Hitler was elected, too — Down with Trump

Trump at Conservative Political Action Conference, 2011. Photo: Gage Skidmore
Trump at Conservative Political Action Conference, 2011. Photo: Gage Skidmore

There need to be millions of Americans in the streets shouting “Not my president” and more. “Impeach Trump,” “Down with Trump,” “Fuck Trump,” whatever works. There can be no recognition of his leadership. He has the legal right to be president, he doesn’t have the moral right to show his face in public. He’s an evil creature, personally and politically, and there can be no reconciliation with evil.

His presidency, his ability to act as president, has to be fought by every non-violent means that can only be imagined. Mass protests, general strikes, shut-downs of college campuses and any other public institutions that can be shut down – all this should be on the agenda (and at least with college campuses, I’m pretty sure it will be).

Because of who he is and what he stands for, Trump would be illegitimate as president even if he won 100% of the vote. But the fact is that most Americans rejected him and a plurality of them voted for Hillary Clinton. As of this writing, she’s leading him in the popular vote by about 200,000. And the legendary Nate Silver (who this time around got it much less wrong, at least, than the other election-data analysts) says that once all the votes are counted, Hillary “should eventually win the popular vote by 1 to 2 percentage points, and perhaps somewhere on the order of 1.5 million to 2 million votes …”

1.5 million to 2 million votes. That would be three to four times as big a margin as Al Gore had over George W. Bush in 2000. This is mind-boggling. The miserable U.S. electoral vote system says Trump gets to be president, but he’s an imposter. Many more Americans voted for Hillary than for him, and most of those Hillary-voters, it’s safe to assume, are sickened and terrified by him. A mandate to lead? He has a mandate to shrivel up and disappear.

After the 2000 election I, like probably most Democrats, thought the Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court robbed Gore of the presidency. But once Gore conceded, Democrats from top to bottom very grudgingly but decisively accepted Bush as the new president. Democrats have accepted the legitimacy of every Republican president-elect, no matter how much they disliked him.

This, however, is different, and it’s not because of Hillary winning the popular vote. It’s because of Trump. He is way, way, way beyond the pale, like no big-party American presidential candidate, let alone winning candidate, ever was. He is the worst major contender for power in a genuinely democratic country since Hitler in 1932 – and if you think that’s an exaggeration, name somebody worse. And now this individual is headed into the White House.

That’s his legal right. His 60 million opponents, meanwhile, have the legal right to try to impeach him, to go in masses into America’s streets and shout their fury and absolutely justified hatred of the president-elect at the top of their lungs, to shut down as much of America as they can shut down, to paralyze Trump’s ability to govern – and beyond their legal right, they have the democratic right to civil disobedience, to break the law non-violently in this cause.

Let it happen in the streets, and let it happen in the Senate, the House of Representatives and every level of U.S. government.

Everyone’s asking, What will the new face of the Democratic Party be? Let it be this.

Remember Trump’s multi-year campaign to wrest the presidency from Obama on the racist lie that he was born in Africa? Remember the alt-right’s monstrous conspiracy theories and verbal violence against Obama from the time he became a candidate for president – and against Hillary Clinton for the last 20 years? We are no less enraged today; the difference is that we don’t need conspiracy theories, we have the truth. It is time to pour out our wrath.

 

 

 

No sense anymore to talk about ending the occupation ‘for Israel’s sake’

Caricature of Benjamin Netanyahu
Caricature by DonkeyHotey.

Netanyahu has destroyed that liberal Zionist argument. There’s only one case against the occupation still standing.

Centrists and center-leftists in Israel and abroad, liberals who think of themselves as practical, as realistic, as “muscular,” have been saying for decades that they want to end the occupation not for the Palestinians’ sake, God forbid – no, they want to end it for Israel’s sake. These are tough-minded people, after all, nothing naïve or effete about them.

Well, gang, well, Zionist Unionists and Yesh Atidniks, liberal Zionists all, you don’t have a case anymore. Netanyahu has destroyed it.

Look around. The occupation is going strong – and Israel’s doing great, just like Bibi says. We’re as safe as we’ve ever been. The “lone-wolf intifada” is basically over; we beat the Palestinians again. Mahmoud Abbas squawks, but he makes sure his troops are hard at work in the West Bank every day, protecting us. And Hamas? Pretty soon we’ll have an Iron Dome beneath the ground to stop their tunnels along with the one above ground that stops their rockets. What are they going to do?

The economy’s doing fine, about as good as that of any Western country, and better than many. BDS? It’s become a fundraising pitch for AIPAC, a new “project” for the machers. It makes a lot of Jewish students uncomfortable at American colleges; for Israel it’s a useful punching bag.

Oh, but we’re becoming isolated abroad, right? Here’s how isolated we are: Netanyahu figuratively pissed in Obama’s face in front of Congress last year, and since then he’s gone on building up settlements as much as he pleases – and all that’s left to decide is whether the U.S. will give Israel an additional billion dollars a year on top of the annual $3 billion, or sweeten the arrangement even more.

Europe? The French peace initiative? It’s all Netanyahu can do to keep a straight face.

But here’s the real beauty part – making peace with our Arab neighbors, the big prize waiting for us if we agree to a Palestinian state? We’re making peace with our Arab neighbors now! The Saudis love us! The Egyptians love us! Not the people, of course, but who cares? The Arab dictators, the Arab armies that are fighting these Islamic radicals, that hate Hamas, Iran and ISIS – we’re their enemies’ enemy, so they’re our friends! They couldn’t care less about the Palestinians, they want our intelligence, our technology, our leverage in Washington. The “New Middle East”? It’s finally starting to happen, thanks to the government of Bibi Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett!

This is the sort of thing Netanyahu’s been telling the media in these briefings lately, and he’s not lying. He is steering Israel’s ship goddamn well.

So, muscular liberals, you really want to try to take down the occupation – now? You want to tell 100,000 settlers – at least – to leave their homes, you want to uproot Hebron, Yitzhar and all those other fanatical armed camps – when everything’s going so smoothly and there’s nothing but blue skies on the Israeli horizon? Why?

For Israel’s sake? Are you that crazy?

No. No, this just isn’t rational, not anymore. You don’t mess up Israel’s good thing and pitch the country into chaos, into extreme civil strife and maybe civil war because you want to do what’s best for Israel. No, that argument is finished.

If you want to be tough-minded and realistic, if you want to look out for Israel’s practical self-interest, then give up this idea of ending the occupation – and get behind Bibi. Look around the country, see how good the Jews have got it here, see how pitiful the Palestinians are, how impotent our Western critics are, and admit that you were wrong and Bibi was right all along. You want to do what’s best for Israel, then look into those cold eyes of his and start seeing the world his way.

Nope, there is no practical, realpolitik case for ending the occupation anymore. There is no more ending the occupation for Israel’s sake. There is only one reason left to end it: for the Palestinians’ sake. Because what we’ve been doing to them for the last half-century is immoral, forbidden. And in so doing, Israel has become an immoral country.

If you don’t believe that, muscular liberals, then have the guts to admit that for Israel’s sake – its material sake, anyway – Bibi is the man. But if you do believe that Israel has indeed become an immoral country, then have the guts to stop speaking the language of practical self-interest and start speaking the language of conscience. Speak up for an end to the occupation – for the Palestinians’ sake, for the sake of restoring Israel’s lost morality; it’s the same thing. There is no other honest case against the occupation left to be made.

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Originally published September 1 on Haaretz.com as “All You Centrist, Liberal Zionists: Netanyahu’s Destroyed Your Case for Ending the Occupation.” 

Black Lives Matter is basically right about Israel – but very wrong about America

Black Lives Matter protest
Black Lives Matter protest against police shootings, Manhattan, Nov. 28, 2014. Photo: The All-Nite Images

If describing Israel’s actions toward the Palestinians as “genocide” were the only thing wrong with the Black Lives Matter** platform, I would endorse it with a caveat over that one word, which is grossly inaccurate. Otherwise, the platform’s brief take on Israel is harsh but accurate. In fact, it could have gone further and condemned Israel for its periodic acts of military aggression against Lebanon and Syria. And as far as its description of Israel as an “apartheid state” goes, that’s nothing that Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Ami Ayalon, and Tzipi Livni, for starters, haven’t clearly implied.

No, the problem with the BLM platform, released last week, isn’t the couple of paragraphs on Israel, it’s the 37,000 other words on America. The document describes the United States as an evil country, one that deliberately crushes black people and other “marginalized” groups at home and abroad. It’s a description of apartheid-era South Africa, or of Mississippi in 1956, but not of America in 2016. It reflects the thinking of the truly loony left.

The platform begins with the section on the U.S. criminal justice and school systems, titled “End the war on black people.” Is America really waging war on black people? Some police are, some jurors are, Donald Trump and many of his supporters are, but America as a whole? Bullshit. And the proof goes way, way beyond a black man being in the White House. There are black people throughout the halls of American power, there is a large black middle class, there is institutionalized affirmative action for blacks in colleges and government jobs – and all this has been going on for two generations. “War on black people”? That’s light years from the truth.

You’d never know from this platform that any black person in jail was anything but an innocent victim of the system’s racism. You’d never know there were murderous black gangs and other criminals, or that black people were being killed by them at appalling rates. You’d never know that so many poor black schoolchildren lived in soul-killing homes and neighborhoods, and that this might have something to do with why they were failing in school, instead of it all being down to America’s “school-to-prison pipeline.”

But this is BLM’s view of America at home. And its view of America abroad? From the “Invest-Divest” section, the one that discussed Israel:

America is an empire that uses war to expand territory and power. …

[R]esources and funds needed for reparations and for building a just and equitable society domestically are instead used to wage war against a majority of the world’s communities. …

US arms and military corporations have made billions of dollars in profit off of waging disaster and destabilization in the Middle East, while increasing western control over the land and resources of the region. …

In 2006, AFRICOM was established by the US government to expand US military presence on the continent under the claim of protecting the region against “terror” and “radical Islam”. In reality, this effort was designed to expand western colonial control over the region, its people and their resources. …

The interlinked systems of white supremacy, imperialism, capitalism and patriarchy shape the violence we face. As oppressed people living in the US, the belly of global empire, we are in a critical position to build the necessary connections for a global liberation movement. …

This is a description of an evil empire.  If it’s accurate, then Barack Obama, as leader of the empire, is the No. 1 enemy of blacks in America and everywhere else. I don’t see how it’s possible to endorse Black Lives Matter without loathing Obama and everything he stands for. And not just Obama – the whole Democratic Party.

Black Lives Matter protest
Black Lives Matter protest against police shooting in Minneapolis, Nov. 15, 2015. Photo: Tony Webster

When I first heard about BLM, it was from their protests of the police killings of unarmed blacks that were turning up on videos. Those films shook me up, and I thought BLM was brave and right to protest police racism and violence. I had the exact same reaction to their protests at Trump rallies. While I found their protests at Ivy League colleges ridiculous – America’s elite colleges aren’t racist, they’re anti-racist – I figured BLM was still doing more good than harm, and I saw them, on balance, as a positive force in America, as being on the front lines challenging racism where it really existed.

But the understanding of America expressed in this platform – it’s deranged. Sure, there’s a lot in it that I and many other liberals agree with – like the need to raise taxes on the wealthy, legalize drugs and prostitution, pay reparations to blacks for slavery, put fewer people, especially blacks, in jail, and constantly look for ways to help improve the lives of poor people, especially children. But these things are far outweighed by the platform’s glaring distortions of American reality – the reality of poor black ghettos, of police, of school officials, of the military, of American power at every level.

Black Lives Matter cannot fairly be called an American progressive movement. It is an anti-American, anti-Western, doctrinaire far-left movement. It is the Black Panther Party without the violence. With all due respect to their protests against police racism and Trump, BLM’s worldview is beyond the liberal/progressive pale.

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** The platform wasn’t drawn up by Black Lives Matter alone, but The Movement for Black Lives, which includes over 50 organizations aligned with BLM. I use “Black Lives Matter” as shorthand because of its name recognition.

 

The liberal West’s ‘secret’ war against ISIS

U.S. airstrike on ISIS
U.S. fighter jet taking off from aircraft carrier for airstrike on ISIS in Syria. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex King/Released)

Since the slaughter in Nice, there seems to be an argument between Western liberals and conservatives over how to deal with ISIS, with the liberals arguing for democracy and conservatives arguing for war. (Here, here, here and here.) I won’t even go into the specifics of the arguments because anybody who hasn’t heard them should be able to predict them by now; what I will say, though, is that it’s a false argument.

The liberal West, led by Obama and Hollande, is at war with ISIS, and in the wake of Nice, Hollande at least is escalating it.  In the last two years the U.S.-led coalition has launched many thousands of airstrikes against ISIS and other jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen, and they’ve killed many thousands of ISIS members and other jihadists.

I’m not hearing liberals say they want this bombing to slow down, or for France to relax its surveillance of terrorist suspects, so why are they arguing?

Because while the West is at war with ISIS, the Western public – left, right and center – doesn’t know it. There are few Western troops on the ground in the war zones, few are getting killed, there’s no military draft, and nobody has the patience to read about the fighting in the Middle East, so the only time Westerners tune into ISIS is when there’s an ISIS-linked terror attack in a Western city. As far as the man on the Western street can see, ISIS is blasting away at him and his side isn’t doing anything.

Fox's Bill O'Reilly and Donald Trump
Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump, April 28, 2016. Photo: From YouTube, screenshot of Fox News.

So when Donald Trump and Fox’s Bill O’Reilly come out now for war, they sound like they’re really onto something bold and new, while Hillary, reminding Americans that they actually are at war, sounds like she’s on the defensive.

In France you get Marine Le Pen saying, “The war against the scourge of fundamentalism hasn’t started. It must now be declared.” Such absolute bullshit. The French are world-beaters when it comes to fighting Islamic terror. Yes, there is still terror in France. There’s also still terror in Israel – does anyone suggest that Israel isn’t at war with terrorists?

No, because Israelis, being conservatives, are always trumpeting how hard they’re fighting the enemy. (But within Israel, the relative liberals like Rabin and Peres were always accused by conservatives like Netanyahu of doing nothing against terror; same bullshit, and it worked every time.) Same thing when Americans were being taken hostage by Iran and Hezbollah; Reagan never made any military move and even gave the Iranians arms, while Carter at least tried a military assault to free them in Iran – yet Reagan was considered tough on terror and Carter was considered a wimp. Why? Because Reagan, being a conservative, knew how to talk shit about war, while Carter, being a liberal, didn’t.

It’s saber-rattling time 

Same with Obama, same with Hollande, and same with Hillary, at least in comparison to that chickenhawk Trump. They have to start rattling sabers against ISIS, they have to tell the public every day about all the bastards they’re killing in the Middle East. This is what the man on the Western street wants to hear – and rightly so. ISIS and its sympathizers are a force of evil, a menace to the Middle East and the West, they’re horrifying people with their killing and people need to know that their side is fighting back. In the absence of that knowledge, people are becoming demoralized and turning into easy prey for the likes of Trump and Le Pen. And if these two take over in America and France, which seems more likely since Nice, they really will turn the fight against ISIS into a fight against all Muslims, which is not how liberal leaders like Obama and Hollande are fighting it now.

All the more reason for liberals to support the war against ISIS, to support escalating it … if they even know there’s a war on.

Americans’ fear of Islamist terror exaggerates danger

Omar Mateen and scene of Orlando attack.
Orlando mass murderer Omar Mateen and scene of attack.

In the wake of Orlando, Americans are feeling helpless against the threat of “lone wolf” Islamic militants like Omar Mateen, and can’t figure out how to stop the next ISIS-inspired loose cannon from going off. It’s a legitimate fear, of course. But it’s way out of proportion to the actual danger.

Islamic militancy, lone-wolf or organized, is far down on the list of motives that figure in the murders of Americans, and it is in no way a threat to the basic security of American society like it could conceivably become in Western Europe.

Moreover, America is not helpless against global jihad; the U.S. is fighting it very hard – militarily and on the intelligence front – and is hurting ISIS badly, as Obama reminded everyone in his address on Tuesday.

In the 15 years since 9/11, a few brainwashed American Muslims have committed atrocities in the name of their ideology (in Mateen’s case, also in the name of his raging homophobia and penchant for violence). But the American Muslim community, unlike pockets of Europe’s Muslim population, is not a breeding ground for militancy. It is, rather, a success story of American immigration, sort of like the Italians even with their past anarchist bombers and Mafiosi, or the Jews even with their past gangsters, Communists, thrill killers (Leopold and Loeb) and atomic spies (Julius Rosenberg).

America has been doing a very good job against jihadism, especially at home. So instead of Donald Trump’s recommended course of action – to panic about every Muslim in their midst or beyond their borders because of the unsolved threat of lone-wolf jihadists, Americans should calm down and let their country go on doing what it’s been doing. As a first step, they should put the threat of jihadist killers in perspective.

Christian white guys

If you go down the list of names and photos of America’s worst mass shooters, and even more so of America’s serial killers, what you see is almost nothing but Christian white guys. Mateen killed 49 people; Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik murdered 14 people in San Bernardino last December – but in America last year there were 372 mass shootings (those with four or more deaths or injuries), and all told over 13,000 people in the U.S. were killed by guns, not counting suicides. So Americans have many other kinds of murderers to worry about before they get to freelance ISIS disciples.

And for those who have the feeling that America is weak, that it’s given up in the Middle East, that it’s too “politically correct” to fight Muslim radicals, I’ll refer them to Obama’s statement that the U.S. has launched some 13,000 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Let’s not forget U.S. drone warfare in Pakistan and Afghanistan, either.

As for maintaining surveillance on militant Islamists and suspected ones at home and abroad, ask Edward Snowden if America is doing nothing. George W. Bush’s anti-terror Patriot Act is not only still in force, Obama is a real champion of it.

No U.S. jihadist subculture 

Finally, Americans should learn that the Muslim community in America, which makes up 1 percent of the country’s population, does not have a jihadist infrastructure, a jihadist subculture, like some Western European countries do. As Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer wrote this week, “It lacks neighborhoods like Molenbeek in Brussels and the poor suburbs of Paris, Marseille and Toulouse, where young Muslims grow up, disconnected from the wider society, and radical imams preach without being disturbed.”

America’s 3.3 million Muslims are a well-integrated, successful community. Their average level of education, professional standing and income is equal to and by some measures better than the nationwide average, according to a 2007 Pew Research Center study. Those surveyed say they have about as many non-Muslims among their close friends as they do Muslims. And in their political, religious and social views, including their attitudes toward homosexuality, they have made a striking departure from the Muslim Middle East.

America’s Muslims are not the enemy within. The rare jihadists among them are not expressing a significant sentiment in their community, like those in Western Europe do. Omar Mateen was not only a lone wolf, he was also, truly, a “wild weed.”

So this is no time for Americans to succumb to fear, at least not of Islamic militancy. Its mark on the horror in Orlando notwithstanding, there are much greater dangers at home – such as the proliferation of guns, an entrenched habit of violence and the rise of neo-fascism – for Americans to be afraid of.

Published originally as “Don’t Feed Trump’s Scaremongering: America Is Still Doing a Great Job Against Jihadism” in Haaretz.com, June 16, 2016. 

 

Neo-fascists threaten the West; in Israel they’ve already arrived

From America to Austria, belligerent, xenophobic ultra-nationalism is rising. But its hold on power in Israel is far more secure — and uncontested.

Israeli neofascists
Members of right-wing organization Lehava protesting the wedding of a Jewish-born woman and a Muslim man in Rishon Letzion, August 17, 2014. Photo: Ofer Vaknin

I hear a lot of Israeli liberals saying that yes, things are bad here, but they’re bad everywhere. On the one hand, Avigdor Lieberman is running the army, a majority of Israelis believe the soldier who executed a prone Palestinian in Hebron behaved “responsibly,” and it’s gotten so that even Roni Daniel, Channel 2 news’ superhawk, is wondering whether his children should leave the country.

But on the other hand, they point out, America has Donald Trump. In Austria, the party of Jorg Haider just came within an inch of taking over. In France, Marine Le Pen is the rising power. All over Western Europe, even in Scandinavia, the neo-fascists are gaining strength.

So Israel isn’t alone in its slide into the swamp of belligerent, xenophobic ultra-nationalism — it’s happening in the most “enlightened” countries of the West. We’re in no worse a political predicament than they’re in, according to this view.

But this view is mistaken; our political predicament is worse. In the 21st century, the forces of belligerent, xenophobic ultra-nationalism have a much stronger, more secure hold on power in Israel than they do in any Western country (not counting Eastern Europe).

Israeli right getting more radical, powerful

Netanyahu has been elected prime minister four times, and each of his governments is more right-wing than the last. Meanwhile, the so-called center and center-left parties grow increasingly antagonistic toward the Palestinians and the Israeli Arab parties, until it’s become a bad joke to refer to them (except Meretz, the lone party of the Zionist left) as a liberal opposition. And now their leader, Isaac Herzog, has left them more divided and weaker than ever.

In Israel today, the right-wing powers-that-be are only getting more right-wing and more powerful; except for the Supreme Court (to a limited degree), there’s nothing and nobody to hold them back.

In America today, the situation is quite different. The president, now in his eighth and last year, is Barack Obama, the sort of liberal politician who has become extinct in 21st-century Israel. And even if the grotesque Donald Trump does win the November election, the Democrats, with their larger share of the electorate, will have a good chance of beating him the next time. The Republicans have no hope of ruling American politics without challenge for nearly a generation like the Likud and its allies have done here. Over there it’s the Democrats, davka, who have such a hope.

In Austria, the Freedom Party, running on the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant platform common to all European far-right parties, came within 0.7% of the vote to winning the presidency. But not only did it lose, the winner was a member of the liberal Green Party. And even if that result gets turned around in the coming years, the liberals will almost certainly remain contenders for power in Austria, unlike what’s happened in contemporary Israel.

In other Western European countries, even France with its National Front, the demagogic, nativist parties and movements are growing — but they are all still at a far remove from having national power such as that enjoyed here by Yisrael Beiteinu, Habayit Hayehudi and current-day Likud.

European consensus still liberal 

Since World War II, Western Europe has developed a strong liberal, tolerant consensus; this is fraying due to the large influx of Muslim immigrants and refugees and the influence of radical Islam in their ranks, but it remains the norm. By contrast, liberalism and tolerance for Arabs, while always a stream in Israeli politics, only came to the fore during the Oslo years — and even they were interrupted by Netanyahu’s first term. Since Oslo imploded in 2000, this stream has been steadily drying up — except during the anomaly of Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza – while the racism and militarism of the right keeps running stronger.

Western Europeans have problems with immigration, refugees and jihadism, and often with economics; these problems may grow to the point where they derange the public and the neo-fascists start taking power. But this hasn’t happened yet, and there’s a very good chance it won’t.

Israel, on the other hand, is a tiny ethnic-religious minority in a hostile region on a permanent war footing with its neighbors. Israel believes (wrongly) that it has done everything it can to make peace and been turned down, and so it trusts its security to the subjugation of the Palestinians and the periodic bombing of Syria and Hezbollah, with no expectation or even reasonable hope that things will change.

This is a much more deeply entrenched and volatile problem than the Western Europeans, or, certainly, the Americans have been dealing with.  What ails Israel is the sort of condition that’s just made for a long-term takeover by belligerent, xenophobic ultranationalists, which is what’s happened here and hasn’t happened there. No, unfortunately, this is not a Western country we’re living in.

Originally published in Haaretz.com, May 31, 2016.