Phoenix Mayor to Trump: Cancel Your Rally

by James M. Wall

Updated 5:45 MST Tuesday, August 22:

Defying Mayor Greg Stanton’s request that he cancel his Tuesday night rally in Phoenix, the New York Times reported that the Trump rally and the protests would go forward.   

Large protests are expected near the president’s rally in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday night, his first such event since he drew wide condemnation for his comments on the violence in Charlottesville, Va., this month.

The rally, scheduled for 7 p.m. local time at the Phoenix Convention Center, is Mr. Trump’s first visit as president to Arizona, where he made fiery remarks on a signature issue — immigration — during his election campaign last year. . . .

Earlier:

To hold, or not to hold, a Trump rally in Phoenix next Tuesday: that is the question Donald Trump should be asking himself right now.

The Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, Greg Stanton, (left) has asked President Trump to postpone his campaign-style rally scheduled for the Phoenix Convention Center, on Tuesday, August 22, because “our nation is still healing from the tragic events at Charlottesville.”

Trump has said he wants to pardon former Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio. If that is Trump’s intention for the Phoenix rally, the Mayor said, “then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame tensions and further divide our nation.”

To hold or not to hold, is the Hamlet-like question Trump must ask himself.

On Wednesday, “A senior Trump campaign adviser told ABC News, “Barring any unforeseen events between now and then, there is no chance we will delay the rally.”

There is good reason to assume Trump chose Phoenix for next Tuesday’s rally for the sole purpose of enflaming his shrinking base with his pardon announcement.

Trump signaled that intent when he told Fox News in an interview this week that

. . . he may pardon former metro Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who recently was convicted in federal court for disobeying a judge’s order to stop his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.

A federal judge ruled in 2013 that Arpaio’s officers had racially profiled Latinos.

Arpaio, 85, is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 5, and faces up to six months in jail. Attorneys who have followed the case doubt someone his age would be incarcerated, however.

Mayor Stanton, noting that the site of the rally was “a public facility and open for anyone to rent—and that includes the Trump campaign,” wants the rally canceled.

The Mayor added that if it is held, he is “focused on making sure the event was safe for everyone”.

The Trump campaign’s announcement that the rally will not be postponed, came a day after Trump drew near-universal outcry after saying “both sides” were to blame for a deadly weekend of protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups clashed with counter protesters.

In Hamlet’s soliloquy, he was contemplating his own suicide. It begins:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

Trump has shown no signs that he is capable of even considering his own “to hold or not to hold” question, a decision which could lead, or not lead, to his ultimate political suicide.

His daily tweets, and his unscripted public statements, have demonstrated that he does not contemplate what he decides to do or say. He acts on impulse, not on understanding.

Gore Vidal’s script for the 1964 film, The Best Man, includes this exchange between two candidates for the presidential nomination, Joe Cantwell (Cliff Robertson). and William Russell (Henry Fonda).

Cantwell: I don’t understand you.

Russell: I know you don’t. Because you have no sense of responsibility toward anybody or anything. And that is a tragedy in a man, and it is a disaster in a president.

No sense of responsibility for others has been a Trump character flaw since he began his campaign with his Obama Birther Lie. It should have been clear that he had no sense of responsibility for others, nor was he remotely qualified for the position he sought.

Six months into his term, U.S. Senators from his own party have begun to come out from the shadows and say what they had to have known before Chalottesville.

The Boston Globe counted those early-rising Republican senators who were aroused from their Trump stupor by Charlottesville. As of Friday, the list was short:

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, questioned the president’s “stability,” and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, declared Trump’s ‘‘moral authority is compromised.’’

Another GOP Senator, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, tweeted, ‘‘Anything less than complete & unambiguous condemnation of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK by the @POTUS is unacceptable. Period.’’

Corker, a sober voice on foreign policy and a frequent ally of the Trump administration, bluntly questioned the president’s ability to perform the duties of his office.

“The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” Corker told reporters. He said Trump had not “appropriately spoken to the nation” about Charlottesville, Va.

Scott insisted that he would not “defend the indefensible” when it came to the president’s comments about “both sides” in Charlottesville being responsible for the violence last Saturday.

The decision Trump makes about Phoenix awaits. Trump could create another violent clash in Phoenix next Tuesday or he could escape a devastating political silver bullet.

Will Trump hold his rally or cancel it? Will other stupefied members of Congress wake up and see the light?

We will soon know.

The picture above of Mayor Stanton is a screen shot from the Rachel Maddow television program.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Slavery Did Not Die; It Still Peddles Its Evil

by James M. Wall

The Professor asks”: “What could be worse than the soul-shredding evil of racism during the era of human bondage?”

This question is posed by a professor of African and Middle East History at the University of North Texas. Her name is Constance Hilliard. 

Fortunately for the rest of us, she also writes a​ blog,​​ Soul Wisdom.

Again: “What could be worse than the soul-shredding evil of racism during the era of human bondage?” 

In her recent blog posting, Dr. Hilliard offers her answer to her question.

My answer would be creating a world of make-believe so fortified by lies that those who lived within it could believe that slaves didn’t mind it in the least when their children were sold from their trembling arms or when their wives were sexually assaulted by the plantation owner.”

Current parallel examples abound that link this nation’s period of slavery and continued segregation to our current period with Donald Trump as our president.

Donald J. Trump’s immigration policy is based on what he feels is the white Christian American’s superior faith and race. Mexicans will face a wall if Trump is allowed his say. A select number of Muslim citizens from countries tagged by Trump as dangerous will be denied a brighter future than the one we gave them with our totally unjustified wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Everyone else will be judged qualified to enter our nation built by immigrants, entirely on their English proficiency and job skills.

While looking for some way to address this continued misconduct by our current President, I found Professor Hilliard on Daily Kos, a progressive writer on a progressive site.

Professor Hilliard is a regular contributor to Daily Kos. Read her opening lines above again, slowly. Click on the highlighted title and read the entire posting.

She links two mindsets, one that, in a major way, delivered Donald Trump to us, and another in 19th-century America where economic developments made it easy to inveigle a God-fearing, Bible-believing public in cotton-growing states, to accept slavery as God-given.

Professor Hilliard explains how slavery spreads its evil into our lives today:

While the institution of forced labor was dismantled after the Civil War, the peculiar mindset that defined reality as whatever the patriarch said it was, regardless of the evidence of one’s own senses, escaped the confines of the South and spread to other areas of white working class America.

It was a worldview built on an invented moral authority. Southern evangelicals had fought the abolitionism of their northern evangelical counterparts by creating a new hermeneutics — Biblical literalism.

It proclaimed that anything theologians found in the world of 2,000 years ago as having made its way into the Bible could be declared sacrosanct and God-inspired.

Critical thinking skills, even personal observation, were disdained for the proclamations of the patriarchal leader. In that context, lies were whatever liberals said, and the truth was the patriarch’s mumblings.

In the time of slavery and the segregated racial divide that followed, generations of “patriarchal” religious leaders and their institutions believed, taught and enforced, what Hilliard described quite accurately as “an invented moral authority”.

Last time I looked, major American Protestant ruling bodies were still  “debating” what they feel about the evil of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Debates have long been one of evil’s favorite tools of deception.

The modern mindset which Trump embodies and exploits, is part of a discontent which allowed our current president to ride into a job he lacks normal skills to handle.

As Jimmy Carter pointed out in his 1979 address, “Crisis of Confidence”, economic disparity, as gross as the economic disparity that created slavery, still has the power to build a fake reality, a reality that only a Trump can handle.

In her recent posting, Hilliard focuses our attention on the reality of  darkness in our culture, one that surfaced in a major way in the evils of slavery and now, 200 years later, is surfacing to impose new iterations of evil on present and future modern generations.

That darkness comes in various shapes and shows itself constantly through human action, just as it has done since those days when Adam and Eve resided harmoniously together in the Garden. 

Until, that is, they did not. They created a new existence when they came up with their own “invented moral authority”.

Since then, that darkness has continued to surface in a particularly ugly form in those moments of human history when forgotten, ignored, or unlearned, normal restraints disappear in a power-grabbing cloud of dust.

We are in a moment when grand juries will come and go, and presidents may come and go. But evil will persist and remain attractive to those vulnerable to easy answers crafted by earlier generations of land-grabbing, human exploiters.

As Hilliard writes, that exploitation surfaced in one of this nation’s darkest moments and made slavery morally acceptable as an essential tool in our nation’s economy.

In our current moment, the general population still feels the effect of slavery as we desert “the least of these”, and deny the reality that all people are equal.

Whatever name we give to our transcendent power, we must consider the possibility that this power is groaning in agony as nations continue to choose and then embrace politics powered by a satanic “invented moral authority”.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Jimmy Carter Warned of Trumpism in 1979

by James M. Wall

Last week brought more ill-informed, mean-spirited acts from our current President.  Before reviewing some of those acts, pause with me for a moment to give thanks for Jimmy Carter.

Here is just the latest reason to be thankful for our 39th President.

President Carter delivered a speech from his White House Oval Office, July 15, 1979, which John Farmer, Jr. describes as “a prophetic 1979 warning of Trumpism”. 

Farmer, former attorney general of New Jersey, and now a professor at Rutgers School of Law at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, wrote a guest column for the Newark, NJ, Star-Ledger, on January 16, which examines Carter’s speech:

Farmer begins by quoting from the speech:

“We’ve always believed in something called progress. We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own. Our people are losing that faith … “

Farmer writes that President Carter’s speech “offers an uncannily prescient perspective on the urgent question: how did we get here”?

Carter “warned of a spiritual crisis that he identified as toxic to American ideals. In describing that crisis, moreover, he might well have had the lifestyle and values of his 21st century successor in mind”.

Farmer quotes Carter further:

“[T]oo many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.”

A full audio copy of Carter’s speech may be accessed by clicking here

In a Hollywood 2016 movie, 20th Century Women, starring Annette Bening, two minutes of Carter’s speech,”Crisis of Confidence”, was heard by Bening. Images in the film clip below illustrate what she hears. 

Click here to view.

In our current crisis, our newly-elected President Donald Trump began this past week exploiting and disrespecting The Boy Scouts’ Oath and Law before a crowd of more than 35,000 Boy Scouts, their parents and leaders.

Trump appeared oblivious to the reality that he was addressing leading figures, scouts and leaders, in an organization that now has 2.4 million youth participants and nearly one million adult volunteers.

Trump cited the Scout law, but got no further than the word “loyalty”, before he went off on a tirade about the lack of loyalty he encounters these days. He then told a story about a wealthy American tycoon which he hinted might have some naughty bits. 

As a former member of Boy Scout Troop 505, Monroe, Georgia, I was disgusted with the President’s speech at this year’s Boy Scout Jamboree.

Steven Bosak, a Cub Scout leader and a parent, took to the pages of the Washington Post to weigh in on the President’s speech. He lamented:

My youngest Cub Scout could have watched that speech and realized that no Scout should think of Trump as a role model. Trump boasted, he preened, he whined, he threatened — and he spoke about the importance of winning. Win, win, win, he chanted, as if he were channeling the Great Santini character in the well-known book.

Loyalty is included in the Boy Scout oath and law, but to Trump, “loyalty”, was not applied to the lives of the boys, parents and leaders to whom he spoke. Like everything else in his narrow world, the word loyalty applies only to himself.  


A Boy Scout pledges to follow that
 Scout Law, words which have been memorized and embraced since Scouting began in 1908.  A Scout is expected to always be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent”. 

I find not one word in that list for which President Trump has demonstrated even the slightest affinity. This man is so focused on himself that he sees no shame in his performance. 

Officials of the Boy Scouts, apologized for the speech:

A leader of the Boy Scouts of America apologized Thursday for a speech that President Trump gave to thousands of teenage Scouts earlier this week — in which Trump broke with the Scouts’ earnest traditions by criticizing his political opponents, recounting his election victory and talking about parties on yachts.

“I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent,” Michael Surbaugh, whose title is chief Scout executive, wrote in a message posted online.

Two days later, Trump committed his second atrocious act of the week, tweeting an unexpected ignorant, insensitive, declaration, that he will instruct “his generals” to rescind an Obama-era action that allows transgender Americans to serve openly in the military.

Such an action is not only ill-informed and unjustified, it demonstrates a total lack of understanding of the successful integration and valued service of transgender military personnel into our nation’s armed forces.

One of “his generals”, who are the nation’s generals, not his, quickly responded with the obvious reminder that a “tweet” is not a presidential order. If such an order of implementation were directed to “his generals”, such implementation might just take a bit longer than Trump expects.

At the end of last week, Trump continued his “tough guy” self, delivering advice to police officers.  The advice, The Daily Beast reports, was vintage Trump:

During an address on Long Island on Friday, President Trump called gang members “animals” and praised law enforcement for being “rough,” even suggesting that they not “be too nice” to people they arrest. 

The Atlantic detected an echo of Richard Nixon in Trump’s law and order posturing.

Trump’s idea of toughness often comes at odds with the law. Disturbingly, his speech on Friday, with law-enforcement agents behind, was a long paean to systemic police brutality and lament for the ways the law restrains officers. He praised officers from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for their toughness. For example, he recounted meeting a man, apparently a would-be vigilante, with whom he discussed the high crime rate in Chicago:

“He said the problem could be straightened out. I said, “How long would it take you to straighten out this problem?” He said, “If you give me the authority, a couple days. I really mean it.” I said, “You really think so?” He said, “We know all the bad guys. The officers know all the bad ones in the area. We know them all. A couple of days.” I said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” I said, “Give me your card.” He gave me his card and I sent it to the mayor. I said, “You want to try using this guy.” 

“You want to try using this guy”. So far, no response from the Mayor.  

Below is another brief clip from Carter’s television address 38 years ago. He closed the speech with a warning which John Farmer, Jr., described above, as a “prophetic warning of Trumpism”.

To view that clip, click here https://youtu.be/A-c4WSd2d9M

Posted in Donald Trump, Politics and Elections, Religious Faith | 4 Comments

Two Palestinian Schoolmates Seek Unity in Cairo

by James M. Wall

A power-sharing Gaza leadership agreement involving two Palestinian childhood friends, Yahya Sinwar (left) and Mohammed Dahlan (right, below) may be “slowly taking shape”.

What led to the reunion of Sinwar and Dahlan is an intriguing story that involves two Palestinian leaders who have known one another since childhood.

Ynetnews reports on that history:

Dahlan, now 55, and Sinwar, now 54, grew up in the same neighborhood of southern Gaza’s Khan Younis refugee camp. They later attended the same UN school and were students together at Islamic University.

Dahlan and Sinwar took different political journeys. They joined rival political factions, Fatah and Hamas.

Those two political factions clashed in the 2006 Palestinian general election. In that election, monitored by former President Jimmy Carter, and others, Hamas won a decisive legislative majority over Fatah.

Both Israel and the U.S. misread the political mood within an occupied population. I was present for that election. Like most observers, it quickly became obvious to me that Hamas would win the election.

Why? Gaza voters resented, or more accurately, hated, control by outside political powers.

In addition, Hamas was a disciplined political party. Fatah was not. Hamas ran slates. Fatah did not. In many districts, Fatah candidates far exceeded available legislative seats.  Hamas understood Politics 101; Fatah did not.

If a party wants to win, it limits its candidates to the available openings. And, oh yes, it must give voters something better than what they already have.

Israel–with U.S. support–refused to accept the results of that 2006 democratic election. Israel blocked Palestinian parliamentary meetings and jailed many Hamas legislators.

A year later, Israel with U.S support, led Fatah in a military assault against Hamas. The leader of that Fatah assault was Mohammed Dahlan (right).

Fatah, the U.S., Israel–and Dahlan–lost. 

Dahlan has been living in exile since he split with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2010. Now, seven years later, Dahlan is back,  ready to advance his Palestinian leadership ambitions against Fatah through Hamas.

Ynetnews described this week’s Gaza City rally for Dahlan as the latest indication of a power shift in Gaza which “could lead to big changes in the Hamas-ruled territory, including an easing of a decade-long border blockade”.

Since Ynetnews is an Israeli outlet, those “big changes” are most likely Israel’s preferred outcome.

But, alert warning, based on those 2006 general election results, Israel’s political acumen can be faulty.

In the labyrinth of West Asian politics, the latest corner to turn in Gaza involves a political shift.

Mohammed Dahlan has returned, not to the Fatah-controlled West Bank, but to Gaza. With the endorsement of the Hamas-run government there, Dahlan’s political office in Gaza is disbursing $2 million to Gaza’s poor procured by Dahlan from the United Arab Emirates.

A second labyrinth corner turn takes us to the earlier election of Yahya Sinwar as the new Gaza Hamas chief.  What has Sinwar been up to while Dahlan was making rich friends in the UAE?

Ynetnews writes:

Sinwar helped establish the Hamas military wing in the late 1980s, while Dahlan rose through the ranks of Fatah, becoming chief of a feared Gaza security service that used to shave heads of Hamas prisoners to humiliate them. . . 

By early June of 2017, Sinwar and Dahlan had reached a point of common interest. The two childhood friends had followers, and they must have assumed those followers would work together in Gaza.

By early June, delegations led by Dahlan and Sinwar were negotiating in Egypt.  Participants said the two men established an easy rapport. 

Egypt, which has enforced control for Israel on Gaza’s southern border, “began sending fuel to Gaza’s only power-plant, helping ease a debilitating electricity shortage”.

For its part, Hamas “has been clearing brush to create a security buffer zone on the Gaza side of the border [with Egypt], and pledged not to give refuge to anti-Egypt insurgents from the Sinai”.

Egypt is refurbishing its now largely closed Rafah crossing with Gaza. Egypt plans to reopen it by the fall for passengers and goods, according to a Hamas spokesman.

Of course, this is West Asia, where, “The extent of future Rafah operations remains unclear.”

A month back,  June 22, 2017, Mouin Rabbani wrote an essay for the London Review of Books, Hamas Goes to Cairo”, which provides essential information on what has led to the current flurry of political activity in Gaza, an activity which won Hamas leadership for Yahya Sinwar, and the return of Mohammed Dahlan.

Rabbani, who is co-editor of Jadaliyya, served as head of political affairs in the Office of the UN special envoy for Syria from October 2014 to January 2015. Out of that background, he wrote about the Cairo unity meeting:

The Hamas delegation was led by Yahya Sinwar. A leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, who served more than twenty years in Israeli jails until released in a prisoner exchange in 2011, Sinwar was elected four months ago to lead the [Hamas] movement in the occupied Gaza Strip, its main power base.

In May, an election to choose a successor to the politburo chief Khalid Mashal was won by the former Palestinian Authority prime minister Ismail Haniya, a comparatively weak figure. Sinwar is the movement’s de facto overall leader.

He’s known within Hamas as a hardliner, and also for a conviction that the movement should improve relations with Iran to balance its dependence on Qatar and Turkey. Like most of his peers he is also anxious to normalise relations with Egypt, which since Sisi’s coup in 2013 has run an unprecedented vilification campaign against Hamas and sealed Gaza’s only border with an Arab state.

Sinwar’s election and his political views “did not sit well with Qatar”. From Doha’s perspective, Sinwar “threw a spanner [wrench] in the works of the unveiling of Hamas’s new political document at the Doha [Qutar] Sheraton Hotel on 1 May”.

In that document, blessed by Qatar, Hamas formally embraced “a two-state settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and defined itself as an organic component of the Palestinian national liberation movement rather than of the Muslim Brotherhood which spawned it”.

Mouin Rabbani suggests that Qatar “may have given the PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, a wink and a nod to expand punitive measures against the Gaza Strip”, Qatar’s way of  “reminding the newly-elected Sinwar that Hamas’ relations with Iran “are no substitute for Qatar’s patronage, and that Doha expects him to embrace the new policies and avoid confrontation with Israel”.

Thus the labyrinth continues. Qatar, with its bottomless supply of money, winks at Abbas, and the lights go out in Hamas-run Gaza. 

President Abbas risked world-wide condemnation when he followed Qatar’s not-so-subtle reminder that the Palestinian Authority is on a short Israeli leash. Tel Aviv does not like it when the PA gives too much freedom to Gaza.

To tug on the financial leash the PA has on Gaza, Abbas took a first step: He reduced salaries paid to PA civil servants in Gaza. 

Since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, “the Fatah-led PA has mostly been paying its employees not to go to work, but there are very many of them and their aggregate income makes a substantial contribution to Gaza’s increasingly desperate economy”.

Since Israel controls the flow of electrical power into Gaza, Abbas suggested to Israel, Palestine’s occupiers, that they reduce Gaza’s electrical supply, an act of cruelty that was morally wrong and politically stupid. 

A dark Gaza is not a recipe for winning the “hearts and minds” of an imprisoned civilian population.

Which brings us back to the political labyrinth of West Asia, which, by the way,  is preferable to the European colonizing term, the “Middle East”.

If Hamas, Dahlan and Egypt can devise a way to turn the lights on again in Gaza, that Cairo meeting may be the start of a new and improved, though no-less confusing, and perilous, journey for an occupied population.

If PA President Abbas has a better idea than his own political advantage, to turn the lights back on in Gaza, this would be a good time to make that idea known.  

At top, Yahya Sinwar, the new leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip is attending the opening of a new mosque in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on February 24, 2017. (The image is by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90). 

Posted in Gaza, Israel, Palestinians | 2 Comments

The Long Fight Against TV and Movie “Bad Arabs”

by James M. Wall

Jack G. Shaheen, retired professor of communications at Southern Illinois University, died Sunday, July 9, after a short battle with cancer. He was 81.

His death brought to a sudden end, his five-decade fight against the stereotyping of “Bad Arabs” in movies and television. 

I have maintained regular contact with Jack since our first encounter in 1978. My most recent email from him arrived in March of this year, informing me that he had once again sent this blog’s link to his list.

Our first encounter came in August, 1978, when I was the editor of The Christian Century magazine in Chicago. Jack sent me a manuscript “over the transom”, media jargon for “unsolicited”.

We immediately accepted it, using Jack’s title, “The TV Arab”. 

In October, 1978, the Wall Street Journal published an expanded version of The Christian Century essay. In 1984, Jack expanded that article into a book with the same title.

Dr. Shaheen’s writing career and numerous public lectures brought him to the attention of Hollywood, where film producers sought his counsel on how to overcome their “bad Arabs” material.

Jack told me how long it had taken him to bring public attention to his “Bad Arab” essay: 

In the Fall of 1975, I completed the essay you published in August 1978. I had just returned to Southern Illinois University from Beirut where I had been teaching as a Fulbright scholar.

I tried for three years to have someone publish “The TV Arab”. Somewhere in my hidden files I have all the rejection letters I received from 50-plus magazines/newspapers.

The most memorable rejection came from the editor [of a prominent publication]. She refused to publish it, using an excuse that it was too well-written. She told me other ‘minority’ writers would want her to publish similar essays, but their essays would not be as ‘good’ as mine. Honest!

After three years of waiting and 50 rejections, “the TV Arab” appeared–for the first time–in The Christian Century in August, 1978.

The Washington Post announced his death: 

Jack G. Shaheen, an Arab American scholar, author and activist who devoted his career to challenging venomous stereotypes of Arabs in film and television — usually depicted, he once said, as ‘billionaires, bombers and belly dancers’ — died July 9 at a hospital in Charleston, S.C.

Dr. Shaheen, [the son of Lebanese Christian immigrants], spent decades teaching mass communications at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. He was at the forefront of efforts to expose and question ethnic stereotypes in popular culture.

He was best known for his books, “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People” (2001), which later became a documentary film; “Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture” (1997); “Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11” (2008); and “The TV Arab” (1984), an eight-year study that examined hundreds of shows.

Dr. Shaheen wrote in The TV Arab:

Television tends to perpetuate four basic myths about Arabs. They are all fabulously wealthy; they are barbaric and uncultured; they are sex maniacs with a penchant for white slavery; and they revel in acts of terrorism. . . . These notions are as false as the assertions that blacks are lazy, Hispanics are dirty, Jews are greedy and Italians are criminals.

Albert Mokhiber, a past president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) who frequently worked with Dr. Shaheen on specific projects, said of him that he  “brought intellectual and academic credibility to the issues that we raised.”

In one of those projects, Dr. Shaheen helped persuade Walt Disney Studios to change song lyrics in the 1992 musical film “Aladdin” that had called an Arab homeland “barbaric.”

In an opinion piece he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, he was critical of the way the media depicted Arabs as thieves, unscrupulous vendors, “dastardly villains and harem maidens.”

That message from Jack Shaheen is especially timely at a moment when Islamophobia is returning to segments of the American culture with its perspective of fear and anger directed at Arabs born in the U.S., or residing here through immigration. 

It is an ominous sign when President Trump uses the term “barbaric” to describe “others” in countries whose populations are predominantly Arab and Muslim.  

The President’s speech in Warsaw, Poland, which he delivered the day before the recent G-20 in Hamburg, Germany, revived the racist call for a Clash of Civilizations.

That Clash, from President Trump’s perspective, is currently being fought between the white, Christian “West” and those “others” in the world who are neither white nor Christian.

Children are being raised by parents who have a limited, or non-existent, grasp of the democratic values of tolerance and diversity. In such an environment, the Clash of Civilizations has shown itself to be an easy sell.

To combat this, we urgently need more passionate activists like Jack Shaheen, who, for five decades, identified racism in popular culture, and through extensive research exposed it as Islamophobia.  

Jack Shaheen left us a mighty legacy to employ in the fight against that insidious, destructive evil. 

Posted in Cancer, Donald Trump, Movies | 2 Comments

Who to Believe, Your Lying Eyes or the Truth?

by James M. Walltwitter

Bibi Netanyahu and Donald Trump have one thing in common: They both have as much credibility as the man who killed his parents and then begged the judge for mercy because he was an orphan.

Why should we believe what they say? President Trump is an accomplished prevaricator in a job he is clearly not qualified to hold.

But we know that already.

What concerns me at the moment is the way in which Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu follows the classic colonial playbook by living a lie and inducing the colonized to fight among themselves.

The current internal Palestinian conflict involves a severe drop in medical care and adequate electrical power in Gaza, two essential elements which must be provided for a civilian population.

Instead of providing, Bibi Netanyahu greatly reduces these elements from Gaza and then lies that he is not to blame. The harsh truth is that Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza for fifty years. 

Occupiers are responsible for the occupied whether for one year or fifty years.

If you feel as though you are just now arriving to see a movie that has been running for an hour, it’s because this current movie, a Gaza-West Bank blame game, has been evolving on the screens of the Israeli and Palestinian media.

Preoccupied with the Donald’s twitters and threats, the American press has largely ignored the story of lies about Gaza. To our media, it is a conflict waged within a distant land between “long-time foes”.

To Palestinians, it is not a conflict. It is an occupation that blames the occupied.

To catch you up on the latest set of Bibi lies, here is some background:

Israel’s occupiers “withdrew” from Gaza in 2005.  But the occupiers did not “withdraw” Israel’s control over what is now an outdoor Gaza prison in which essential ingredients of life–food, water, medical care, and electrical power–remain completely in Israeli hands.

To remind Gazans who holds the power, Israel stages vicious military attacks and periodic wars against Gaza citizens.

The 1993 Oslo Accords looked at the time like a good stop-gap measure. It was, in reality, a moment in history when Israel sold the world and occupied Palestinians a package of wampum disguised as a “peace process”,

The Accords were never intended by Israel to bring peace. That was an Israeli lie.  The Accords were decorative beads, intended as a cover to pretend reaching for peace agreements while Israel remained busy expanding its settlements, and tightening its control over all aspects of Palestinian life.

Then, as colonialists are wont to do, they sold that same peace process wampum to the U.S. congress and its Israeli allies in American media and cultural institutions.

The lies that sustain the Israeli–driven “peace process”,  are rooted in greed and control, which derive from the evil twins of racism and religious bigotry.

You wish to see racism and religious bigotry? Both are on display in this week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to allow a Trump ban against all travelers from six Muslim nations to stand.

The caveat that the ban would not apply to travelers who had U.S. family or institutional ties, is sheer racial and religious bigotry.

The Trump ban tells us to ignore these words engraved on the Stature of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

It is that same spirit that rejects Liberty’s call and leads Bibi to blame the medical and electrical shortage in Gaza on a Gaza-West Bank struggle for political leadership.

If this spirit is not racism/religious bigotry, then what is it?  I first encountered this racist/bigotry nonsense in my childhood in a racist White-controlled American South.

That same racist/bigotry began with American colonialism conquering a continent against the resistance of Native Americans. It now extends to all facets of our American life and culture.

The embedded racism in our nation makes Bibi’s racist lies an easy sell in the land built on the backs of Native Americans and African Americans.

Two sources from the front lines explain the conflict Bibi has cultivated. The first report from the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, demonstrates how the PA and Hamas have allowed their own quest for power inside the prison to control their actions. It begins:

While much attention has been focused on the cutbacks to Gaza’s electricity, testimonies from the Strip indicate that for the past two months the Palestinian Authority has also been blocking Gaza patients from leaving the Strip for medical treatment.

Gazan Palestinians are reporting unexplained delays in receiving permits from the PA in Ramallah to leave the Strip for treatment in Israel, Jordan or the West Bank. These testimonies have been reinforced by data received by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, indicating that the PA Health Ministry has stopped facilitating this treatment for Gazans.

To whatever extent these are true reports, and not completely fabricated, it reflects the poor leadership  that has evolved among the Palestinian factions. What goes on between Bibi and Mahmoud Abbas, the long-reigning PA president, is never an equal interaction.

Abbas runs a vassal state under Israel’s absolute control.  What little he gains from Israel in his role as PA president, it is granted because Bibi expects subservience in return.

I envision that relationship with Bibi as a Mafia boss allowing deliveries to Mahmoud Abbas’ neighborhood stores.

Is Abbas getting what he can from his Boss by trying to undermine Hamas in a conflict inside the prison?

I saw that same desperate subservience unfold with Christian leaders desperate to help young students leave Communist East Germany for education elsewhere.

A second source on this story is this Palestinian Ma’an News Agency report, which rejects the Hamas accusations and denies that the Palestinian Authority (PA) “has been preventing Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip from leaving the territory for medical treatment”.

Bassam al-Badri, who directs the PA’s medical referral department in the southern district, told Ma’an that Israel was accountable for the deterioration of the medical situation in Gaza. He said Israel was responsible for denying Gazans exit permits.

These denials “have had fatal consequences in recent weeks”.

Whom are we to believe, statements from the Occupier with absolute power, or Bassam al-Badri, who is responsible for Palestinian medical referrals?

There is no doubting the facts that health care inside Gaza “has greatly suffered as part of the decade-long Israeli siege, with Israel limiting medical equipment allowed in and restricting travel for doctors seeking further medical training and specialization”.

Closely related to the reduction in medical care is the reduction in the delivery of electrical supply to Gaza. Palestinians there are reduced to a few hours of power a day. This had caused a “devastating” impact on hospitals.

Bassam al-Badri also told Ma’an that the Palestinian Ministry of Health that among transfers of between 1,600 and 1,800 patients to the West Bank and Jerusalem every month, one-fourth are cancer patients.

Exactly who is to blame? It is clear that the Palestinian factions are squabbling over internal control, but final decisions over the lives of the Palestinian people under occupation, are made by Israel. 

Israel, alone, has the power and the responsibility as the occupier, to serve the human services needs of the Palestinian citizens of the West Bank and Gaza. 

The picture of a Palestinian waving a Palestinian flag is an image by Pixabay. The Oslo accords image is from the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.

Posted in Cancer, Donald Trump, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Netanyahu | 3 Comments

Wolves in the Gaza Chicken House

by James M. Wall

Have you seen the Hollywood film that flashes back to February, 2006, when Palestinians elected a Hamas party parliamentary majority.

I didn’t think so, because there is no such film available.

An honest film on Palestine’s current situation would begin in present-day Gaza. A Palestinian baby lies in a tiny crib, dying because the hospital lacks sufficient electricity to keep her alive.

The poorly-maintained portable generator outside in the yard, would have run out of fuel. 

Then, in a flashback, the film would show long lines of voters in occupied 2006 Palestine, waiting their turn in an election monitored by outsiders including President Jimmy Carter.

Hamas won that 2006 general election, defeating the Fatah party which had been in power since Yasir Arafat was allowed by Israel to return to Gaza in the summer of 1994.

Mahmoud Abbas succeeded Arafat as head of the PLO and the Palestinian National Authority in November, 2004.

Israel and the US agreed to the holding of that 2006 parliamentary election, a year after Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the state of Palestine May 8, 2005.

The Israel/US combine and the Fatah leaders had assumed a Fatah victory. The voters thought otherwise, handing a national parliamentary majority to the Hamas party. And it was a “political party”. Once Hamas emerged as a formidable adversary, thanks to Israel’s control of its own narrative, the “terrorist” label was hung around its neck.  

Indeed, the first time I ever heard of Hamas, was from a member of the Israeli foreign ministry who told me to “keep an eye on this Hamas. They are doing good work for the poor”. The purpose of that praise, I later realized, was to build up an enemy against Arafat, a long-time Israeli foe.

As the ancient proverb reminds us, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

To correct its 2006 political venture into democracy, Israel and the US instituted a war to defeat Hamas in 2007. The Fatah army was trained and guided by the George Bush-run CIA.

Fatah lost the war to Hamas just as it had lost the parliamentary election one year earlier.

Tired of trying to resolve its pesky Gaza problem with proxies, Israel arrested 25% of the Palestinian legislators and sent them off to jail, many of them with no charges, just indefinite jail sentences.

Throughout modern Israel’s history, its focus has remained on doing what it takes to control the land from the sea to the river. Its concern for the indigenous Palestinian population is to hope it will dwindle away. 

At the start of the recent prisoners’ hunger strike in Palestine, Daoud Kuttab anticipated Israel’s 50-year celebration of its seizure of all Palestinian land in 1967.

He wrote in the Washington Post:

Palestinians have lost hope in an internationally sponsored negotiated settlement. But this discontent has not turned off their desire for freedom and independence. Instead, more and more Palestinians are using nonviolent acts of resistance to keep the flame alive and to remind the Israelis and the world of the importance of a peaceful solution that will end the occupation.

The hunger strike was the latest nonviolent resistance employed by Palestinians, protesting, at personal cost, the imprisonment of Palestinians.

Palestinian nonviolent resistance moved into Israeli jails, where 6,500 Palestinians are being held, including 300 children, 500 prisoners detained without trial on administrative orders and 13 elected Palestinian legislators. Fifteen hundred of the detainees have begun a hunger strike.

Initiated on Palestinian Prisoner day, April 17, and led by Marwan Barghouti, the most prominent leader of the PLO’s Fatah movement and an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the prisoners are demanding basic visitation rights and an end to imprisonments without charge or trial.

The strike ended after 41 days as Israel offered a compromise deal to meet some of the strikers’ visitation demands. 

When the strike ended, on May 28 Richard Falk wrote his analysis,  Two Sides of the Palestinian Coin: Hunger Strike/Gaza, which included this wise observation:

It is appropriate to merge in our moral imagination the ordeals of the prisoners in Israeli jails with that of the people of Gaza without forgetting the encompassing fundamental reality—the Palestinian people as a whole, regardless of their specific circumstances, are being victimized by an Israeli structure of domination and discrimination in a form that constitutes apartheid and different forms of captivity.

Falk also called attention to a “poignant dispatch” from a “leading intellectual resident of Gaza, Haider Eid, from the front lines of continuous flagrant Israeli criminality”.

Falk is an international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years.

Less than a month later, the Electronic Intifada’s Charlotte Silver describes how Israel controls the electric grid supplying power to the Gaza civilian population of over 1.8 million.

Israel reduced its supply of electricity to the occupied Gaza Strip  Monday morning, (June 19) in spite of warnings from human rights groups that the move violates international law.

The cuts come despite dire warnings in recent weeks from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Health Organization and UN officials that the induced electricity shortage is causing a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Electronic Intifada continues with the human impact of Gaza’s reduced electric supply:

Today, Gaza is even more dependent on Israel for its electricity than it was in 2008. Gaza’s sole power plant no longer operates at all.

The power plant has not operated at full capacity since 2009, when Israel stopped allowing the “humanitarian minimum” of diesel fuel to enter Gaza.

It completely shut down in April after it ran out of emergency fuel supplies paid for by Qatar and Turkey.

While the electricity crisis imposes severe hardships on daily life, it is catastrophic for hospitals, which lack sufficient backup capacity and are already canceling critical surgeries and shutting down entire wings.

A generator powering an intensive care unit at a children’s hospital stopped working three weeks ago because it was overloaded.

Gaza’s health ministry is warning that more than 50 operating rooms that perform around 250 surgeries each day may be closed unless Israel fulfills its obligation to guarantee basic services to the population, including fuel to operate Gaza’s power plant.

Israel does not call its military control an “occupation”. According to Israel, it is “administering” the lands of Judea and Samaria (AKA by the non-Zionist world as the West Bank and Gaza).

As for the electricity, well, to hear Israel tell it, the shortage is not Israel’s “fault”.

As the wolf told the farmer from inside the noisy chicken house, “there ain’t nobody in here but us chickens”.

There are wolves in those “administered territories” and they are in total control of the hen house.

Israel hauled out its number-one major media ally in the US. the New York Times, to print Israel’s version of the hen house “truth”. 

Under the headline, Challenging Hamas, Palestinian Authority Cuts Electricity Payments for Gaza, the Times blames the chickens for bickering among themselves.

It is not our fault, Israel whines, the Palestinians are doing it to themselves. “Ain’t nobody in here but us chickens.”

The Times’ Isabel Kershner dutifully wrote:

The Palestinian Authority informed Israel on Thursday that it would no longer pay for the electricity that Israel supplies to the Gaza Strip, in an extraordinary push by the authority to reassert some control after years of rule in Gaza by the militant group Hamas.

The schism between the Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank and led by President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas, which seized full control of Gaza in 2007, has left Palestinians deeply divided and has hurt efforts to reach a peace deal with Israel.

Israel and the Times expect us to believe the Gaza electric grid is turned off and on with the consent of the Fatah wing of the Palestinian government? The wolves expect us to believe such nonsense?

Of course, Israeli spin-masters do not say they condone the power reduction. They blame President Abbas for “using” the reduction for his own political benefit.

A check of international media confirms that it is buying the Israeli nonsense.  The Israelis are media-savvy. They know internal political conflict is sexier than babies dying. 

Responsibility for a territory under occupation always lies with the occupier. It would be foolish to let Netanyahu get away with blaming Abbas for those Gaza deaths.

Which calls to mind a scene in Bonnie and Clyde when Clyde shoots a shop-keeper he has just robbed. Clyde keeps driving and laments to Bonnie, “Why did he make me do that”?

The picture of the children with candles is from the Bethlehem-based Ma’an.

Posted in Gaza, Israel, Jimmy Carter, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu | 5 Comments

“This Meddlesome Priest” Troubles Trump

by James M. Wall

At 2:30 in the morning of June 17, 1972, forty five years ago this weekend, five men were arrested as they attempted to place wire taps in the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Washington, D.C. Watergate hotel and office complex.

Those arrests are being recalled after 45 years, as President Donald Trump faces his own potential Watergate scandal. Both ABC News and MSNBC are airing Watergate specials this weekend.

History has shown that the Nixon-authorized break-in was a colossal act of paranoid misjudgment. Nixon did not need the break-in to win. Utilizing his presidential platform, Nixon campaigned vigorously as a foreign policy expert, traveling in 1972 to China (February 21) and the Soviet Union (May 22).

The 1960s frightened insecure politicians like Nixon, but the radical passions of that era made even more voting enemies than it did adherents.

In spite of the slowly growing media attention to Watergate, Nixon won an easy victory, trouncing his Democratic opponent, South Dakota Senator George McGovern (below), sweeping the national electoral college, except for the state of Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Trump had more reason to stretch outside the law to win, if indeed, that is what he did, because unlike the incumbent Nixon, he was a nobody from reality television.

Still, the suspicion grows daily that “Watergate Two” threatens, thanks to news stories like this one Thursday from The Washington Post

​The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice​”​, officials ​said.​

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown at top) to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

Then-FBI Director James B. Comey, starting in January, told President Trump that he was not personally under investigation. Current officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing.

Interview requests are believed to have been issued by Mueller to “Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledget”. Others may have been questioned, as well.

In his appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee Comey testified “that he had informed Trump that there was no investigation of the president’s personal conduct, at least while he was leading the FBI”.

If Mueller decides to pursue an obstruction of justice case against Trump, testimony from Comey and other officials, the Post writes, “could become central pieces of evidence.”

As the Mueller investigation continues, Comey is expected to return to the national spotlight.  Who is this man with his calm demeanor and towering 6 foot 8 inch frame?

To gain a better perspective on former FBI Director James Comey, we should start with his appointment as the new FBI director by President Barak Obama in September in 2013.

Neill Caldwell​, editor of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate magazine, wrote 
 a story for Religious News Service July 31, 2013, under a headline that said:​ ​Next FBI Director is a United Methodist.

That was news to me and it also pleased my John Wesleyan heart. (We Methodists can also be tribal). Here is the start  of the story:

The next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is a former Sunday school teacher at Reveille United Methodist Church in Richmond, Va.

President Barack Obama’s nominee, James B. Comey Jr., breezed through a U.S. Senate hearing on his nomination and was approved July 29, as the seventh director of the FBI.

He will follow current FBI leader Robert Mueller, who has been director for 12 years. Comey, a Republican former deputy attorney general under the George W. Bush administration, won praise from members of both parties on the Senate Judiciary Committee for his extensive resume.

Comey, 52, was born in Yonkers, N.Y., where his grandfather rose from cop walking the beat to police commissioner. Comey grew up in Allendale, N.J., attending public schools, and went on to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. There he majored in chemistry and religion, and met his future wife, Patrice Failor.

In 1983, after his first year of law school, he was visiting Patrice in Sierra Leone, where she was in the Peace Corps. He came down with malaria. Only her quick action in getting him to a hospital saved his life.​

Comey was born and raised in Yonkers, New York. Comey is of Irish heritage and his family was Catholic. His family moved to Allendale, New Jersey, in the early 1970s. He later became a United Methodist. He graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1982, where he majored in chemistry and religion.

For his senior thesis, Comey analyzed Reinhold Niebuhr and the conservative televangelist Jerry Falwell, emphasizing their common belief in public action.  Steven Weitzman examined that senior thesis for Christianity Today.

I tracked down his senior thesis to see what lessons there might be for understanding the FBI director’s run-in with President Trump.

Submitted in 1982, Comey’s thesis compares Niebuhr and Jerry Falwell. At the time, the televangelist had emerged as a central figure in American politics following the election of Ronald Reagan. Comey’s study was an effort to understand how each man would answer the question: “Why should the Christian be involved in politics?”

Niebuhr and Falwell came from opposite sides of the political spectrum. One, a former socialist and—despite his support for the Cold War—an early opponent of the Vietnam War, believing it an obligation to be critical of American actions that were unjust. The other, a staunch opponent to socialism and a supporter of the Vietnam War.

As the co-founder of the Moral Majority, Falwell espoused the kind of America-first patriotism that Niebuhr condemned. Niebuhr rejected moral absolutes, believing they were beyond reach and that their pursuit could lead humans into sinful pride. Falwell embraced them.

Yet, each claimed Scripture as the source for their political doctrines. Falwell believed the Bible to be infallible whereas Niebuhr was sensitive to the ambiguities. And each believed in a politically engaged Christianity willing to seek power, accept compromises, and risk cynicism and cooptation to achieve justice or avoid moral decay.

James Comey understands how religion and politics are intertwined.

The New York Times took note of Comey’s reference to “meddlesome priest” in his Senate testimony.

Asked if he took President Trump’s “hope” that he would drop the Flynn-Russia investigation “as a directive,” Mr. Comey responded, Yes, yes. It rings in my ears as kind of, ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ ”

These words, tradition has it, were those King Henry II of England cried out in 1170, as he grappled with the political opposition of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury.

As depicted in the play by Jean Anouilh, and the 1964 film, Becket, four royal knights rushed off to Canterbury and murdered “the meddlesome priest”.

The Times concludes: “Mr. Comey’s point was that a desire expressed by a powerful leader is tantamount to an order. When Senator James E. Risch, a Republican, noted that the president had merely ‘hoped for an outcome,’ Mr. Comey replied, ‘I mean, this is the president of the United States, with me alone, saying ‘I hope this.’ I took it as, this is what he wants me to do’.”

Posted in -Movies and politics, Politics in Religion, Religious Faith, United Methodist Church | 2 Comments

Land of Opportunity for Testing Weapo

by James M. Wall

Fifty years after the June 5-10, 1967, Six Day War, Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people offers a business opportunity for some, and massive oppression for others.

We will begin with the business opportunity, as it is seen from the perspective of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. We will get to the oppression part a bit later from B’Tselem.

Alex Kane, writing in the alternative publication, Indypendent, sets the stage: “On March 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo flew to Israel to show solidarity with Jews amidst an uptick in anti-Semitism in New York. But the trip also doubled as the kick-off for a new project meant to bring Israel and New York closer together.”

Smart man, that Cuomo; he does business that helps his city, while he makes nice, very nice, with his voters and donors.

After Cuomo arrived in Israel, he was driven on a secure, well-maintained Israeli highway, to Jerusalem’s King David Hotel where he held a press conference to announce “the creation of the New York-Israel Commission, an initiative to strengthen the already-robust ties between Israel and the state with the largest number of Jews in the United States.”

Among its assignments, the commission “will focus on connecting New York law enforcement with Israeli security forces.”

An hour later, “the New York governor stood outside Jerusalem’s Old City police headquarters alongside Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs, marveling at Israel’s ability to keep Jerusalem safe”.

Cuomo praised Israeli security forces for its use of technology as “something that we can learn from,” and also said that he wanted New York law enforcement to learn from Israel about combating “lone wolf” terror threats.

The New York Times offered its political rational for the trip:

“The Jewish community, that is still very important in New York electoral politics,” said Gerald Benjamin, a professor of political science at the State University at New Paltz, “and in the financing of them and national campaigns.” Professor Benjamin was referring to speculation surrounding Mr. Cuomo (left), whose name has come up as a possible Democratic candidate for president in 2020. 

Stand at a window in the King David Hotel, where Cuomo held his press conference, and look eastward. Out there is the Hinnom Valley, the Gehenna of the New Testament, which the ancients associated with fire, judgment, the Lake of Fire, eternal fire and Hell. The valley was also the place where earlier pagan groups practiced child sacrifice.

Also out there is East Jerusalem and the West Bank, territory Israel captured fifty years ago this week, now occupied land on which’s Israel’s vaunted security forces are testing  technology which it uses to keep “its people safe”.

Cuomo’s New York police department is just one of many American departments whose police officers have flown to Israel, usually, as Alex Kane writes “on the dime  of pro-Israel groups to tour the country and speak with Israeli security forces about how they keep their country safe”.

Israel has a world-wide reputation as a leader in utilizing Israeli-build weapons, and developing successful surveillance companies.  Security is “a core part of the Israeli economy”, exporting “billions of dollars worth of armaments and spy tools to virtually every region in the world”.

Why is Israel so esteemed for its security equipment and techniques?

Shir Hever, an Israeli researcher and author of the book The Political Economy of the Occu­pa­tion, knows why. He says: “All of the Israeli companies would immediately answer the question: We have actual experience, and we have tested these weapons on human beings.”

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, the conflict in which Israel defeated Arab armies from surrounding states, and completed its original capture of Palestinian land by overrunning the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, now all known as the occupied Palestinian territories.

That 1967 war also added the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the Syrian Golan Heights to Israeli control. Israel has since withdrawn from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Israel has pretended for the past 50 years that its occupation was temporary, part of its false narrative. During those five decades Israel has built an occupation force of its army  (the Israeli Defense Force), border guards and police.

What matters to New York Governor Cuomo are Israel’s security skills. He gives no sign that he is aware that Israel’s security needs are self-inflicted. Palestinians living under occupation know Israel’s security proficiency was developed to imprison the Palestinian people.

For this to change, Israel itself will have to change. Politicians like Governor Cuomo answer largely to what voters want, or what he thinks they want. If Israelis themselves woke up to what the occupation is doing to the Palestinians and to Israel, they would have no problem persuading the American politicians that 50 years of occupation has led to disaster for the Jewish people.

One of the Jewish organizations in Israel that knows this and works to do something about it, is B’Tselem, ​t​he Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

​B’Tselem issued a statement on June 6, which describes how what happened 50 years ago on June 5, 1967, began the creation of a “reality” from Israel’s perspective. Its statement sums up the real-life occupation which Governor Cuomo managed to ignore in his eagerness to curry favor with his Jewish consistency.

This statement of current Palestinian reality, from B’Tselem, is addressed to the Israeli public:

​It is a reality in which a third and fourth generation of Palestinians don’t know what it’s like to live free; and a third and fourth generation of Israelis don’t know what it’s like not to be occupiers.

It is a reality in which Israel controls 13 million people in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, but only eight million of them actually count or can take part in determining the future here. It is a reality that no matter how you tilt your head at it means that Israel cannot be called democratic.

How has the occupation managed to reach the 50-year mark?

Perhaps because we manage to convince ourselves that it’s all temporary: it’s just another “bout of fighting”, just another election campaign, just “until there’s a Palestinian partner”, and besides, the signing of a final status agreement is just around the corner.

But Israel’s governments have never considered the occupation temporary. For years and years, Israel has been acting as though the land – without the Palestinians living there – is ours forever, and is there for us to use as we please.

Perhaps it’s because the occupation doesn’t really affect us in our day-to-day lives as Israeli citizens: we created a law enforcement system that ensures that none of those responsible for the continued occupation or its attendant human rights violations will be held accountable.

We’ve also managed to amend the law so that we almost never have to pay out damages to any Palestinian harmed by our actions. Then, so that we can also feel that we’re completely in the right, we get a legal stamp of approval, mostly from the Supreme Court, greenlighting everything that happens under occupation: the land grab, roadblocks, home demolitions, a ten-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, to name but a few.

Or perhaps it’s because none of this stands in the way of continued widespread international support for Israel. This international context also plays a role in us not having to bear any costs for the occupation: the fact that there is no price to pay is the basis underlying the past fifty years.

B’Tselem was established in February 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members.

Its mission statement describes the work of B’Tselem this way: “It endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.”

“The phenomenon of denial” applies as well, to Israel’s enablers in the U.S. This onerous occupation now enters its 51st year. Political leaders like the governor of New York deny the suffering of an imprisoned people. Instead, they laud the occupiers for their efficient, profitable, policing.

The picture at top of a manned-watch tower, and a Palestinian man and boy is from the Occupied Territories. It is by Oren Ziv from Activestills.org. The picture of Governor Cuomo is by Kathy Willens, for the Associated Press.

 

Posted in Human Rights, Israel, Palestinians | 6 Comments

Hillary is Back

By James M. Wall

Hillary is back; the Hillary who ought to be in the White House instead of the man our archaic electoral system gave us November 8, 2016.

The Hillary Clinton who is back, relaxed and at ease, was interviewed for more than an hour on a California stage Wednesday, telling the world in clear understandable language, what she perceives to have happened in her 2016 election loss.

I report on this interview because I want citizens like my grand daughters and my great grand daughters, to look with justified pride at this woman who broke the glass ceiling as the first female nominee for president from a major political party, and who won the popular election by almost 2.9 million votes. 

She is back after taking a few months to reflect on the national train wreck which put Donald Trump in the White House.

The outcome of that train wreck, and the players who toyed with the mechanism of our constitutionally-mandated electoral system, will soon be examined through the courts and in the congress.

This process will hit max speed when former FBI Director James Comey is expected to testify June 8, before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Over the weeks and months ahead, we will discover how Russian operatives recruited and manipulated American accomplices in a nefarious scheme to betray their country.

“In the best of all possible worlds”, the election would be nullified. The nation would start over.

But as the elder George Bush might say, “not gonna happen”. There is nothing currently available in our system to make it happen, certainly not with this current Republican crowd in control of all three branches of the government.

What should result next is that Russia’s American accomplices will be exposed for what they did. And Hillary, whom I have known since we first met in the living room of the Arkansas governor’s mansion decades ago, has explained just how she believes the dastardly deed was done.

Listen up, Pilgrims, to the story as she lived it.

Hillary Clinton was a special guest this week at Code 2017, an event sponsored by Recode at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, May 30-June 1.

Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, co-founders of Recode, host an annual invitation-only Code Conference “to bring together a global community of the biggest names in the business, executive leaders and startups with bright futures for networking and in-depth conversations about the current and future impact of digital technology”.

After some opening banter that began a one hour-17 minute interview, with the former candidate, former Secretary of State, former Senator, and former First Lady, Clinton signaled it was time to get down to business.

Clinton utilized her decades of high-level political experience to speak the  language of her audience.

She began by describing the findings in a declassified report by seventeen agencies of the U.S. Intelligence community that was made public in early January.

They concluded with high confidence that the Russians ran an extensive information war campaign against my campaign, to influence voters in the election.

How did they conduct this “information war campaign”? Her response:

They did it through paid advertising we think, they did it through false news sites, they did it through these thousand agents, they did it through machine learning, which you know, kept spewing out this stuff over and over again. The algorithms that they developed. So that was the conclusion. . . .I think it’s fair to ask, how did that actually influence the campaign? And how did they know what messages to deliver?

Who told them? Who were they coordinating with, or colluding with?

Because the Russians historically in the last couple of decades and then increasingly, you know, are launching cyber attacks, and they are stealing vast amounts of information, and a lot of the information they’ve stolen they’ve used for internal purposes, to affect markets, to affect the intelligence services, etc.

So this is different because they went public, and they were conveying this weaponized information and the content of it. .  .  

The Russians — in my opinion and based on the intel and the counterintel people I’ve talked to — could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided. . . . by Americans and guided by people who had polling and data information.

Clinton offered an example of how coordination between the Russians and their American accomplices, worked. She pointed to the leak of the Hollywood Access tapes, which in earlier presidential elections. would have immediately ended the Trump campaign.

Within one hour of the tapes being leaked, the Russians — let’s say WikiLeaks, something — dumped the John Podesta emails. Now, if you’ve ever read the John Podesta emails, they are anodyne to boredom [laughter].”

John Podesta was campaign chair of the Hillary Clinton campaign. He is a long-term associate and close friend of the Clintons and was President Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff from 1998 until 2001.

Clinton describe the Podesta emails as “run-of-the-mill emails, especially run of the mill for a campaign”.

They were personal emails, which made them attractive to the media. Clinton speculates that the Podesta emails had been hacked and were being held for a propitious moment to release.

Since the Hollywood Access tapes, in which Trump bragged that he liked to “grab” female genitals (his word was harsher) as his form of greeting, had leaked, it was the right time for the Podesta tapes to surface.

Clinton explained how she saw what happened next:

Within one hour they dumped them, and then they began to weaponize them. And they began to have some of their allies within the internet world, like Infowars, take out pieces and begin to say the most outrageous, outlandish, absurd lies you could imagine.

Clinton described how an enemy could prepare for future developments: “They had to .  .  .  have a plan and they had to be given the go-ahead, saying, Okay, this could be the end of the Trump campaign, dump [the Podesta emails] now. And then let’s do everything we can to weaponize it.”

And we know it hurt us. Because as I explain in my book, you know, the Comey letter, which was, now we know, partly based on a false memo from the Russians. It was a classic piece of Russian disinformation, which Russians call kompromat [compromising material used to discredit rivals in politics or business], So, for whatever reason, and I speculate, but I can’t look inside the guy’s mind [Comey’s], you know, he dumps that on me on October 28th, and I immediately start falling.

But what was really interesting, since the mainstream media covered that, as I say like Pearl Harbor, front pages everywhere, huge type, etc. And all of the Trump people go around screaming, “Lock her up, lock her up,” and all of that.

At the same time, the biggest Google searches were not for Comey, because that information was just lying out there, it was for WikiLeaks. And so voters who are being targeted with all of this false information are genuinely trying to make up their minds.

The “lightly-edited” transcript of Clinton’s appearance at the Recode conference on May 31 is available here.

And there you have it, your homework to prepare for the summer-long–or longer–examination of how weaponized information in our digital age is targeted to gain media attention, create public distress, and above all, affect election results.

Posted in Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, US govermemt | 9 Comments