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

Did Ivanka Trump flunk world religion or is she asking a deeper question?

While discussing the father’s recent trip abroad, which she accompanied him on, Ivanka said, “To have covered the three largest world religions over the course of four days, it was deeply meaningful.” While referring to her meetings with religious leaders of Islam, Judaism and Christianity in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican last month, Ivanka incorrectly labeled Judaism as one of the world’s three largest religions. In fact, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism all have more believers than Judaism.

The show’s hosts did not comment on her gaffe. — Haaretz

Now, I want to be fair to Ivanka and the good folk at Fox and Friends. There are two rather messy questions that need to be answered before we can say what the “three largest world religions” are.

  1. What constitutes a religion?
  2. Who can be counted as a believer?

These sound like simple questions, but there are several complications. Most faith traditions have several schisms. Is mainline Catholicism the same religion as Unitarianism? What about the Eastern orthodox church, or its several variations (Russian, Greek, Syrian, Albanian, etc. etc.).  Did Jesus intend to found a new religion, or was it Paul’s idea? Is Shi’a Islam the same as Sunni Islam, or was there an irrevocable rift at the Battle of Karbala? A handful of extremly hard-line Sunnis would tell you Sh’ia are not Muslim. What about Sufis, or Isma’ilis, or Yazidis? What constitutes mainline Hinduism? What level of adherence to Vedic texts is required, what about the Puranas? Is Shaivism a sect or a different religion? If you accept an agnostic reading of the Nasadiya Suktam, are you still a Hindu? Are Buddhism and Hinduism two separate faiths or are they part of one tradition? What about Jainism? For that matter, are the three major Abrahamic traditions truly distinct? What distinguishes Halakhic (Jewish) law from Sharia (Islamic) law? When thinking of that question and its implications, this twitter thread is excellent:

How do we treat traditions that are syncretic to varying degrees? When considering the blended/syncretic faiths practiced by many indigenous peoples in IndiaAfrica, the Americas and elsewhere, do we count them as Hindu, Christian or Muslim? Or do we give equal weight to their ancient faith traditions? Several traditional faiths have adherents that number in the tens of millions. Traditional Bantu religions might make it into the top five if we counted them as such.

Why do we start with an Abrahamic mindset along with some allowances for large Asian faiths such as Hinduism and Buddhism? Is that a Euro-centric view of faith/religion? What would a non-Euro-centric view look like? How do we treat the fact that the spread of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism was, in many cases, associated with colonization, enslavement and conquest? If a person adopts a religion because they are compelled to out of need or pressure, do we count them as a believer/adherent? When we describe a conflict in religious terms (Sunni/Shia, Protestant/Catholic, Hindu/Muslim), is it truly a religious conflict, or is that a convenient way to avoid asking other questions about how political actors rally troops/support by using religion?

These are all really interesting and important questions. But I don’t believe Ivanka was really thinking about them. I think her narrow parochialism led the senior advisor to the president to assume the “three largest world religions” started in the Middle East.

Lastly, as an agnostic, I want to give a shout-out to this NY Times article: Religious Liberals Sat Out of Politics for 40 Years. Now They Want in the Game. I may not believe, but I recognize that when it comes to politics, I am on the same side as many who do, and I am glad to be in their company.

Israel’s occupation has lasted 50 years, it’s on track to run for 50 more.

As the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza approaches, there will be several lengthy retrospectives. One of the better ones was, surprisingly, published by the NY Times today.

Nathan Thrall is a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group. He’s also the author of “The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine.” he makes a persuasive case that the Israeli occupation is on track to run another 50 years, aided and abetted by the US. The widely held misconception that the occupation is unsustainable and prone to collapse any minute now, under the weight of its own inequity and oppression is part of what keeps it going.

Israel, with the strongest army in the region, has repeatedly demonstrated that it can endure and outlast whatever bursts of resistance the divided and exhausted Palestinians can muster.

The next threats, too, came up empty. The rise of nominally pro-Palestinian powers like India and China has, to date, had no negative effect on Israel, which has strengthened ties with both countries. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, though noisy on some American campuses, has yet to make a dent in Israel’s economy or its citizens’ self-reported level of life satisfaction, among the highest in the world. — NY Times

The article is well worth your time. It doesn’t, however, directly contend with the NY Times and western media’s role in perpetuating the occupation. That is probably best captured by Malcolm X:

The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make the criminal look like he’s a the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. This is the press, an irresponsible press. It will make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing. — Speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem (13 December 1964)