The 2016 AIPAC convention looks like it’s going to be sad and lusterless. With President Obama conveniently in Cuba, Israeli PM Netanyahu doesn’t feel like making the trip to the US so he will speak to the attendees via satellite. Donald Trump apparently only goes to his own events, Bernie Sanders does not seem to be an AIPAC type of guy, he has no taste for PACs altogether making it unlikely that he will show up. So the list of speakers is pretty boring. But wait, breaking news! A ray of light is finally shining in on the lusterless AIPAC convention: Hillary Clinton, still a serious AIPAC pawn, and a politician that loves herself some PAC money, confirmed that she will be there in person! So for now at least, Hilary promises to be the main highlight of this year’s AIPAC event.
There will obviously be others there to speak for AIPAC: Questionable dignitaries like Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat, and war criminal Avi Dichter (former head of Israel’s secret police, the Shabak), are confirmed. Other lesser dignitaries from Israel include mayors of small cities, two bit politicians, journalists and other hangers-on who jumped at the opportunity to get a free all-expenses-paid trip to America. There are a few has-beens, drab ambassadors, greying senators and members of congress that are excited to speak in front of any crowd. That’s really all the attendees have to look forward to. Oh, and of course there are the symbolic Palestinians, willing to debase themselves and shame their families by standing with Israel and showing the world what a wonderful democracy she really is, (after all, they too deserve a free trip to America). This year these are Ali Abu Awad and Mohammad Darawshe.
Hilary Clinton who likes to call herself “Progressive” apparently did not get the memo telling her that during the AIPAC convention Progressives will be on the outside of the D.C. convention center. While the above-mentioned speakers will be groveling, explaining, excusing and justifying Israel’s genocidal policies, Progressives, and all other people of conscience will be outside demanding justice for Palestine. We will be demanding the right of return for all Palestinian refugees, freedom for Palestinian prisoners and calling in no uncertain terms for the end of Israel’s seven decade long strangulation of Palestine.
AIPAC has a lot of problems these days, and the following is a short list of these problems. BDS is gaining more victories every day, it is gaining more support and recognition worldwide, thanks in part to the attempts by Israel and its supporters to legislate against it; the presence of Students for Justice in Palestine on campuses is more pronounced than ever. Like wild flowers in spring they are spreading all over the US; there is a growing understanding in the US regarding the issue of Palestine, and the conclusion that more and more people are reaching is that Israel is an embarrassment. It has become more apparent to people in all walks of life that the plight of the Palestinians has to end, that the legitimacy that the world has bestowed upon the settler-colonial project in Palestine, also known as Israel, was premature if not all together wrong, and that it is time to remedy the situation.
But for Hillary none of this matters, so it is likely that her speech will begin with reminding the crowd of the unending love between her and Israel. She will reminisce on the wonderful relations that her husband Bill had with Israel – after all it was he who pushed and facilitated the peace process which acted as an enormous fig leaf and allowed Israel to steal more Palestinian land, erase the West Bank and destroy what little there was of the Palestinian economy, he made sure that life for Palestinians would become completely intolerable.
Hillary is not likely to mention this, but what is arguably the biggest gift President Bill Clinton gave Israel was to sign Executive Order 12947 on January 23, 1995. This order designated as “Specially Designated Terrorists,” or STD’s a list of people and organizations that Israel deemed to be “threatening disruption of the Middle East peace process.” It made opposition to the same process that brought disaster after disaster upon the Palestinian people, i.e. the “peace” process, a crime. This order legalized the persecution and prosecution of Muslims and Arabs in America, focusing particularly on those whom the Israeli government did not like.
The list of organizations that were designated as terrorists includes Hamas and Hezbollah, the PFLP, (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), and other Palestinian organizations that are dedicated to resistance against the Israeli occupation and who realized early on that the peace process was a sham. It lumped them in with Jewish underground terrorist groups, Al Qaeda and several other international terrorist organizations. This order made it possible for President George W. Bush to close the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) in December 2001, and order the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) to seize millions of dollars that were donated by American Muslims to feed the poor in Palestine. The Holy Land Foundation, which at the time was the largest Muslim charity in the United States, was accused of funding Hamas, which thanks to Bill Clinton was a designated terrorist organization. It was a false accusation based on lies, falsified evidence and unsubstantiated testimonies and it brought about the closure of the organization and the imprisonment of Shukri Abu-Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mohammad Elmezain, also known as the HLF-5.
Hilary will surely tell the AIPAC crowd that she will outdo Bill and she will do even more for Israel. She may rest assured that the AIPAC convention attendees will welcome her warmly, and they in turn can expect that if elected she too will be a good president for Israel. Sadly, there are still a handful of millionaires and politicians in the US who are not embarrassed to stand with Israel. But the list is obviously shrinking and pretty soon AIPAC will find itself with a very short list of speakers willing to come to its conventions. As for 2016, if they are very lucky maybe Marco Rubio or Ben Carson will have time to stop by.
You may think Syrians are condemned to an unpleasant choice between Bashar Al Assad and the jihadists. But the real choice being fought out by Syrians is between violent authoritarianism on the one hand and grassroots democracy on the other.
Interviewing activists, fighters and refugees for our book Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War, we discovered the democratic option is real, even if beleaguered. To the extent that life continues in the liberated but heavilybombed areas – areas independent of both the Assad regime and ISIL – it continues because self-organised local councils are supplying services and aid.
For example, Daraya, a suburb west of Damascus now suffering its fourth year under starvation siege, is run by a council. Its 120 members select executives by vote every six months. The council head is chosen by public election. The council runs schools, a hospital,and a public kitchen, and manages urban agricultural production. Its office supervises the Free Syrian Army militias defending the town. Amid constant bombardment, Daraya’s citizen journalists produce a newspaper, Enab Baladi, which promotes non-violent resistance. In a country once known as a “kingdom of silence”, there are more than 60 independent newspapers and many free radio stations.
And as soon as the bombing eases, people return to the streets with their banners. Recent demonstrations against Jabhat Al Nusra across Idlib province indicate that the Syrian desire for democracy burns as fiercely as ever.
Where possible, the local councils are democratically elected – the first free elections in half a century. Omar Aziz, a Syrian economist and anarchist, provided the germ. In the revolution’s eighth month he published a paper advocating the formation of councils in which citizens could arrange their affairs free of the tyrannical state. Aziz helped set up the first bodies, in suburbs of Damascus. He died in regime detention in 2013, a month before his 64th birthday. But by then, councils had sprouted all over the country.
Some council members were previously involved in the revolution’s original grassroots formations. They were activists, responsible first for coordinating protests and publicity, then for delivering aid and medicine. Other members represented prominent families or tribes, or were professionals selected for specific practical skills.
In regime-controlled areas, councils operate in secret. But in liberated territory people can organise publicly. These are tenacious but fragile experiments. Some are hampered by factionalism. Some are bullied out of existence by jihadists.
Manbij, a northern city, once boasted its own 600-member legislature and 20-member executive, a police force, and Syria’s first independent trade union. Then ISIL seized the grain silos and the democrats were driven out. Today Manbij is called “Little London” for its preponderance of English-accented jihadists.
In some areas the councils appear to signal Syria’s atomisation rather than a new beginning. Christophe Reuter calls it a “revolution of localists” when he describes “village republics””such as Korin, in Idlib province, with its own court and a 10-person council.
But Aziz envisaged councils connecting the people regionally and nationally, and democratic provincial councils now operate in the liberated parts of Aleppo, Idlib and Deraa. In the Ghouta region near Damascus, militia commanders were not permitted to stand as candidates. Fighters were, but only civilians won seats.
In Syria’s three Kurdish-majority areas, collectively known as Rojava, a similar system prevails, though the councils there are known as communes. In one respect they are more progressive than their counterparts elsewhere – 40 per cent of seats are reserved for women. In another, they are more constrained – they work within the larger framework of the PYD, which monopolises control of finances, arms and media.
The elected council members are the only representative Syrians we have. They should be key components in any serious settlement.
In a post-Assad future, local democracy could allow polarised communities to coexist under the Syrian umbrella.
Towns could legislate locally according to their demographic and cultural composition and mood. The alternative to enhanced local control is new borders, new ethnic cleanings, new wars. At the very least, the councils deserve political recognition by the United States and others. Council members should be a key presence on the opposition’s negotiating team at any talks.
And the councils deserve protection. Mr Al Assad’s bombs hit the schools, hospitals, bakeries, and residential blocks that the councils are trying desperately to service. If the bombardment were stopped the councils would no longer be limited to survival. They could focus instead on rebuilding Syrian nationhood and further developing popular institutions.
As the US-led invasion of Iraq showed us, only the people themselves can build their democratic structures. And today Syrians are practising democracy, building their own institutions, in the most difficult of circumstances. Their efforts don’t fit in with the easy Assad-or-ISIL narrative, however, and so we rarely deign to notice.
Robin Yassin-Kassab is co-author of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War
Mariele, the German Shorthaired Pointer is the top model of http://www.piccobello.eu/shop/en/home/ She likes to eat in high-class places.
This little show took place in summer 2013. Mariele is sitting at the table and is looking forward to getting served. It took just a few training lessons for Mariele to get used to the situation because there is nothing further to do for her as to sit quite comfortable on a cushion and wait patiently for the food to come. Mariele is 12 years old and in younger years she worked as a rescue dog. She loves to make new experiences and she is very gentle. The temptation to wolf down sausages and meat would have been too strong to her. So we decided to serve carrots and potatoes which she likes too — but not too much…
We got inspired by TWO DOGS DINING — thank you very much.
07.24.16 12:54 PM ET
Midwest Math, or Welcome to Our Rust Belt Brexit. I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes – Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states – but each of them have elected a Republican governor since 2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). In the Michigan primary in March, more Michiganders came out to vote for the Republicans (1.32 million) that the Democrats (1.19 million). Trump is ahead of Hillary in the latest polls in Pennsylvania and tied with her in Ohio. Tied? How can the race be this close after everything Trump has said and done? Well maybe it’s because he’s said (correctly) that the Clintons’ support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest. Trump is going to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states. When Trump stood in the shadow of a Ford Motor factory during the Michigan primary, he threatened the corporation that if they did indeed go ahead with their planned closure of that factory and move it to Mexico, he would slap a 35% tariff on any Mexican-built cars shipped back to the United States. It was sweet, sweet music to the ears of the working class of Michigan, and when he tossed in his threat to Apple that he would force them to stop making their iPhones in China and build them here in America, well, hearts swooned and Trump walked away with a big victory that should have gone to the governor next-door, John Kasich.
The Last Stand of the Angry White Man. Our male-dominated, 240-year run of the USA is coming to an end. A woman is about to take over! How did this happen?! Onour watch! There were warning signs, but we ignored them. Nixon, the gender traitor, imposing Title IX on us, the rule that said girls in school should get an equal chance at playing sports. Then they let them fly commercial jets. Before we knew it, Beyoncé stormed on the field at this year’s Super Bowl (our game!) with an army of Black Women, fists raised, declaring that our domination was hereby terminated! Oh, the humanity!
The Hillary Problem. Can we speak honestly, just among ourselves? And before we do, let me state, I actually like Hillary – a lot – and I think she has been given a bad rap she doesn’t deserve. But her vote for the Iraq War made me promise her that I would never vote for her again. To date, I haven’t broken that promise. For the sake of preventing a proto-fascist from becoming our commander-in-chief, I’m breaking that promise. I sadly believe Clinton will find a way to get us in some kind of military action. She’s a hawk, to the right of Obama. But Trump’s psycho finger will be on The Button, and that is that. Done and done.
The Depressed Sanders Vote. Stop fretting about Bernie’s supporters not voting for Clinton – we’re voting for Clinton! The polls already show that more Sanders voters will vote for Hillary this year than the number of Hillary primary voters in ’08 who then voted for Obama. This is not the problem. The fire alarm that should be going off is that while the average Bernie backer will drag him/herself to the polls that day to somewhat reluctantly vote for Hillary, it will be what’s called a “depressed vote” – meaning the voter doesn’t bring five people to vote with her. He doesn’t volunteer 10 hours in the month leading up to the election. She never talks in an excited voice when asked why she’s voting for Hillary. A depressed voter. Because, when you’re young, you have zero tolerance for phonies and BS. Returning to the Clinton/Bush era for them is like suddenly having to pay for music, or using MySpace or carrying around one of those big-ass portable phones. They’re not going to vote for Trump; some will vote third party, but many will just stay home. Hillary Clinton is going to have to do something to give them a reason to support her — and picking a moderate, bland-o, middle of the road old white guy as her running mate is not the kind of edgy move that tells millenials that their vote is important to Hillary. Having two women on the ticket – that was an exciting idea. But then Hillary got scared and has decided to play it safe. This is just one example of how she is killing the youth vote.
The Jesse Ventura Effect. Finally, do not discount the electorate’s ability to be mischievous or underestimate how any millions fancy themselves as closet anarchists once they draw the curtain and are all alone in the voting booth. It’s one of the few places left in society where there are no security cameras, no listening devices, no spouses, no kids, no boss, no cops, there’s not even a friggin’ time limit. You can take as long as you need in there and no one can make you do anything. You can push the button and vote a straight party line, or you can write in Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. There are no rules. And because of that, and the anger that so many have toward a broken political system, millions are going to vote for Trump not because they agree with him, not because they like his bigotry or ego, but just because they can. Just because it will upset the apple cart and make mommy and daddy mad. And in the same way like when you’re standing on the edge of Niagara Falls and your mind wonders for a moment what would that feel like to go over that thing, a lot of people are going to love being in the position of puppetmaster and plunking down for Trump just to see what that might look like. Remember back in the ‘90s when the people of Minnesota elected a professional wrestler as their governor? They didn’t do this because they’re stupid or thought that Jesse Ventura was some sort of statesman or political intellectual. They did so just because they could. Minnesota is one of the smartest states in the country. It is also filled with people who have a dark sense of humor — and voting for Ventura was their version of a good practical joke on a sick political system. This is going to happen again with Trump.
This was first published at the New Arab.
While we were in New York to talk about “Burning Country”, I visited the 9/11 Memorial, a commemoration of the spectacle that arguably set the tone for the 21st Century. I was advised to visit by a friendly progressive professor, the host of one of our events. He said the attached museum was a good example of America’s self-portrayal as the world’s supreme victim. He wasn’t alone. Philip Kennicott in the Washington Post described the museum as “an oversized pit of self-pity, patriotic self-glorification and voyeurism.”
I didn’t really agree about the museum, and the memorial to the day when the twin towers were hit and almost three thousand civilians killed seemed to me tasteful and correct.
At the precise site of each tower’s base there are two-tiered pools of falling water. These enormous bottomless basins are inversions of the towers, the very opposite of phallic triumphalism. Each implies absence and a hidden abyss. In a way they are beautiful, superficially calming, and their noise nearly drowns the rush of the city around. But ultimately they are terrible, because gravity’s incessant pull on the water, the sound and sight of continuous descent, is a reminder of the terror of jumping, falling people, those who chose to plunge rather than burn, and of the tumbling shoes, the floating paper, the towers themselves collapsing, so many tons of metal and concrete, so many volumes of dust and smoke.
In the museum the focus is on the trauma experienced by the victims. There are first-hand accounts played on audio, and photographs and films of shocked New Yorkers gazing skyward, or running for their lives, or trudging slowly, whitened by dust. A shock, literally out of the blue, for an America almost entirely untouched on its own soil by war, at least since its civil war (though native-Americans and African-Americans must be excluded from this peaceable account of history).