The two contenders in the June 26 Democratic primary elections are Jeffries and Barron. Democratic dominance in New York City means that the winner of the primary will likely win the November election.
Jeffries, 42, a former attorney, has the backing of most of the relevant city unions and most of the Democratic establishment.
But Barron has the support of Towns. In a recent televised debate, Barron had the practiced air of a longtime politico, landing blow upon stinging blow.
Court decisions have forced an unusually early date this year for the primary. The early date, combined with the confusing redistricting, has meant that awareness of the race is low among voters.
“The biggest issue is to let people know that this race exists,” Kagan said.
In an effort to bolster Jeffries’ candidacy and the profile of the race, New York City Council member David Greenfield convened a June 11 press conference of Jewish elected officials, including Nadler and former mayor Ed Koch, to paint Barron as anti-Israel.
In a phone call after the event, Greenfield criticized Barron. “He’s a bigot, and he represents the worst — not just everything that’s wrong with politics, but everything that is wrong with bad people,” Greenfield said.
Greenfield alleged that Barron was anti-Semitic, citing his 2010 comparison of Gaza to a death camp. Greenfield said that Barron had called him a “tool of the Jewish lobby” after Greenfield had criticized his Gaza statement.
Barron’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment about the Greenfield-organized press conference. Earlier, Barron co-campaign manager Colette Pean said that she thought voters in the new district would embrace Barron’s position on Israel. “I think the councilman has a stated position that Israel as a state exists, that there needs to be negotiated solution, and that he’s opposed to terrorism in all its forms,” Pean said.
Jeffries, for his part, appears to be making an effort to reach out to Russian-speaking Jews. Community activists said that he had appeared a handful of times on Russian radio, that he had visited Israel in 2008, and that he had the support of those community members who were paying attention to the race.
Jeffries did not respond to two requests for comment from the Forward.
By Nima Shirazi
“Iranians Have Democratic Values,” screams a headline in The Wall Street Journal. The article that follows, written by “Israeli political strategist” Yuval Porat, publicizes the findings of a recent public opinion poll conducted by the author and his colleagues.
Porat explains that the results of the survey reveal that, believe it or not, Iranian society is actually populated with real human beings who think and feel the way real human beings do. He writes,
An analysis of the Iranian sample showed that alongside conservative values, such as conformity and tradition, Iranian society is characterized by strong support for pro-liberal values such as a belief in the importance of self-direction and benevolence. For example, 94% of the respondents identified with the sentence “freedom to choose what he does is important to him,” and 71% of the respondents identified with the sentence “being tolerant toward all kinds of people and groups is important to him.”
The poll was carried out using “a psychological questionnaire” that Porat says was developed by Israeli “cross-cultural psychology expert Shalom Schwartz as part of his ‘Theory of Basic Human Values’” and which is designed to “measures the basic values of society without posing a single question in political terms.” Results were then analyzed to create “an index which measures the potential of a society to foster democratization, based on its values.”
Porat was “amazed by how forthcoming the Iranian people were” during the polling interviews and was equally stunned by the results, writing,
Remarkably, in comparison to 47 countries surveyed in the World Values Survey, Iranian society’s potential for liberal democracy was found to be higher than that of 23 others—including Arab countries such as Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, and Asian countries such as South Korea, India and Thailand. In comparison to 29 countries surveyed In the European Social Survey, Iran was found to have higher tendencies toward liberal democracy than Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia and Romania.
Neat, huh? What a fresh perspective on the Islamic Republic…and in The Wall Street Journal no less!
But the article is a smoke-screen and the research it’s based on is transparently agenda-driven. Basically, Porat’s piece is one long infomercial for regime change in Iran. In fact, the author tips his hand in his very first sentence when he references “high-stakes international discussions surrounding Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
As a researcher, Porat should maybe do a little research on the Iranian nuclear program before making such claims. Western and Israeli intelligence have long assessed that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, a conclusion backed up by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
But, of course, that’s not the point. Porat knows full well what he’s writing and why. His Wall Street Journal article reads like something out of MAD Magazine or National Lampoon. Golly-gee, folks, those Eye-ranians are just like you and me! Now let’s get the regime change planes fueled up and ready to fly!
The poll cited is one of the most patronizing, if not least scientific, ever conducted. The research itself has barely been made public and is housed on a strangely amateurish website with hardly any content called IranResearch.org. There is no press about this enterprise other than the Wall Street Journal article, which is also posted on the website. Each page of the site is topped by a banner reading, “Could Iran Turn Into A Liberal Democracy?” Porat‘s other researchers are mostly students at The Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel with past or current connections to the IDF. The agenda could not be more obvious.
Furthermore, the researchers – in their quest to justify foreign intervention and regime change – seem not to understand (or care) that, for most Iranians, sentences like “It is important to him to make his own decisions about his life” and “Thinking creatively is important to him” are not seen as anathema to the current Iranian political system. Also, the supposed “findings” of this poll are in no way shocking to anyone familiar with (a) Iranian society, which obviously doesn’t include most neoconservative WSJ readers, or Israeli pollsters for that matter, and (b) have read other polls of the Iranian public.
In late 2010, for example, the International Peace Institute together with Charney Research, released an actual poll on Iranian public opinion. Among the findings was the strong support (67%) for developing “closer connections with developed Western countries,” yet this had no effect on the fact that 87% of respondents viewed the United States unfavorably, 68% considered the US “the greatest threat in the region,” and a majority (55%) viewed European nations in a negative light. An overwhelming majority (68%) continued to support Iran’s relationship with and support for Hamas and Hezbollah.
In response to a question about whether Iranian society needs “controls to protect Islam and Iran from its enemies” or needs “more democracy, freedom and the rule of law,” 51% of those polled chose the former versus 31% who picked the “more democracy” option. Nevertheless, 54% said they “have real opportunities to improve their lives” and 60% said they “have much hope for the future.”
Whereas a plurality of respondents (47%) said that the Rahbar and Guardian Council should have the last word on political decisions, 53% believed that, over the next decade, the elected President and Majlis would assume more powerful roles and make final decisions for the Islamic Republic.
Results like these show that Iranians don’t believe themselves to be powerless in their own country (for example, the voter turnout and those voting for Ahmadinejad were found by the Charney report to be nearly identical to the official Iranian results). Former Presidents Khatami and Rafsanjani still enjoyed broad support, while opposition leaders Mousavi and Karroubi were far less popular, each receiving “favorable” reactions from fewer than 40% of respondents. The so-called “Green Movement” was even less popular, garnering a mere 26% approval rating.
The Israeli poll cited by the Wall Street Journal is yet another example of using an Orientalist frame (those people are almost just like us so we can finally convince ourselves it makes sense to go and save them from themselves!) in order to promote an agenda that the Iranian people across all social strata and the political spectrum reject out of hand – that is, Western-influenced regime change.
In case the purpose of the poll, and its publicity in the Wall Street Journal, wasn’t explicit enough, here’s how Porat concludes:
Our findings demonstrate that Iranian society as a whole is characterized by a pro-liberal value structure that is deeply at odds with the fundamentalist regime. This presents considerable potential for regime change in Iran and for the development of liberal democracy.
It might be instructive for Mr. Porat to turn his polling sights on his own state to find out if Israel really fits the definition of a pluralistic, liberal society with democratic values.
A poll released early this year by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) in conjunction with the Avi Chai Foundation found that 70% of Israeli Jews believe that Jews are “the Chosen people,” with 61% advocating that “public life should be in accordance with Jewish religious tradition.” Less than half of those polled (48%) thought that civil marriage should be allowed in Israel. Additionally, as Ha’aretz put it, “only 44 percent said that if Jewish law and democratic values clashed, the latter should always be preferred.” Eli Silver, director of Avi Chai–Israel, analyzed the results this way: “The results of the survey are evidence that Israeli Jews are committed to two significant values: preserving Jewish tradition on the one hand, and upholding individual freedom of choice on the other.” Sound familiar? Perhaps Silver also thinks that means Israel is ripe for regime change.
But most other public opinion polls conducted in Israel tell a far more sinister story. A September 2011 poll conducted by IDI showed that one-third of Israeli Jews (33%) don’t think Palestinian citizens of Israel should have equal rights with their Jewish counterparts, claiming that Arabs are not Israelis. The poll also found that “77.9% of Jews inside Israel say that Arabs inside Israel should not be allowed to participate in the crucial, political, economic and even social decisions in Israel.”
An October 2010 poll by the Dahaf Institute found that 36% of Israeli Jews “are in favor of revoking the voting rights” of Palestinian citizens of Israel. It also reported that “55% of those polled justify harming freedom of speech in times of political difficulty, and 57% oppose non-violent protests held during military operations.”
In March 2010, a poll conducted by the Maagar Mochot research institute revealed that while 80% of Israeli high school students say they prefer a democratic form of government (amazingly, 16% actually said they desired a dictatorship), over 49% do not support equal rights being granted to both Jewish and Arab citizens of the State of Israel. 56% of the high school students polled believed Arabs should not be allowed to vote, while 32% said they would not even want to have an Arab friend. One out of every six students would not want to study in the same class with an Ethiopian or an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, and 21% of them think that “Death to Arabs” is a legitimate expression. Additionally, 48% insisted they would refuse official orders to evacuate illegal West Bank settlements if they were serving in the Israeli military (for which 91% of respondents were eager to enlist).
Just a few months later, in September 2010, another poll of Israeli teenagers was conducted, this time by a professor from the Statistics Department of Tel Aviv University. It found that “96 percent of the respondents want Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state, but 27 percent believe that those who object should be tried in court, and 41 percent support stripping them of their citizenship.” The poll also revealed that a full 50% of all Jewish Israeli high schoolers didn’t want Arab students to share their classrooms.
Perhaps these results should not be surprising, considering that a 2008 poll cited by Yediot Ahronot discovered that “40 percent of Jewish Israelis did not believe that Arab Israelis should be allowed to vote.”
In late April 2010, a survey commissioned by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University found that over 57% of the respondents agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely, the majority felt that “there is too much freedom of expression” in Israel, 43% said “the media should not report information confirmed by Palestinian sources that could reflect poorly on the Israeli army,” 58% opposed “harsh criticism of the country,” 65% thought “the Israeli media should be barred from publishing news that defense officials think could endanger state security, even if the news was reported abroad,” and 82% said they “back stiff penalties for people who leak illegally obtained information exposing immoral conduct by the defense establishment.”
The poll also found that “most of the respondents favor punishing Israeli citizens who support sanctioning or boycotting the country, and support punishing journalists who report news that reflects badly on the actions of the defense establishment.” Additionally, of those polled who described themselves as right-wing, 76% said “human rights groups should not have the right to freely publicize immoral conduct on Israel’s part.”
“Israelis have a distorted perception of democracy,” said pollster Daniel Bar-Tal, a professor at the Tel Aviv University’s School of Education, as he analyzed the survey’s findings. “The public recognizes the importance of democratic values, but when they need to be applied, it turns out most people are almost anti-democratic.”
A 2006 poll found that 68% of Israeli Jews fear that Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel would “initiate an intifada” and 64 % believe that “Arabs endanger the security of the state because of their high birth rates.” Other polls from 2006 and 2007 revealed that 50% of Israeli Jews support the “transfer” of Arabs out of the country, 42% desire the “nullifying Arab Israeli citizens’ right to vote,” and 55% supported the “notion that the government should encourage Arab emigration.” The Israel Democracy Institute’s June 2007 report found that 55% of Israeli Jews surveyed support the idea that the government should encourage Arab emigration and 78% are opposed to Arab political parties (including Arab ministers) joining the government.
Additionally, surveys have found that 75% of Israeli Jews “oppose living in the same apartment buildings as Arabs,” 55% believe that “Arabs do not have the ability to reach the same level of cultural development as the Jews,” 61.4% were unwilling to have Arab friends visit their homes, 55% supported segregated recreational facilities for Jews and Arabs, while 37% of them “view Arab culture as inferior.”
A few years ago, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel reported that 49.9% of the Jewish population feels fear when hearing Arabic spoken in the street, 31.3% feels revulsion, 43.6% senses discomfort and 30.7% feels hatred.
A different poll, conducted by KEEVOON Research and Strategy company, showed overwhelming support in the Hebrew-speaking Jewish population of Israel for the Jewish National Fund’s policy of selling land to Jews only. 81% of respondents favored the 100-year old policy, with only 10% opposed.
In mid-January 2012, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld a law banning most Palestinians who marry Israelis from living inside Israel because, as the majority opinion stated, “Palestinians who gain Israeli citizenship through marriage pose a security threat.” The ruling also explained that “human rights are not a prescription for national suicide.”
With the Israeli public and government so hostile towards the basic tenets of democracy, human rights, and equality, why aren’t we hearing about what a danger they are to our way of life, how their government agents train, fund and arm terrorists that kill civilians on Iranian soil, how colonization, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing are contrary to our innate sense of morality and justice, how such nuclear-armed messianic zealots should be disarmed, diplomatically isolated and boycotted, how “unwavering” is our support for those oppressed by occupation, how “unbreakable” is our commitment to alleviate the suffering of an indigenous population under siege, and how the values that Americans and Iranians share should be exported via regime change to the Jewish State of Israel to make the world a safer and more peaceful place?
Oh right, because that’s not the point.
Referring to his interrogation, Gharra said: “An officer from a police station in the Talpiot area in Jerusalem contacted me more than once and asked me to go immediately to the police station to be interrogated in a case that I knew nothing about. I refused to do so as these kind of invitations are illegal. The next day I received a printed invitation to my room in the students’ dorms.”
According to Gharra, the letter stated, “If you do not arrive to the station immediately, we will come and arrest you in the late hours of the night.”
Khalil Gharra (www.arabs48.com)
Three Palestinian students at the College of Engineering in Jerusalem (JCE) have been put under house arrest for a week and instructed not to contact any of their peers for using the social media website Facebook to urge a boycott of a speech by Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Following the event, the three students who urged the boycott were called for an interrogation at an Israeli police station. They were accused of threatening other students, as well as racism. They were then put under house arrest for a week, outside Jerusalem, and were instructed not to contact other students.
Khalil Gharra, one of the three targeted students, told The Electronic Intifada, “There was an intense debate on the Facebook page of the college’s first year students between students who rejected the college’s policy regarding the compulsory attendance of Peres’ speech and others who supported it.”
He added, “The debate revolved around the commitment of the students to the decision of the college, and around how the college should not be forcing students to attend a lecture delivered by a ‘political symbol.’ This act contravened the students’ freedom of expression. Within this context, I expressed my opinion, saying that I wouldn’t attend the lecture. And I advised others to do the same.”
Gharra added that another debate is now taking place on Facebook regarding the punishments that the police imposed on him and his friends. He said that many Palestinian students have protested over the case, and have expressed their support for the targeted students.
Referring to his interrogation, Gharra said: “An officer from a police station in the Talpiot area in Jerusalem contacted me more than once and asked me to go immediately to the police station to be interrogated in a case that I knew nothing about. I refused to do so as these kind of invitations are illegal. The next day I received a printed invitation to my room in the students’ dorms.”
According to Gharra, the letter stated, “If you do not arrive to the station immediately, we will come and arrest you in the late hours of the night.”
At the station he was told that he was accused of threatening behavior and of incitement to racism. Ghara said, “I denied all the charges against me. Later the interrogator consulted other interrogators and officers who are in charge of the case, and he decided that I should be deported from Jerusalem and that I’m not allowed to contact any student till 25 January. Moreover, he decided to put me under house arrest until 21 January.”
Ghara argued that this specific case should not be viewed separately from other restrictions on Palestinian student activism in Israeli universities. He said, “It’s clear to me from the investigation’s course that the case is about political persecution. However, they won’t stop us from our political activism. I won’t bend to the policy of repression that the police and the intelligence are practicing on Arab students. Our activism is legal and it’s our right to organize and express our opinion.”
Alaa Mahajna, the students’ lawyer, also argued that the case is not criminal but political. He said, “The students are suspected of threatening and incitement to racism following Shimon Peres’ speech. However, Peres is a controversial political figure, some consider him to be responsible for murdering more than a hundred innocent people during the Qana massacre [in Lebanon] in 1996, when he was the prime minister of Israel. The argument about whether to attend or boycott the speech was conducted through the public sphere — Facebook — where everyone could express his or her opinion. As a lawyer, I don’t see any legal basis for the suspicions against the students.”
“These legal actions are part of the whole process of political persecution, which aims to shut down the voice of the Palestinian students in Israeli universities,” he added.
Palestinian students in the college are organizing a petition to express their support for the targeted students, emphasizing their right to protest.
Moreover, the Palestinian students association at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem released a statement condemning the violation of the right to free expression. The association also confirmed the importance of boycotting Israelis who are involved in war crimes, referring to Peres’ role in the Qana massacre.
*Yara Sa’di is a postgraduate student and activist from Haifa.
5 people were arrested at Grand Central Station. Nobody knows what they will be charged with since they appeared to be doing nothing different than anyone else in the group.*
Photos © by Bud Korotzer
*On the steps of the New York Public Library
Flash Event at Grand Central Station
On December 15, 1791 the Bill of Rights was added to the new American Constitution to protect the rights of Americans. On December 15, 2011, Bill of Rights Day, 220 years later, the United States Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) already passed by the United States House of Representatives
The NDAA, in effect, negates the Bill of Rights. From now on Americans, with a President’s approval, could be designated as a suspected terrorists and be held in indefinite detention without due process, trial or even knowing what she/he is suspected of. Obama is not expected to veto this legislation.
Such legislation further drives what is left of this Republic into a tyranny of the right.
Carl Becker, American historian, in his book on the Declaration of Independence noted the American Revolution was a civil war. That besides the issue with England of home rule, the question of who was going to rule at home (the “1%” or the “99%” in today’s parlance) was also at issue. This issue is still in contention. And on Bill of Rights Day representatives of various civil society organizations, Moslem, legal and others gathered at the Federal Court House building in Foley Square NYC to speak of the threat to American democracy and demand Obama veto NDAA.
Photos © by Bud Korotzer
Join artists, musicians, and local community members for an all-day performance event in support of Occupy Wall Street and the occupation of space and reclaiming of the commons.
Freedom of expression and the right to assemble are sacred human freedoms. Through bold, courageous actions, Occupy Wall Street has renewed a sense of hope, revived a belief in community and awakened a revolutionary spirit too long silenced. To Occupy is to embody the spirit of liberation that we wish to manifest in our society.
On Saturday, December 17th – the 3 month anniversary of the birth of this movement, we will gather to celebrate Occupy Wall Street and to occupy space together.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17th at 12PM
DUARTE SQ. PARK, 6th AVE & CANAL,
PROTECT & CELEBRATE THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT
FOR SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
Don’t let Bloomberg claim victory!
Fill the park again!!
This is what it looks like today
BRING LIBERTY BACK TO LIBERTY PARK
Photos © by Bud Korotzer
It’s easy to be outraged by this incident as though it’s some sort of shocking aberration, but that is exactly what it is not. The Atlantic‘s Garance Franke-Ruta adeptly demonstrates with an assemblage of video how common such excessive police force has been in response to the Occupy protests. Along those lines, there are several points to note about this incident and what it reflects:
(1) Despite all the rights of free speech and assembly flamboyantly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the reality is that punishing the exercise of those rights with police force and state violence has been the reflexive response in America for quite some time. As Franke-Ruta put it, “America has a very long history of protests that meet with excessive or violent response, most vividly recorded in the second half of the 20th century.” Digby yesterday recounted a similar though even worse incident aimed at environmental protesters.
The intent and effect of such abuse is that it renders those guaranteed freedoms meaningless. If a population becomes bullied or intimidated out of exercising rights offered on paper, those rights effectively cease to exist. Every time the citizenry watches peaceful protesters getting pepper-sprayed — or hears that an Occupy protester suffered brain damage and almost died after being shot in the skull with a rubber bullet — many become increasingly fearful of participating in this citizen movement, and also become fearful in general of exercising their rights in a way that is bothersome or threatening to those in power. That’s a natural response, and it’s exactly what the climate of fear imposed by all abusive police state actions is intended to achieve: to coerce citizens to “decide” on their own to be passive and compliant — to refrain from exercising their rights — out of fear of what will happen if they don’t.
The genius of this approach is how insidious its effects are: because the rights continue to be offered on paper, the citizenry continues to believe it is free. They believe that they are free to do everything they choose to do, because they have been “persuaded” — through fear and intimidation — to passively accept the status quo. As Rosa Luxemburg so perfectly put it: “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.” Someone who sits at home and never protests or effectively challenges power factions will not realize that their rights of speech and assembly have been effectively eroded because they never seek to exercise those rights; it’s only when we see steadfast, courageous resistance from the likes of these UC-Davis students is this erosion of rights manifest.
Pervasive police abuses and intimidation tactics applied to peaceful protesters — pepper-spray, assault rifles, tasers, tear gas and the rest — not only harm their victims but also the relationship of the citizenry to the government and the set of core political rights. Implanting fear of authorities in the heart of the citizenry is a far more effective means of tyranny than overtly denying rights. That’s exactly what incidents like this are intended to achieve. Overzealous prosecution of those who engage in peaceful political protest (which we’ve seen more and more of over the last several years) as well as rampant secrecy and the sprawling Surveillance State are the close cousins of excessive police force in both intent and effect: they are all about deterring meaningful challenges to those in power through the exercise of basic rights. Rights are so much more effectively destroyed by bullying a citizenry out of wanting to exercise them than any other means. These two short video clips — regarding the openly abusive treatment of Bradley Manning and the extra-judicial attempt to destroy WikiLeaks — are how I’ve been trying to make this point over the past month in the various speeches I’ve given around the country:
(2) Although excessive police force has long been a reflexive response to American political protests, two developments in the post-9/11 world have exacerbated this. The first is that the U.S. Government — in the name of Terrorism — has aggressively para-militarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics, and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil; they will simply find other, increasingly permissive uses for those weapons. Responding to peaceful protests and other expressions of growing citizenry unrest with brute force is a direct by-product of what we’ve allowed to be done to America’s domestic police forces in the name of the War on Terror (and, before that, in the name of the War on Drugs).
The second exacerbating development is more subtle but more important: the authoritarian mentality that has been nourished in the name of Terrorism. It’s a very small step to go from supporting the abuse of defenseless detainees (including one’s fellow citizens) to supporting the pepper-spraying and tasering of non-violent political protesters. It’s an even smaller step to go from supporting the power of the President to imprison or kill anyone he wants (including one’s fellow citizens and even their teenaged children) with no transparency, checks or due process to supporting the power of the police and the authorities who command them to punish with force anyone who commits the “crime” of non-compliance. At the root of all of those views is the classic authoritarian mindset: reflexive support for authority, contempt for those who challenge them, and a blind faith in their unilateral, unchecked decisions regarding who is Bad and deserves state-issued punishment.
It’s anything but surprising that a country that has cheered as its Presidents seize the most limitless powers against allegedly Bad People — all as part of the ultimate instrument of citizen degradation: Endless War — cheer just as loudly when that same mindset is applied at home to domestic trouble-makers. The supreme threat has never been from foreign Terrorists, but rather from what was done by our own public- and private-sector authorities (and the mentality they successfully implanted) in their name.
(3) Beyond the light it is shedding on how power is really exercised in the U.S., this UC-Davis episode underscores why I continue to view the Occupy movement as one of the most exciting, inspiring and important political developments in many years. What’s most striking about that UC-Davis video isn’t the depraved casualness of the officer’s dousing the protesters’ faces with a chemical agent; it’s how most of the protesters resolutely sat in place and refused to move even when that happened, while the crowd chanted support (this video, taken from a slightly different vantage point, vividly shows this, beginning at 4:15). We’ve repeatedly seen acts of similar courage spawned by the Occupy movement.
It was the NYPD’s abusive pepper-spraying, followed by Mayor Bloomberg’s lawless destruction of the Zuccotti Park encampment, that prompted far more people than ever to participate in the next march across the Brooklyn Bridge. A tear gas attack on Occupy Oakland was followed by a general strike of 20,000 people. And this truly extraordinary, blunt and piercing open letter demanding the resignation of the heinous UC-Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi was written by a young, untenured Assistant Professor — Nathan Brown — who obviously decided that his principled beliefs outweigh his careerist ambitions.
This is the most important effect of the Occupy movement: acts of defiance, courage and conscience are contagious. Just as the Arab Spring clearly played some significant role in spawning, sustaining and growing the American Occupy movement, so too have the Occupy protesters emboldened one another and their fellow citizens. The protest movement is driving the proliferation of new forms of activism, citizen passion and courage, and — most important of all — a sense of possibility. For the first time in a long time, the use of force and other forms of state intimidation are not achieving their intended outcome of deterring meaningful (i.e., unsanctioned and unwanted) citizen activism, but are, instead, spurring it even more. The state reactions to these protests are both highlighting pervasive abuses of power and generating the antidote: citizen resolve to no longer accept and tolerate it. This is why I hope to see the Occupy movement — even if it adopts specific demands — remain an outsider force rather than reduce itself into garden-variety partisan electioneering: in its current form, it is demanding and re-establishing the indispensable right of dissent, defiance of unjust authority, and sustained protest.
UPDATE: Regarding the last point — the uniquely effective, inspiring activism this movement is spawning — here is video of Chancellor Katehi walking to her car while being forced to confront a wall of silent condemnation and shaming. It’s not the accountability she should face (firing), but one can see from this video that it’s quite potent nonetheless; moreover, it really reveals who the actual threats are to public safety — not the protesters but rather those using force against them: