An eye for an eyelash: Sec. Pompeo visits Israel, supports snipers shooting 14 year olds.

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking in Jordan at the end of a four-day, four-nation tour through the Middle East, expressed support on Monday for Israel and its response to weekly protests in Gaza that have left dozens of people dead.

“We do believe the Israelis have the right to defend themselves, and we’re fully supportive of that,” he said at a news conference with Ayman Safadi, the Jordanian foreign minister, when asked about the protests. — www.nytimes.com/…

Let us be clear, what Pompeo called “defense” was a nuclear-armed state sending young men and women to shoot at protesters in Gaza, most of whom have been trapped within the 140 square mile territory their entire lives. Israeli snipers have taken up positions along a fence constructed by Israel within Gaza, and are shooting at protesters.  This is not the only place where Israeli authorities have taken over Palestinian lands for “security purposes”. The same is true in the Jordan Valley, the Golan Heights, dozens of places in the West Bank and along the northern border. It is a strange point of view that characterizes Israeli soldiers shooting or bombing people on the other side of a purported border as “defense”.

The same madness that drives our media to use terms like “officer involved shooting” for the killing of unarmed people by police, also drives reporting of Israel’s military.

And who did Pompeo think the nuclear-armed IDF was defending itself from? Palestinians have neither an army, nor a navy, nor an air-force, and have never had one. But we do know where this rhetoric of “defense” comes from. Pompeo shares Trump’s view of brown and black people in the US as a threat to white supremacy. So just as 14 year olds like Trayvon Martin are murdered by vigilantes with impunity in the US, 14 year olds like Mohammad Ayoub are murdered with impunity by Israeli soldiers.

Fourteen-year-old Mohammad Ayoub ignored his mother’s objection and slipped away to join this week’s protest along the Gaza-Israel border, just hours after Israel’s military dropped leaflets in his Gaza village warning residents to stay away.

A few hours later, the teenager was killed by an Israeli bullet to the head, Palestinian health officials said. “He asked his aunt to tell me he would be back in an hour,” said his mother, Raeda, who instead buried her son late on Friday.

— www.reuters.com/…

Or 15 year olds like Azzam Awaidah.

DCI-Palestine is reporting that Israeli authorities are holding 26 children in solitary confinement and have a total of 310 in prison. These are children are essentially political prisoners.

Defense for Children International – Palestine has confirmed that three children, Hussein Mohammad Adnan Madi, 13, Aladdin Yahia Ismail Zamili, 15, and Ibrahim Abu Sha’er, 17, all died after Israeli forces shot them during two weeks of Friday “March of Return” protests that took place on the Gaza side of the border. DCIP also documented three serious injuries to children in Gaza on March 30, both by live ammunition. Under international law, all individuals below the age of 18 are children. — www.dci-palestine.org/…

Pompeo was confirmed 57-42, with six Democratic senators (plus Angus King, who is an independent) voting to confirm Mike Pompeo. They were: Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin III (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Bill Nelson (FL), Angust King (ME) and Doug Jones (AL). All except Jones are up for election in 2018, Jones will be on the ballot in 2020.

It is noteworthy that Jon Tester (MT) did not vote for Pompeo, though he faces a tough re-election battle. He is on the ballot this year, in a state Trump won by 20 points. For those who have long supported Jon Tester, this was welcome news.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came to Israel Sunday in the midst of the worst crisis in relations between Israelis and Palestinians in years, but he did not meet a single Palestinian representative and mentioned them publicly once. […]

“No meeting in Ramallah on his first visit sets an ominous tone about prospects for any progress, or even dialogue, with the Palestinians,” said Daniel B. Shapiro, an American ambassador to Israel during the Obama administration. — www.nytimes.com/…

For anyone who’s watched Pompeo’s career, this is not a surprise. He’s among the group of American politicians whose foreign policy is guided by his belief in the “rapture”.

For Pompeo, American patriotism and a narrowly defined brand of Christian pugilism are inextricable from one another. He’s not subtle about it, either. “To worship our Lord and celebrate our nation at the same place is not only our right,” he told attendees at a Kansas rally in 2015, “it is our duty.” He added that politics is “a never-ending struggle … until the rapture.”

Pompeo’s reference to the rapture here is particularly noteworthy. The rapture is a distinctively American fringe theology that says Christians will be taken up, or “raptured,” into heaven at the onset of the end times.

[…] For many evangelicals, apocalyptic “good versus evil” battles, particularly centered over the “Holy Land” of the Middle East, are signs that the longed-for end may be at hand. — www.vox.com/…

Earlier this month, TYT reported that Mike Pompeo had been discussing the rapture with CIA staff and demonstrated an intolerance towards anyone who wasn’t a fundamentalist Christian.

Pompeo’s deep biases, bigotry, war-mongering and advocacy of torture are well understood from his time in the House, and numerous public statements. Inevitably, some of the Democrats who voted for either Pompeo confirmation, will disavow one of his actions. At the time, they should be asked why they voted for him knowing who he was.

The “defense” Pompeo refers to has resulted in dozens of protesters killed, and thousands more maimed and injured in the past four weeks alone.

The Washington Post has a story about the thousands of devastating injuries inflicted by Israeli snipers firing on protesters in Gaza. The snipers are on the other side of an electrified fence built entirely within Gaza by Israeli authorities on Palestinian farmer’s property. This is similar to the “West Bank barrier”, which is also built within the West Bank, on land owned by Palestinians.

In 2009, during another Israeli bombing of Gaza, Avi Shlaim wrote:

The Biblical injunction of an eye for an eye is savage enough. But Israel’s insane offensive against Gaza seems to follow the logic of an eye for an eyelash. After eight days of bombing, with a death toll of more than 400 Palestinians and four Israelis, the gung-ho cabinet ordered a land invasion of Gaza the consequences of which are incalculable. — www.theguardian.com/…

Politicians who support and defend Israeli violence against Palestinians should expect to see grass-roots protests against their positions.

— @subirgrewal

Congress largely silent as close ally shoots 750 protesters, kills 17 to stifle demonstration.

Tens of thousands of Gazans walked toward the border facing a heavily armed Israeli line. They walked toward rifles and drones. Israel had announced its deployment of a hundred snipers authorized to use live ammunition. And fire they did; the United Nations reports 15 dead and 1,416 wounded, including 750 hit by live ammunition, of whom 20 are in critical condition. […]

The Israeli army additionally militarizes a belt of Gaza’s agricultural land, intruding a further 300 to 500 meters into Gaza. That is the zone in which live fire is being used. Gazans are walking and being killed, on their own land. Walking in protest is not a capital crime in other places, and human rights group B’Tselem calls Israel’s attempt to control the Gaza protest with live fire “absurd.” — www.haaretz.com/…

As if penning almost 2 million people within 140 sq miles for decades wasn’t enough, Israeli authorities have carved a half kilometer strip inside Gaza as a free-fire zone for snipers and drones.

Shai Eluk served as a medic among IDF snipers six years ago. Writing in +972mag, he talks about what he felt when his friends were ordered to fire at protesters in 2012:

This order, which never explained exactly how a soldier is meant to identify, isolate, and shoot a “main inciter” out of tens of thousands of demonstrators disturbed me then. It continued to disturb me this past weekend, after IDF snipers opened fire on Palestinian marchers at the Gaza border. “How can opening fire at a crowd of people be a legal order?” I asked my deputy company commander six years ago. I have yet to receive an answer.

One of my friends killed a demonstrator on the border with Gaza. I am part of a group that carries this death on its shoulders. The only difference between myself and my friend is chance. Had I been sent to the sniper course rather than the medics course, I would have been that shooter. — mag.com/…

Where indeed, are all those voices who advocate military interventions? Why are they silent when Bahrain or Saudi Arabia suppress demonstrations? Why are they silent when Israeli soldiers fire on Palestinian demonstrators? Why aren’t they advocating sanctions under the Leahy amendments directed at Israeli army units that willfully violate Palestinian’s human rights?

Hasan ended up writing an article exploring the thought behind his tweet and Amira Haas has an article in Haaretz discussing the long history of the IDF’s killing of Gazan civilians.

As a close ally that receives billions in military support each year violently suppressed a protest, most American politicians remained silent. With a few exceptions:

Human Rights Watch issued a report on the violent suppression of the protest:

Senior Israeli officials who unlawfully called for use of live ammunition against Palestinian demonstrations who posed no imminent threat to life bear responsibility for the killings of 14 demonstrators in Gaza and the injuring of hundreds on March 30, 2018, Human Rights Watch said today. […] The high number of deaths and injuries was the foreseeable consequence of granting soldiers leeway to use lethal force outside of life-threatening situations in violation of international norms, coupled with the longstanding culture of impunity within the Israeli army for serious abuses. — www.hrw.org/…

The Israeli Defense ministry said there would be no investigation of the firing on demonstrators, and that Israel would not co-operate with any international investigation. Israeli forces have a history of using force against Palestinian protesters who pose no threat. In December, an Israeli soldier shot Abu Thuraya in the head at a protest in Gaza, killing him. Thuraya lost both his legs in an Israeli missile strike and was in his wheelchair.

Khadrah Zaqout, 76, was busy baking a fresh, homemade loaf of bread in a mud oven that provides for her family of nine. She said she intends to remain all day in the tent to demand her right to return to her home city, which was abandoned in 1948 when the state of Israel was established.

“I am from the city of Majdal [Ashkelon], where I was born and lived the most beautiful days of my life,” she said. “I still remember our beautiful house, the olive tree and the chicken coop.”

“I brought my grandsons with me to the protest to show them the way to their historical homeland, the land of Palestine,” she said. — www.latimes.com/…

DSA votes for BDS. NYT’s Jerusalem bureau chief says they self-censor and Israel practices apartheid.

90% of the delegates to the Democratic Socialists of America 2017 convention voted to adopt Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). The text of the resolution read:

1. Democratic Socialists of America declares itself in solidarity with Palestinian civil society’s nonviolent struggle against apartheid, colonialism, military occupation and for equality, human rights, and self-determination.

2. Democratic Socialists of America responds to Palestinian Civil Society’s call by fully supporting BDS.

3. Democratic Socialists of America affirms that any political solution to the ongoing crisis must be premised on the realization of basic human rights, including all rights outlined in the BDS call.

4. Democratic Socialists of America condemns all efforts to deny the right of Palestinian in the United States and their allies to free speech, assembly and academic freedom.

— Twitter

Following the vote, DSA has come in for criticism from various angles. The Jerusalem Post criticized DSA for holding the vote on Saturday. The pro-Likud ‘zine Tablet said the DSA was a “disgrace” that had “descended into anti-Zionism”. The JTA suggested the DSA were allied with the Palestinian-American activist (and co-organizer of the Women’s March) Linda Sarsour and this was a bad thing.

Yet, as this thread expertly demonstrates, much of the criticism of BDS is exactly what was leveled against proponents of boycotting South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Meanwhile, Jodi Rudoren, formerly the New York Time’s editor in Jerusalem admits they censor opinions and reporting due to attacks and pressure from pro-Israel organizations.

The former New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem Jodi ­Rudoren has admitted to “defensive writing” after several “Twitter campaigns” against her. Rudoren says this was “to protect ­myself and keep me focused on the essence of what I’m trying to do instead of these distractions but you could totally get out of hand with this”. She says there is not a healthy debate in the US about Israel because of the power of pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC.

The interviews are contained in Balcony Over Jerusalem, in which journalists tell how they come under attack from pro-Israel groups if they ­report what they see in Israel and the West Bank.

The New York Times’ Rudoren says that because the occupation of the Palestinians has gone on for so long — 50 years — it has started to look “a lot like apartheid”. While Rudoren was talking about the situation for Palestinians in the West Bank, she also addressed the plight of Palestinians in Israel — the so-called Arab Israelis. She says: “I actually think the issue of apartheid is more relevant to how Arab Israelis are treated within the framework of the country (Israel).” — www.theaustralian.com.au/…

Jonathan Cook writing in Alternet covers the relentless campaign to influence coverage of Israel by pressuring journalists, editors and publishers. His analysis is very thorough, discussing the ways in which individual journalists end up self-censoring, and how editors cave in by developing “guidelines” .  He also examines more subtle influences, for example the NYT’s tacit policy to only appoint Jewish reporters as heads of the Jerusalem division. Rudoren’s predecessor actually had children serving in the IDF. One of the most powerful testimonials is from Clyde Haberman, whose byline should be familiar to all:

Here is another veteran NYT correspondent, Clyde Haberman, telling Lyons that the lobby’s “non-stop assault” on the paper’s Jerusalem correspondents has made the posting a poisoned chalice. Few want it, says Haberman.

We’ve had decades of correspondents that, no matter how talented they are or how many Pulitzer Prizes they have to their name, always end up being accused of being either anti-Semites or self-hating Jews; at some point, this seeps into the DNA of the newspaper. This is what you can expect if you go there—to have your integrity hurled back in your face every single day,” he says.

Pause for a second. Unless I have wildly misunderstood the implication of “seeping into the newspaper’s DNA”, a leading journalist at the U.S. paper of record has just suggested that for decades its reporters and editors have toned down their coverage to avoid run-ins with the Israel lobby. As near as he dare, Haberman has conceded that you won’t learn the full truth about Israel and Palestine from the NYT. 

— www.alternet.org/…

Progressive Lion: John Conyers Jr. (MI-13)

John Conyers Jr. is Dean of the House of Representatives, he was first elected to Congress in 1965. He is currently in his 26th term, and is one of only seven people to have served over 50 years in Congress.

Conyers was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rosa Parks served on his staff for over twenty years and he visited Selma to meet with Freedom Riders multiple times in the 1960s. In many ways, his longevity makes him a living link to our past.

Four days after MLK was assassinated, Conyers introduced a bill in Congress to make his birthday a national holiday. It was finally signed into law 15 years later, in 1983. Conyers has been a indefatigable champion for many other progressive causes, chipping away for decades at resistance working to create a breakthrough.

His commitment is exemplified by his determined sponsorship of two bills:

  • H.R. 40 — Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.
  • H.R. 676 —  Medicare For All.

Conyers has re-introduced HR 40 in every Congress since 1989. In the current (115th) congress, it has 30 co-sponsors.Conyers has introduced HR 676 in every Congress since 2003. In the current Congress, it has 113 co-sponsors, the most support it has ever received.

Congressman John Conyers is on DKos and was posting intermittently till 2015. In a remarkable diary in 2008, he republished a 1974 article he’d written for the The Black Scholar. It made the case for Nixon’s impeachment. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Conyers had helped draft the articles of impeachment that were prepared but never voted on, since Nixon resigned. The article begins:

Richard Nixon, like the President before him, was in a real sense a casualty of the Vietnam War, a war which I am ashamed to say was never declared.

Weeks after the 2016 election, Conyers highlighted the dangerous concordances between Nixon and Trump. Rep. Conyers enjoys a close working relationship with the Democratic Socialists of America and has been one of the most reliable progressive votes in Congress. He is also a staunch champion of individual rights, often getting the highest rating from the ACLU. He gets a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign, indicating his steadfast support for LGBT rights.

Under his chairmanship, the House Judiciary committee issued contempt citations to John Bolton and Harriet Miers for failing to produce documents related to the firing of nine US district attorneys. Committee staff, under his leadership, issued a report on the Bush administration’s rush to war in Iraq, and the scandal surrounding the abuse of prisoners by US soldiers and contractors. It was titled: “The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution and Coverups in the Iraq War.” He has found opportunities to work across the aisle on certain issues, notably a bill to limit the Patriot Act. As chair of the House Judiciary committee, he argued against prosecuting Wikileaks for publishing documents leaked by Chelsea Manning. In supporting the right of the ordinary Americans to know how their government was using its vast surveillance powers, Conyers stood in opposition to senior Democrats and Republicans who wanted to prosecute.

After graduating from high school, Conyers became a member of the UAW (as his father was). He worked in the Lincoln Car Factory an on the staff at Local 900. Conyers served in Korea for a year and is skeptical of our military adventures. He favors dialog and diplomacy with North Korea (see the placard by the sofa):

Oh, and he’s pretty dapper.

Conyers remains committed to responsible defense, he’s sponsored an amendment to prevent the sale of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia as they’ve been used by the KSA against civilians in their war on Yemen.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. is a Progressive Lion.

Progressive Lion is an occasional series celebrating a politician or activist exemplifying progressive values. The goal is the recognize their achievements and lives. Our initial focus will be on those whose names do not come up frequently here. If you know aspects of their career or work that are not in the diary, please share them in comments.
@subirgrewal

Our bombs blew off this baby’s fingers. She is now learning to use the few she has left.

One year old Zuhoor, whose fingers were amputated after an airstrike in Yemen.

Our government sold the airplanes that dropped these bombs.

Our government refuels the planes on their sorties.

Our government makes and sells the bombs, including cluster bombs.

We share responsibility for these atrocities.

And please don’t believe any of the bullshit peddled to us about how our bombs bring “freedom” and “democracy”. The hands on the triggers are Saudi and we provide the political cover for the Saudis as they do this. The Saudi government is a brutal monarchy. They are about to behead 14 men for taking part in a pro-democracy rally. One of the men was under 18 and arrested on his way to attend college in Michigan. Another is a 23 year old man who is blind and deaf. They were tortured to obtain confessions, most have since recanted.

Meanwhile, in his visit to Saudi Arabia, President Trump did find the time to participate in an elaborate sword dance, but never brought up human rights violations.

US President Donald Trump joins dancers with swords at a welcome ceremony ahead of a banquet at the Murabba Palace in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The president who spends hours watching TV and tweeting can’t seem to comment on the fact that our close ally is planning to behead men and boys for the crime of attending a rally.

Mr Trump has not yet commented on the case of Mr al-Sweikat. In his speech to the Saudis in May, he said: “America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens.

“We are not here to lecture, we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.

“Instead, we are here to offer partnership, based on shared interests and values—to pursue a better future for us all.” — www.independent.co.uk/…

Perhaps torture and a penchant for bombing other countries the “values” we share with brutal monarchies?

— @subirgrewal

Yes, Neil Gorsuch is as terrible as you feared.

The Supreme Court announced today that they would hear Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project. This is the Muslim ban, Travel ban case.

In it’s decision to hear the case, the court also lifted the temporary injunctions granted by the circuit courts against Trump’s Muslim ban:

We grant the Government’s applications to stay the injunctions, to the extent the injunctions prevent enforcement of §2(c) with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.

This means students, employees, spouses, parents, children etc. returning to the US should not be affected by the ban. But, those who do not have such a pre-existing relationship, can now be summarily prevented from entering the US by Trump’s order.

In practice, this likely means first-time visa applicants from the six countries will be rejected right away, and first time visitors turned away at the border (even if they have valid visas).

Refugees will almost certainly be turned away, since most won’t have a pre-existing relationship that would exempt them from the ban.

Hold on though, there’s a dissent…

JUSTICE THOMAS, with whom JUSTICE ALITO and JUSTICE GORSUCH join, concurring in part and dissenting in part.

“I agree with the Court that the preliminary injunctions entered in these cases should be stayed, although I would stay them in full…”

These three justices want the Muslim/Travel ban to go into effect exactly as Trump wants.

So yeah, Gorsuch is on the Alito/Thomas team.

He’s as dreadful as we feared he would be.

ISIS has captured Tora-Bora as Trump ignores US commanders in Iraq/Afghanistan.

 

The beautiful and austere Safed Koh mountain range, which houses the mountain fortress called Tora Bora.

We have been at war in Afghanistan for almost 16 years now, and for much of that time, it’s been two steps forward and three steps back.

This week, we went three steps back as ISIS captured the mountain fortress of Tora Bora. The ISIS forces in Afghanistan include the remnants of Al-Qaeda. Tora Bora is where Bin-Laden went immediately after 9/11. It’s a large complex with miles of tunnels, roads and caves dug into granite mountains.

If you think this is only two steps back, recall that Tora Bora was originally built with funding from the CIA. The CIA helped build this fortress for the Mujahideen to support their war against the Soviets.

Important events are occurring on the battlefield, you would think our president, as commander in chief would want to be briefed closely on them.

In nearly five months in office, President Trump has yet to meet or speak with either his Iraq or Afghanistan commander, even as his administration weighs deeper and longer-term involvement in both conflicts and asks Congress for a vast increase in defense spending. — LA Times

This is in stark contrast to George W. Bush, who took his responsibility as commander in chief seriously and spoke weekly with his commanders in the region. Obama was also diligent about fulfilling his duties to the troops by maintaining close contact with his commanding generals.

So there is now, no ongoing, direct oversight of the US military operation in Afghanistan from the White House. At least not from the President. While the White House is talking about escalating the conflicts. Trump, who has been a bullshit artist all his life, is bullshitting his way through our biggest military engagement since Vietnam. Think I’m exaggerating?

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said this yesterday:

Yesterday afternoon, the President directed the Department of Defense to set troop levels in Afghanistan. This will enable our military to have greater agility to conduct operations, recognizing our military posture there is part of a broader regional context. — DoD statement

The President has passed the buck and handed to the War Department, the authority to send additional Americans into battle. Maybe if we brought back the draft, people would sit up and take notice. Or then again, maybe not, Trump and his chicken hawk friends will find a way to have their children diagnosed with bone spurs.

Perhaps we should be thankful Trump isn’t interested in Afghanistan or Iraq. In Syria, which Trump has talked about, coalition airstrikes have caused hundreds of civilian deaths in the past couple of months (ditto in Iraq). That includes 200 people sheltering in a school in Raqqa. The UN calls the loss of civilian life “staggering”. The administration’s response has been to increase secrecy, Trump’s administration is now refusing to confirm whether or not US forces were involved in airstrikes that killed civilians.

Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and think about what we’re doing here.

By most counts, we will spend Six Trillion Dollars on the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan when all is said and done. It’s difficult to understand a figure as large as $6,000,000,000,000. So I think of what else we could have done with that money.

6 Trillion would buy us one of these four nice things:

  1. 50 years of tuition-free public college plus 50 years of free universal pre-K.
  2. 7 years of free health-care for 100 million Americans.
  3. $20,000 as a gift to every man, woman and child in America.
  4. At a cost of $1 Trillion each, all this:
    1. Photovoltaic solar power plants to fuel 300 million homes
    2. Bullet trains connecting every major city
    3. 10 million homes for the homeless
    4. Long-term habitats in low-earth orbit, aka 10 Space Stations
    5. A real shot at colonizing another planet by sending 10 manned missions to Mars
    6. The Starship Enterprise

Instead, we are blowing up villages with fellow humans in them. We have very little to show for all the millions of tons of explosives we’ve dropped, and the rivers of blood we’ve spilled. Spreading death and destruction across much of the Middle-East such that the monetary cost of the wars pales in comparison.

Was Nero toying with his clubs while Rome burned?

We’ve demonstrated to the world that our president is diligent about getting in a round of golf every week. But he can’t be bothered to speak with the generals in charge of his campaigns, while we have tens of thousands of troops deployed on the front under his command.

What is the purpose of these wars?

Why do we think “regime change” led by us is the best alternative?

Why are we setting hundreds of billions of dollars on fire every year?

Why are we blowing up brown people in several countries?

What the fuck is the point?

— Cross-posted to NotMeUs.org  and TheProgressiveWing.com| @subirgrewal