Juan Cole – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sun, 26 Jun 2022 05:23:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.6 Top 6 Worst Supreme Court Decisions in History https://www.juancole.com/2022/06/supreme-decisions-history.html https://www.juancole.com/2022/06/supreme-decisions-history.html#respond Sun, 26 Jun 2022 04:12:48 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=205426 1. Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) I explained elsewhere,

    “Although we all learn about the 1857 Dred Scott decision in school, we aren’t usually told that it actually should be called the Harriet and Dred Scott decision, since Scott’s wife was also a plaintiff in the suit. History.com explains that Dred Scott had been enslaved by Dr. John Emerson. Emerson then moved with Scott first to Illinois and then to the Wisconsin territory, where slavery was not allowed, but where Emerson nevertheless kept Scott in bondage. In Wisconsin he allowed Scott to marry Harriet Robinson in a civil ceremony, having arranged to buy her (what a creepy phrase). Dr. Emerson traveled with them some more and died in Iowa. He had by that time acquired a wife, Irene.

    The two enslaved persons were inherited by Irene Emerson like so many sticks of furniture, and despite their pleas, Irene refused to free them. She returned with them to St. Louis. Dred and Harriet then sued her, with the help of abolitionists and church groups, because of a Missouri law saying that if an enslaved person was taken to a free state, that individual could not thereafter be re-enslaved. Missouri also allowed free Blacks to sue in state courts. They won in a lower level court in 1850, then in 1852 the Missouri Supreme Court combined Dred’s and Harriet’s separate lawsuits into one and then ruled against them. They and their abolitionist backers took the case to the federal courts and ultimately to the US Supreme Court, which in 1857 ruled against them. Harriet was devastated, according to this capsule biography of her…

    In his opinion, Chief Justice Roger Taney said that members of the “Negro race” were not U.S. citizens and that they had no federal rights at all that white men were bound to respect, including the right to sue in federal court. He actually spoke of whites as the “citizen race” to the exclusion of “Negroes” and “Indians,” who were not eligible (unlike white immigrants from Europe) for naturalization.”

This horrible Nazi-like ruling was undone by the Fourteenth Amendment, which recognized as citizens all those born in the United States. Republican fascists are plotting to repeal this amendment.

2. Plessy v. Ferguson (1896): Some readers may have seen the Richard Attenborough film, Gandhi, which contains a scene of young Indian lawyer Mohandas K Gandhi in Apartheid South Africa being unceremoniously ejected from a train for trying to sit in the white section. The story of Plessy is very similar.

The Plessy ruling explained:

    “that petitioner was a citizen of the United States and a resident of the state of Louisiana, of mixed descent, in the proportion of seven-e ghths Caucasian and one-eighth African blood; that the mixture of colored blood was not discernible in him, and that he was entitled to every recognition, right, privilege, and immunity secured to the citizens of the United States of the white race by its constitution and laws; that on June 7, 1892, he engaged and paid for a first-class passage on the East Louisiana Railway, from New Orleans to Covington, in the same state, and thereupon entered a passenger train, and took possession of a vacant seat in a coach where passengers of the white race were accommodated; that such railroad company was incorporated by the laws of Louisiana as a common carrier, and was not authorized to distinguish between citizens according to their race, but, notwithstanding this, petitioner was required by the conductor, under penalty of ejection from said train and imprisonment, to vacate said coach, and occupy another seat, in a coach assigned by said company for persons not of the white race, and for no other reason than that petitioner was of the colored race; that, upon petitioner’s refusal to comply with such order, he was, with the aid of a police officer, forcibly ejected from said coach, and hurried off to, and imprisoned in, the parish jail of New Orleans.”

Homer Plessy was only an 8th Black and people couldn’t even tell he wasn’t just white.

The Supreme Court noted that the train company’s charter said that it would provide separate but equal train accommodations for people of different races, and agreed that that would just peachy. The court thus authorized six and a half decades of radical white nationalist Jim Crow laws and rule in the American South, during which some 4,000 African-Americans were lynched and most were prevented from voting or holding high office.

Contrary to what the far right judges on the court just alleged, Plessy was never overturned. A much more narrow ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) only found that the separate but equal notion was not applicable to public schools. The rest of Jim Crow was only gotten rid of by legislation — the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting rights Act of 1965. Usually it is the legislature that cleans up the court’s messes. And the legislature only acted when successfully pressured by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. Take a lesson, folks.

Article continues after bonus IC video
Sound Smart: Plessy v. Ferguson | History

3. Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918): In 1918 the Supreme Court said that Congress couldn’t prohibit child labor at a cotton mill in North Carolina using its constitutional remit to regulate interstate commerce, because the boys being made to work weren’t transported across state lines (!) Uh, was the cotton cloth they helped make exported? Why was the Supreme Court so interested in seeing children made to work in factories?

Hammer was overturned in 1941 when the Supreme Court of that era accepted the constitutionality of the Fair Labor Standards Act in U.S. v. Darby Lumber Company (1941)

4. Korematsu v. United States (1944). In this decision the wretched Supreme Court decided that it had been all right for the US government to expel American citizens from their homes and round them up into concentration camps, costing them everything they had. The citizens involved were Japanese-Americans rather than white, you will notice. The fascist justices actually wrote,

    “We uphold the exclusion order as of the time it was made and when the petitioner violated it . . . In doing so, we are not unmindful of the hardships imposed by it upon a large group of American citizens . . . But hardships are part of war, and war is an aggregation of hardships. All citizens alike, both in and out of uniform, feel the impact of war in greater or lesser measure. Citizenship has its responsibilities as well as its privileges, and in time of war the burden is always heavier.”

A bigger load of horse hockey was never shoveled into the faces of the American public. Americans of European descent were not treated this way, so why did the burden happen to fall on Asian-Americans. Gee, I wonder what the difference could be?

5. Citizens United v. FEC (2010). The monumentally wicked and terminally stupid John Roberts found that speech is the same as money, and so First Amendment protects the right of rich people to buy congressmen. Roberts will go down in history as another Roger B. Taney, whose rigid ideology, imposed on the American people, cast the country into Civil War in the Dred Scott ruling.

Money is not speech. Money is money. If we cannot regulate money in politics, as France, Germany and other civilized countries do, then we will become a plutocratic dictatorship. Ooops. I think that has already happened.

In many ways, Citizen United allowed the Federalist Society and its billionaire backers to buy the Supreme Court, too, and to deprive women of the right to control their own bodies. Roberts signed on to that. Now they are going to try to invade our bodily privacy in a whole host of other arenas, throwing the country into decades of unrest and potential chaos. They may also prevent the government from dealing with the Climate Emergency by limiting the EPA’s ability to curb deadly carbon dioxide emissions that are wrecking the planet. There will also be violence over that.

As for the sixth in this series, which may be the second worst after Dred Scott, which caused the Civil War, you all know what that is, since it was just issued this week. Dobbs v. Jackson. It is the opening salvo of more such decisions inviting state governments to regulate our genitals and family life, which is the stealth agenda of the allegedly anti-government Republican Party.

When a small clique of unelected ideologues impose their will on 330 million people in a way that offends the vast majority of them, it calls forth a movement. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King each in his own way, coming from Islam and from Christianity, knew what to do about Jim Crow. They organized. Eventually even the Congress became concerned enough to strike down segregation and interference in voting rights. We may need to do the second all over again in this generation. And now there is the challenge of freeing the bodies of American women, and, indeed, of all Americans, from the death grip of the New Puritan Plutocrats.

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56% of Muslim Americans support Women’s Right to choose, and More Muslim-Majority Nations offer Abortion on Demand than do U.S. States https://www.juancole.com/2022/06/americans-majority-abortion.html https://www.juancole.com/2022/06/americans-majority-abortion.html#respond Sat, 25 Jun 2022 04:15:39 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=205406 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – With the striking down of Roe, the Federalist Society’s bought-and-paid-for Supreme Court has allowed states to dictate as they will to women over the disposition of their own bodies. Judge Samuel Alito alleged that it was “rational” to protect a blastocyte, a just-fertilized human egg. No one in history ever found that rational. They might have found it doctrinally sound if they were believers (and that only recently). Let’s take a poll of scientists as to whether that is rational. It is actually the imposition of Catholic and Evangelical theology on rational people who reject that theology, and it violates the First Amendment by establishing religion.

It also takes key constitutional rights over their own persons away from American women. Seven of the 13 states with abortion trigger laws make no exception for rape or incest, though all have exceptions for conditions that endanger the life of the mother. It isn’t clear that the exceptions extend to conditions that merely threaten the health of the mother but are not fatal. For instance, if a woman could end up crippled but not dead, these absolutist bans likely do not make an exception. It has been shown that abortion bans make doctors and nurses skittish about that sort of decision, or even treating miscarriages, which many Christian fundamentalists are now trying to categorize as a crime.

The US Right wing has made hay with American Exceptionalism and the war on Muslims (a.k.a the “war on terror”) for decades. One of their central arguments was that the U.S. is more civilized in its treatment of women than are Muslims.

I wrote in 2005,

    Marine Lt. General James Mattis said Thursday:

    “Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. … It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.” He added, “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

    . . . One of the reasons that the Neoconservatives are wrong that unilateral war can be used for good, for spreading democracy, is that war brings out the worst in human beings, making some of them sadists and racists. Sometimes it is necessary to fight a war to defend oneself. An elective war is always a mistake. It twists one’s own society, and someone else’s as well.

Mattis went on to serve as the odious Trump’s Secretary of Defense (because of course he did). Notice how he justified depicting killing people as “fun.” It was because the Taliban were mean to their women, he alleged.

George W. Bush used to bring Afghan women to sit in the balcony of the House for his State of the Union message every year, to underline that he had liberated them. Bush never put the sort of resources into Afghanistan that might have allowed women to advance, switching his attention to invading and occupying an oil state, Iraq. So of course they were props for his wars of aggression and have now fallen right back under Taliban rule.

This use of Muslim women by the American Right has all along been dishonest propaganda. Muslim-majority countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh have had women heads of state, whereas the US has not. Tunisia’s 2011 constitution recognized the legal equality of women and men, whereas the US ERA amendment was shot down by the US Right.

Recent polling shows that a majority of Muslim Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, tracking closely with general US opinion on the subject. Only 16% believe abortion should be illegal in most cases. 80% of Evangelicals believe it should be illegal in most cases. That is, the U.S. Right wing is taking away from Muslim women rights most of them claim for themselves in their own religious traditions. So much for American exceptionalism.

The American Religious Right is only one example of a global phenomenon. The Muslim world has its equivalent, in groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, of the Evangelical Christians and right wing Catholics, determined to impose their moral and legal ideas on the rest of the population through gaining leverage over the state.

As I have noted before, the American conviction that all Muslims are fundamentalists has led to a misunderstanding of Muslim societies. The 18 Muslim-majority societies with Draconian anti-abortion laws are all countries where the Muslim Religious Right is powerful. In contrast, more secular or “civil” Muslim countries often have laws that are more liberal. In countries where women have a relatively high status, such as Turkey and Tunisia, predictably abortion is offered on demand. I earlier observed:

    Gilla K. Shapiro, writing in Health Policy and Planning, found that ten Muslim-majority countries out of 47 surveyed permit abortion on demand. These are Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tunisia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Another two, Burkina Faso and Guinea, allow abortion in cases of incest and rape, which the new Texas law does not, and Sudan allows it in case of rape.

    Several other Muslim-majority states allow abortion where the mother’s physical or mental health would be impaired, not just if her life was endangered . . . Even Saudi Arabia permits abortion where the mother’s health is in danger, as do all but 18 of the 47 nations Shapiro surveyed . . .

    Since 43 U.S. states have some restrictions on abortion, in fact, there are more Muslim-majority countries with abortion on demand than there are U.S. states [who allow that] . . .

    In medieval Islam, the Hanafi school, which predominates in Turkey and much of Asia, permitted abortion up until 3 months. Some Shafi’is, the school favored in Lower Egypt, also allowed it that late date. Let me underline this. A significant proportion of medieval Muslim jurists favored rules for abortion that were more permissive than today’s law in Texas . . .

    Shapiro did a comparative survey of abortion laws in 47 Muslim-majority countries. She identifies 7 levels of abortion rights. The least permissive are laws that only make an exception for a danger to the life of the mother. The new Texas law resembles those in 18 Muslim-majority countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon, which only allow this exception.

Interestingly, Algeria, Gambia, Malaysia and Sierra Leone allow abortion where the pregnancy threatens the mental health of the women, which is not an exception common in Republican-dominated states. They only seem to mention conditions that threaten the life of the mother.

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How Clarence Thomas gets the History of Gun Regulation Wrong: And a Modest Proposal to Make Gunmen put up Surety Bonds https://www.juancole.com/2022/06/clarence-regulation-proposal.html https://www.juancole.com/2022/06/clarence-regulation-proposal.html#respond Fri, 24 Jun 2022 04:15:22 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=205381 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Originalists on the Supreme Court such as the late Antonin Scalia and current Justice Clarence Thomas claim to seek guidance to the meaning of the constitution in history, but most historians believe that their arguments are singularly ahistorical. These two thinkers find an English common law and American eighteenth- and nineteenth century notion of an absolute right to bear arms throughout the past seven centuries.

As Fordham University’s Saul Cornell points out, the Originalist misuse of history, has ironically enough, provoked loads of new historical research that further undermines the arguments of Scalia and Thomas, among others.

Historians like Wesleyan University’s Jennifer Tucker beg to disagree with Scalia and Thomas.

Tucker writes of the historical discoveries about past restrictions on weapons,

Tucker points out that the 1328 Statute of Northampton prohibited the carrying of weapons, openly or hidden, without express permission from the authorities.

That the present Triassic Era Supreme Court is simply doing politics under the cover of law, many have pointed out, is clearly visible when they strike down a state’s right to regulate the carrying of firearms hidden on one’s person but then strike down a 50-year precedent on abortion rights, saying such decisions should be the prerogative of the — wait for it — states.

Saul Cornell has knocked down the Originalist arguments in his “The Long Arc of Arms Regulation in Public: From Surety to Permitting, 1328–1928.”

He points to Michael Dalton’s Country Justice, a preeminent legal text of the early modern period, which says,

    “All such as shall go or ride armed (offensively) in Fairs, Markets or elsewhere; or shall wear, or carry any Guns, Dags or Pistols charged; . . . any Constable, seeing this may arrest them, and carry them before the Justice of Peace, and the Justice may bind them to the Peace; yea, though those persons were so armed or weaponed for their defense upon any private quarrel . . . .”

Actually, the way people were supposed to deal with being threatened by a gun owner was to go to the sheriff or magistrate with a complaint, and that official would demand that the gunman put up money as a surety against bad behavior.

So that is what gun safety advocates should press for, since Thomas and his 5 far right colleagues are so hung up on their imaginary notion of the past.

Just write laws requiring the posting of a surety bond by people who want to carry a concealed firearm. The law could be crafted for all such people, or maybe for a large subset of them. Say, they’d have to post the surety bond if they had shown a propensity to flout the law– say, if they had parking tickets or DUIs, or say, if they have had a court-ordered restraining order taken out against them. If the surety bond were substantial enough, it could serve as a hefty fine for further law-breaking or trouble-making.

As late as the Alabama antebellum case State v. Reid, 1 Ala. 612, 616-17 (1840), Cornell writes, the court decided that a policeman did not need to carry a concealed weapon without a very good reason (police were not routinely armed before the Civil War).

Cornell writes,

    ” It is also vital to read Reid against the background of an inherited common law tradition. “If the emergency is pressing,” the Reid Court declared, “there can be no necessity for concealing the weapon, and if the threatened violence will allow of it, the individual may be arrested and constrained to find sureties to keep the peace, or committed to jail.” Reid acknowledged a fact that many modern gun rights activists and some judges have ignored — the imposition of a peace bond was the primary mechanism for the enforcement of the peace.”

So that’s my suggestion. States like New York that worry about too much gun violence should just make people put up surety bonds if they want to carry a a concealed firearm. That’s the way our long common law tradition dealt with this issue. It should make the Originalists happy.

One of the biggest problems with American criminal law is that it concentrates only on punishing perpetrators but shows little interest in restitution for victims. This is one area in which Muslim law is superior to the US tradition. Making people carrying guns post surety bonds, which they would forfeit if they misbehave, would create a pool of funding for the victims of gun violence or of crimes committed with a firearm.

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There may not be a Bottom: The Fall and Fall of Rudy Giuliani and his Targeting of Moss and Lady Ruby https://www.juancole.com/2022/06/bottom-giuliani-targeting.html https://www.juancole.com/2022/06/bottom-giuliani-targeting.html#respond Thu, 23 Jun 2022 04:15:30 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=205363 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Rudy Giuliani joined in the pillorying of Georgia election worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, falsely accusing her of bringing a suitcase full of Biden ballots into the polling station. Ms. Moss had actually just put valid ballots in a storage container and sealed it because the election workers were led to believe the counting would stop for the evening. When that order was reversed, she had to retrieve the secured ballots from their container. There was no suitcase. The ballots were not phony or brought in from the outside. Indeed, the video of her that circulated among conspiracy theorist like Giuliani was itself doctored by a right wing nut job.

Ms. Moss’s mother, Ruby Freeman, was a temp election worker. Giuliani alleged that Moss handed her mother a “thumb drive” at one point. It was a ginger mint, Moss testified Tuesday, according to Deepa Shivaram at NPR.

Giuliani and his boss, Trump, made the lives of Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman hell for months. Ms. Moss left her job as an election worker, moved out of her house and had to alter her appearance because Rudy Giuliani lied about her and sicced the hounds of the far right on her. “Lady Ruby” Freeman also testified to the ways her life was disrupted.

The Gofundme pages for the two women are here and here.

Giuliani was not always a sick joke. Those too young to have lived through it may have difficulty imagining the atmosphere in the United States after the 9/11 attacks. Grown men would go on late night talk shows, such as David Letterman’s (many years later succeeded now by Stephen Colbert), and break down and cry. Men weeping in public was such a taboo in American politics that it destroyed Ed Muskie’s presidential bid in 1972, but people didn’t complain about it that fall.

Letterman, who doesn’t seem to have had strong partisan politics but who mostly voted Democratic or independent, came back on air September 17, 2001,and praised Giuliani fulsomely. He said one reason he came back on air after the massive tragedy of thousands of lives lost was “Mayor Giuliani” and the firefighters and police. At some point in the aftermath, I remember him saying, “If at any point you don’t know what you need to be doing, all you have to do is look to Mayor Giuliani” or words to that effect. Letterman is a savvy man and from the beginning thought George W. Bush was a “buffoon.” But at that emotional moment, he was taken in by Giuliani and held him up as a model for the nation.

Even that fall, there were reasons to resist the beatification of the man. That fall, Saudi billionaire Alwalid bin Talal wrote a check to the Twin Towers fund for $10 million. He released a statement thereafter urging that the US reexamine its policies on Palestine. Giuliani angrily rejected the check, observing, “One of the reasons I think this happened is because people were engaged in moral equivalency in not understanding the difference between liberal democracies like the United States, like Israel, and terrorist states and those who condone terrorism. So I think not only are those statements wrong, they’re part of the problem,” But Alwalid hadn’t drawn any moral equivalency and had not condoned the attacks, contrary to what Giuliani averred. Al-Qaeda was also trying to kill Saudis like Alwalid. He simply knew that Usama Bin Laden gave as one of the reasons he planned those operations against the US the Israeli treatment of Muslim Palestinians. Nor is the Palestine Authority, which has recognized Israel and cooperates with it on security, a “terrorist state.”

That Giuliani thought Israel, where Apartheid was already well advanced, was a “liberal democracy” says it all. In slapping away Alwalid’s proffered hand, Giuliani was revealing that he was an Islamophobe, a bigot, who would later counsel Trump on how to enact a Muslim visa ban in the U.S.

Then there was Giuliani’s longstanding and creepy relationship with the People’s Jihadis (Mojahedin-e Khalq, MEK), an Iranian expatriate cult long designated a terrorist organization by the State Department (it no longer is), and which, ABC alleged, received Saudi funding. So much for moral equivalency and the difference between liberal democracy and terrorist organizations.

Then there was his creepy behavior with actress Maria Bakalova when he thought she was a young journalist in a hotel room.

Looper: That Controversial Borat 2 Scene Is Now Online For All To See

So as he went further downhill in the Trump years, throwing the rule of law to the winds, buying into ridiculous conspiracy theories, and sucking up to the monster Trump, Mr. Giuliani may have been revealing who he really was all along. The rumors of racism, even when he was mayor of New York City, and the persistent allegations of corruption, help to make sense of how he subjected Wandrea Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman to a media lynching and ruined their lives.

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Climate Emergency: Iran’s Abadan hits unprecedented 126° F., as Gov’t Offices are forced to Close https://www.juancole.com/2022/06/climate-emergency-unprecedented.html https://www.juancole.com/2022/06/climate-emergency-unprecedented.html#respond Wed, 22 Jun 2022 04:15:21 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=205345 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Iran International reports that a temperature of 126 degrees F. (52.2C) has been recorded in Abadan. It is the highest temperature officially recorded in that city in the 70 years official records have been kept. Globally, it is one of the the higher temperatures observed before the summer solstice since records began being kept in the 19th century.

Government offices were closed in the province of Khuzestan on Tuesday as a result of the heat.

When we talk about the climate crisis, we sometimes only attend to dramatic natural disasters. But it just getting too hot for government to work is also a threat to well-being.

Nearly 5 million residents live in this southwestern province, out of roughly 84 million Iranians.

Scientists believe that where the temperature exceeds 122F, and where humidity is 50% or more, human beings cannot survive outside in it. Luckily for the people of Abadan, the humidity nowadays seems to be about 18%.

There is a possibility of high winds and dust storms early next week.

Kuwait and Iraq also suffered from unusually high temperatures this week, and from extreme dryness. In Southwestern Iran, in Kuwait and Iraq, rainfall has been 50% less than usual this spring. Iraq has suffered from repeated and long-lasting dust storms of a sort not seen before.


h/t USIP Iran Primer.

Iran International notes that Iran is in the grip of a decade-long drought, and that the local Dez river, a tributary of the Karun River, has fallen to alarming levels. Farmers are turning to underwater aquifers, but draining them is risky, since they may not be filled again, and taking this water out is causing widespread subsidence, i.e. Iran is sinking. Hydroelectric dams are producing much less energy.

Abadan has been the scene this spring of substantial political unrest, with protests over a building collapse blamed by locals on corruption. The Iranian government replied to the protests with a severe crackdown.

Last November, the drying up of the Zayandeh Rud river that flows through Isfahan provoked large demonstrations by locals.

The climate emergency is causing Iran to be drier over time. Scientists project that precipitation in Iran will decrease by 35% over the next few decades and the average temperature will increase by an alarming 4.68° F. (2.6 °C.) Some areas of Iran may become uninhabitable because of the heat. Khuzestan, the province of which Abadan is the capital, also saw widespread water shortages and consequent street protests last summer.

Ironically, Abadan is a major oil-producing region, so its major product is implicated in making it increasingly unlivable.

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Israel’s Apartheid Law Causes Bennett Government to Fall, on Eve of Biden’s Visit https://www.juancole.com/2022/06/israels-apartheid-government.html Tue, 21 Jun 2022 04:12:02 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=205320 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Israeli newspaper Arab 48 reports that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will dissolve parliament and go to new elections. His government has lacked a majority in parliament for some time and recently lost an embarrassing vote on applying Israeli law to squatter-settlers in the Palestinian West Bank. Theirs will be the shortest-lived government in Israel’s history.

The fall of the government will not impede the planned visit of President Joe Biden to Israel in July.

Arab 48 says that Bennett and his co-prime minister, Yair Lapid, have decided to go to early elections in view of the continuing crises that have paralyzed their unwieldy, eight-party odd-bedfellows coalition and the defection of ministers from Bennett’s own small, far right wing Yamina Party. A Palestinian-Israeli member of the Knesset or Israeli parliament from the center-left Meretz Party has also wavered about belonging to the government.

Lapid will become the interim prime minister and remain foreign minister during the tenure of the caretaker government, while Bennett is stepping down as prime minister but will remain alternate PM and retain control of the Iran portfolio until elections, likely to be held in October.

This will be the fifth election in 3.5 years, as the Israeli government continues to face instability because of the opposition of most party heads to a leadership role for Binyamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister who is being tried for corruption and because of difficulties in accepting or preserving Palestinian-Israeli MKs in a government coalition.

Arab 48 says that the failure of the government to renew the The “Judea and Samaria Emergency Regulations, Governance and Legal Aid Act,” which the newspaper called the “Apartheid law,” was a major motive for the decision.

This impasse points to the continued contradictions in Israeli policy. The political elite wanted to lock Netanyahu out of the prime ministership, but there were not enough Jewish members of parliament to accomplish this goal on their own. Bennett and Lapid therefore for the first time brought “Israeli Arab,” what I term Palestinian-Israelis on the model of “Italian-Americans,” into the Israeli government. The United Arab List, Muslim fundamentalists akin to the Muslim Brotherhood, is religiously oriented rather than Palestinian nationalists, and were willing to serve in an Israeli government if they could better the lives of their villager constituents.

Yet, when it came to the Israeli Apartheid system in the West Bank, where Israeli squatters are under Israeli law and Palestinian natives are under military rule, one member of the United Arab List just couldn’t hold his nose and vote for Apartheid for his fellow Muslims.

So you can have an anti-Netanyahu coalition or you can have a pro-colonization coalition, but you can’t have both at the same time. The marvel of the Bennett government was that it lasted so long.

I explained in early June that the law had been “passed soon after the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territories in 1967, which put Israelis who squatted on Palestinian land under Israeli law but put the Palestinians under military rule,” and the circumstances of the failure to pass the bill:

    “The Bennett government includes six members of parliament from the Palestinian fundamentalist religious party, the United Arab List, known in Hebrew as Ra’am. One of them voted against the bill, which Palestinians see as foundational to the continual mistreatment of the indigenous Palestinians. The other Ra’am members simply absented themselves from the vote. Another “no” came from Rinawie Zoabi, a Palestinian-Israeli from the center-left Meretz Party. She had briefly resigned from the government but rejoined three days later. She said her vote on the Judea and Samaria Emergency Regulations Act was a matter of conscience and not intended to bring the government down. Another far-right israeli MK resigned from the government two months ago, leaving Bennett with only 60 votes in the 120-member Knesset. So far he has muddled through with the help of Ra’am.”

Ordinarily the bill would have passed easily with votes from the fundamentalist right wing religious parties and the secular far right party, Likud, led by Netanyahu. But the latter convinced his party and its allies to boycott the vote, knowing that it would cause the Bennett government to fall and present Netanyahu with the opportunity possibly to come back to power and find a way to use the prerogatives of office to get the corruption charges against him dismissed.

Bennett said he had consulted with Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara last Friday and came to see the “extent of the chaos that a failure to extend the Emergency Regulations Act would produce in the West Bank.” The law needs to be renewed before the end of June.

If the parliament is dissolved when the Emergency regulations come up for renewal at the end of the month, they will be extended automatically, according to Israel’s attorney general.

Bennet and Lapid announced that they would introduce the measure for the dissolution of parliament next week. Bennett said, “I became convinced that Israel would enter severe legal chaos, and I decided not to permit it, so I took this decision. This isn’t an easy moment, but we made the right call.”

Lapid said that Israel needed to recover its unity and that even if the country went to new elections, some ongoing challenges needed to be met, including inflation and the prosecution of the struggle with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.”

Those close to Bennett said that he was weighing his options and could withdraw from politics for some time. He may on the other hand run again, on the Yamina ticket.

The second course of action could be awkward, since Yamina MK Nir Orbach withdrew his support from Bennett’s government, helping provoke its fall. Orbach complained about the refusal of some Palestinian-Israeli MKs to vote for the extension of the Judea and Samaria Emergency Regulations, Governance and Legal Aid Act as “extremist anti-Zionist elements.” The Times of Israel reported at the time that “Orbach almost got into a physical altercation with [Mk Mazen] Ghanaim after the bill was felled and shouted, “The experiment with you guys has failed,” in reference to the coalition’s unprecedented inclusion of an Arab party — Ra’am.” Although most members of the United Arab List or Ra’am did not vote against the extension of the law, Ghanaim did. It was, ironically, Bennett’s inability to maintain discipline in the ranks of his own party that caused his fall. Another Yamina MK, Idit Silman, left the floor during the vote.

Note that Orbach has reinterpreted Zionism from being Jewish nationalism or pride in Israel to involving the assiduous settling of Israeli squatters in the Palestinian West Bank. And if that is Zionism, then any moral person has to be anti-Zionist.

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Greens return to French Parliament in Left Coalition, as Neoliberal Macron loses Majority https://www.juancole.com/2022/06/parliament-coalition-neoliberal.html Mon, 20 Jun 2022 04:12:44 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=205303 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – France’s parliamentary elections witnessed an upset, with centrist President Emmanuel Macron’s party, La République En Marche and its Ensemble coalition losing its absolute parliamentary majority. A majority requires 289 seats, and Macron’s party gained 245 seats. Among the beneficiaries are the Left and the Greens, who joined together in the New Ecological and Social People’s Union (French acronym NUPES) led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Macron campaigned on raising retirement age to 65 and reforming pensions, which no one in France but a few corporate CEOs wanted.

NUPES garnered 131 seats, an incredible and unexpected performance. The old centrist left of the Socialist Party had fallen on hard times, but Mélenchon’s more uncompromising leftist approach appears to have hit a nerve.

Dalal Mawad at CNN quoted Mélenchon as saying, “The collapse of the presidential party is total, and no majority is presented. We have achieved the political objective that we had set ourselves, in less than a month, to bring down the one who, with such arrogance, had twisted the arm of the whole country, who had been elected without knowing what for.”

One of the members of NUPES was the Greens, whose leader, Julien Bayou, easily won his seat. Unlike in Germany, France’s Green Party had faltered in the teens of this century and lost representation in parliament. Now, as part of the alliance of Left parties, the Greens had been projected to make an even better showing than in 2012, when they gained 17 seats, according to Anne-Charlotte Dusseaulx and Arthur Nazaret at Le Journal du Dimanche. As of this writing, the Interior Ministry had not broken out NUPES wins by party.

Europe’s parliamentary systems are typically multi-party affairs and they offer more scope for diversity than the US de facto two-party system. The most Greens can practically do in the US is to establish caucuses inside the two major parties.

Not only will the Greens likely have a substantial presence in parliament, where they can work on climate and environmental issues, but Borne may be forced to turn to them on some climate legislation. If so, the Greens will be in a position to help shape national policy, Dusseaulx and Nazaret write.

Deliciously, Environment Minister Amelie de Montchalin was unseated by NUPES, along with two other cabinet members, who will have to depart government.

The fascist National Rally (Rassemblement national) of Marine Le Pen got 89 seats, a historic gain for Le Pen, who ran credibly for president (or perhaps Führer) against Macron but lost.

The old Gauillist center right, the Republican Party (and its coalition partner, the Union of Democrats and Independents), did even worse than the fascists, coming in fourth with 61 seats.

The French electorate is clearly dissatisfied, with inflation and energy prices hitting them hard just as in the rest of the world. Both the Left and the fascist right saw a big increase in support, though it is a relief that the Green-Red coalition of leftists and environmentalists did twice as well as the fascists. This round of parliamentary elections saw a relatively poor turnout, suggesting that many voters feel alienated from the political process.

It remains to be seen if Macron’s Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, will seek support from the Republican Party Gaullists to make up her majority, or from members of the Greens or the Socialist party. Although Macron is considered a centrist and served in a Socialist government, he is a Neoliberal close to France’s finance industry, and leans center-right, often attacking leftists and immigrants (i.e. Muslims, who make up nearly 10% of the population).

AP points out that Macron and Borne could negotiate support for legislation and policy on a case by case basis, bringing the Republican Party on board for some legislation but working with the left or greens on others.

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Lutheran Church Denounces Killing of Abu Akleh, Calls for end of Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories https://www.juancole.com/2022/06/denounces-occupation-palestinian-territories.html Sun, 19 Jun 2022 04:12:17 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=205283 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Lutheran World Federation Council has called for an end to the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territories (Gaza and the West Bank).

The statement said that “The Council is deeply concerned by the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the recent escalation of violence, including the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, other journalists and other innocent victims.”

There are seven million Lutherans in the United States and the church has played an important role in American history since the seventeenth century. The Pew Research Center notes, “The first speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives – Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania – was a Lutheran minister. Muhlenberg, who served in Congress from 1789-1797, was one of at least nine ministers or pastors to serve in the Continental Congress.”

I should explain that although occupying enemy territory in wartime is recognized in international law, there have been since the early 20th century strict provisions for how the Occupier must behave. Harm to the civilians under occupation must be avoided, and no attempt to change their lifeways is allowed. It is illegal to bring citizens of the occupying power into the occupied territory. Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories is now so many decades old and involves so many violations of the 1949 Geneva Convention, the Apartheid Convention, and the Rome Statute finalized in 2002, that Israeli rule over 5 million stateless Palestinians is no longer the sort of conventional occupation envisaged in international legal instruments. That is why most major human rights organizations have decided that the Occupation is in fact a form of Apartheid.

The LWF went on to say, “The Council affirms and aligns itself with international human rights and humanitarian laws and principles as important instruments that must be protected. The Council regards the continuous occupation as a violation of these instruments.”

The relevant phrase here is “continuous occupation.” In and of itself, the Lutherans are saying, the sort of occupation Israel is now pursuing is a violation of basic human rights laws and instruments.

Lutherans have a long-standing presence in Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and are worried about increasing Israeli violations of the Status Quo agreements on holy places in Jerusalem. They observed, “The Council affirms the Christian presence in the Holy Land. It shares the local churches’ concern for the protection of holy sites and the need to maintain the historic status quo with respect to them.”

They also run a hospital, funding for which was typically provided in part by the European Union and the US, but as US funding for the Palestianians was pared down or ended by Trump, apparently it put the hospital in financial difficulty.

They ended by saying, “The international community to redouble its efforts towards finding a lasting solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and to ensure the adherence to international human rights and humanitarian laws and to bring an end to the occupation.”

An end to the Occupation.

Largely Lutheran Norway has just passed a law requiring goods imported from Israel to be distinguished from those brought in from Israeli squatter-settlements in the Palestinian West Bank, provoking the ire of the expansionist Israeli government. The step is mandated by the European Court of Justice and the European Union Council.

Just to declare my interest, my mother was a lifelong Lutheran from a German Protestant background (the Rudolphs), and I’m proud of her tradition.

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Al Jazeera: Image of Bullet that killed American Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh Proves it came from an Israeli M4 https://www.juancole.com/2022/06/american-journalist-shireen.html Sat, 18 Jun 2022 04:15:37 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=205277 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Al Jazeera news network, based in Qatar, has received from the Palestine Authority an image of the bullet that killed American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and has concluded that it was certainly fired from an Israeli M4 rifle. The green-tipped, 5.56mm caliber bullet is deadly when fired at a human being and would only be used with an intent to kill. It was recovered from her skull.

Abu Akleh, 51, a US citizen of Palestinian heritage, was covering an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the Palestinian West Bank with a camera crew on May 12, 2022, when she was shot dead by an Israeli sniper with a bullet just below her helmet–a skilled kill shot. She and the others were all wearing vests that prominently said press, and they had shown themselves to the Israel army in the area. The snipers hit one of her colleagues in the back, and kept the entire team pinned down for several minutes with continued fire, possibly to ensure that they could not get to Shireen to administer first aid. It seems likely that the Israeli army intended to do things to the refugees in Jenin that they did not want filmed by Al Jazeera.

Abu Akleh had been covering the millions of Palestinians under Israeli military rule since the late 1990s and was a beloved figure among Palestinians, who hung on every word of her reports.

I noted in my initial analysis of the murder, “The Israeli army has killed 50 Palestinian journalists in the past two decades. During the Great March of Return protests in Gaza, Israeli snipers routinely shot unarmed protesters, as well as journalists and medics. In 2018 alone they killed 180 and wounded 6,000 innocent civilian protesters.”

The Washington Post and CNN conducted independent investigations of Abu Akleh’s killing and concluded decisively that she was killed by an Israeli soldier. CNN’s report included an inspection of the precise location where she was killed, looking at the bullet marks on the tree near her. As MEMO quoted from it, “A British army veteran and security consultant who was one of the analysts contacted by CNN explicitly stated: ‘The relatively tight grouping of the rounds indicate Shireen was intentionally targeted with aimed shots and not the victim of random or stray fire'”

The Israeli propaganda machine went into overdrive as the news of Shireen’s assassination broke. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett blamed Palestinians for her death, saying she got caught in the cross-fire. The Israeli military released phony video intended to muddy the waters, which was quickly shown to be fraudulent. The initial reports in most European and North American news outlets put her death in the passive mood, carefully avoiding the obvious conclusion that an Israeli sniper killed her. She wasn’t just “killed” in some metaphysical, disembodied manner. The obfuscation by high Israeli politicians and officers and the American “on the one hand, on the other hand” approach to news succeeded in deflecting blame from the Israeli army during the crucial first days after the killing. Only once world attention had turned elsewhere did some US outlets come back and report the truth, but by that time this second round was relegated to the back pages.

Infuriatingly, the U.S. State Department under Antony Blinken refused to apportion blame to Israel. Blinken called for an impartial investigation but the US State Department does not appear to be conducting one.. Blinken said that the reason it isn’t a scandal that the US and Israel refuse to sign the Rome Statute or to join the International Criminal Court (which would give it jurisdiction over them) was that the US and Israel have aboveboard judicial systems capable of carrying out their own investigations.

In fact, the Israeli government seldom investigates itself and when it does so, the report almost always whitewashes the offense. In the case of Abu Akleh, the Israeli government refused to launch an investigation. Did they fear that the trail would lead back to orders given by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett? Bennett once boasted, “I have killed a lot of Arabs.”

The Israeli security forces did not even allow Abu Akleh, a Melkite Catholic, to be buried in peace, disrupting the funeral procession and limiting access to her church.

On Friday, the Israeli government announced that no investigation would be launched into the deliberate desecration of Abu Akleh’s funeral.

Al Jazeera has sent the Abu Akleh killing to the International Criminal Court, which has jurisdiction over the Palestinian Territories because of the accession to the Rome Statute by the Palestine Authority, a non-state observer at the United Nations.

Blinken opposes any investigation of Israel actions in the Occupied territories by the ICC.

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