“Some suburb of hell” — America’s new concentration camps

Children’s shoes and a cuddly toy left at the Tornillo Port of Entry after a protest by several US mayors against the Trump adminstration’s family separation policy, near El Paso, Texas, Jun 21, 2018. (photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images)
Every country thinks it can do detention better when it starts these projects. But no good way to conduct mass indefinite detention has yet been devised; the system always degrades.

By Andrew Pitzer | The New York Review of Books | Jun 21, 2019

Concentration camps . . . don’t typically result from the theft of land, as happened with Native Americans, or owning human beings in a system of forced labor, as in the slave trade. Exile, theft, and forced labor can come later, but in the beginning, detention itself is usually the point of concentration camps. By the end of the Nineteenth Century, the mass production of barbed wire and machines guns made this kind of detention possible and practical in ways it never had been before.

On Monday, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez referred to US border detention facilities as “concentration camps,” spurring a backlash in which critics accused her of demeaning the memory of those who died in the Holocaust. Debates raged over a label for what is happening along the southern border and grew louder as the week rolled on. But even this back-and-forth over naming the camps has been a recurrent feature in the mass detention of civilians ever since its inception, a history that long predates the Holocaust.

At the heart of such policy is a question: What does a country owe desperate people whom it does not consider to be its citizens? The twentieth century posed this question to the world just as the shadow of global conflict threatened for the second time in less than three decades. The dominant response was silence, and the doctrine of absolute national sovereignty meant that what a state did to people under its control, within its borders, was nobody else’s business. After the harrowing toll of the Holocaust with the murder of millions, the world revisited its answer, deciding that perhaps something was owed to those in mortal danger. From the Fourth Geneva Convention protecting civilians in 1949 to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the international community established humanitarian obligations toward the most vulnerable that apply, at least in theory, to all nations.

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In Bahrain, Gaza Is pitched as a “hot IPO” — Palestinians aren’t buying it

Bahrain News Agency, via Associated Press)
The economic plan itself was conspicuous in its omission of any mention of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

By David Halbfinger | The New York Times | Jun 26, 2019

The point is not talking about pie-in-the-sky projects. These projects, if you take the word ‘Palestinian’ out of them, any developing country can do well. Some of them have been talked about for 25 years now. Why haven’t they materialized? What’s stopping them? The Israeli military occupation. It’s the elephant they left out of the circus when they went to Bahrain.
— Palestinian-American business consultant Sam Bahour

Judged on its own terms, the White House-led conference on improving the lives of Palestinians, staged this week in Bahrain as the first step toward a long-promised American peace plan, was a smashing success.

It proved that the Israel-Palestinian conflict “actually is a solvable problem, economically,” Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, declared proudly — though that proposition was never actually in doubt.

It put the conflict back near the top of the international agenda, at least for a day and a half. And it may have also created a powerful new constituency for a resolution, by bringing together billionaire fund managers and the heads of banks and multinational corporations like AT&T, who seemed to be grappling with the subject for the first time.

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ACLU: Anti-BDS laws are discriminatory

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led, global movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. (photo: Gili Getz)
While businesses DO NOT have the right to refuse service to consumers because of who they are, consumers DO have a First Amendment right to withhold their patronage to express their political beliefs.

By Brian Hauss | If Americans Knew | Feb 24, 2019

To be clear: Anti-BDS laws are not designed to prevent discrimination. In fact, they’re designed to discriminate against disfavored political expression, which is why two federal courts and several prominent First Amendment scholars have agreed that these laws violate the First Amendment.

A number of states recently passed laws that require state contractors — including teachers, lawyers, newspapers and journalists, and even students who want to judge high school debate tournaments — to certify that they are not participating in politically motivated boycotts against Israel. Dozens of states have considered such “anti-BDS” laws, and a bipartisan group of 73 senators recently passed a bill — the Combating BDS Act — that would encourage states to adopt such laws.

The ACLU takes no position on boycotts of Israel or any foreign country, but we have long defended the right to boycott, which is protected under the First Amendment. That’s why we challenged anti-boycott laws in Kansas, Arizona, Arkansas, and Texas, and strongly opposed the Combating BDS Act in Congress.

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Selling Israel Biblically

Jerusalem, crosses visible in foreground and background. (photo: Pixabay)
Christian Zionism is moving an agenda forward, but there is a cost for those left behind.

By M. Reza Behnam | Tikkun Magazine | Jun 20, 2019

A series of events in the 1970’s brought Christian Zionism to the forefront of US mainstream politics, leading to the immense influence it wields in Washington today.

Geopolitical, economic, energy, and military determinants have shaped US Middle East policy since the Second World War. No less significant, however, is the powerful influence of Christian Zionism on the formation of America’s Israel-first policy. With over 40 million adherents, it has become a powerful force in shaping that policy, especially today.

Christian Zionism is the political outgrowth of dispensationalism — a movement that originated with 19th century Anglican priest, John Nelson Darby. Darby’s theology reached a vast American audience with the 1909 publication and widespread distribution of the Scofield Reference Bible. By the 1970’s, Christian Zionism had become synonymous with American evangelicalism.

Christian Zionists are committed to the preservation and expansion of the Jewish state of Israel based on the literal interpretation of biblical auguries. They have allied with the Israeli government and the US Zionist lobby to ensure Israel’s regional supremacy.

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Jared Kushner’s economic “peace” plan is an embarrassment

Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner speaks on stage as US ambassador to Israel David Friedman looks on during the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018 in Jerusalem. (photo: Lior Mizrahi / Getty Images)
The constituencies for peace do not currently exist and offering a mirage of $50 billion will not bridge the incredulity gap that has been created through decades of failure.

By Joel Braunold | Forward | Jun 24, 2019

Programs that were actually delivering economic wins for Israelis and Palestinians alike had not just been terminated, but their images were then used as a sales pitch for similar programs [in the Kushner plan] with higher price tags and no Palestinian buy-in.

In the fall of 2014, I sat around a table in the State Department with forty representatives of Israeli and Palestinian civil society and the peace team of then Secretary John Kerry. After failing to get his framework agreement released as the proximity talks between the parties had broken down, we were there to ask why there had been no focus on bottom up peace-building during the attempt.

The senior advisors told the room that there was no bandwidth or budget for a focus on civil society efforts, and the team had been laser focused on security arrangements and a $4 billion economic package.

I was thinking of that meeting this weekend when the White House released its economic pitch deck promising $50 billion investments as the economic aspect of the “ultimate deal.” Despite Jared Kushner and the whole team claiming they were rejecting failed frameworks, here was another massive-scale infrastructure push, only this time without any input from the Palestinian business community or governing authority.

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Palestinians want freedom, not Trump administration bribes

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington last week. (photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)
Instead of offering Palestinians permanent subjugation, the United States and the international community should pressure Israel to permit Palestinians their right to an independent sovereign state.

By Mohammad Shtayyeh | The Washington Post | Jun 24, 2019

Is it any wonder . . . that Palestinians are extremely skeptical of Kushner’s new economic plan? It is little more than a regurgitation of old ideas such as economic peace, advocated by the Israeli right, whereby Palestinians are expected to give up demands for freedom in exchange for investment and other economic inducements.

The Trump administration on Saturday unveiled the economic portion of its long-awaited diplomatic plan for Palestine and Israel. The release preceded a two-day “economic workshop” in Bahrain beginning Tuesday that is intended to drum up regional support for the proposal.

Unfortunately, what has been revealed confirms our belief at the Palestinian Authority that the plan, which is being drafted by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and other Trump administration officials, is simply a repackaging of a stale, discredited concept known as “economic peace” long advocated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime friend of the Kushner family.

While short on specifics and totally lacking a political component, the plan calls for a $50 billion investment fund for the Palestinian economy and that of neighboring Arab states, and a $5 billion transportation corridor between the occupied West Bank and Gaza. What Kushner and his colleagues don’t seem to realize is that Palestinians don’t need or want handouts. We need freedom and our rights and for Israel to end its domination over our lives and economy.

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Why Jordan’s identity can’t be bought

Protesters march with signs showing the Dome of the Rock and reading in Arabic, left to right, “Jerusalem is not for sale” and “Do not give up rights” in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Friday. (photo: Khalil Mazraawi / AFP / Getty Images)
The deal of the century promises billions of dollars — and a future of regional instability.

By Sean Yom and Katrina Sammour | The Washington Post | Jun 24, 2019

So long as the alternative homeland scenario [relocating Palestinians to Jordan] is a potential outcome of what happens Tuesday, the kingdom could face an existential crisis of national identity. Thus, the deal of the century may ultimately wreck two states — the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

Pressured by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration, Jordan is attending Tuesday’s U.S.-sponsored peace conference in Bahrain. It does so with gritted teeth, because this may herald an existential crisis that will upend its stability in the coming years. Despite neither Israel nor the Palestinians sending official delegations, the multilateral summit is the economic kickoff to the “deal of the century.” It will promise tens of billions of dollars to the Palestinian territories and Arab neighbors, including Jordan, as incentive to accept a plan that will foreclose Palestinian statehood. Suffering a financial tailspin, Jordan would normally jump for more foreign aid, with foreign debt almost matching all economic output, and unemployment at nearly 20 percent.

The problem, however, is one of national identity, or lack thereof — and more aid cannot buy Jordan one. Jordanians fear that the deal of the century means making their kingdom an “alternative homeland” for Palestinians, who will enter through mass resettlement or a confederation with whatever part of the West Bank that Israel does not want. This Jordan-is-Palestine proposal originated among the American and Israeli right wing in the 1980s with a simplistic logic: If Israel does not want the Palestinians, give them to Jordan. This is also the nightmare uniting Jordanians in collective resistance. The question of “who is Jordanian” has always been difficult to answer, given the kingdom’s short history, societal diversity and openness to refugees. But while Jordanians may not agree on what Jordan is, they know what it is not — Palestinian territories.

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“Orientalism” then and now

The Snake Charmer, Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1870.
Orientalism failed to identify with human experience. If the “global war on terror” has taught us anything, it is that the road to barbarism begins with this failure.

By Adam Shatz | The New York Review of Books | Jun 20, 2019

Orientalism is a foreign ambassador in an Arab city belittling popular concern about Palestine and depicting Arabs as a docile mass who only woke up in 2011, during the Arab revolts, and then reverted to being a disappointment to a benevolent West that merely seeks to be a good tutor. It is a Western ‘expert’ reducing Islamist terrorism in Europe to a psychology of ressentiment, without bothering to explain why European citizens of Muslim origin might feel alienated, then telling an Arab critic of the Westerner’s work that he is being emotional for objecting to a presentation purely based on scientific data, and finally flying into a rage at being misunderstood by this stubborn Oriental.

Edward Said’s Orientalism is one of the most influential works of intellectual history of the postwar era. It is also one of the most misunderstood. Perhaps the most common misunderstanding is that it is “about” the Middle East; on the contrary, it is a study of Western representations of the Arab-Islamic world — of what Said called “mind-forg’d manacles,” after William Blake. The book’s conservative critics misread it as a nativist denunciation of Western scholarship, ignoring its praise for Louis Massignon, Jacques Berque, and Clifford Geertz, while some Islamists praised the book on the basis of the same misunderstanding, overlooking Said’s commitment to secular politics.

Since the book’s first publication in 1978, “Orientalism” has become one of those words that shuts down conversation on liberal campuses, where no one wants to be accused of being “Orientalist” any more than they want to be called racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic. That “Orientalist” is now a commonly applied epithet is a tribute to the power of Said’s account, but also to its vulgarization. With Orientalism, Said wanted to open a discussion about the way the Arab-Islamic world had been imagined by the West — not to prevent a clear-eyed reckoning with the region’s problems, of which he was all too painfully aware.

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Film Screening: Make Hummus not Walls

Screen Shot 2019-06-21 at 11.44.13 AM

Please join our brothers and sisters from Blessed are the Peacemakers for a film screening:

Date: Saturday, July 6, 2019
Time: 7:30 – 9:30 pm
Location: The Summit
420 E Pike St, Seattle, WA
Information: Event information here →
Tickets: Free, RSVP recommended
Event Details

An emotional, but factually driven documentary of personal stories amid conflict, in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Witness rubber bullets, passion, angry protesters, but mostly courageous people longing for peace. Hear three women–a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim, speak of meeting their “other” in the craziest of times and finding their humanity in loving each other. This story will spark hope in the possibility of peace based on genuine friendships across normal barriers when we need it most.

Special guests for this Screening:
Two special guests, a Palestinian, and Israeli will share their reactions to this movie and perspectives about the current conflict, in conversation with one of the women featured in the movie. One is Moroccan-born, former tank commander, the other Arab-Palestinian. Both are experienced mediators and educators working to bring Muslims, Jews, and Christians together to build trust and full equality between Israelis & Palestinians.

God, gas, and cash: How Texas fell in love with Israel — and then trampled on the constitution.

Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a bill narrowing Texas' law that prohibits government agencies in the state from doing business with contractors who are boycotting Israel.
Gov. Greg Abbott after signing a bill narrowing Texas’ law that prohibits government agencies in the state from doing business with contractors who are boycotting Israel. (photo: Miguel Gutierrez Jr / The Texas Tribune)
Conservative Christians in Texas are aligning with Israel’s right to occupy the land as God given and giving Texas beneficial business opportunities.

By Alex Kane and Nashwa Bawab | The Intercept | June 1, 2019

As the Trump administration maintains the friendliest U.S. relationship with the Israeli right in history, Texas has become one of the most pro-Israel states in the country.

On the afternoon of April 19, 2018, a group of Texas Republicans received an email confirming their upcoming all-expenses-paid trips to Israel. An orientation packet filled with background on their destination “for reading on the flight,” the message said, was forthcoming.

The May 2018 trip to Israel would not be Texas politicians’ first — Gov. Greg Abbott, for one, flew to Israel on casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s private jet in 2016.

But it was unique in at least one crucial way: The trip was organized by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, according to records obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy and reviewed by The Intercept. The right-wing group of over 2,000 state legislators, lobbyists, and corporate backers writes legislation to be exported to statehouses around the country and has largely focused on issues like “stand your ground” gun laws and voter suppression efforts. By leading a delegation to Israel, ALEC was opening up a new front, demonstrating the extent to which support for Israel has become a central part of the GOP’s policy agenda, especially in Texas.

Continue reading “God, gas, and cash: How Texas fell in love with Israel — and then trampled on the constitution.”