Netanyahu, Pissed at the Pope for Praying at the Apartheid Wall, Attempts to Humiliate Francis. Twice.

A pontiff who appears to be the most humble in generations might be hard, almost impossible to humiliate.  That didn’t keep the first foreign leader to star in political ads opposing a sitting American President’s re-election efforts from trying, though.

Sunday, Pope Francis made an unscripted stop at a section of the apartheid wall in the Bethlehem shtetl, upon which a message to the pope had been spray-painted.  He stopped his entourage, got out of the popemobile lite he was traveling in, went up to the wall, touched the graffiti.  Then he put his head against the sterile concrete barrier and prayed.

On Monday, in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu “demanded” the pontiff make a similar gesture at the Mt. Herzl National Cemetery:

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Ali Abunimah, The Battle for Justice in Palestine

Welcome Ali Abunimah (The Electronic Intifada) (Twitter) and Host Philip Munger “EdwardTeller” (Progressive Alaska) (Twitter)

The Battle for Justice in Palestine

The Battle for Justice in Palestine verges on being a scholarly work. The term “verges” here is not to diminish the book in any way. Few scholarly books aim to tell a story or create a narrative as this book does. The solid research in it is easy to detect throughout. There are 44 pages of end-notes and there is a 13-page index. Here is the author’s own description of the work, given on April 30th at the conclusion of a presentation at Vassar:

[In t]his book, I really wanted it to offer hope. Yes it offers analysis and some of it is hard and sobering analysis. But if we break out of the very narrow limits of what we’re allowed to think by the gatekeepers in the liberal thinktanks and elite media– I don’t include the rightwing thinktanks– there is scope for really exciting action.

In the context of Palestine, I talk in the book about the transformations that are taking place right now in South Africa and Northern Ireland. I don’t present them as utopian or trouble free or not problematic. I think we have to grapple with these things as they are.

But the notion that whites in South Africa or Protestants in Northern Ireland can agree to give up power even if they resisted every step of the way and still resist it, but that Israeli Jews are somehow incapable of coming to the same conclusions– that really strikes me as bigotry. What I argue in the book is that Israeli Jews as a settler colonial community are just like every other settler colonial community. When they understand the system is untenable, that the resistance can never be suppressed, that the outrage around the world is not just growing but being being mobilized into more and more effective forms of action, I believe they will come to the conclusion that they have to change course and embrace a future in which equality and restitution are the way forward.

And the importance of the boycott and divestment and sanctions movement [BDS] is that it hastens this day. Because nothing– nothing will prolong the suffering of Palestinians like inaction, like saying ‘let’s just have dialogue without action.’ [Applause.] ‘Let’s send John Kerry back for another round of negotiations.’ ‘Let’s support the peace process.’ These slogans should be buried. No matter where they come from. Whether it’s Martin Indyk, or Barack Obama, or anti-Palestinian organizations like AIPAC and J Street. [Applause]
Palestinians are calling for action. And it’s very logical, it’s very simple When someone feels unassailable, when their power is so great, they don’t have to listen to those who are demanding their rights. The principle of BDS is very simple, you put pressure on the strong, you exact a price for the status quo, and you do it ethically, and then you bring them to real negotiations. Thank you.

Ali Abunimah opens The Battle for Justice in Palestine with this statement: (more…)

Firedoglake Book Salon Preview: The Battle for Justice in Palestine by Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah
Please join us Sunday for Ali Abunimah’s The Battle for Justice in Palestine. I’ll be hosting. Of the FDL book salons on the subject of Palestine-Israel that I have hosted, I’m looking forward to this one the most. Ali has been in this battle for a long time. We will get to witness him explain the book’s bold opening sentence, “The Palestinians are winning.” And much more.

I.  2014 is a year seeing rapid changes in how the world views and reacts to relations between Israel and Israelis, and their co-inhabitants, in the so-called “Land Between the River and the Sea.” Terms used to describe Israeli policies and laws, words such as “racist” or “apartheid,” for instance, are quickly gaining more currency, more acceptance. Pushback against use of such terms by ardent Zionists seems to get less traction in the public at large by the day.

The main reason this is the case is simply grounded in abundant examples of racist and apartheid incidents, rules, policies and actions perpetrated daily in that land. The very recent assignment of blame on the breakdown of the Peace Process™ talks supervised by the U.S. State Department, between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Foreign Office on the Israelis, by Secretary of State John Kerry, lead negotiator Martin Indyk and others is unprecedented.

Every week more organizations become leery of dealing with Israel as if everything is normal there. Pension funds divest. Professional associations pass resolutions to cut ties with their Israeli counterparts. Churches pass resolutions of condemnation or divestment, even an unblushing published study guide labeling Zionism as “false theology.” College student government bodies debate the utility of the Global BDS Movement, and vote to participate in it – or not. The list of professional associations of college faculty boycotting Israeli institutions grows monthly. This trend will only accelerate, as Israel is plummeting over the edge, no longer able to hide the true nature of the country’s vision of Jewish supremacy at the expense of non-Jews. Just this Thursday, Israeli Economic Minister Naftali Bennett proposed, once again, to Prime Minister Netanyahu, to annex Area C, 74% of the West Bank:

Bennett has presented his plan in recent weeks to foreign diplomats stationed in the country. The proposal includes removing IDF roadblocks in the territory left under Palestinian control, Areas A and B, as well as investing in infrastructure there and pursuing massive economic development.

Annexing Area C, Bennett has said, will secure Israel’s vital interests by creating a buffer zone for Gush Dan and Jerusalem. It will also preserve Israel’s “vital” national heritage sites.

According to sources close to the Bayit Yehudi leader, he will push forward with the plan regardless of whether Hamas and Fatah implement their unity agreement, and regardless whether Israeli-Palestinian talks start anew. Bennett, according to sources close to him, believes those talks will ultimately fail.

Europe and the United Nations – which have indicated they view Area C as vital for the viability of a future Palestinian state – have in the last few years increasingly focused on shoring up Palestinian development there, including with financial assistance.

This annexation would result in the remainders of Palestine being something that looks like nothing in the world more than the former Bantustans of South Africa: (more…)

Max Blumenthal Shares Lessons From U Michigan Divestment Campaign

Author, journalist and videographer Max Blumenthal participated in the debate before the University of Michigan’s Central Government Council, on March 25th, regarding possible divestment from companies that profit from Israeli occupation of Palestine, and repression of Palestinian society. He was the leadoff presenter for Michigan Students Allied for Equality. Blumenthal spoke for just under thirty minutes. It is one of the most powerfully passionate speeches I’ve ever heard on Palestinian rights and what that should mean to colleges in the United States, whose investments are intertwined with elements of the illegal occupation by Israel of the West Bank, and with the draconian blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Here is Max Blumenthal’s March 25th presentation:

Today, Mondoweiss carried an essay by Blumenthal, titled “‘A Painful Price’: The escalating war on Palestine solidarity at U of Michigan and beyond.” In the article, he describes the intimidation tactics used against some of the student coordinators for Michigan Students Allied for Equality. His findings are somewhat disturbing. In the midst of accusations against a number of the student activists of intimidation, the activists are themselves undergoing organized intimidation tactics:

During SAFE’s week-long sit-in, a close-knit group of pro-Israel students filed a series of incendiary accusations against SAFE members, accusing them in formal reports to university administrators of delivering anti-Semitic tirades laced with antiquated terms like ‘kike’ and ‘dirty Jew.’ At the same time, Facebook profiles belonging to SAFE members were invaded by a mysterious account named ‘ZPC Viper Matrix.‘ Personal information of SAFE members, their families, and Palestine rights supporters across the country including American Studies Association President-elect Lisa Duggan have appeared on the Viper Matrix Facebook page, often in distorted form alongside derogatory comments, prompting several students to cancel their accounts.

Among those who told me their profile photos and personal information were uploaded at the Viper Matrix page was Sharifah Abdallah, a Palestinian member of Loyola University’s Student Government Association who has actively supported Loyola SJP’s divestment campaign. ‘People are scared in my community,’ Abdallah remarked to me. ‘Unlike other Palestinians from the diaspora, we return frequently to our land. So these tactics are designed to silence us by making us afraid that we won’t be allowed back in to Palestine.’

Blumenthal, in his Mondoweiss article, recounts many other intimidation episodes. Please read it. Especially chilling are Blumenthal’s concluding paragraphs:

As divestment resolutions are introduced at new campuses each month, pro-Israel partisans appear determined to introduce more counter-measures. In a recent editorial for the Jerusalem Post, former advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Caroline Glick demanded that universities that allow Palestine solidarity activism on campus ‘pay a painful price.’

‘Only the threat of civil lawsuits, federal investigations of civil rights violations, and alumni threats to withhold gifts will force university administrations to take action against the anti-Semitic thugs that are instituting a reign of terror at university after university,’ Glick wrote.

Declaring Northeastern’s suspension of its SJP chapter to be ‘minimal,’ she called for the mass firing of campus police officers who enforce university rules around Palestine-related events. Finally, Glick demanded that Students for Justice in Palestine be ‘permanently barred from operating on campus.’

Though they are far from realizing their draconian goals, Glick and her allies are setting a clear precedent at Northeastern, Michigan, and beyond.

Wednesday, writer and recent University of California Santa Cruz graduate, Rebecca Pierce, wrote, also at Mondoweiss, about current tactics being deployed by militant expansionist, exceptionalist Zionists, against Middle East Studies programs at American Universities:

Remembering Rachel Corrie on the 11th Anniversary of Her Murder

Rachel Corrie - February 2003

I have posted my cantata, The Skies Are Weeping, here before.  It is my 2003-2004 tribute to the memory of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, killed by Israeli thugs in Gaza, during the run-up to the opening of the Iraq invasion, when the world was distracted elsewhere, and Brits and Americans could be murdered callously and with impunity.

Rachel was murdered 11 years ago Sunday.  Remember her.

More information on The Skies Are Weeping.

My denunciation before a joint session of the Alaska Legislature for having written the cantata. (more…)

Author Joe McGinniss Passes

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From the Washington Post:

NEW YORK — Joe McGinniss, the adventurous and news-making author and reporter who skewered the marketing of Richard Nixon in “The Selling of the President 1968” and tracked his personal journey from sympathizer to scourge of convicted killer Jeffrey MacDonald in the blockbuster “Fatal Vision,” died Monday at age 71.

McGinniss, who announced last year that he had been diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer, died from complications related to his disease. His attorney and longtime friend Dennis Holahan said he died at a hospital in Worcester, Mass.

I got to first meet Joe in the fall of 2008 (at the time of the above image, taken by my wife, Judy Youngquist), when he came to Alaska right after the presidential election campaign. He was contemplating writing a book about Sarah Palin, and hung out a lot with the Alaska progressive bloggers, who were at that time a close team of colleagues. I had read The Selling of the President, Going to ExtremesFatal Vision, and Blind Faith, and had followed the controversies surrounding the latter books over the years.

We started writing back and forth occasionally, through email.  He often wrote to me after I had posted another installment in my long-running Saradise Lost series of articles.

In the spring of 2010, he came to Wasilla, Alaska, where he moved into a small lakeside house directly adjacent to the Palins’ cult compound. I helped him set up his own security perimeter, with signs, chains, padlocks and other stuff. My dog went over and pissed, possibly pooped on the Palins’ lawn. Joe was disturbed. I wrote about it, and Joe got more disturbed. We ended contact abruptly. The rest of the time he was in Alaska.

He could be prickly. So can I.

By the time he finished his book on Palin, we were back into regular correspondence. He named me or quoted me fairly extensively in The Rogue. Just before publication, McGinniss asked me to promote the book here at Firedoglake‘s book salon. We did that session on September 25, 2011.

Joe told me he was ill fairly early on. He stopped writing back to me sometime last fall. Just last week, I wondered aloud to my wife how he might be doing. And Sunday evening, watching Sarah Palin’s bizarre CPAC rant, I hoped he was enjoying it. It was Palin’s very best truly awful speech yet.

Before The Rogue‘s publication, Palin had already self-destructed after the Tucson massacre of  early January, 2011, when she blathered about critics of her target meme aimed at severely injured U.S. Rep. Gabielle Giffords’ 2012 campaign, as committing “blood libel” against Palin:

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Jon Walker, After Legalization: Understanding The Future Of Marijuana Policy

Welcome Jon Walker (Just Say Now) (FDL/Action) (Twitter), and Host Philip Munger “EdwardTeller” (ProgressiveAlaska) (Twitter)

After Legalization: Understanding The Future Of Marijuana Policy

What will you be doing in 2030?

If I survive that long, I’ll be 84 years old. My dad lived to be 87, my mom to 94, so there’s a chance I’ll be around. Will I be using cannabis then, if I’m still around? If so, it will be in a vastly different legal and social framework than what exists now.

Firedoglake‘s Just Say Now Senior Editor and valuable contributor, Jon Walker, has just published what appears to be the first comprehensive look at a future in which some modicum of sanity prevails in the ways our society deals with cannabis as a social, recreational and medicinal product. Walker projects us into 2030. He begins his introduction with this:

There’s no longer a question of whether marijuana will be legalized in the United States, only a question of when and how. The historic 2012 passage of marijuana legalization ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington State made that clear.

Walker looks at how markedly demographics have driven the ongoing shift from a majority of Americans opposed to cannabis legalization, to one where a rapidly growing majority of Americans favor such a change:

Public opinion isn’t just shifting, but shifting exponentially. In the ten years between 1995 and 2005, support for legalization grew by 11 points nationwide, from 25 to 36 percent. It grew by another 10 points in the five years between 2005 and 2010. And after the historic victories in Colorado and Washington, support jumped to 58 percent. When the issue of marijuana legalization first appeared on the ballot in Colorado in 2006, it was roundly rejected with 41 percent voting in favor and 59 percent against it. Just six years later, public opinion had completely flipped. In 2012, Colorado became the first state to legalize marijuana when 55 percent of voters supported Amendment 64.

To understand why this trend is destined to continue, one should start by looking at the demographics. Opinions about marijuana heavily break down by age. In 2011, 62 percent of adults under 30 thought marijuana should be legal, while only 31 percent of senior citizens felt the same way. A new generation in support of reform is taking over. Every year, young pro-marijuana adults are reaching voting age, while older opponents of reform are, to put it bluntly, dying out. [emphasis added]

Each of Walker’s chapters is richly detailed:

Firedoglake Book Salon Preview: After Legalization: Understanding The Future Of Marijuana Policy, by Jon Walker

On Sunday, I will host Jon Walker, author of the first book to look a decade and a half into a future where cannabis use will be governed by sets of local, state and national regimes that will be quite different from what we now experience or observe. It will be the second time I’ve been able to host discussion here about how government agencies deal with the most irrational element of the generations-old “war on drugs.” Back in December, I hosted author Doug Fine, whose book Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution had just come out in paperback. Fine spent an entire growing season following a single plant from clone to use by a medical marijuana patient. His observations about how one major local polity – California’s Mendocino County – was then (2011) dealing with that county’s most important agricultural product in the face of its legality in the state, but severe illegality in the eyes of the Federal government are fascinating.

Jon Walker’s After Legalization: Understanding The Future Of Marijuana Policy combines detailed knowledge of the past and present stories and issues surrounding cannabis in the United States with a solidly based set of predictions about what the stories and issues will be like in 2030. In the introduction, Walker writes:

This book is written from the perspective of someone in the year 2030 describing what America looks like after federal marijuana legalization has been in place for a few years. It is intended to answer the two big “how” questions: how marijuana will be treated as a legal product, and how this change will come about. I will show in a very tangible way what legalization will mean for regular people and give a detailed explanation for why things may turn out that way.

Later, in his conclusions, Walker writes:

My goal was not just to list what the regulatory issues will be, but also to indicate what political and economic forces are most likely to shape them. I want people to understand who the relevant players will likely be, where the minor legal fights should take place, and what political dynamics will drive the debate. In this way, one can anticipate which leverage points will shape the future.

The author goes about this in a set of chapters titled:

New Presbyterian Study Guide: Zionism Is a “false theology”

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Palestine

In mid-January, the Presbyterian Church (USA) announced publication and distribution of a new package titled Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide.  The 74-page booklet with accompanying CD-ROM is intended to be a “how-to guide for class leaders and focused discussion prompts make it an ideal resource for multi-week exploratory education programs in churches, mosques, synagogues, and all classroom settings.”

I first read about the booklet and some of its endorsements back on January 15th, in a post at Mondoweiss by Annie Robbins.  Surprisingly, in the two-plus weeks since the announcement, the tract has apparently not been denounced as anti-Semitic by any leading Zionist organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, for instance, which has vehemently attacked the church’s leadership in the past.

I haven’t ordered the booklet yet.  At the church’s mission network web page, the manual appears to be very well done – scroll down.

So I’ve been waiting for reviews of the material to show up.  On January 31st, Joe Catron published a sort of review for Electronic Intifada.  Catron has read the booklet and taken notes as he viewed the material on the CD.  He notes that the main issue the Presbyterian Church (USA) takes with what Zionism means is its mixing of selected religious beliefs, dogmas, passages and so on, with politics.  Catron quotes from the CD:

“With Zionism Unsettled, we are hoping to shine a light on the effects of Zionism as a political ideology that is justified by appeal to selective biblical texts,” Walt Davis, co-chairperson of the IPMN’s education committee and Zionism Unsettled project coordinator, told The Electronic Intifada.

“There’s a good deal of examination of various theologies in Zionism Unsettled, but through the lens of how they have been affected by a nationalist ideology,” Davis added.

“The problem now is that the issue is no longer just a secular political ideology; it has become an ideology infused with biblical and theological justifications. Therefore it now needs to be examined through a theological lens too.”

Apparently, the guide approaches Zionism as a sort of myth, similar to what led many Southern U.S. Christian churches to justify slavery before the Civil War, and led Afrikaaner Calvinists to embrace political apartheid as being warranted or even mandated by biblical teachings.  Catron quotes on myths:

Scarlett Johansson Breaks Up With Oxfam, Leaves Note on Pillow

Wednesday evening, actress Scarlett Johansson brought the nine-day dilemma over the conflict between her seven-year relationship with the global relief organization, Oxfam, and her new commercial relationship with the Israeli company, SodaStream, to a conclusion with this announcement:

A statement released by Johansson’s spokesman Wednesday said the 29-year-old actress has “a fundamental difference of opinion” with Oxfam International because the humanitarian group opposes all trade from Israeli settlements, saying they are illegal and deny Palestinian rights.

“Scarlett Johansson has respectfully decided to end her ambassador role with Oxfam after eight years,” the statement said. “She and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. She is very proud of her accomplishments and fundraising efforts during her tenure with Oxfam.”

Earlier this month, “The Avengers” and “Her” actress signed on as the first global brand ambassador of SodaStream International Ltd., and she’s set to appear in an ad for the at-home soda maker during the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

Oxfam announced late last week that it was in discussion with Johansson: