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I have a parallel blog in French at http://anniebannie.net

Ilan Pappe’s new book

Ilan Pappe talks about the Middle East: ‘Change will come’

Speaking to the Monitor about his new book ‘The Biggest Prison on Earth,’ historian Ilan Pappe says that – ultimately – he is ‘confident of a peaceful scenario.’

August 15, 2017 Historian Ilan Pappe’s new book The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories continues his work of shining new analytical light on the seemingly intractable Israel-Palestine conflict, following up earlier books such as “Ten Myths About Israel” and the bestselling “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.” Pappe recently talked with Monitor contributor Steve Donoghue about his work.

Q: Your new book is already sparking the kind of controversy that greeted “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” and “Ten Myths About Israel” – this must be a familiar pattern to you by now, yes? Do you find that the tenor of this conversation has changed at all over the years? Is there more receptivity to your work, for instance?

It depends where. Around the world, yes, the tenor has changed. There is more readiness to change the language that describes Israeli actions in the past and the present; there is less disbelief when a systematic abuse or dispossession is shown as a structure or strategy rather than a policy. As for Israel, the same denial and unwillingness to face the unpleasant chapters of the past persists.

Q: That assertion – that Israeli dispossession of Palestinians is an outcome of premeditated state strategy rather than a policy adapted to circumstances – contradicts the attractive notion of a fledgling state merely doing what it must to survive. It paints a far uglier picture.

This is not an attempt to demonize the Israelis or Israel. My main argument is that the Zionist movement in Palestine until 1948 and the state of Israel are a settler colonial project that is still intact today. The nature of such a project is that the settlers in this particular case study see themselves as natives who return to their home and see the natives as aliens, who at best can be tolerated if they do not challenge to the settlers’ power and ownership. So this is not a matter of planning only or strategic clarity.

Q: Settler colonialism seldom bodes well for the natives, and it certainly hasn’t for the Palestinian population now living in what you describe in the book as “the ultimate maximum security prison.” In “The Biggest Prison on Earth” you’re careful not to offer false or cheap hope for any good resolution to this problem – but do you see any such resolution as possible?

To be honest not in the short run. However, I do believe that in the long run the basic features of the project will diminish and hopefully disappear. I am confident of a peaceful scenario: not in a big bang but in bottom-up evolution. Change will come first and foremost due to Palestinian steadfastness and popular resistance, the intensification of the international pressure on Israel, and it will be cemented by joint Palestinian and Jewish effort to reformulate the relationship between them on the basis of equality, democracy, and respect for human and civil rights.

Joint life on equal footing is possible – the main obstacle is the state’s ideology that dehumanizes the Palestinians and refuses to allow them equal and normal life for the sake of what is deemed “Jewish Security” – namely an ethnic Jewish state that forever has a Jewish majority by all means possible and provides privileges and exclusivity for the Jewish people in it. This is an obsolete ideology and world view which will not hold water for too long in a world that wishes and struggles to ensure that more and more people would be liberated from tyranny, bigotism, religious fanaticism, and racism.

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When I Filmed Sheriff Joe Arpaio, He Was Cooperative and Horrifying

Beyond belief

Salt Lake’s Dem Mayor Goes Undercover As A Homeless Man For Three Days. Pledges Vital Assistance.

 This story has a ‘Brubaker’ feel to it.

It happened over four months ago, and until recently, was known by only a small handful of people.

Last March, Democratic Mayor Ben McAdams put into play something he long felt compelled to do. Due to a state law, he had to select possible sites for three new homeless centers/shelters. Two for men and one for women and children. Regardless of the choices, it would prove highly unpopular in the neighborhoods. Each perspective area arose in fury at the idea. But it had to be done. He needed a more personal perspective. And it was this catalyst that solidified his decision.

McAdams left work on a Friday with Patrick Reimherr, the Director of Government Affairs. They both wore three-day growth. No wallets, money, or I.D.’s  They were dressed in their oldest jeans, sneakers, sweatshirts and hoodies.

Each had a small bag with some clothes, a blue tarp and cheap disposable phones.

And they walked the miles from City Hall to Salt Lake City’s most troubled neighborhood, Rio Grande. They disappeared amongst the thousands of homeless persons in the city. And they immersed themselves with that population.

The first night, they slept in the street. They found a spot amongst hundreds in the area against a building. They wrapped themselves with their tarps.

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 “I didn’t feel safe,” he said. “I absolutely did not feel safe. It was a very chaotic environment. I wanted to understand why some people would choose not to go into shelter. It was cold. Below 40’s. And it was raining. You wonder why people would choose to do that, knowing that there were beds available in the shelter.” Fights broke out and their was yelling all night.

“Some of the folks i talked to said it’s better to be outside and get some space from the drug trade and shooting gallery that inundates the area immediately in front of shelter doors.”

After a fitful 4 hours of sleep, they headed to the shelter, named The Road Home. The closer they got to the shelter, the more drug dealers plied their wares…mostly heroin, meth, coke and spice.

 “The primary buyers are not homeless people. If you take the hundreds of people who are staying at the shelter and empty all of their pockets, there’s not going to be a whole lot of money to buy drugs.”

As bad as the night on the street was, the shelter was a nightmare. It housed over 1000 men. Though rules are in place, and employees and volunteers were present, it was riddled with violence and drugs. Reimherr was assigned a different dorm. McAdams’s bunkmate injected a needle into his arm in front of him. He saw similar in the dorm. The smell of the drugs was prevalent. He witnessed violence. He saw a man pulled from his bunk and heard the loud smack as his head hit the pavement.

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The first thing he was told when he entered was to not take off your shoes, use your bag as your pillow and never, ever go to use the bathroom at night.

He now saw why being outside in the rain and cold was preferable.  “At least it was warmer inside.”

The director of The Road Home, Matt Minkevitch, notes that though the area around the shelter is full of drug use, “…instances of people using drugs in the shelter aren’t incredibly common and don’t represent most of the clientele. For 80 percent of the 8,000 people who visited the shelter last year, it was a one-time, brief episode of homelessness before a quick return to stable housing. It’s hard to see that when you’re seeing this repetitive cycle of despair and desperation and the suffering that’s going on with the people who are living on the streets. Who are filthy dirty and confused.”

 His time was consumed by solving two pressing needs. “Where am I going to sleep? And where am I going to get food? You have to plan your day around that. It leaves little energy left to search for jobs or housing.”

They ate at Missions and had church sponsored meals. A group outside the shelter handed out sack lunches. A mystery-meat sandwich and a bag of Funyuns.

He met a family with a nine year old autistic child.  “She’s the age of one of my kids,” the mayor said. “It’s heartbreaking to see a young child who’s growing up in those circumstances. What psychological trauma is probably inflicted on a child who doesn’t know where he’s going to sleep or where his next meal is going to come from?”

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Mayor Benjamin McAdams. First elected in 2013. Re-elected in 2016. A good man.

McAdams ended his experience with one understanding. That “doing nothing is not an option, even if it’s the end of me politically.”

“I knew when I accepted this task that it would come with consequences for me personally. But this work isn’t about me personally. It’s about doing the right thing for people who are in crisis. If I have to pay a personal price for moving this work forward, it’s a price I’m willing to pay.”

 ”I ran for office to make a difference. Not to have a job.”

By mid-July of 2019, the three new shelters will open, and The Road Home will close. He vows to assist in every aspect of “the shelter experience” into one “focused on rehabilitation and recovery.”

In the meantime, The Road Home is having the area in front on Rio Grande Street made into a courtyard with a fence to help protect the homeless from predatory behavior. That meals will be nutritious with more fruits and vegetables. And he is trying to work out a deal for the local area’s state-run liquor store to move to a different location, away from it’s proximity to the shelter.

“I know that my three days and two nights is nothing. It was a helpful insight. But i knew that if something happened, i have health insurance. I have a family. I have a home. My backstop was a phone call away. I am very, very fortunate.”

Salt Lake, both the county and city, have been models for helping the homeless, compared to most other large cities and counties in the country. Mayor McAdams aims to raise the bar that much higher. In his years at the helm, he has already done so much to tackle this problem. Starting with having local law enforcement not unduly harass the homeless, but to help and assist. This has been something he has been passionate about since he became mayor in 2013. And it’s making a tangible difference. As the following clip shows….

Sorry I Drowned

The world has catastrophically failed millions of people fleeing war, persecution, and despair. Calculating politics won out over moral and legal obligations to offer protection and assistance to those in need. Like a contagious disease, walls, fences, and restrictive border measures rampantly spread causing countless thousands of people to die on land or at sea.

This 7-minute animated film is inspired by a letter allegedly found on the body of someone who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea due to the prevailing cynical politics of our day.

While we may not know the truth behind who wrote the letter, we do know that what it depicts is real. This reality cannot continue.

DEEP DARK WEB

Mike Leigh slams Radiohead for ignoring Palestinians

Source : Mike Leigh slams Radiohead for ignoring Palestinians

Video: How will Israel control Palestinians in 2048?

Present at the Destruction: How Rex Tillerson Is Wrecking the State Department

Getty Images

I worked in Foggy Bottom for 6 years. I’ve never seen anything like this.

The deconstruction of the State Department is well underway.

I recently returned to Foggy Bottom for the first time since January 20 to attend the departure of a former colleague and career midlevel official—something that had sadly become routine. In my six years at State as a political appointee, under the Obama administration, I had gone to countless of these events. They usually followed a similar pattern: slightly awkward, but endearing formalities, a sense of melancholy at the loss of a valued teammate. But, in the end, a rather jovial celebration of a colleague’s work. These events usually petered out quickly, since there is work to do. At the State Department, the unspoken mantra is: The mission goes on, and no one is irreplaceable. But this event did not follow that pattern. It felt more like a funeral, not for the departing colleague, but for the dying organization they were leaving behind

As I made the rounds and spoke with usually buttoned-up career officials, some who I knew well, some who I didn’t, from a cross section of offices covering various regions and functions, no one held back. To a person, I heard that the State Department was in “chaos,” “a disaster,” “terrible,” the leadership “totally incompetent.” This reflected what I had been hearing the past few months from friends still inside the department, but hearing it in rapid fire made my stomach churn. As I walked through the halls once stalked by diplomatic giants like Dean Acheson and James Baker, the deconstruction was literally visible. Furniture from now-closed offices crowded the hallways. Dropping in on one of my old offices, I expected to see a former colleague—a career senior foreign service officer—but was stunned to find out she had been abruptly forced into retirement and had departed the previous week. This office, once bustling, had just one person present, keeping on the lights.

This is how diplomacy dies. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. With empty offices on a midweek afternoon.

When Rex Tillerson was announced as secretary of state, there was a general feeling of excitement and relief in the department. After eight years of high-profile, jet-setting secretaries, the building was genuinely looking forward to having someone experienced in corporate management. Like all large, sprawling organizations, the State Department’s structure is in perpetual need of an organizational rethink. That was what was hoped for, but that is not what is happening. Tillerson is not reorganizing, he’s downsizing.

While the lack of senior political appointees has gotten a lot of attention, less attention has been paid to the hollowing out of the career workforce, who actually run the department day to day. Tillerson has canceled the incoming class of foreign service officers. This as if the Navy told all of its incoming Naval Academy officers they weren’t needed. Senior officers have been unceremoniously pushed out. Many saw the writing on the wall and just retired, and many others are now awaiting buyout offers. He has dismissed State’s equivalent of an officer reserve—retired FSOs, who are often called upon to fill State’s many short-term staffing gaps, have been sent home despite no one to replace them. Office managers are now told three people must depart before they can make one hire. And now Bloomberg reports that Tillerson is blocking all lateral transfers within the department, preventing staffers from moving to another office even if it has an opening. Managers can’t fill openings; employees feel trapped.

Despite all this, career foreign and civil service officers are all still working incredibly hard representing the United States internationally. They’re still doing us proud. But how do you manage multimillion-dollar programs with no people? Who do you send to international meetings and summits? Maybe, my former colleagues are discovering, you just can’t implement that program or show up to that meeting. Tillerson’s actions amount to a geostrategic own-goal, weakening America by preventing America from showing up.

State’s growing policy irrelevance and Tillerson’s total aversion to the experts in his midst is prompting the department’s rising stars to search for the exits. The private sector and the Pentagon are vacuuming them up. This is inflicting long-term damage to the viability of the American diplomacy—and things were already tough. State has been operating under an austerity budget for the past six years since the 2011 Budget Control Act. Therefore, when Tillerson cuts, he is largely cutting into bone, not fat. The next administration won’t simply be able to flip a switch and reverse the damage. It takes years to recruit and develop diplomatic talent. What Vietnam did to hollow out our military, Tillerson is doing to State.

What we now know is that the building is being run by a tiny clique of ideologues who know nothing about the department but have insulated themselves from the people who do. Tillerson and his isolated and inexperienced cadres are going about reorganizing the department based on little more than gut feeling. They are going about it with vigor. And there is little Congress can seemingly do—though lawmakers control the purse strings, it’s hard to stop an agency from destroying itself.

At the root of the problem is the inherent distrust of the State Department and career officers. I can sympathize with this—I, too, was once a naive political appointee, like many of the Trump people. During the 2000s, when I was in my 20s, I couldn’t imagine anyone working for George W. Bush. I often interpreted every action from the Bush administration in the most nefarious way possible. Almost immediately after entering government, I realized how foolish I had been.

For most of Foggy Bottom, the politics of Washington might as well have been the politics of Timbuktu—a distant concern, with little relevance to most people’s work. I found that State’s career officials generally were more hawkish than most Democrats, but believe very much in American leadership in international organizations and in forging international agreements, putting them to the left of many Republicans. Politically, most supported politicians that they thought would best protect and strengthen American interests and global leadership. Many career officials were often exasperated by the Obama administration and agreed with much of the conservative critique of his policies—hence the initial enthusiasm for Tillerson. By the end of my tenure, many of my closest and most trusted colleagues were registered Republicans, had worked in the Bush White House or were retired military officers. I would have strongly considered staying on in a normal Republican administration if asked.

I don’t believe my experience is unique: When you see a lot of Bush-era veterans attacking the Trump administration, it’s likely because they had a similar experience. In government—and especially in the foreign policy and national security realms—you work for your country, not a party.

What is motivating Tillerson’s demolition effort is anyone’s guess. He may have been a worldly CEO at ExxonMobil, but he had precious little experience in how American diplomacy works. Perhaps Tillerson, as a D.C. and foreign policy novice, is simply being a good soldier, following through on edicts from White House ideologues like Steve Bannon. Perhaps he thinks he is running State like a business. But the problem with running the State Department like a business is that most businesses fail—and American diplomacy is too big to fail.

What is clear, however, is that there is no pressing reason for any of these cuts. America is not a country in decline. Its economy is experiencing an unprecedented period of continuous economic growth, its technology sector is the envy of the world and the American military remains unmatched. Even now, under Trump, America’s allies and enduring values amplify its power and constrain its adversaries. America is not in decline—it is choosing to decline. And Tillerson is making that choice. He is quickly becoming one of the worst and most destructive secretaries of state in the history of our country.

Macchu Picchu

Las alturas de Macchu Picchu Pablo Neruda

Del aire al aire, como una red vacía,
iba yo entre las calles y la atmósfera, llegando y despidiendo,
en el advenimiento del otoño la moneda extendida
de las hojas, y entre la primavera y las espigas,
lo que el más grande amor, como dentro de un guante
que cae, nos entrega como una larga luna.

(Días de fulgor vivo en la intemperie
de los cuerpos: aceros convertidos
al silencio del ácido:
noches desdichadas hasta la última harina:
estambres agredidos de la patria nupcial.)

Alguien que me esperó entre los violines
encontró un mundo como una torre enterrada
hundiendo su espiral más abajo de todas
las hojas de color de ronco azufre:
más abajo, en el oro de la geología,
como una espada envuelta en meteoros,
hundí la mano turbulenta y dulce
en lo más genital de lo terrestre.

Puse la frente entre las olas profundas,
descendí como gota entre la paz sulfúrica,
y, como un ciego, regresé al jazmín
de la gastada primavera humana.
read on

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