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Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

BDS, Human Rights and the Jews – An Analysis (29 July 2017) by Lawrence Davidson

 

 

 

Part I – BDS at Twelve

 

 

As of July 2017, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli racism and apartheid is 12 years old. This means that over the last dozen years, a worldwide grassroots movement has grown up – a movement of civil society – that has organized active opposition to Zionist racism and Israeli oppression. While the vast majority of governments have either ignored or assisted Israel’s violations of international law and the basic principles of human rights, millions of “civilians” have refused to follow their leaders on this issue.

 

The BDS movement is now far ranging. It presses for divestment from companies that support or do business with Israel, particularly those that operate in the Occupied Territories. It urges the boycott of all Israeli products, from foodstuffs to cosmetics. It protests the appearance of Israeli cultural organizations outside of Israel. It urges the boycott of Israeli academic institutions that lend support to the state (an effort that, in 2015, Israeli president Reuven Rivlin called a “strategic threat of the first order”). And, it discourages tourist and artist visits to Israel, particularly by well-known celebrities. For more information about specific BDS achievements over the last 12 years, go to website of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

 

In all these efforts the movement has proved increasingly successful. Some surveys have suggested that as many as one-third of Americans and eighty percent of Canadians support BDS. The movement is also strong in Western Europe and growing in Australia and Latin America. Thus, no one should sell this ongoing campaign short. Certainly, the Israeli government does not. Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy devotes a lot of time and money to “push back” against the BDS movement. Israel’s attempt to counter this growing popularity is grounded on a simplistic, libelous campaign that seeks to identify the BDS movement as a new form of anti-Semitism.

 

At least among the general population, there are two things that make this a very hard sell: (1) a lot of BDS supporters are Jewish, underlining the fact that the Zionist state and Judaism are not the same thing, and (2) the State of Israel continues to reinforce the BDS characterization of it as a racist state by public acts of discrimination against Palestinians.

 

As more people come to support BDS, fewer people support Israel. A survey released in mid June 2017 by an organization known as The Brand Israel Group, “a coalition of volunteer advertising and marketing specialists” who consult for pro-Israel organizations, indicated that “approval of Israel among American college students dropped 27% between the group’s 2010 and 2016 surveys” while “Israel’s approval among all Americans dropped 14 points.” Brand Israel’s conclusion: “the future of America no longer believe that Israel shares their values.” This is the case not because of any big increase in anti-Semitism, but due to ever-growing evidence of Israeli racism.

 

 

Part II – Political Roadblocks

 

 

Unfortunately, Israel’s inability to keep a favorable public image does not necessarily mean its near-term defeat. Here in the U.S. there are two reasons for this: (1) as obnoxious as Israeli behavior is, and also as obscenely massive the U.S. aid package that helps to sustain that behavior, neither the behavior nor the aid package is yet a prime voting issue for most American citizens, and (2) due to the resulting lack of political pressure from the voters, American Zionists still have a clear field to use money and other forms of patronage to pressure both the U.S. Congress and the political parties to ignore the blatant racism and continue to strongly support the Zionist state.

 

That support can extend to becoming Israel’s ally in the effort to defame and then try to destroy BDS. The argument that BDS is a modern form of anti-Semitism has become the backbone of an effort to make it illegal. As noted above, the BDS movement is not anti-Semitic. It is anti-Zionist, which in fact makes it anti-racist. There is plenty of evidence that the Zionists do indeed practice racism in Israel and its Occupied Territories, and therefore, in truth, the Zionist charge against BDS creates a paradox. It requires you to accept that a supporter of BDS can simultaneously be anti-Semitic and anti-racist. Alas, in the absence of voter pressure, this absurdity does not matter to most U.S. politicians. Nor does the fact that outlawing BDS constitutes an obvious violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

 

 

Part III – BDS, Human Rights and Jewish Morality

 

 

On a wider field, two things are simultaneously at stake: the future viability of human rights and the moral status of the Jewish people. First, consider the threat to human rights as an international principle. The Zionists seem to believe that what weakens the viability of human rights is that one country – Israel – is being “picked on” for misbehaving, while other countries, allegedly doing the same things or worse, are not similarly censured. Despite the fact that there happens to be good reasons for “picking on Israel,” this Zionist complaint is an exaggeration used to deflect legitimate criticism. It also misses the point.

 

The threat to human rights does not come from individuals overly blaming one country for what others also do. It comes from people – in the form of governments, lobbyists, and a sadly misled element of the Jewish community – actually championing Israel (or any other racist country for that matter) while it pursues overtly discriminatory policies based on, in this case, religion. This precedent, persisting over decades, must end up deadening the ability of governments, as well as the United Nations, to take human rights seriously and develop mechanisms for their promotion and protection.

 

The same situation that threatens the integrity of human rights standards threatens the moral character of the Jewish people. In a recent article entitled “Israel’s Irrational Rationality,” David Shulman, professor emeritus at Hebrew University, confesses that it is Israeli government policy to maintain “a steady level of state terror directed against a large civilian population [Palestinians] … . All of it stains the character of the state and has, in my experience, horrific effects on the minds and hearts of young soldiers who have to carry out the orders they are given.” However, Shulman knows it does not stop there. He observes that what we have here is an “ongoing moral failure of the country as a whole.”

 

Yet who constitutes “the country as a whole”? The ideology of Zionism demands an identification of Israel with the Jewish people – all of whom are virtual Israeli citizens whether they want to be or not. This means that the Zionists insist that the Jewish people as a whole be identified with Israel’s practices and policies – including the disregard for human rights and implementation of “ongoing state terror.”

 

 

Part IV – Conclusion

 

 

Despite this Zionist contention that Israel and the Jews are equivalent, we know that this cannot be literally true. Israel’s sins cannot be the sins of the Jewish people as a whole. At the beginning of this essay I indicated that increasing number of Jews are actively supporting Palestinian rights and thus opposing both Israel’s undermining of the principle of human rights and its erosive effect on the moral status of the Jewish people.

 

However, the logic of the situation does make one thing literally true, and that is that the Zionist ideology, as it has evolved in practice, is a dangerous enemy of Jewish morality. As long as Zionism stands against human rights while at the same time insisting that Israel stands in for the Jews, it must be the enemy. Ignorance of this logic is also an enemy. Therefore, it is time to heed the call of Rebecca Vilkomerson, head of Jewish Voice for Peace: “Seventy years into the ongoing dispossession and displacement of Palestinians, fifty years into Israel’s military occupation, and ten years into the siege of Gaza, we think it is time for American Jewish communities [and those in the rest of the world as well] to have some really uncomfortable conversations.”

BDS, Human Rights and the Jews – An Analysis (date) by Lawrence Davidson

Part I – BDS at Twelve

As of July 2017, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli racism and apartheid is 12 years old. This means that over the last dozen years, a worldwide grassroots movement has grown up – a movement of civil society – that has organized active opposition to Zionist racism and Israeli oppression. While the vast majority of governments have either ignored or assisted Israel’s violations of international law and the basic principles of human rights, millions of “civilians” have refused to follow their leaders on this issue.

The BDS movement is now far ranging. It presses for divestment from companies that support or do business with Israel, particularly those that operate in the Occupied Territories. It urges the boycott of all Israeli products, from foodstuffs to cosmetics. It protests the appearance of Israeli cultural organizations outside of Israel. It urges the boycott of Israeli academic institutions that lend support to the state (an effort that, in 2015, Israeli president Reuven Rivlin called a “strategic threat of the first order”). And, it discourages tourist and artist visits to Israel, particularly by well-known celebrities. For more information about specific BDS achievements over the last 12 years, go to website of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

In all these efforts the movement has proved increasingly successful. Some surveys have suggested that as many as one-third of Americans and eighty percent of Canadians support BDS. The movement is also strong in Western Europe and growing in Australia and Latin America. Thus, no one should sell this ongoing campaign short. Certainly, the Israeli government does not. Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy devotes a lot of time and money to “push back” against the BDS movement. Israel’s attempt to counter this growing popularity is grounded on a simplistic, libelous campaign that seeks to identify the BDS movement as a new form of anti-Semitism.

At least among the general population, there are two things that make this a very hard sell: (1) a lot of BDS supporters are Jewish, underlining the fact that the Zionist state and Judaism are not the same thing, and (2) the State of Israel continues to reinforce the BDS characterization of it as a racist state by public acts of discrimination against Palestinians.

As more people come to support BDS, fewer people support Israel. A survey released in mid June 2017 by an organization known as The Brand Israel Group, “a coalition of volunteer advertising and marketing specialists” who consult for pro-Israel organizations, indicated that “approval of Israel among American college students dropped 27% between the group’s 2010 and 2016 surveys” while “Israel’s approval among all Americans dropped 14 points.” Brand Israel’s conclusion: “the future of America no longer believe that Israel shares their values.” This is the case not because of any big increase in anti-Semitism, but due to ever-growing evidence of Israeli racism.

Part II – Political Roadblocks

Unfortunately, Israel’s inability to keep a favorable public image does not necessarily mean its near-term defeat. Here in the U.S. there are two reasons for this: (1) as obnoxious as Israeli behavior is, and also as obscenely massive the U.S. aid package that helps to sustain that behavior, neither the behavior nor the aid package is yet a prime voting issue for most American citizens, and (2) due to the resulting lack of political pressure from the voters, American Zionists still have a clear field to use money and other forms of patronage to pressure both the U.S. Congress and the political parties to ignore the blatant racism and continue to strongly support the Zionist state.

That support can extend to becoming Israel’s ally in the effort to defame and then try to destroy BDS. The argument that BDS is a modern form of anti-Semitism has become the backbone of an effort to make it illegal. As noted above, the BDS movement is not anti-Semitic. It is anti-Zionist, which in fact makes it anti-racist. There is plenty of evidence that the Zionists do indeed practice racism in Israel and its Occupied Territories, and therefore, in truth, the Zionist charge against BDS creates a paradox. It requires you to accept that a supporter of BDS can simultaneously be anti-Semitic and anti-racist. Alas, in the absence of voter pressure, this absurdity does not matter to most U.S. politicians. Nor does the fact that outlawing BDS constitutes an obvious violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Part III – BDS, Human Rights and Jewish Morality

On a wider field, two things are simultaneously at stake: the future viability of human rights and the moral status of the Jewish people. First, consider the threat to human rights as an international principle. The Zionists seem to believe that what weakens the viability of human rights is that one country – Israel – is being “picked on” for misbehaving, while other countries, allegedly doing the same things or worse, are not similarly censured. Despite the fact that there happens to be good reasons for “picking on Israel,” this Zionist complaint is an exaggeration used to deflect legitimate criticism. It also misses the point.

The threat to human rights does not come from individuals overly blaming one country for what others also do. It comes from people – in the form of governments, lobbyists, and a sadly misled element of the Jewish community – actually championing Israel (or any other racist country for that matter) while it pursues overtly discriminatory policies based on, in this case, religion. This precedent, persisting over decades, must end up deadening the ability of governments, as well as the United Nations, to take human rights seriously and develop mechanisms for their promotion and protection.

The same situation that threatens the integrity of human rights standards threatens the moral character of the Jewish people. In a recent article entitled “Israel’s Irrational Rationality,” David Shulman, professor emeritus at Hebrew University, confesses that it is Israeli government policy to maintain “a steady level of state terror directed against a large civilian population [Palestinians] … . All of it stains the character of the state and has, in my experience, horrific effects on the minds and hearts of young soldiers who have to carry out the orders they are given.” However, Shulman knows it does not stop there. He observes that what we have here is an “ongoing moral failure of the country as a whole.”

Yet who constitutes “the country as a whole”? The ideology of Zionism demands an identification of Israel with the Jewish people – all of whom are virtual Israeli citizens whether they want to be or not. This means that the Zionists insist that the Jewish people as a whole be identified with Israel’s practices and policies – including the disregard for human rights and implementation of “ongoing state terror.”

Part IV – Conclusion

Despite this Zionist contention that Israel and the Jews are equivalent, we know that this cannot be literally true. Israel’s sins cannot be the sins of the Jewish people as a whole. At the beginning of this essay I indicated that increasing number of Jews are actively supporting Palestinian rights and thus opposing both Israel’s undermining of the principle of human rights and its erosive effect on the moral status of the Jewish people.

However, the logic of the situation does make one thing literally true, and that is that the Zionist ideology, as it has evolved in practice, is a dangerous enemy of Jewish morality. As long as Zionism stands against human rights while at the same time insisting that Israel stands in for the Jews, it must be the enemy. Ignorance of this logic is also an enemy. Therefore, it is time to heed the call of Rebecca Vilkomerson, head of Jewish Voice for Peace: “Seventy years into the ongoing dispossession and displacement of Palestinians, fifty years into Israel’s military occupation, and ten years into the siege of Gaza, we think it is time for American Jewish communities [and those in the rest of the world as well] to have some really uncomfortable conversations.”

 

Jeremy Corbyn Tries the Truth – An Analysis (9 June 2017) by Lawrence Davidson

 

 

Part I – Speaking the Truth

 

 

On 26 May 2017 Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of British Labour Party, made a speech which dealt in large part with security and foreign policy. Much of his presentation was surprisingly accurate. Here is what he said:

 

— There is a cause and effect relationship “between wars our governments supported and fought in other countries and terrorism here at home.” For instance, the 22 May 2017 Manchester bombing, which killed 22 people, may well be connected to the United Kingdom’s involvement in the overthrow of the Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi and the subsequent civil wars.

 

— This cause and effect relationship is not a matter of speculation. “Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to these connections.”

 

— Past governments have not been willing to address these connections, and now the people of the UK are confronted with a “war on terror that is simply not working.”

 

— “We need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism.” Therefore, Corbyn promised that, if he were to become the leader of the British government, he would “change what we do abroad.”

 

Corbyn’s speech is unusual because political leaders rarely point out that policies supported by major special interest groups (such as the Zionists, Saudis and the arms industry) are really catastrophic errors. More rarely still do they say so in public. In the case of terrorist attacks, almost every Western leader has blamed “radical Islam” (leaving out, of course, any reference to Saudi Wahhabism). The public at large has gone along with this view because it echoes the media message that constitutes the source of their knowledge on most non-local subjects. The media outlets have never told them that the murderous foreign policies of their own governments contributed to terrorism coming to their shores. And now, along comes Jeremy Corbyn’s message that British policies abroad have something to do with British tragedies at home.

 

Part II – The Reaction

 

 

Such a fundamental challenge to policy can be traumatic, so Corbyn’s political foes have responded with indignation. For instance, Ben Wallace, Minister of State for security in the present Conservative government, labeled Corbyn’s remarks as “crass and appallingly timed.” The word “crass” means rude or vulgar and it is hard to see how stating a truism in acceptable English qualifies as crass. Just so, why characterize Corbyn’s timing, coming shortly after the Manchester terror attack, as “appalling”? Should the Labour Party leader have waited for a lull in such attacks so that his point would be missed by the British public? Wallace also indulged in wrongheaded denial. He charged Corbyn with being ahistorical in his assessment of terrorist enemies. He stated that “these people [the terrorists] hate our values, not our foreign policy.” It is depressing that conservatives throughout the Western world have learned so little – if anything at all – since 2001. That is the year George W. Bush delivered the grotesquely misleading line that Ben Wallace now echoes. Right after 9/11 Bush proclaimed the terrorists do what they do (at least in the West) because “they hate our freedoms.” Anyone who is familiar with the attitudes of Middle East militants, religious or secular, knows that the vast majority do not care what sort of values and freedoms we practice in our own countries. However, they do care about the damaging foreign policies we impose upon their countries.

 

Tim Farron, the British Liberal Democratic leader, also went after Corbyn for using the moment of the Manchester terrorist attack to make “a political point.” Apparently, though, it’s a point that Farron has missed. What is important about Corbyn’s statement is that it properly contextualizes not only the Manchester attack but most of all other terrorist attacks in the West. Corbyn’s message is an accurate historical analysis that has political implications.

 

Part III – To What Avail the Truth?

 

 

Politicians obviously have self-interested reasons for denying that they have misinterpreted, miscalculated, and then persisted in bad policies that have resulted in death and destruction for their own countrymen as well as others. No doubt a sort of special interest-induced myopia allows some of them to believe that if they only stick to their strategy they will prevail.This is certainly the case with the American president Donald Trump. After the latest terror attack in London he let loose a Twitter broadside telling the world “we must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people.” This lined up nicely with Prime Minister Theresa May’s public comment that the British government has been “too tolerant” toward terrorists. These words have little real meaning. They are more likely code words for continued Western violence in the Middle East, which Mr. Corbyn correctly identifies as the reason there are terrorist attacks in our part of the world in the first place.

 

A recent British poll conducted just before the 8 June election indicated that 75% of those contacted now believe that Jeremy Corbyn is correct and there is a connection between intervention into the Middle East morass and terrorism within the UK. The poll claims its sample is representative of the population as a whole. Then on 9 June the UK had its general election. As a result the Conservatives remain the largest party in parliament, but with a seriously reduced number of seats. In order to rule with an outright majority, a party needs 326 seats. The Conservatives won only 319 compared to Labour’s 261. There are several other parties such as the Liberal Democrats mentioned above, but their seat count is much less. For example the Liberal Dems won only 12 seats. All in all it was a comparative win for Labour and loss for the Conservatives.

 

People cast their votes for many different reasons – mostly local in nature (thus the notion of voting one’s pocketbook). However, terrorism is a factor that has been invading the local space of more and more British citizens, and so we can safely assume that at least some who supported the Labour Party in this election did so because the heeded Jeremy Corbyn’s warning of a connection between the UK’s present foreign policy and national insecurity. As for those who pinned their hopes on continued Conservative Party rule, they also inadvertently voted for endless terrorism in their own backyard.

Politicizing Anti-Semitism — An Analysis (3 May 2017) by Lawrence Davidson

 

 

Part I – The “Working Definition”

 

“Back in the day,” which in this case was 8 February 2007, the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism adopted a “working definition” of anti-Semitism which included the following point: It is anti-Semitic to “deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination (e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor).” The whole definition, including the quoted sentence, was not original with the State Department. It was originally “written collaboratively by a small group of non-governmental organizations” which remained unnamed.

 

This “working definition” has proved to have staying power. Thus the U.S. Congress has used the State Department document in devising its Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016, and in December of 2016, the British government adopted an almost identical “working definition,” which listed the same alleged act of denial – the one that links the Jewish people’s “right of self-determination” with the “claim that the existence of Israel is a racist endeavor” as an example of “contemporary anti-Semitism.”

 

There is something not quite right about this aspect of the “working definition.” The two parts of the quoted sentence don’t really go together logically. Thus, labeling Israel as it presently exists as a “racist endeavor” does not “deny the Jewish people their right of self-determination.” It only asserts that self-determination carried forth in a racist manner, by Jews or anyone else, is illegitimate.

 

Although neither the State Department’s nor the U.K. government’s taking up of this “working definition” are legally binding on non-governmental individuals or organizations (a fact not widely publicized), it has allowed both U.S. and British Zionists to label critics of Israel as anti-Semites in what appears to be a semi-official way, and this has opened the floodgates for a growing number of actions by colleges, universities, civic groups and the like to ban conferences, student organizations and speakers who would condemn Israeli behavior and support Palestinian rights.

 

Subsequently, the respected British jurist Hugh Tomlinson has come out with an opinion on this “working definition” which finds it flawed, and the U.K. government’s assertion of it legally unenforceable.

 

 

Part II – A Flawed Assumption

 

The assertion that criticism of Israel is an act of anti-Semitism relies on the assumption that, because Israel describes itself as “a Jewish state,” it represents all Jews. This exaggeration, in turn, seems reasonable due to a broader tendency, most prevalent in the democratic West, to confuse governments and the people they claim authority over. Americans and most Europeans live in democracies and vote for their governments in relatively honest elections. So, aren’t they in some way to be identified with the policies of their governments? The claim can be no more than partially true. Maybe an argument can be made for those who actually voted for the policymakers in a politically aware fashion. But what of the those who did not vote for them? Or how about those who did not vote at all? How about those who do not reside within the country that claims them?

 

It is interesting to note that this identification of specific groups with specific governments is rarely made by those living in dictatorships and states with rigged elections. In those places the population knows that their wishes have no relation to policy. Often their assumption is that the same sort of disconnect is a really a worldwide phenomenon. So, for instance, if you go to Iran, Iranians will usually tell you that they heartily dislike the U.S. government and, at the same time, really like the American people. No one believes that the two things, government and people, are really the same thing.

 

When it comes to populations that are spread out beyond one particular state, the exaggeration becomes even more obvious. Thus, can the Buddhist government of Sri Lanka claim the loyalty of Nepalese Buddhists for their horrible war against the Tamils? Should the ethnic Chinese living in San Francisco be expected to support the expansionist policies of the Chinese government in Tibet?

Common sense tells us that it is a gross exaggeration to identify specific ethnic or religious groups with the policies of specific governments, even democratic ones. Yet as we have seen above, in one ongoing case, that of the Jews and Israel, the argument is being pushed very strongly – to the point where laws are being considered to mandate just such an identification.

 

 

Part III – Israel De-Civilizes

 

Since the inception of the the State of Israel, one Israeli government after the other has insisted that the Israeli state officially represents every last Jew on the planet – thus conflating nationality and religious identity. The fabricated nature of this claim has become more obvious as Israeli behavior and culture has grown ever more racist and the policies of its governments more blatantly in violation of international law and the norms of human and civil rights.

 

While much of the rest of the world has strived to increase diversity and tolerance, Israel and a small number of other states (such places as Myanmar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, etc.) go about practicing official discrimination, segregation, and expulsion. As they do so, they inevitably produce cultures that those who support human and civil rights can only describe as ugly and deformed. As a consequence, more and more Jews have responded by disassociating themselves with Zionist Israel.

 

What then has been the response of the Israeli government? It is, essentially, to spit in the face of Jews supportive of human rights. The Israelis seek to force the issue by using their influence and that of Zionist lobby surrogates to push for new laws in key foreign lands, such as the U.S. and the U.K., to make criticism of the Israeli state legally synonymous with anti-Semitism. The U.S. and British adoption of the suspect portion of the “working definition” of anti-Semitism cited here is a step in this direction, and a consequence of Zionist pressure.

 

 

Part IV – Conclusion

 

It should be noted that Israel and its supporters, being the “deep thinkers” they aren’t, have created an reductio ad absurdum situation. To wit, anyone who publicly condemns Israeli human rights violations (that is Israeli racist acts) must be anti-Semitic (racist) – even if they happen to be Jewish. That is what you get when you pursue particularistic expediency over the general logic of tolerance and humanitarianism.

 

One can ask how it is that American and British, as well as other politicians and law makers, who are themselves part of cultures that are even now seeking to overcome racism, can buy into such an illogical argument?

 

Their doing so seems to be an expression of the electoral marketplace. Politicians need money to survive in their chosen career. As long as it does not cost them an overwhelming number of votes, they will sell their support to high bidders. And, no one bids higher than the Zionists.

 

This means that democratic politics is most often not a principled activity. It can be idealized, of course, but as long as it is dependent on incessant fund-raising, it will be corrupt in practice. That is why the Zionists can easily arrange for most Western politicians to selectively suppress free speech in their own countries and support racism in Israel.

 

Moral Failure at the United Nations – An Analysis (24 March 2017) by Lawrence Davidson

 

Part I – Moral Failure

 

On 15 March 2017 the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) published a report on Israeli practices and policies toward the Palestinians. Using international law as its comparative criterion, the report came to a “definitive conclusion” that “Israel is guilty of Apartheid practices.” The term Apartheid was not used in the report merely in a “pejorative” way. It was used as a descriptor of fact based on the evidence and the accepted legal meaning of the term.

 

Such was the immediate uproar from the United States and Israel that U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in a moment of moral failure, ordered the report’s withdrawal. The head of ESCWA, the Jordanian diplomat Rima Khalaf, decided that she could not, in good conscience, do so and so tendered her resigation.

 

 

Part II – Reportage

 

 

The initial New York Times coverage of the incident paid little attention to the accuracy of the report, an approach which, if pursued, would have at least educated the Times’ readers as to the real conditions of Palestinians under Israeli domination. Instead it called the report, and those involved in producing it, into question. For instance, the NYT told us that “the report provoked outrage from Israel and the United States.” The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, was quoted as declaring that, “when someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the U.N. it is appropriate that the person resign.” At no point in the NYT story was it noted that Ms Haley’s charge that the report was false, was itself false. Other coverage by the NYT improved only slightly.

 

The NYT did pay attention to the fact that, among the authors of the report, was former U.N. human rights investigator Richard Falk. Falk served six years as U.N. Spacial Rapporteur for the Occupied Territories. According to the NYT, his presence had to “gall[ed] many Israeli supporters who regard him as an anti-Semite.” There is something troubling about a newspaper that claims to represent the epitome of professional journalism reporting such slurs without properly evaluating them. Richard Falk, who is Jewish, has an impeccable record of both academic achievement and public service. His reputation for honesty and dedication to the cause of human rights exemplifies the best practice of Jewish values. Thus, he has every right to say that “I have been smeared in this effort to discredit the report” – a study which “tries its best to look at the evidence and analyze the applicable law in a professional manner.”

 

Part III – Israel’s Behavior

 

 

An objective consideration of Israel’s behavior makes it hard to escape the brutal reality of its officially condoned practices.

 

On 17 March 2017, at the same time as the forced withdrawal of the ESCWA report, the U.S. State Department released a report on “grave violations against Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation.” This was part of the department’s annual “country reports on human rights practices.” Among the problems cited were Israel’s practice of unlawful detention, coerced confessions and excessive use of force, including torture and killings.

 

Usually these annual human rights reports are made public by the Secretary of State. This year Rex Tillerson, who presently holds the office, was nowhere in sight. And, of course, President Trump failed to issue any of his characteristic tweets in reference to the Israel’s barbaric behavior.

 

Earlier, on 8 February 2017, it was reported that “Israel has banned anesthesia gas from entering the Gaza Strip.” There is a current backlog of some 200 patients in Gaza requiring surgical care, and some will die due to Israel’s ban.

 

A week later, on 14 February 2017, it was reported that Israeli officials were blackmailing Palestinian patients seeking permission to enter Israel for necessary medical treatment. A 17-year-old Gazan boy who suffered from congenital heart disease and needed a heart valve replacement “was explicitly told that in order to [leave the Gaza Strip and] have his operation, he would have to cooperate with the security forces and spy for Israel.” He refused and subsequently died. This is not a new or unusual tactic for the Israelis.

 

Part IV – Blackmail All Around

 

 

The moral failure at the U.N., represented by the withdrawal of the ESCWA report, is the result of Secretary General Guterres’s decision to acquiesce in a denial of reality – the reality of Israel’s practice of Apartheid.

 

On the other hand, it probably also stems from Guterres’s acceptance of the reality of U.S. financial leverage along with the apparent threat to bankrupt the United Nations. This is, of course, a form of blackmail. Significantly, U.S. use of its financial clout at the U.N. mimics the same practice by the Zionist lobby in the halls of Congress.

 

Obviously the United Nations, to say nothing of U.S. politicians, needs alternate sources of income. My wife Janet once suggested that the UN be awarded the right to exploit and profit from all undersea resources. Not a bad idea. Likewise, U.S. politicians should agree to, or be forced to rely upon, government-based campaign funding rather than be pressed into putting themselves up for sale.

 

However, such changes do not appear imminent. As it stands now, reality in Palestine is what the Americans and Israelis say it is because politicians and international leaders literally can’t afford to challenge their corrupted views.

Racist Nationalism Returns to the Western Political Scene – An Analysis (14 December 2016) by Lawrence Davidson

 

 

 

Part I – Racism and the Trump victory, November 2016

 

 

There is little doubt that white racism played a role in the U.S. presidential election of 2016. As Zach Beauchamp demonstrates in a 10 November 2016 article at Vox.com, white voters in mostly white geographic areas supported Trump at a rate of about 25%. However, in areas of growing ethnic and racial diversity, the percentage goes way up. Beauchamp quotes the research of the University of London scholar Eric Kaufmann, who surveyed Trump’s white supporters. Kaufmann’s original findings are reported in the policy blog of the London School of Economics. One result was that in areas that had experienced a 30% rise in Latino population, the number of whites who supported Trump rose to 70%.

 

 

Trump’s own racism had been on public display during his entire campaign and often (although erroneously) merged the phenomena of immigration and violence. Here he found a ready and responsive audience. Beauchamp goes on to demonstrate that white supporters of Donald Trump saw immigration and terrorism as the country’s major problems. Moreover, they connected these two issues to their fear of the country’s growing diversity. Of course, economic woes were also a concern, but they too were exacerbated by fear of the fact that the country was then under the leadership of a black man, Barack Obama.

 

 

Then, to broaden their outlook of the xenophobic and sectarian impact on politics, both Beauchamp and Kaufmann point out that the racist underpinning of Trump’s electoral success parallels the Brexit voting patterns in the United Kingdom in June 2016. There too, ethnocentric “anxiety over a changing society” appears to have spurred on the vote to leave the European Union.

 

 

 

Part II – Racism and the Netanyahu victory, March 2015

 

 

Brexit is not the only telling parallel to a Trump-style popular racist appeal. Indeed, if you are looking for someone whose bigoted outlook and unethical political practice comes close to Donald Trump’s, you can go to Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

 

 

Netanyahu stood for reelection in March 2015. His main opponent was Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog. During the election campaign, one of Herzog’s consultants was the American political adviser Paul Begala – a long-time political ally of the Clintons. Soon after Netanyahu’s reelection Begala explained how Netanyahu had won. “He won because of race. … In the U.S. you could never get away with those kind of racist appeals. But, man, did it work [in Israel].” He went on, “I have never seen anything like Bibi’s furious surge to the right in the last 4 days [of the campaign]. He had robo-calls calling the [U.S.] President ‘Hussein Obama, the Muslim,’ he had ads saying the Arabs will vote in droves. He accused Herzog of wanting to divide Jerusalem.”

 

 

The fact that “man, did it [this racist approach] work” in Israel should have been no surprise. A year later, in March 2016, a Pew Research Center survey of Israeli society reported that “that nearly half of Jews in the country [48%] say they support the ethnic cleansing of Arabs.” The Israeli prime minister and fellow travelers certainly knew this ahead of the Pew report.

 

 

As it turned out, Netanyahu’s appeal to fear of the Arabs was roughly equivalent to Trump’s appeal to fear of immigrants in the United States. Bagala readily recognized the importance of the racist factor in Netanyahu’s success. Where he was wrong was to think that “in the U.S. you could never get away with those kind of racist appeals.” It turned out that many white U.S. voters were as receptive to such a race-based fear campaign as were Israeli Jews. As with Netanyahu, racism helped Trump win.

 

 

 

Part III – Part of a Broader Phenomenon

 

 

Taking a broader view, we can see that the racism manifesting itself in Israel and the United States is part of a general phenomenon of reactionary populism spreading throughout the West. This fact has been recognized by the venerable and progressive Israeli commentator Uri Avnery. In a recent column entitled “The Call of the Nation,” he observes, “a DARK wave is submerging democracies all over the Western world. … fascism and populism are gaining ground all around” and doing so in the name of old-fashioned ethnocentric nationalism. After all, “for most people, the need to belong to a nation is a profound psychological need. People create a national culture, often speak a national language. People are ready to die for their nation.” In the end, Avnery concludes that “What we are witnessing now is a rebellion of nationalism against the trend towards … a globalist world.”

 

 

 

Part IV – Racism and Economics

 

 

The globalist trend Avnery speaks of showed its disruptive potential soon after World War II. It was then that there began a large-scale movement of peoples from poorer countries and regions into richer ones. This was often supported by Western elites because of pressing, if temporary, post-war labor needs. This was later joined by the creation of larger trans-national economic units which saw the movement of not people, but jobs, flowing from richer to poorer countries and regions. The motive here was a search for cheaper labor markets.

 

 

For the average Western citizen it was all very confusing and frightening. Almost simultaneously they saw what appeared to be alien groups invading their local environments while, a bit later, their traditional job base was swept away to some foreign land. It was inevitable that all of this would, sooner or later, cause a backlash. In the West, this backlash would merge racism with economics – suggesting to many that economic rivalry was another form of racial competition.

 

 

The backlash has also, as Avnery suggests, released a wave of nationalist populism, with its strong ethnocentric undertones. While this movement will create a context for racist and tribalistic venting, it will not be able to do more than momentarily slow economic globalization. That will continue as long as capitalism rules our commercial, fiscal and industrial lives. So, economically, it is one world in the long run.

 

 

Seeing these two – racist nationalism and economic globalism – in juxtaposition is important. Racist nationalism as it now expresses itself in the U.S., Israel, the United Kingdom and the European continent has the ability to make a profound mess of local politics. It can, and no doubt will, undermine democratic virtues such as civil and human rights. It will probably undermine the rule of law itself. Yet, the very thing it fears the most, the one-world economic process, will certainly go on apace. And, because of the weakening of political and legal rights at the hands of racist and authoritarian governments, in the long run we will all end up more exposed to economic exploitation than we ought to be.

 

 

That will prove to be a very high price for a whatever emotional satisfaction your stalwart white nationalist may now feel.

Natural Born Killers? An Analysis (9 October 2016) by Lawrence Davidson

 

 

 

Part I – “Bloodthirsty Tendencies”

 

 

There is a new study, published in the journal Nature, entitled “The Phylogenetic Roots of Human Lethal Violence.” The study argues two points: (1) along with many other mammals and particularly primates, human lethal violence is innate because it is part of a long “evolutionary history”; and (2) However, for humans, it is also a behavior that is responsive to our cultural environment. So, over time, “culture modulates our bloodthirsty tendencies.”

 

What is particularly original about this study is that it places human violence against the backdrop of general mammalian and primate lethal behavior. The researchers found that there is a correlation between the level of intra-group violence of those species that lie close to each other on the evolutionary tree.

 

In order to come to this conclusion the authors of the study (who are evolutionary biologists) looked at the available data on in-group violent deaths in 1,020 mammal species. From this information they tried to approximate how murderous each group is. For conclusions about the human propensity for murder, the researchers looked at 600 human groups stretching back as far as 50,000 years ago. It turns out we are less violent than baboons and more violent than bonobos, while about as violent as chimpanzees.

 

Just for the reader’s information, it seems that killer whales almost never hurt each other, and bats and anteaters are quite peaceable to others of their kind. On the other hand, if you’re a cougar, chinchilla or marmot, things can get very dangerous and one has to stay wary of the neighbors.

 

 

Part II – Are We Getting Less Violent?

 

 

Getting back to humans, almost every serious historian knows that our propensity for lethal violence has been around for as far back as we can go. Thus the proposition that this behavior is inherited from our pre-human ancestors seems reasonable. However, there is an effort on the part of some researchers in this field, including those who wrote the Nature article, to make the argument that humans are getting less violent. For instance, this study claims that among Paleolithic hunter-gather groups, roughly 2% of deaths were the result of lethal violence. Later, in medieval times, this allegedly jumps to 12%. But in the modern age, with “industrialized states exerting the rule of law,” the rate appears to have fallen to 1.3%. Is all of this really accurate?

 

The authors are not the first to make this claim. The Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, in a 2011 book entitled The Better Angels of Our Nature, argues that humans can and have lowered their level of interpersonal violence through creating institutions and laws that discourage such behavior.

 

As a general rule we should be wary of such sweeping claims about behavior over such large expanses of time. As one observer of the Nature study commented, much of the data [sources range from archeological digs to modern crime statistics] is “imprecise.” The same is true of Pinker’s evidence. It is due to just such challenges that such studies present these claims in terms of statistical models.

 

 

Part III – Evolution and Culture

 

 

There is much more that can be said about what may well be our species’s “innate tendency to solve problems with violence.” For one thing, it often appears to be territorial. Human beings, nomadic or otherwise, stake out territory and then defend it. This is obviously similar to what certain other primates, close to us on the evolutionary tree, do and so it is reasonable to assume an evolutionary derivation for this behavior.

 

As societies developed – got larger and more complex – efforts arose to control destructive behavior within in-groups. These took the form of the laws referred to by Steven Pinker as well as the present authors. However, sometimes the data seems to belie this claim. For instance, why should the medieval period be so much more violent than the Paleolithic if societal institutions and laws were so much more developed at that later time? There might be extenuating circumstances to explain this, but the glitch does suggest that an overall answer to why the rates of lethal human violence go up and down is complicated and multifaceted.

 

And, what can we say of the modern era, which is supposed to be humankind’s least murderous epoch? If the statistics are correct – which seems counterintuitive – we should be reassured. However, less reassuring is the fact that our technological know-how has also supplied modern mankind with nuclear weapons and thus the ability to wipe out our species, and most all the others too.

 

 

Part IV – Dreaming of a Single, Secure In-Group

 

 

There may be a glimmer of hope for a more peaceful future if indeed our violent inclinations are tied to acquisition of territory, and within those territories we usually make efforts to minimize intra-group violence. Under those circumstances one can speculate that the development of ever larger states (culminating in a world state) with ever larger in-groups (culminating in humanity as a single in-group) seems the way to go. Then, in theory, law and order within these expanding categories would make for a more peaceful world.

 

Just to interpose this part of the analysis into today’s U.S. politics, we can note that the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, wants to make the country’s collective in-group smaller by deporting hundreds of thousands and closing the borders to thousands more. Such a policy can only make the United States more insular and subject to the paranoia of a heightened us-versus-them worldview. On the other hand, the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, seems to be advocating a hawkish foreign policy that emphasizes the need to control foreign territory directly or by proxy but with no inclination to increase the in-group. This too can only make the world a more dangerous place. The view of one candidate or the other being a “lesser evil” might depend on whether you are focused on domestic or foreign policy.

 

Whatever the optimistic claim of the Nature study about today’s comparative level of lethal violence, it seems pretty clear that our laws are not doing well enough to supply the peaceful future most of us hope for. For instance, international human rights laws are so infrequently enforced as to be of minimal effect. And, as current migrant crises around the world make clear, the prospects for ever larger in-groups is but a dream.

 

All of this only gives added credence to the notion that our willingness to slaughter each other is innate – an adaptive habit of a long evolutionary history. This conclusion is offered as an explanation rather than an excuse. For, as the Nature study authors recognize, culture can impact such behavior – tamping it down at least within a designated in-group. Yet it is hard to shake the feeling that our addiction to lethal violence is our evolutionary fate, and that it hangs there, like a sword of Damocles. always ready to impose itself should the delicate strand of law snap.

On the Down Side of Institutionalized Religion – An Analysis (31 January 2016) by Lawrence Davidson

 

Part I – Religion as Ideology

 
Ideologies are pre-set forms of thinking that shape people’s worldviews and, supposedly, help to order and simplify reality. While this supposition is always flawed to one extent or another, ideologies can be very seductive. In part this is because they free their adherents from the hard work of critical thinking. Thus, they are often held onto tenaciously.

 

Because ideologies distort reality, they are particularly unsuited for those aspiring to power as well as their devoted supporters. History is full of examples of politically powerful ideologies that underscore this fact: fascism, communism, various military cults (particularly popular in South America and the Middle East) and even the ideology of democracy as manipulated by corrupt elites, who play the Pied Piper to the masses.

 

Yet there is still one more ideology out there which, even now, wreaks havoc by either claiming for itself the trappings of secular power or attaching itself in some influential advisory way to the institutions of power. That ideology is religion in its various institutional manifestations.

 

I want to emphasize that I am not referring to the personal religious convictions of millions by which life is made to appear understandable and meaningful. Whether such convictions are accurate or not, they play an important role at the individual level and, as long as they do not promote harmful intolerance, should be left to benignly function at the local level. What I am referring to are religious ideologies that are institutionalized in bureaucracies that can project power much as do secular institutions of authority. Religious ideologies so institutionalized see themselves as possessed of God-given truth while playing the game of power amidst human competitors.

 

Part II – Religion in Power

 


It is often said that we live in an age of religious revival. Whatever this might say for the “spiritual” shortcomings of modernity, this is a state of affairs rife with political danger. A quick look at history can again easily demonstrate why this is so.

 

— In the 10th through 15th centuries in Europe, Roman Catholicism was a strong political power centered in the Papacy. Historians often claim it preserved what was left of Greco-Roman civilization ((despite the fact that the Church closed down the ancient system of public baths.) It also brought with it the bloodletting of the Crusades and the tortures of the Inquisition.

 

— When, briefly, the Protestants tasted political power in the form of Calvin’s Geneva, Savonarola’s Florence, Cromwell’s England, and the early New World establishments of North America, the result was widespread intolerance, civil war, burning flesh at Salem and elsewhere and, of course, no dancing. It does not take great imagination to see the potential for high levels of intolerance occurring if some representative of today’s Christian right, say Ted Cruz, takes power in the U.S.

 

— Buddhism used to be universally revered as a religion of peace and tolerance. However, put it in power or ally it to those who politically rule, and what once was benign turns malignant. Thus, consider the self-identified Buddhist government of Sri Lanka and its brutal campaign against the Tamils in the north of that country. Likewise, you can find Buddhists allied to the government of Myanmar crying for the blood of the country’s Rohingya, a Muslim minority.

 

— There is a lot of Hindu fanaticism in India, and It remains to be seen if the present government of that country, dominated now by Hindu nationalists, will again turn loose the religious passion which, in the recent past, has led to sectarian violence and massacres of India’s religious minorities (again, notably Muslims).

 

— Where the Muslims seek or hold state power, the situation is little different. According to Sunni tradition, the ethical standards of behavior set down in the Quran did not dictate state behavior beyond the brief reign of the so-called “rightly guided Caliphs.” Shiites often point out that things fell apart almost immediately upon Mohammad’s death. Civil war and internecine slaughter followed in both scenarios.

 

Today, in Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf emirates, one finds Sunni intolerance of Shiite Islam and the exploitation of non-citizen laborers despite their being fellow Muslims. In Shia Iran, authorities seem unsure just how tolerant or intolerant to be toward more moderate interpretations of their own, now politicized, religious tenets.

 

Then, of course, you have various organizations, claiming to be Sunni Muslim, ranging from ISIS to Al Nusra or some other Al Qaeda variant, all reaching for political power. Where they have tasted success, as in the case of ISIS, the consequences have been particularly bad.

— Since 1948 Judaism has succumbed to the same fate as other world religions entangling themselves in politics. Despite all the rationalizations, propaganda, and self-deception, it is clear that institutional Judaism is now firmly melded to the deeply discriminatory and particularly brutal political ideology of Zionism. I use the word “melded” because what we have here is something more than just an alliance of two separate entities. The Zionists have insisted since 1917, the year of the Balfour Declaration, was proclaimed, that the fate of Judaism and an Israeli “national home” are thoroughly intertwined. Their insistent manipulations have resulted in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

The consequences of this melding have been horrific. If you want to know just how horrid things have become, there are numerous Palestinian and Jewish human rights groups that are easily found on the web which will document Israeli behavior in all its dehumanizing detail.

 

For a more personalized assessment of just what this melding means for Judaism as a religion I recommend the recent book by Marc H. Ellis entitled The Heartbeat of the Prophetic (New Diaspora Books, 2015). Ellis is a Jewish theologian who, in the 1970s, was greatly influenced by the work of Roman Catholic priests in Latin America who were promoting “liberation theology.” That “for the good of the people” interpretation of religion was corrosive of the institutionalized Church, and so the movement was ultimately stifled. However, Ellis thought that the same philosophy could be applied to Judaism – an insight that eventually led him to denounce Zionized Judaism in a manner reminiscent of the prophets of the Old Testament.

 

For Ellis, institutionalized Judaism has been reduced to an adjunct of an expansionist and racist political ideology. He feels that there is no getting around the inherent evil of this situation. No two-state solution or other “progressive” approach can erase it. As long as Judaism persists in identifying itself in terms of the Israeli state and Zionist ideology, the ethical underpinnings of the religion are left behind in the wreckage of an evolving “Jewish empire.”

 

Part III – Lessons to Be Learned

 

What have all these historical examples to teach those of religious faith? Some fundamentalists would have us believe the lesson is to remain humble and obedient in the face of an unfathomable deity whose mysterious purposes are simply beyond human comprehension. Yet there is nothing incomprehensible about the repetitive death, destruction and intolerance bred by institutionalized ideologies. And, as the historical examples given above tell us, religious ideology is no exception.

 

A better lesson learned seems to be: if you want to be religious, keep it personal and tolerant, avoid tendencies toward institutionalization beyond the level of local charity and organized good works, and stay clear of political alliances. It is said that Jesus told his disciples that “where two or three of you are gathered together there I too will be.” Those are just about the right numbers when it comes to keeping religion safe for the believers and non-believers alike. After all, when you have two or three thousand, or two or three million gathered together, for whatever purpose, then something quite different from a helpful and humane spirit is likely to be present.

Global Warming Redux: Another Ticking Bomb Out of Paris – An Analysis (29 December 2015) by Lawrence Davidson

Part I – COP21

Paris was certainly 2015’s center for ticking bombs. The year was bracketed, first in January then again in November, by major terrorist attacks and ended with a December environmental conference which, given its non-binding results, opens the door to even more terror, albeit of a different kind, into the next century and beyond.

The 21st Conference of Parties, or COP21, ended in Paris on 12 December 2015. If you are not familiar with the name or acronym, it refers to the latest gathering of nations (195 of them) looking toward a collective decision to limit global warming by slowing the release of greenhouse gases. Following the conference closure there was a short spate of positive reactions that has now been followed by a rather ominous silence.

Until very recently there was a large number of people, mostly business people, lobbyists, and politicians, who denied that human practices, such as the use of fossil fuels, had any significant impact on planetary warming, and some dismissed the idea of warming altogether. These numbers seem to have shrunk, and most of those still adhering to such notions are not often heard in public. This muted opposition helped pave the way for the at once limited and over-hyped result achieved at the Paris conference.

The overall goal of COP 21 was an international agreement that would hold global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2100, and then reduce the amount of warming even more in the years following. This goal was certainly agreed to in theory, but the conference also left us with no convincing reason to believe that the goal will be met in practice. According to Science (18 December 2015), the publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, commitments were indeed made to pursue relevant “technological development,” mobilize “climate finance,” enhance transparency in the reporting of overall greenhouse emissions and have developed nations acknowledge their “legal responsibility” (but “without liability or compensation”) for the damage global warming is doing to poorer nations. All of this is well and good in a half-hearted sort of way, but it should be noted that the entire deal will only go into effect in April 2016 if “55 countries representing 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions have formally signed it.” And even if this happens, subsequent follow-through in terms of the reduction of greenhouse emissions is still hypothetical. Thus, as the Guardian newspaper reported (12 December 2015) in a confusing, contradictory way: “The overall agreement is legally binding but some elements – including the pledges to curb emissions by individual countries and the climate finance elements – are not.”

That should be quite sufficient to instill serious doubt about the ultimate outcome of COP21. Nonetheless, reactions were still upbeat. Everyone wanted to find the glass half full. Many climate experts, when asked if there was something about 2015 that made them hopeful, pointed to the Paris conference. Michael T. Klare, writing in Tom’s Dispatch (13 December 2015), proclaimed that as for those advocating the continued use of fossil fuels, “the war they are fighting is a losing one.” The transition to renewable forms of energy is inevitable. However, looking at the next hundred years, no one would say with certainty that the conference’s decisions would actually make a crucial difference. Thus, Andrea Germanos writing in Common Dreams (12 December 2015) quotes commentator George Monbiot in reference to COP21, “by comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”

Part II – Why a Disaster?

The Science article cited above puts the situation in historical context. “The individual national climate plans in the run-up to the meeting could still result in as much as 3.5 degrees centigrade of warming by 2100.” At 3.5 degrees we can expect sea levels to rise anywhere from 3 to 7 feet. Science goes on to explain that “much of the agreement’s promise hinges on the fine print to be hammered out in the coming years. And the provisions for individual nations to curb emissions further – crucial if the world is to limit warming to 2 degrees centigrade or less – has limited legal bite.”

In truth, even the 2 degree goal is insufficient. Those at most risk, such as the Pacific island nations, wanted to hold the line at 1.5 degrees. However, their fate, which in some cases is already terminal, was not deemed important enough to warrant the sacrifices the rest of the world would have to make to meet this demand. This in itself is a very bad sign.

There will, of course, be increasing efforts by environmental organizations, seeking to mobilize mass sentiment, to bring pressure on governments and industries. As one such mass movement leader declared at the end of the COP21 conference, “Now it is time to hold them [national leaders] to their promises. 1.5? Game on” (Common Dreams, 12 December 2015). No doubt such mobilization, like the hope for investment in renewable energy technology, will be very important in the long run. That it can achieve its ambitious goal in the short run is doubtful because there are other, even larger, organizable masses out there who will resist rapid, necessary change.

For instance, there are the inward-looking elements of the populations and leaders of the United States, China and India – the world’s biggest contributors to global warming. In the United States at least a third of the voting population is supportive of the conservative, anti-regulatory Republican Party that currently controls the congressional side of government. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has dismissed the COP21 agreement as “no more binding than any other agreement” on global warming made in past.

China has recently admitted that it has been underreporting its coal burning in recent years. This calls into doubt that nation’s collective will to meet its COP21 pledges. To do so will unavoidably impact economic growth and increase unemployment with all the accompanying political consequences. A major part of India’s pledge to lower and/or compensate for growing greenhouse emissions is the preservation and expansion of the country’s forests. However, approximately “275 million Indians subsist on resources extracted from forests,” including forest wood itself, and past efforts at conservation in this area have led to political unrest and significant cheating through official corruption.

It is not that these three countries won’t make efforts to, say, move to renewable energy whenever and wherever feasible. They will. However, it is both politically and culturally unlikely they will be able to do enough to hold down warming to 2 degrees, much less 1.5 degrees.

 

Part III – Conclusion

At this point one should ask what the Marshall Islands in the Pacific have in common with lower tip of Manhattan on the Atlantic coast of the United States. The answer is that both are threatened with inundation by 2100. In the case of lower Manhattan, it might be possible to build a sea wall to temporarily hold back the rising sea level. No such effort is possible for the Marshall Islands. It looks as if that island nation, with its roughly 53,000 people, is doomed.

The prospect that 195 nations can successfully coordinate their efforts to put in place policies that, over the next hundred years, will negatively impact their economies and the standard of living of significant numbers of citizens is far-fetched. Not impossible, mind you, but from a historical point of view, highly improbable.

What is probable is that local interests will promote denial long enough to make the necessary sacrifices politically unac.hievable. They certainly have done so so far. That means our grandchildren will almost certainly live in a very different atmospheric and geographic world than we do. And, of course, going forward, no one should invest in seashore real estate

The Decline of the Western Ethnic State – An Analysis (24 September 2015) by Lawrence Davidson

 

Part I – The “Ideal State”

 

If you were transported back to Europe in 1900 and asked educated citizens to describe the ideal political arrangement, what they would outline to you is a homogeneous nation-state: France for the French, Germany for the Germans, Italy for the Italians, and the like. They would note exceptions, but describe them as unstable. For instance, at this time the Austro-Hungarian Empire was, ethnically, a very diverse place, but it was politically restless. Come World War I, ethnic desires for self-rule and independence would help tear this European-centered multinational empire apart. In truth, even those states that fancied themselves ethnically unified were made up of many regional outlooks and dialects, but the friction these caused was usually minor enough to allow the ideal of homogeneity to prevail. The ethnically unified nation-state was almost everyone’s “ideal state.”

 

This standard of homogeneity started to break down after World War II. After this war the foreign empires run by many of Europe’s homogeneous states were in retreat and in their wake came a slew of new nations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Simultaneously, the impact of the end of empire on the European nations was to have their own homogeneous status eroded. For instance, when Great Britain set up the Commonwealth as a substitute for empire she allowed freer immigration into England for Commonwealth citizens. The result was an influx of people of color from former British colonies in Africa, India-Pakistan and the Caribbean. A similar thing happened as the French empire crumbled. With its demise many North Africans, as well as Vietnamese Catholics, went to France. Later, Turks would go to Germany, a preference that reflected the close relations between Berlin and the defunct Ottoman Empire. Then came the formation of the European Union (EU) in 1993, which facilitated the flow of labor across European borders. Now citizens of one EU state could go and work in any other member state.

 

In other words, the twenty or thirty years following World War II marked the beginning of the end of the Western homogeneous state.

 

Part II – The Refugee Crisis

 

Now we may be witnessing the final stage of that demise. The present refugee crisis resulting from wars raging in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Libya, among other places in the Middle East, has set in movement millions of displaced people. Many of these refugees are heading for Europe.

 

While initially most of the European Union leaders showed some willingness to take in substantial numbers of refugees, strong resistance from Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic caused a pause in the effort. This was a predictable moment. All established populations, even relatively diverse ones, fear that their cultural norms and economic advantages will be threatened by large waves of new immigrants. At the extreme, one finds ideologically and religiously defined nations such as the Arab Gulf states and the allegedly Westernized Israel (itself a product of an overwhelming refugee invasion of Palestine) refusing to take in any of the present refugees. Even in a country such as the United States, which is historically built upon the inflow of diverse populations, it is politically difficult to open borders to new refugees in need. Initially, announcing a willingness to allow an embarrassingly small number of 10,000 refugees to enter, Washington has increased that to 100,000 between now and 2017.

 

Getting back to the European scene, the pressures now building on the borders eventually resulted in a EU decision, allegedly binding on all its 28 member states, to speed up the intake screening process for refugees and distribute the accepted numbers across the EU countries. How many will ultimately be allowed into Europe is still unclear. If the leaders of Europe are smart about it they will go beyond merely symbolic numbers. If they are not, then there will be concentration camps on their borders and eventual violence that will mark a dark period in their supposed civilized histories. Controlled or not, in the end, many of the refugees will probably find a way in.

 

Part III – Ironic Justice

 

There is ironic justice in this prospect. After all, the wars that have uprooted so many were triggered by Western intervention in the Middle East. One can thank George W. Bush and his neoconservative colleagues (along with British allies) for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. That action set loose the forces that have subsequently displaced the people who make up the bulk of today’s refugees. To this can be added the 2011 NATO intervention in the civil war in Libya, in which France, Italy and the U.S. led the way. This action has prolonged the anarchy in that country and is one of the reasons that 300,000 people attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea in the direction of Europe in 2015 alone. At least 2,500 of them died in the attempt.

 

It is a testimony to the fact that the average citizen has little knowledge and less interest in their nation’s foreign policies that few in Europe and the U.S. recognize, much less acknowledge, responsibility for the present disaster.

 

Part IV – Conclusion

The population in western and central Europe has been shifting in the direction of diversity for the last seventy years, and that of the United States more or less consistently since the nation’s founding. Along with diversity comes a complementary, if perhaps more gradual, shift in culture.

 

Opposing this historical trend is the fact that anti-immigrant resistance among established national populations is almost a default position. However, this is like spitting in the wind. In the long term, the evolution of populations moves from homogeneity to diversity. It is just a matter of how long the process takes.

 

Thus, from every angle, ethical as well as historical, the way to approach the present refugee crisis is to allow, in a controlled but adequately responsive way, the inflow of those now running from the ravages of invasion and civil war.

 

In so doing we should accept the demise of the homogeneous state. Whether it is Germany, France, Hungary, Israel or Burma, the concept is historically untenable and neither raises nor even maintains our civilizational standards. Rather it grinds them down into the dust of an inhumane xenophobia.