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How will US Jerusalem move affect Israel’s far right?

by Jonathan Cook

Trump’s seal of approval for Israel’s takeover of Jerusalem is likely to intensify the city’s religious symbolism for Jews – and the importance of Israeli sovereignty over al-Aqsa Mosque compound [Ronny Hartmann/Photothek via Getty Images]

Analysts fear Trump’s rubber-stamping of the right’s political goals will further radicalise both sides of the divide.

Jerusalem – Trump’s recognition this week of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning seven decades of US policy in the region and effectively ending hopes of a two-state solution, has provoked dire warnings.

But the focus by commentators on Palestinian reactions, rather than the effect on the Israeli public and leadership, might have underestimated the longer-term fallout from Trump’s move, analysts say.

Predictions have included the threat of renewed violence – even an uprising – from Palestinians; the possible collapse of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians’ government-in-waiting, and its diplomatic strategy for two states; and the demise of Washington’s claim to be serving as a credible peacemaker.

But according to analysts, more far-reaching – and disruptive – undercurrents will likely be set in motion by Trump’s decision.

Few have factored in the likely effect of Trump’s new Jerusalem policy on the Israeli public, which has been shifting steadily to the right for most of the past two decades. The city and its contested holy sites have gained an increasingly powerful religious and national symbolism for many Israeli Jews.

The fear is that Trump’s effective rubber-stamping of the right’s political goals in Jerusalem will further radicalise both sides of the divide – and accelerate processes that have been turning a long-standing national conflict into a more openly religious one.

‘Tipping point’

“We may remember this date as the tipping point, as the moment when a new consensus emerged in Israel behind the idea of total Jewish supremacy,” journalist David Sheen, an expert on Israel’s far-right movements, told Al Jazeera.

Similar concerns were expressed by Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament.

“We can expect to see a move rightwards across Israeli society,” he told Al Jazeera. “The centre-left parties were already tacking much closer to the right. They will now want to align themselves with Trump’s position. Meanwhile, the right will be encouraged to move to the extreme right.”

Both noted that Avi Gabbay – the recently elected leader of the Zionist Union, the official opposition and the party that was once the backbone of the Israeli peace camp – had begun espousing positions little different from those of right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Last week, Gabbay backed Trump’s announcement, saying that recognition of Jerusalem was more important than a peace deal with the Palestinians.

WATCH: ‘Dangerous and unacceptable’ – Arab League condemns US move

Sheen said that traditionally, the centre-left had been restrained in its political positions by concerns about alienating the United States: “Netanyahu has shown that he can bring the US round to his way of thinking by staying the course. In many Israelis’ eyes, he has now been proved right. The centrists may decide it is time to come onboard. Allying with the Republican right and the Christian evangelicals in the US may now look like a much safer bet.”

The possible effects of Trump’s announcement on Israelis have been largely overlooked, even though previous turning points in the conflict have consistently resulted in dramatic lurches rightwards by the Israeli public.

Given Israel’s power over the Palestinians, these changes have played a decisive role in leading to the current impasse between Israel and the Palestinians, analysts note.

Most obviously, Israel’s seemingly “miraculous” victory in the 1967 war, defeating the armies of neighbouring Arab states in six days, unleashed a wave of Messianic Judaism that spawned the settler movement.

A new religious nationalism swept parts of the Israeli public, driving them into the occupied Palestinian territories to claim a supposed Biblical birthright.

Other major events have had a decisive effect too. Unexpectedly, the Oslo peace process, launched in the mid-1990s, persuaded many non-religious Israeli Jews to move into settlements in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, doubling the numbers there in a few years.

Into the arms of the far right

Alan Baker, a legal adviser to the Israeli foreign ministry in that period, explained Israelis’ peculiar reading of the Oslo Accords. In their view, Oslo meant Israel was “present in the territories with their [the Palestinians’] consent and subject to the outcome of negotiations”.

In other words, many Israelis believed that the Oslo process had conferred an international legitimacy on the settlements.

Later, in 2000, after the Camp David summit collapsed without the sides agreeing to a two-state solution, Ehud Barak, Israel’s then-prime minister, blamed Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians. He said they were “no partner” for peace.

As a result, Israelis deserted the peace camp and drifted into the arms of the right and far-right. Netanyahu has reaped the benefits, leading a series of ultra-nationalist governments since 2009.

Now Trump’s decision on Jerusalem effectively gives Washington’s blessing to Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and five decades of creating facts on the ground there, said Jabareen.

“Trump has legitimised the far-right’s argument that Israel can control all of Jerusalem by sheer force, by denying Palestinians their rights and by creating facts on the ground,” he said.

With their policy of aggressive unilateralism now paying dividends in the US, the settlers and the ultra-nationalists were unlikely to be satisfied with that success alone, he added. “The danger is that the religious right’s narrative will now seem persuasive at other sites in the occupied territories they demand, such as Hebron and Nablus.”

Since Trump’s election a year ago, Naftali Bennett, the Israeli education minister and the leader of the main settler party, has begun calling for Israel to seize the opportunity to annex West Bank settlements.

Pressure is likely now to mount rapidly on Netanyahu to shift even further to the right.

On the 972 website, Noam Sheizaf, an Israeli analyst, observed that Trump’s declaration had boosted the settlers’ position that “in the long run ‘facts on the ground’ are more important than diplomacy and politics, and that Israel will eventually win legitimacy for its actions”

Effects in Jerusalem

The most immediate effects, according to Ir Amim, an IsraeIi human rights organisation, will be felt in Jerusalem itself. Government ministers have already drafted legislation to bring large West Bank settlements under Jerusalem’s municipal authority, as a way covertly to annex them.

There are also plans to strip large numbers of Palestinians of their Israeli-issued Jerusalem residency papers because they live outside the separation wall Israel built through the city more than a decade ago. That would cement a new, unassailable right-wing Jewish majority in Jerusalem.

Last week, Ir Amim warned in a statement that Trump’s move would be certain to “embolden” such actions by the Israeli right and provide a “tailwind” to those determined to pre-empt a two-state solution.

Assad Ghanem, a politics professor at Haifa University, told Al Jazeera: “Trump has given a legitimacy to the right’s Messianic agenda. He has adopted the language of the extreme right on Jerusalem – that it is Israel’s eternal, united capital. The far-right will declare this a victory.”

In parallel, Trump’s seal of approval for Israel’s takeover of Jerusalem is likely to intensify the city’s religious symbolism for Jews – and the importance of Israeli sovereignty over al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Ghanem noted.

In recent years, a growing number of rabbis have been overturning a centuries-old consensus that al-Aqsa compound is off-limits to Jews because it was not known where the ruins of an earlier Jewish temple lay. In Jewish tradition, it is forbidden to walk over an inner sanctum, known as the Holy of Holies.

Today, Jews regularly enter the compound and some even pray there. Settler rabbis and far-right government ministers have called for dividing the compound between Israelis and Palestinians, creating huge tensions with Palestinians.

Temple movements

Meanwhile, a once-fringe movement of Jewish supporters who wish to destroy the mosque to rebuild the ancient Jewish temple in its place, are gradually moving into the mainstream. Trump’s move will be a shot in the arm to their ambitions and their credibility, said Sheen, who has studied the temple movements.

He pointed out that immediately after Trump’s declaration, these groups had uploaded a cartoon of Trump standing in al-Aqsa compound, in front of the golden-topped Dome of the Rock, imagining the Jewish temple in its place. Trump is shown saying in Hebrew: “This is the perfect spot!”

Sheen said: “This will be treated as a call to arms by these groups.”

WATCH: Trump’s Jerusalem move roundly condemned at UN

Will the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital have similarly dramatic long-term effect on Palestinians’ public opinion? Analysts believe it will. The lack of an outpouring of significant anger – even after Palestinian leaders called for three days of rage last week – could be deceptive.

Israeli analysts have suggested that there is often what they term an “incubation period” – a delay between a major change in Israel’s favour and a popular reaction from Palestinians. That was true of the second Intifada, which came months after the collapse of the Camp David summit.

An expectation of knee-jerk anger to Trump’s decision may be misplaced, say analysts. The decision may result in a slower and much deeper process of adjustment to the new reality.

“Palestinians will now have to abandon the old tools of national struggle, because they have been shown to be ineffective. We need new tools of resistance, and that will require a grassroots struggle. We need a return to mass protests,” Jabareen said.

Ghanem noted the danger that, with the likely growth of a Jewish religious extremism in Israel and among the settlers, some Palestinians might drift towards violence.

But he expected that a more significant trend would be Palestinians reassessing the end goal of their struggle and opting for mass civil disobedience.

“The two-state solution is obviously now finished, and that is likely to mobilise a new generation to struggle for a single state,” he said. “Activists and the leadership will need to rebuild Palestinian nationalism.”

Republicans on Rape

A list purportedly offers controversial and embarrassing statements about rape made by Republican politicians.

CLAIM

A list collects statements about rape made by Republican politicians.

RATING

TRUE

ORIGIN

A “Republicans on Rape” graphic widely circulated online since 2014 collects various comments about that crime supposedly made by GOP politicians in recent years:

The remarks collected in that graphic were indeed all uttered by the persons to whom they have been attributed; below we offer the context in which those statements were made and any clarifying remarks subsequently offered by their speakers.


“Rape is kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”

On 24 March 1990, Texas oilman Clayton Williams, the Republican nominee in the Lone Star State’s upcoming gubernatorial election, was preparing for a cattle roundup at his West Texas ranch while undesirable weather conditions threatened to spoil the event. As he sat around a campfire with ranch hands, campaign workers, and reporters, Williams likened that day’s cold, foggy weather to rape, saying, “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.”

Later that day Williams asserted that his comment had been a joke, and a few days later his campaign offered an apologetic statement about it:

Mr. Williams said it was merely a joke and apologized “if anyone’s offended.”

“That’s not a Republican women’s club that we were having this morning,” he said. “It’s a working cow camp, a tough world where you can get kicked in the testicles if you’re not careful.”

Asked if some people might be offended, Mr. Williams said: “I’m not going to give you a serious answer. It wasn’t a serious deal. It wasn’t a serious statement.”

But his campaign issued a statement in which Mr. Williams said: “I feel just terrible about this. I had no intention in my heart to hurt anyone, especially those women who have been traumatized by rape.

“Looking back, I realize it was insensitive and had no place at the campfire or in any setting.”

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that thing down.”

On 19 August 2012, U.S. Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, a Republican who was challenging incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill for her seat in the U.S. Senate, was interviewed by St. Louis television station KTVI. During that interview, Akin was asked whether he believed abortion was justified in cases of rape, and he responded by asserting that “legitimate rapes” rarely resulted in pregnancy: “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

After his words touched off widespread outrage, Akin then issued a statement maintaining that his remarks were “off-the-cuff” and that he “misspoke in this interview”:

As a member of Congress, I believe that working to protect the most vulnerable in our society is one of my most important responsibilities, and that includes protecting both the unborn and victims of sexual assault. In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year. Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve.

I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election.

Two years later, while appearing in another television interview with MSNBC to promote his new book Firing Back, Akin asserted that “legitimate rape” was a law enforcement term and that his original remark had been “intentionally misunderstood”:

“Legitimate rape is a law enforcement term, it’s an abbreviation for ‘legitimate case of rape,’” he told Chuck Todd. “A woman calls a police station, the police investigate, she says ‘I’ve been raped,’ they investigate that. So before any of the facts are in, they call it a legitimate case of rape,” explained Aiken.

Akin believes that everyone took what he said out of context. “This was intentionally misunderstood and twisted for political purposes. It doesn’t make any sense to say ‘a conservative is saying that rape is legitimate,’ that doesn’t even add up.”

Time magazine noted that they were unable to find a law enforcement official familiar with the term “legitimate rape”:

But is “legitimate rape” really a law enforcement term? We asked some experts.

“I’ve taught police officers, and worked with police officers on every continent in the world, and that’s something I’ve never heard in my 50 years in law enforcement,” says Dr. James A. Williams, former Chief of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces for the U.S Department of Justice, who also worked in municipal law enforcement in New Jersey. “I’ve never heard of that. Never.”

Richard Lichten, a veteran of the LA County Sheriff’s Department and expert on sexual assault investigations agrees:

“I have 30 years of experience, I’m qualified to testify in federal court on the way to investigate sexual assault crimes, and I’ve never heard of that,” said Lichten. “In all my life I’ve never heard of that.”

“Rape victims should make the best of a bad situation.”

On 20 January 2012, Rick Santorum, a former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania who was then campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, appeared on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight program and was asked by that show’s host about his stance on abortion and whether he believed abortion was wrong even in cases of incest and rape. Santorum responded by saying that although a pregnancy resulting from a rape might be “horrible,” it was nonetheless a “gift of human life” and that “we have to make the best out of a bad situation”:

MORGAN: On abortion, you did harden your position on that as you got older. Why was that?

SANTORUM: Life. You know, when I decided to run for public life, I was informed very quickly people wanted to know what my position on that was. So I went through the process of trying to better understand the facts.

It became very clear to me that life begins at conception and persons are covered by the Constitution and since life — people, a human life is the same as a person, to me it was a pretty simple deduction to make. That’s what the Constitution clearly intended to protect.

MORGAN: But do you really — do you really — let me ask you this. Do you really believe, in every case, it should be totally wrong, in the sense that — I know that you believe, even in cases of rape and incest — and you’ve got two daughters. You know, if you have a daughter that came to you who had been raped.

SANTORUM: Yes.

MORGAN: And was pregnant and was begging you to let her have an abortion, would you really be able to look her in the eye and say, no, as her father?

SANTORUM: I would do what every father must do, is to try to counsel your daughter to do the right thing.

MORGAN: And they are looking at their daughter, saying, how can I deal with this, because if I make her have this baby, isn’t it going to just ruin her life?

SANTORUM: Well, you can make the argument that if she doesn’t have this baby, if she kills her child, that that, too, could ruin her life. And this is not an easy choice. I understand that. As horrible as the way that that son or daughter and son was created, it still is her child. And whether she has that child or doesn’t, it will always be her child. And she will always know that. And so to embrace her and to love her and to support her and get her through this very difficult time, I’ve always, you know, I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.

As you know, we have to, in lots of different aspects of our life. We have horrible things happen. I can’t think of anything more horrible. But, nevertheless, we have to make the best out of a bad situation.

“Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

On 23 October 2012, Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for one of Indiana’s U.S. Senate seats, was engaged in a debate with his Democratic and Libertarian rivals when he expressed his view that “life begins at conception” and that he would only allow abortions in circumstances in which the mother’s life was in danger:

I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

After the debate, Mourdock explained that when he said “it is something that God intended to happen,” he was referring to the creation of life and not the act of rape itself:

Mourdock, seeking to clarify his comments in a press conference following the debate, said he had intended to say that “God creates life,” and that any interpretation of his comments to mean God “pre-ordained rape” were “sick” and “twisted.”

“What I said was, in answering the question form my position of faith, I said I believe that God creates life. I believe that as wholly and as fully as I can believe it. That God creates life,” Mourdock said. “Are you trying to suggest that somehow I think that God pre-ordained rape? No, I don’t think that. That’s sick. Twisted. That’s not even close to what I said. What I said is that God creates life.”

“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out.”

On 23 June 2013, Jodie Laubenberg, a Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives, was debating a measure she had introduced to the House that included a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. When Rep. Senfronia Thompson proposed an exemption for victims of rape and incest, Laubenberg argued against that exemption, saying that when a victim seeks medical care after a rape, “they have what’s called rape kits, that the woman can get cleaned out, basically like” [a procedure known as D and C that is often performed after a miscarriage]. She also noted that emergency contraception is available.

A few days later, after she was mocked over her remark, Laubenberg said she was “confused by Democrats’ questions and misspoke” and meant to say that rape victims could “obtain emergency contraception and other treatment” at medical facilities:

Rape kits are used to collect evidence in hopes of prosecuting the perpetrator. They play no role in preventing pregnancy or serving as an abortion.

Laubenberg was widely mocked on social media, and opponents of the bill called her comments evidence of the misguided science behind Laubenberg’s proposal.

Laubenberg told North Texas talk radio host Mark Davis that she was momentarily confused by Democrats’ questions and misspoke. “What I was trying to say is, when a woman goes to the hospital, that they have the procedures there” to help her obtain emergency contraception and other treatment, she said. “No, rape kits do not cause an abortion.” As for the reaction, Laubenberg added: “If that’s the worst that you can complain about me, go ahead.”

“If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.”

In February 2014, the Maine Democratic Party called for the resignation of Lawrence Lockman, a Republican member of the Maine House of Representatives, when a liberal activist made a blog post detailing negative public statements about gays, abortion and rape that Lockman had made years earlier:

The post by Maine People’s Alliance activist Mike Tipping mined press clippings to unearth several offensive comments. In one, Lockman implied that HIV and AIDS could be spread by bed sheets and mosquitoes. In another, he said that the progressive movement assisted the AIDS epidemic by assuring “the public that the practice of sodomy is a legitimate alternative lifestyle, rather than a perverted and depraved crime against humanity.” In a 1995 letter in the Sun Journal in Lewiston, a reader quoted a press statement by Lockman, then part of the Pro Life Education Association, saying, “If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.”

Lockman responded to the controversy by issuing a statement affirming that he regretted his previous remarks:

Most of the comments were made during the 1980s and 1990s, but Maine Democratic Party chairman Ben Grant issued a statement calling for Lockman’s resignation. Grant said the comments were “hateful, vicious and offensive” and he called Lockman a “disturbed individual who holds some of the most abhorrent beliefs ever heard from a public official in Maine.”

Lockman released a written statement.

“I have always been passionate about my beliefs, and years ago I said things that I regret. I hold no animosity toward anyone by virtue of their gender or sexual orientation, and today I am focused on ensuring freedom and economic prosperity for all Mainers,” he said.

Sources:Alter, Charlotte.   “Todd Akin Still Doesn’t Get What’s Wrong with Saying ‘Legitimate Rape.’”
Time.   17 July 2014.Graff, Amy.   “Rick Santorum: Rape Babies Are Gifts from God”
San Francisco Chronicle.   24 January 2012.Jaco, Charles.   “Jaco Report: Full Interview with Todd Akin.”
KTVI-TV [St. Louis].   19 August 2012.Madison, Lucy.   “Richard Mourdock: Even Pregnancy from Rape Something ‘God Intended.’”
CBS News.   24 October 2012.

Mistler, Steve.   “Maine Lawmaker Says He Regrets Comments on Rape, Gays.”
Portland Press Herald.   27 February 2014.

Mohammed, Ravelle.   “Santorum: Rape Victims Should ‘Make Best of a Bad Situation’ and Choose Life.”
The Christian Post.   24 January 2012.

Moore, Lori.   “Rep. Todd Akin: The Statement and the Reaction.”
The New York Times.   20 August 2012.

Associated Press.   “Texas Candidate’s Comment About Rape Causes a Furor.”
The New York Times.   26 March 1990.

The Dallas Morning News.   “Rape-Kit Remarks Put Rep. Jodie Laubenberg in Spotlight.”
25 June 2013.

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.

Salt-Lake-Homeless-Shelters-1.jpg

 “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.

shelterAZPEZWQRWFF43PGGIE7JQZC2NY.jpg

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?”

mayor2NULC22TI5BNZHKKQQ56O43WNE.jpg
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….

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.

Israel vs. the United Nations: The Nikki Haley doctrine

June 19, 2017 9:54 P.M. (Updated: June 19, 2017 11:51 P.M.)
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (File
By: Ramzy Baroud

Ramzy Baroud is an internationally syndicated columnist, author, and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story.

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, seems to be championing a single cause: Israel.

When Haley speaks about Israel, her language is not merely emotive nor tailored to fit the need of a specific occasion. Rather, her words are resolute, consistent and are matched by a clear plan of action.

Along with Haley, the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu is moving fast to cultivate the unique opportunity of dismissing the United Nations, and thus any attempt at criticizing the Israeli occupation.

Unlike previous UN ambassadors who strongly backed Israel, Haley refrains from any coded language or any attempt, however poor, to appear balanced. Last March, she told a crowd of 18,000 supporters at the Israel lobby, AIPAC’s annual policy conference, that this is a new era for US-Israel relations.

“I wear heels. It’s not for a fashion statement,” she told the crowd that was thrilled by her speech. “It’s because if I see something wrong, we’re going to kick ’em every single time.”

Trump’s new sheriff/ambassador, condemned UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which strongly criticized Israel’s illegal settlements. While still in its final days in office, the Obama administration did not vote for the resolution — but did not veto it, either — thus setting a precedent that has not been witnessed in many years.

The US abstention, according to Haley, was as if the “entire country felt a kick in the gut.”

What made Israel particularly angry over Obama’s last act at the UN was the fact that it violated a tradition that has extended for many years, most notably during the term of US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte during George W. Bush’s first term in office.

What became known as the Negroponte doctrine was a declared US policy that Washington would oppose any resolution that criticizes Israel and does not also condemn Palestinians.

But Israel, not the Palestinians, is the occupying power which refuses to honor dozens of UN resolutions and various international treaties and laws. By making that decision, and, indeed, following through to ensure its implementation, the US managed to sideline the UN as an “irrelevant” institution.

Sidelining the UN, then, also meant that the US would have complete control over managing the Middle East, but especially the situation in Palestine.

However, under Trump, even the US-led and self-tailored “peace process” has become obsolete.

This is the real moral, but also political, crisis of the Haley doctrine, for it goes beyond Negroponte silencing any criticism of Israel at the UN, into removing the UN entirely — thus international law — from being a factor in resolving the conflict.

In a talk at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council — which is made up of 47 member countries — Haley declared that her country was “reviewing its participation” in the council altogether. She claimed that Israel is the “only country permanently on the body’s calendar,” an inaccurate statement that is often uttered by Israel with little basis in truth.

If Haley read the report on the 35th session of the Human Rights Council, she would have realized that the rights body discussed many issues, pertaining to women rights and empowerment, forced marriages, and human rights violations in many countries.

But considering that Israel has recently “celebrated” 50 years of occupying Palestinians, Haley should not be surprised that Israel is also an item on the agenda. In fact, any country that has occupied and oppressed another for so long should also remain an item on the international agenda.

Following her speech, in which she derided and threatened UN member states in Geneva, she went to Israel to further emphasize her country’s insistence on challenging the international community on behalf of Israel.

Along with notorious hasbara expert, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, Haley toured the Israeli border with Gaza, showing sympathy with supposedly besieged Israeli communities — while on the other side, nearly two million Palestinians in Gaza have been trapped for over a decade in a very small region, behind sealed-shut borders.

Speaking in Jerusalem on June 7, Haley said: “I have never taken kindly to bullies and the UN has bullied Israel for a very long time and we are not going to let that happen anymore,” adding that “it is a new day for Israel in the United Nations.”

By agreeing to live in Israel’s pseudo-reality, where bullies complain of being bullied, the US is moving further and further away from any international consensus on human rights and international law. This becomes more pronounced and dangerous when we consider Donald Trump administration’s decision to pull out from the Paris accords on global warming.

Trump argued that the decision was of benefit to American businesses. Even if one agrees with such an unsubstantiated assertion, Haley’s new doctrine on Israel and the UN, by contrast, can hardly be of any benefit to the United States in the short or long run. It simply degrades US standing, leadership and even goes below the lowest standards of credibility practiced under previous administrations.

Worse still, inspired and empowered by Haley’s blank check, Israeli leaders are now moving forward to physically remove the UN from Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Two alarming developments have taken place on that front:

One took place early May when Culture and Sport Minister, Miri Regev, made a formal demand to the Israeli cabinet to shut down the UN headquarters in Jerusalem, to punish UNESCO for restating the international position on the status of Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem.

The second was earlier this month, when Netanyahu called on Haley to shut down UNRWA, the UN body responsible for the welfare of five million Palestinian refugees.

According to Netanyahu, UNRWA “perpetuates” refugee problems. However, the refugees’ problem is not UNRWA per se, but the fact that Israel refuses to honor UN Resolution 194 pertaining to their return and compensation.

These developments, and more, are all outcomes of the Haley doctrine. Her arrival at the UN has ignited a US-Israeli hate fest, not only targeting UN member states, but international law, and everything that the United Nations has stood for over the decades.

The US has supported Israel quite blindly at the UN throughout the years. Haley seems to adopt an entirely Israeli position with no regard whatsoever for her country’s allies, or the possible repercussions of dismissing the only international body that still serves as a platform for international engagement and conflict resolution.

Haley seems to truly think of herself as the new sheriff in town, who will “kick ’em every single time,” before riddling the bullies with bullets and riding into the sunset, along with Netanyahu. However, with a huge leadership vacuum and no law to guide the international community in resolving a 70-year-old conflict, Haley’s cowboy tactics are likely to do much harm to an already bleeding region.

Since the Negroponte doctrine of 2002, thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis were killed in an occupation that seems to know no ends. Further disengagement from international law will likely yield a greater toll and more suffering.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect Ma’an News Agency’s editorial policy.

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