After Trump bashed Brown Immigrants all Year, it’s the British White Guy who tries to Kill Him

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Donald Trump’s blatantly racist attacks on immigrants have all along had as their subtext the implication that there is something wrong with those brown-skinned people and maybe it is unwise to let them in.

Trump even said “‘it’s time’ for the UK to depart the European Union because of ‘the craziness that’s going on with migration’ and reaffirmed he thought that some parts of London had become ‘radicalised’. He said he thought that British voters would vote to leave because of “unrest” over ‘people pouring in all over the place.’ He also said that ‘thousands and thousands’ of people (i.e. white people) in Britain supported his call for a ban on Muslim immigration.

So, the message is that white people are good and the big bad EU is making a white country accept all those radical brown people.

So the first known assassination plot against Trump (if you don’t count far-right loonies and White Guys Brad Thor and Glenn Beck), it turns out, comes from the British white guy. He tried to grab the gun of a policeman at a Trump rally. Even after he was arrested, he said he’d like to give it another try.

Another irony. In Britain, most police don’t carry guns as a routine matter, and so there the firearm wouldn’t even have been available to be grabbed.

It is not known whether he self-radicalized on the internet or to what pack of lone wolves he belongs.

His defense lawyer says he appears to be competent.

But what with being white and all, and given the terroristic implications of gunning for a presidential candidate, he is almost certainly mentally ill.

(Though note that most mentally ill people are just struggling with a problem and aren’t violent).


Related video:

Wochit News: “UK Man Denied Bail in Attempt to Kill Donald Trump”

The Palmer Raids: When Trump’s Grandfather and Wives could have been Profiled

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Marx said that every great event in history happens twice, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. In this regard, the Red Scare of the late teens and early 20s of the last century, promoted by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, was the tragedy. Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant hatred today is the farce, albeit a dangerous farce. What is ironic is that the Trumps could have been Palmer’s victims, themselves.

Donald Trump is pushing for racial profiling again now that, as the GOP standard bearer, he has free access to the Sunday morning news shows.

It won’t matter to Trump or his acolytes, of course, but the practice is unconstitutional. It violates the 4th amendment prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure, as affirmed by the California 9th District Court of Appeals (it found that it is not allowed to take Latino origin into account in stops in Southern California.)

Moreover, the 14th Amendment was passed specifically in an attempt to outlaw treating some Americans differently than others under the law (then it was African-Americans). The amendment wasn’t actually enforced by federal or local authorities very often, which is what allowed for Jim Crow. But there is a sense that the Civil Rights Movement was about translating the ideal law of the 14th amendment into positive law, actual practice. It has also been argued that the 13th Amendment, outlawing slavery, is antithetical to racial profiling of African-Americans.

Trumpism is about repealing the 14th Amendment; maybe it is about repealing the Constitution in favor of whatever Trump thinks the law should be on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

We have seen Trumps before in our history. Palmer in the “Palmer Raids” had thousands of first-generation Americans arrested with no due process or warrant, and had them jailed for months without charge. He had hundreds of people summarily deported with no hearings or any shred of legality. He also put 200,000 first-generation or “hyphenated” Americans (as he sneeringly called them), under surveillance. Fully a third of FBI agents of the time were just following around Hyphenated Americans.

Many of Palmer’s targets were Germans, the working-class counterparts of Friedrich Trumpf (that’s how Ellis Island recorded his name), the Donald’s grandfather, who died in 1918 when Palmer was active. Trumpf changed his first name to Frederick, and he probably dropped the ‘f’ at the end of his name sometime during World War I because of strong anti-German and anti-immigrant feeling at that time. He had to keep a low profile during the war, which prevented him from buying some land.

Let me just repeat this: Donald Trump’s name is spelled like it is because his immigrant family suffered from anti-immigrant prejudice! And, the family’s interest in real estate would have been seen as dangerous on the part of The Hun in the teens of the last century.

Trump’s mother, Donald Trump’s mother, Mary Anne Trump née Macleod, was a first-generation immigrant from Scotland, a Hyphenated American.

Scots were also targeted by Palmer during his raids, according to a Congressional inquiry:

“Fellow Worker McDonald was arrested in Spokane, Wash., in May, 1918 and was shipped to Ellis Island in February on the ” red special.” A short time ago he was ordered released on a writ of habeas corpus by Judge A N. Hand of the New York Federal court, the judge deciding that the evidence upon which he was held was insufficient, but he was rearrested by the immigration authorities without being permitted to leave Ellis Island.

When asked what he thought of this action, he said: “This is the third time that the immigration authorities have framed up on me to prevent my release; so in view of two previous frame ups. I expected this one.”

“The Roy sisters,” he continued, “held on Ellis Island for deportation to Scotland for being members of the I. W. W., had their baggage taken away from them and shipped to Liverpool, England, about a week ago, and are now almost without any other clothes except those which they are wearing. That is a fair example of the things which have been done to deportees by the immigration authorities.”

When asked about conditions on the island, he stated that the food was bad; sleeping quarters full of bedbugs, and not enough fresh air, but added that they were generally better than when he arrived.

During the anti-immigrant hysteria, in 1917 a Czech-American community sent off some of their sons to fight in the US army in WW I, and had a celebration wearing their traditional clothing. A mob of American nativists attacked them! (If you don’t know what nativism is, just listen to one of Trump’s speeches).

Ivana Trump, the Donald’s first wife, is from Czechia (then Czechoslovakia).

His current wife, Melania, is from Slovenia, which used to be part of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavs in Detroit were accused of being Communists in the early 20th century.

You will say that Palmer bothered leftists and anarchists, whereas the Trumps and their immigree wives have been business people and grifters in equal parts.

But that’s the point. When you profile people based on ethnicity, it doesn’t matter what they really think. They’ve been convicted by how they look or how they talk, or when they arrived. Palmer didn’t need warrants or charges to arrest and hold people, or even to physically deport them. He just needed his bigotry. Any of the Trumps or the Trump wives, had they been around then, could have fallen victim to his dragnets.


Related video:

Wochit News: “Trump Makes Remarks In Support Of Racial Profiling ”

Pyrrhic Victory? As Iraq rolls back Daesh, can it stay together as a Country?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

From all accounts, most people in Fallujah are very happy about being out from under the murderous and puritanical rule of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). But Daesh took the city in January of 2014 for a reason. Locals did not put up much of a fight to keep them out. The Sunni Dulaym tribe predominates in Fallujah, and they have not since 2003 felt that the Iraqi government truly represents them. They think it is a cat’s paw of Shiite Iran.

The social consequences of the conquest of Fallujah are considerable, with hundreds of thousands of fleeing the city in recent months and 20,000 streaming out of it just on Saturday. Fears of outbreaks of cholera in refugee camps with no running water are heightening.

But an increasing number of Sunni Arab Iraqis are putting out calls for the partition of Iraq. These include the tribes of northern Ninewah Province, where the large city of Mosul is situated.

A high Kurdish official in Iraqi Kurdistan has also called for partition once the Daesh insurgency is quelled.

Ominously, the Badr Corps has ruled out so much a partition. Badr was originally trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and is a Shiite fighting force, one of the more effective.

This configuration is dangerous. You have nationalist Kurds, hopeless Sunni Arabs and militantly nationalist Shiites. The Shiites, at 60% of the country, probably have the social and economic weight to keep at least the Arab areas together. But it could be a sullen, cold-shoulder unity.


Related video:

CBS News: ” Turmoil in Iraq leaves economy devastated”

Posted in Featured,Iraq | 15 Responses | Print |

The end of the Beginning: The Fall of ISIL in Fallujah

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

After Montgomery and his troops defeated the Germans and Italians at El Alamain in northern Egypt in 1942, Winston Churchill was relieved finally to have some good news after a string of defeats. He said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi announced on Friday that Iraqi troops had captured the governmental complex in the center of Fallujah. The Lebanese newspaper al-Nahar (The Day) reports that the Iraqi army also took the eastern and southern districts of the city.

Only some residential neighborhoods in northern Fallujah remain in the hands of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). There, however, sources told al-Nahar that Daesh still rules with an iron fist, in the districts of Jolan, al-Muhandis, al-Wahda, al-Jumhuria and al-Andalus in the north. A source inside the city said Friday that it was nevertheless possible that the neighborhoods would fall to the Iraqi government within hours.

The image of invincibility and the projection of power that Daesh has striven for during the past two years has been shattered, the Iraqi source in Fallujah said, at the hands of the various Iraqi forces.

The Iraqi war information bureau said that a counter-terrorism unit liberated the district of Nizal entirely after imposing severe losses on the Daesh fighters. Meanwhile, the 17th Infantry Division, a Baghdad formation, continued to advance and it succeeded in liberating al-Ursan district entirely, and in securing the left bank of the Euphrates.

It also announced that units of the national gendarmes liberated the governor’s mansion for the county of Fallujah in the center of the city and raised the Iraqi flag over it. Dozens of Daesh guerrillas were killed in the confrontations. The government forces advanced to Baghdad Street, expelling the enemy. Battles continue as the army seeks to fulfill all its objectives. Fighting continues as the counter-terrorism division seeks to take Fallujah Hospital.

Iran’s Arabic-language al-Alam [The World] reported on al-Abadi’s television address, in which he announced that Fallujah had returned to the bosom of the nation, and that shortly Daesh would be completely expelled from the city. He said, “Our forces fulfilled their pledge, and liberated Fallujah, and next we will head to Mosul.”

He called on all the institutions of the state to exert every effort to take care of the civilians and to deliver humanitarian aid, as well as to be careful of people’s property and homes. He said, “today is a day of forgiveness.” (He meant that although many Fallujans may have collaborated with Daesh because they saw it as savior of Sunnis, they should not now be punished, in the interests of bringing all Iraqis together under the banner of the central government.

He said that Daesh had “no place in Iraq.”

Having taken Tikrit, Ramadi, Hit and Fallujah, the Iraqi government has over the past 2 years decisively rolled bak Daesh. It is now virtually besieged in Mosul, which is landlocked and increasingly surrounded.

As a governmental entity, I wouldn’t give Daesh more than a year. As a terrorist organization, it can be both long-lived and deadly.


Related video:

CBS This Morning: “Iraq troops push into center of ISIS-held Fallujah”


Posted in Featured,Iraq | 15 Responses | Print |

Despite Terrorism fears, 59% of Americans Welcome Syrian, Iraqi Refugees

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) |

“American attitudes on refugees from the Middle East”: A Public Opinion Poll by Shibley Telhami is just out.

Despite the raft of Republican mayors who have pledged to keep Syrian refugees out of their states (that isn’t actually a thing) and the sewage that has spilled from the mouth of Donald Trump, a majority of Americans supports helping Syrian and Iraqi immigrants and letting them into the US, and most Americans recognize that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq contributed to the rise of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), and so to the crisis in Syria.

Key findings:

Of 750,000 refugees admitted since 9/11, only 3 have been arrested on terrorism charges. Most Americans think it is more, and many Americans think it is substantially more.

Nevertheless, 59% of Americans support taking in refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries if the US screens them for security risks (it does– it is an 18-month process of scrutiny). 41% are scrooges opposed. The percentage supporting Syrian refugees in particular is a little lower, 53%, probably because of all the bad press.

Some 55% of Americans think refugees would be welcome in their communities.

With regard to Syrian refugees already in the US, 3/4s of Americans want the country to welcome them and help absorb them into American society. But 21% of Americans would like to expel those already here.

From mainstream press coverage of political attitudes this spring, I would have thought that the expulsionists were substantially more than a fifth of the population.

Although the threat of terrorism is usually highlighted in the press as a reason to be afraid of the Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing . . . terrorism, in fact nearly as big a percentage of those who decline to help these refugees say they do so for economic reasons (41%) as for fear of terrorism (45%).

One of the reasons for majority support of taking in Iraqi and Syrian refugees is that Americans feel a moral obligation to do so. 2/3s of Clinton and Sanders supporters feel this to be a moral obligation, while the percentages are reversed among Trump supporters.

The moral obligation stems from guilt over the Bush administration’s illegal war of naked aggression on Iraq, which 56% of Americans think had a significant role in creating Syrian refugees, and another 31% said had at least a small role in doing so.

I’m actually surprised at these responses, and at how well informed the public is on this matter. Although you could argue that Syria fell apart for indigenous reasons, ISIL wouldn’t have existed to take over the country’s east if it hadn’t been for Bush’s Iraq occupation. ISIL began as the Tawhid of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, then became al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, then the Islamic State of Iraq, then the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant when its fighters went over to Syria to join in the civil war there. Its fighters honed their skills fighting the American occupation army. Many leaders were former Iraqi Baath Party officers.

Americans think that the 10,000 Syrian refugees that the Obama administration wants to bring in this year is just about the right number.

Millennial youth and Democrats are generally twice as favorable to taking in or otherwise helping refugees from the Syria and Iraq Wars as Republicans, and Trump Republicans are the least charitable toward them of all.

The survey was “sponsored by the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution and the Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, fielded by Nielsen Scarborough.”

Brookings Institution: “American attitudes on refugees from the Middle East – Part 1”

Brookings Institution: ” American attitudes on refugees from the Middle East – Part 2″

Obama: Hating on Muslim-Americans makes you an ally of ISIL, & Unamerican

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

President Obama is clearly concerned about the direction of the country and the mainstreaming of anti-Muslim hate speech, especially in the context of impossible-to-prevent lone wolf attacks like that at Orlando. He launched his fiercest attack yet on Donald Trump and warned of a repeat of the worst moments of American history, when the Federal government targeted our fellow citizens.

Aspects of the speech made me uncomfortable. Obama seems to have bought the story that Omar Mateen, the alleged Orlando shooter, had become self-radicalized by the internet. I have long been suspicious of this discourse, and in any case I doubt Mateen learned much about radicalism from the internet. He didn’t even seem to know that Hizbullah is a fierce opponent of ISIL on the Syrian battlefield, and said he was a member of both. Even a little cursory reading on the internet would have allowed him to avoid this . . . faux pas. Instead, the evidence is that Mateen was himself a closeted gay man who frequented the Pulse club, and very possibly lost a lover, driving him over the edge. The invocation of ISIL was meaningless.

Obama, having accepted the radicalization narrative, went on to speak about how his administration is rolling the actual ISIL back in Iraq and Syria. He pointed out that ISIL has lost 50% of the territory it had in Iraq, and that it is about to lose Manbij in Syria, which will cut off the capital of the phony caliphate, al-Raqqa, from supplies and reinforcements coming in from Turkey.

All this is true. Daesh or ISIL is being rolled up and it is a little unlikely we’ll be talking about it a couple of years from now. But Muslim radicalism isn’t being rolled up, and it will just take on a different name and identity. GW Bush’s killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006 did not destroy the budding Islamic State of Iraq. US or Iraqi military strike that dispatched ISI leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi did not destroy the movement, then the Mesopotamian affiliate of al-Qaeda. Obama’s assassination of Usama Bin Laden had no effect on the holy warriors in Syria who idolized him. So killing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Ibrahim al-Samarrai) won’t end ISIL. It will just devolve back into a terrorist group from having been a puritanical state.

Obama also shows awareness that radicalism appealed to Syrian and Iraqi Sunni Arabs because they felt mistreated, humiliated and excluded by their governments. Obama expressed confidence about the Iraqi government, ruled by the Shiite fundamentalist Da`wa or Islamic Mission Party, will become more inclusive of Sunnis. What universe is he living in?

Then he pledged to continue to support the cessation of hostilities in Syria, which began amazingly well but has gradually fallen apart.

Obama’s faith in a post-Daesh political settlement in both Syria and Iraq seems so unlikely as to appear pollyannaish. More likely, some angry and humiliated Sunnis will keep on being excluded and keep on deploying the tactic of terror.

But Obama ended his speech by coming back to the domestic issues.

“We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from immigrating into America. And you hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complacent in violence.

Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer — they were all U.S. citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminate them, because of their faith?

We heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign. Do Republican officials actually agree with this?

Because that’s not the America we want. It does not reflect our Democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe, it will make us less safe, fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims, making Muslims in this country and around the world feel like, no matter what they do, they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack.

It makes Muslim-Americans feel like their government is betraying them. It betrays the very values America stands for.

We have gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it. We have seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history.

OBAMA: This is a country founded on basic freedoms, including freedom of religion. We don’t have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, are clear about that.

And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it a lot easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect.

The pluralism and the openness, our rule of law, our civil liberties, the very things that make this country great. The very things that make us exceptional. And then the terrorists would have won and we cannot let that happen. I will not let that happen.

These are noble sentiments and Obama did the right thing in standing up to Trump over his hateful remarks against Muslims. He is right that the strategy of Daesh/ ISIL is to get Americans to mistreat Muslims and drive them into the arms of Daesh.

But when Obama kept saying that US counter-terrorism forces “know who they are fighting,” implying it is radical Muslim fundamentalism, he suggested that he doesn’t use the terminology ‘radical Islam’ purely for diplomatic reasons, not that the phrase is wrongheaded. (But it is wrong-headed: Islamic is like Judaic, it has the connotation of the good and ideal elements of the Islamic religion.)

Still, Obama is correct that it is un-American to single out people for special mistreatment based on their religion, or to blame 1.5 billion Muslims for the actions of one unstable man. And it is excellent that he spoke out. It is also a piece of irony, since the Trumpofascists had been implying or saying that you can’t be a good American if you or your parents were born abroad. The president has a loud megaphone, and he has put it to good use in standing up for the Bill of Rights. As he reminded us, undermining the Constitution to get at threats to the Constitution is a fool’s errand.


Related video:

The White House: ” President Obama Delivers a Statement to the Press”

Omar Mateen and Rightwing Homophobia: Hate Crime or Domestic Terrorism?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

US law enforcement is at least initially categorizing the horrific Orlando shootings as “domestic terrorism.”

I don’t think it probably was terrorism in any useful sense of the term.

I used to know what domestic terrorism was, before the term became politicized in the past decade. It was defined right there in the Federal code of 1992:

“(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

The great thing about this definition is that it focuses on the motive behind the act. And it specifies that the motive has to be to coerce people or influence or affect government policy.

So if the alleged shooter, Omar Mateen, was a terrorist you would expect him to make demands about US government policy. There will be more such acts, he would have said, unless the US government passes a law outlawing homosexuality. Or unless the US government withdraws from Afghanistan. (But if he aimed to change the latter policy, why shoot up a civilian gay club on Latin night? Wouldn’t he have targeted, say, a US Army base?)

Shootings like Orlando that hit “soft targets” such as restaurants or nightclubs are not a form of classical strategic terrorism. Serious terrorist would hit military targets, e.g.–an act that might hope to degrade US security. Shooting down people at a nightclub has no obvious strategic goal. Such a goal is intrinsic to the tactic of terrorism, and its absence should cause us to question the use of the term.

What we know about Mateen so far doesn’t indicate that he was a member of a terrorist organization. If the authorities thought that he was, the crime would have been labeled international terrorism, not domestic.

We know that his father, Seddique Mateen, is a Pushtun nationalist from Afghanistan who objects to the 1893 Durand Line that the British drew between British India and Afghanistan, which cut the Pushtun ethnic group in two. Today, the Pushtuns (called Pukhtuns in the local dialect) are a majority in the province of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa of northern Pakistan, while the Afghanistan Pushtuns dominate a number of provinces stretched across eastern and southern Afghanistan. Decades ago a Pushtun nationalism that wanted to unite Pushtuns into a single country and secede from both Pakistan and Afghanistan had some popularity, but it is now a fringe movement.

Mateen senior goes on a California Persian-language tv and promotes this subnationalism. He is also said to support the Taliban, but that may be because he sees them as authentically Pushtun and oppressed by the Punjabi Pakistani officer corps, rather than because he is a fundamentalist. His big emphasis seems to be on erasing the Durand Line. He asserted that his son’s action had nothing to do with Islam. Although the US press is depicting Seddique Mateen as himself perhaps unbalanced, his position isn’t crazy, it has just become a minority idea.


Iranian languages incl. Pushto h/t Wikimedia

You could imagine Mateen being brought up to resent that the West had divided and weakened the Pushtun ethnic group. But there isn’t any evidence that Omar shared his father’s separatist politics.

We know that Omar Mateen’s marriage failed because, his ex-wife alleges, he beat her. Her Muslim relatives were so appalled on hearing this that they extracted her from the match.

She says he wasn’t religious 8 years ago.

We know that a co-worker when he was employed as a security guard considered him unbalanced, racist and homophobic, and even left his position rather than continuing to have to work with him.

We know the FBI investigated him twice and found no reason to pursue the inquiry or to keep him on a terrorist watch list.

So this person looks as though he was unbalanced and extremely prejudiced individual who bought two semi-automatic weapons only last week and then committed a mass shooting against a group against which he was bigoted.

He may have invoked Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) as he began his mayhem, but there is no reason at the moment to think that he was involved with them in any practical way.

He was about to commit a mass murder that he must have known would likely end in his own death as well.

So it may be that he was searching for a way to make sense of his homicidal impulse, a way to give meaning to his senseless killing and senseless death.

So, a major, major hate crime for sure. But terrorism? What is the governmental policy he wanted changed?

If it was about gay marriage, well, there is a lot of political opposition to that on the Republican Right, and violence against gays has been a feature of the American far right.

In fact, you could argue that the American evangelical groups that successfully lobbied Uganda to execute gays were engaged in a form of international legislative terrorism–they are certainly driven by a political agenda and wanted to see people killed; they were just more patient about it.

In a mirror image of Mateen, police in LA arrested James Wesley Howell , a right wing white conspiracy nut. Howell was found with high powered rifles and bomb-making materials. He says that Hillary Clinton is Hitler, and he is a truther, alleging that the US government is behind terrorist attacks since 2000. He was headed to the Gay Pride parade in Los Angeles, though friends of his denied that he is a homophobe. (Friends don’t always know these things).

If Howell was planning an act of violence at the parade, it was forestalled by his arrest, so it is hard to compare him to Mateen, especially since we know so little about Howell’s intentions. But these two men both seem to have been unbalanced, and both intended to go to a gay event.

The biggest thing they had in common between being off their rockers was that they had free access to high powered firearms despite all the signs they exhibited of being one can short of a six-pack.

Is Tel Aviv Mayor Right that Israel is unique in Occupation & denying Civil Rights?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Ron Huldai, the mayor of Tel Aviv, reacted with enormous sadness to Thursday’s terrorist attack on the Sarona Market restaurant district in Tel Aviv, which left 4 dead, committed by a teenagers from the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. But he then went on to put the attack in context. This kind of violence, he said, results from the Israeli Occupation, a Peculiar Institution unlike any other in the world.

Huldai said,

““We, as a state, are the only ones in the world with another people living among us under our occupation, denying them any civil rights . . . The problem is that when there is no terrorism, no one talks about [the occupation] . . .Nobody has the guts to take a step towards trying to make some kind of [final status] arrangement. We are 49 years into an occupation that I was a participant in, and I recognize the reality and know that leaders with courage just say things.”

Contextualizing is forbidden by the Zionist right wing, which maintains that all violence against Jews is the result of mindless Antisemitism and to attempt to explain such attacks is to condone them. This kind of argumentation from the Right is of course essentially fascist, since it forbids reasoning and demands acquiescence to a nationalist imperative; it also demonizes all Others and exalts the ethnicity of the Self as innocent suffering martyr.

[Deputy] Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan rebuked Huldai, saying “I want to remind him that there was terrorism here 100 years ago, and in 1929 Jews were murdered [in a massacre in Hebron] and there was no State of Israel. There wasn’t even an ‘occupation.’”

Ben-Dahan’s remark is so inaccurate as to be delusional. Palestine was occupied by the British Empire at the end of World War I and ruled by London until 1948. The Palestinians were under occupation. Moreover, in 1917 just before that occupation began, the British government in its notorious colonial Balfour Declaration promised to create a homeland for Jews in the midst of Palestine. The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were not consulted by the British about this plan for bringing in thousands of foreign immigrants (just as French colonial authorities did not consult the Algerians about bringing in colonists from Malta, Italy and elsewhere, and from southern France). Attacks on Jews in Palestine during the British Mandate were in fact a protest against occupation (sometimes they had economic motives). What the Palestinians could not imagine is that the British and the Jewish immigrants would deprive them of their country entirely (a country promised by the League of Nations and the 1939 British white paper) and turn them into stateless refugees, i.e. into flotsam on the waves of history rather than human beings with rights.

As for Huldai’s assertiion, it is clear-eyed and correct.

Some will object that there are other instances besides Israel/Palestine of one people oppressing another. They will instance Kurds in Turkey or Tibetans in China or Western Saharans in Morocco. But in each of these cases, the group maintaining that it is oppressed has been given citizenship in the state. It may not want that citizenship. But it has it, and all the rights that come with it.

It is a very different matter to have an ethnicity within a state that feels disadvantaged than to have a large group of people who have been ethnically cleansed from their original homes and stripped of all nationality, and left stateless.

As I said in my Hisham B. Sharabi Memorial Lecture ,

“I want to make an argument about the character of the Palestine issue. I’m not going to argue that it’s a unique problem but I am going to argue that it’s almost unique in contemporary affairs, and that there are some aspects of it that explain why it is so seemingly intractable. I’m going to start with an increasingly important field of study, citizenship studies. There are journals now devoted to it; it’s become a big thing in academia. My colleague at the University of Michigan, Margaret Somers, wrote an important book on citizenship not so long ago. And as she points out, Chief Justice Earl Warren of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1958 wrote: “Citizenship is man’s basic right, for it is nothing less than the right to have rights. Remove this priceless possession and there remains a stateless person disgraced and degraded in the eyes of his countrymen.” So Warren is drawing here implicitly on the work of Hannah Arendt but this is the key point that I want to make today. Citizenship is the right to have rights. People who lack citizenship in a state ipso facto have no right to have rights…

if we came to the Palestinians, their situation of citizenship is obviously deformed. There’s no state. They’re lacking an entire section of the column. And then their market is not very robust and of course in Gaza there is no market to speak of, the Israelis have Gaza under siege. There’s no airport, there’s no harbor, and the Israelis don’t permit the Palestinians in Gaza to export most of what they make, some strawberries, off of which the Israelis take a cut. But mostly the export market doesn’t exist in Gaza. So the market and the separation wall and the politics of the neighboring states are such that the Palestinians don’t have a strong relationship to the market, they don’t have a state at all, there are a lot of NGOS, and so for the Palestinians, the NGO sector is the one place where there’s a little glimmer maybe of some citizenship. But that’s weird. And that’s unexampled in the world. There’s no other group of people that look like that. In the world, right now.”

Other than Huldai, the response by most Israeli politicians was a demand for more harsh measures against the stateless, occupied Palestinians. Some even lamented, as this column translated by BBC Monitoring shows, that the Israeli state could not act more harshly than it has, for fear of Palestinian backlash.

“Yoav Limor said in free, pro-Netanyahu Yisrael Hayom: “Things have to be said honestly: Israel has no magic solutions to terrorist attacks… The decisions the cabinet took are minor – sweeping cancellation of 204 work permits for members of the clan to which the terrorists from Yatta belonged and freezing reliefs given to about 80,000 Palestinians in Ramadan (mainly family visits). The other decisions, foremost the imposition of siege on Yatta and reinforcing forces in the territories with two more battalions, were taken already on the night of the terrorist attack… The fear is that too harsh a response would put the field in a spin again, and still in the days of the Ramadan festival. Therefore, Israel avoided collective harming of the Palestinian population; in spite of the boiling guts, routine life in the West Bank will continue.”

Yeah, I actually don’t think things will go on normally in the West Bank forever under these conditions. There is likely to be a blow-up.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

PressTV: ” Israel demolishes Palestinian home over Tel Aviv attack”

America’s First Communal Muslim Funeral: Muhammad Ali

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The funeral of Muhammad Ali, attended by a throng of 20,000, was the first national funeral for a national hero of the United States that was also a Muslim ceremony or janazah. Muhammad Ali crafted it as a interfaith event, but obviously Islam was central.

The transitions in life from one stage to another are marked in most societies by religious rituals, which are necessarily distinctive. Marriage has commonalities across the religions but the ceremony isn’t exactly the same (except where globalization has smoothed out differences). Muslim funerals have their own special attributes. Likely most Americans mainly paid attention to the speeches of celebrities and perhaps remained little aware of the funeral prayer that was said. Still, the Muslim funeral was in our living rooms, held for a person who helped define contemporary American society.

Muslims do not embalm, and usually the body is buried much more quickly than in this instance. In the US, family or close friends wash the body at the funeral home and wrap a shroud around it three times.

The funeral prayer (salat al-janazah) is performed in a side room at the mosque.

Then the body is interred. The body should be placed on its right side, facing toward Mecca, the qibla or point of adoration.

The family may then receive visitors.

The morning period ranges, according to the specific Muslim community concerned, from 3 to forty days, though the bereaved spouse mourns longer.

It is worth thinking about this great three-time heavyweight champion, this conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, this American hero, lying in his grave facing Mecca. The cube-shaped shrine, the Kaaba, is the direction toward which Muslims all over the world set their faces when they pray. An important American is now facing the Muslim holy city, just as for centuries American Catholics have looked to Rome for their spirituality and American Jews to Jerusalem. More recently, American Buddhists have perhaps looked toward Varanasi (Benares) in India.

Muslims pray to Mecca and also are commanded to go on pilgrimage there at least once in a lifetime if they can afford it and are not in debt or in poor health. The Muslim world’s trekking to Mecca has been an important phenomenon in trade and cultural exchange for 1400 years (you meet all kinds of people in Mecca from all around the world).

It was in Mecca that Malcolm X first encountered blonde, blue-eyed Muslims and radically rethought his Nation of Islam beliefs about race. Muhammad Ali made the same journey, from Islam as black nationalism to Islam as universal faith, and in 2005 he took a further spiritual journey into Islam as universal mysticism or Sufism.

Sufism influenced Ralph Waldo Emerson and the American Transcendentalist tradition.

Muhammad Ali learned from the works of Hazrat Enayat Khan, who wrote, “The Sufi thinks that we all follow one religion, only in different names and different forms; but behind names and forms there is one and the same spirit and there is one and the same truth.” Although Mecca is in Saudi Arabia, a Wahhabi-ruled country with a strict puritanism and creedal religion, the city and its surrounding province are full of universalistic Sufis.

This is what Malcolm X wrote back from his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1965:

” “There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.”

“America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white – but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.”

Muhammad Ali’s funeral was another letter, this time from Louisville facing Mecca, reminding us of our society’s problems with racial and religious prejudice, and of the contribution that Islam can make to opening our eyes to racial and religious universalism.

In these times, when there is so much hatred and fearmongering directed against Islam and American Muslims by prominent politicians, it took Muhammad Ali’s funeral to bring us all together, and to remind us of our higher American ideals, ideals that have some essential overlap with Muslim universalism.


Related video:

ABC News: “Muhammad Ali Funeral [FULL MEMORIAL SERVICE]”

World More violent in past Year, but Middle East drives Deterioration

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The 2016 Global Peace Index has been released, with the bad news that the world is slightly more violent this year than last. But much of the increase of violence happened in the greater Middle East, in Syria, Libya, Turkey, etc. If you subtracted the Middle East, in most of the world there was more peace, not less.

Country-wise, 81 countries became more peaceful while 79 became more violent. Libya, Turkey, Bahrain, Ukraine and Yemen were the top five in the “got worse” category. But Sri Lanka, which has emerged from a period of nasty dictatorship to become more democratic and inclusive, improved, as did Thailand, Panama, South Africa and Mauritania (these 5 were ‘most improved’).

h/t GPI

Violence is deadly to the economy, and was quite costly to the world last year, to the tune of trillions of dollars.

Regionally, the most improvement came in the Caribbean, Central America and Latin America.

From the end of World War II until 2005 or so, despite the Korean and Vietnam Wars, violence actually declined substantially throughout the world. But in the past 10 years it has gradually increased, reversing the earlier secular trend. In these ten years, battlefield deaths, deaths from terrorism, and displacement of people by conflict have all increased. Last year the number of refugees created, 60 million, was the highest since the world was in the midst of WW II.

The averages are skewed, however, by the Middle East, and especially by Syria, the most violent country in the world last year. The US invasion and occupation of Iraq kicked off massive violence there and in neighboring countries (ISIL would not own part of Syria if its parent organization hadn’t been formed in 2003 to fight the US occupation of Iraq).

If you subtracted the Middle East, the rest of the globe actually got slightly more peaceful last year.

One bright spot is that world spending on UN peacekeeping is way up.

Europe is the most peaceful place in the world, with no violence to speak of. Last year that peace was interrupted by some major terrorist attacks. But they seem so shocking and bulk so large because the continent’s norm is so placid.

A lot of the increase in violence has been in the Muslim Middle East. But, of the 20 most violent countries, it is important to note that many have a Christian background– South Sudan, Central African Republic, Ukraine, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Russia, Colombia and Venezuela. One is Communist/ Confucianist (North Korea); and one is Jewish/Muslim/ Christian (Israel).

The Global Peace Index thinks there are 8 correlates of increased peace:

Equitable distribution of resources

Acceptance of the rights of others

Low levels of corruption

Well-functioning government

Free flow of information

Good relations with neighbors

High levels of human capital

Sound business environment

As for my own country, it sees to me obvious that it is deteriorating along a number of these criteria. Distribution of resources, including education and even clean water, is becoming less equitable. One of our two major presidential candidates has built his campaign on refusing to accept the rights of others. Corruption in Wall Street and US politics seems endemic. Self-censorship and interruption of information flows have increased because of the Snowden revelations of government surveillance (a form of corruption and a threat to free information all rolled up together). If the GPI is right about what produces peace, you’d have to conclude that the US is heading toward increased violence.


Related video:

RECTV: “India ranked 141 in Global Peace Index”