Clinton and Sanders back US aggression in the Middle East


12 October 2015

On the eve of Tuesday’s first televised debate among the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, the two poll leaders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, have gone out of their way to express support for the Obama administration’s military interventions in the Middle East.

They are solidarizing themselves with US imperialist aggression in the region under conditions where American policy in Iraq and Syria has produced an unmitigated debacle, with the growing threat of a wider war involving major powers, including Russia, whose nuclear arsenal is second only to Washington’s.

Moreover, the main pretext for the Obama administration’s escalation in Iraq and Syria, the so-called war on terror, has been completely exploded by the open alliance of Washington with the al-Nusra Front, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, which the US government itself declares a terrorist organization, against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Clinton has called for a more aggressive military posture in Syria, including the imposition of a no-fly zone, potentially bringing US military forces into direct conflict with Russian warplanes now flying missions in support of the Assad regime.

This is consistent with the policies that Clinton advocated as secretary of state, when she pushed for direct US intervention to overthrow the Assad government in 2011-2012, only to be overruled by Obama, who opted for a more cautious and indirect policy using the CIA and US allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Clinton is a long-time representative and defender of US imperialism, going back to the administration of her husband, which bombed Serbia and Iraq, waged war in Somalia and sent the Marines into Haiti. As a US senator, Clinton voted for the war in Afghanistan in 2001 and for the war in Iraq in 2002.

Sanders, for his part, embraced the White House Mideast policy wholeheartedly in an interview taped Friday for broadcast on NBC’s Sunday program “Meet the Press.” He told interviewer Chuck Todd, “I think what the president has tried to do is thread a very, very difficult needle. And that is, keep American troops from engaging in combat and getting killed there. And I think that is the right thing to do. So I think we continue to try to do everything that we can, focusing primarily, by the way, as bad as Assad is, focusing on trying to defeat ISIS.”

While opposing the use of American ground forces, at least for the present, Sanders was enthusiastically in favor of soldiers from other countries “engaging in combat and getting killed” in the wars in Syria and Iraq. “I believe very strongly that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, you know what?” he said. “They’re going to have to get their hands dirty as well. They don’t like ISIS? Let them start putting troops on the ground.”

This exchange followed:

Todd: Gulf War one, we got them to pay for—do you think we should be doing that?

Sanders: I think it’s more than pay.

Todd: You want to see them put blood and treasure?

Sanders: Yeah. That’s exactly right.

After expressing the desire that Arab soldiers fight and die in Syria (doing the “dirty work” for US imperialism), Sanders went on to declare his support for another Obama policy: assassination by drone-fired missiles.

Asked whether he favored using drones and Special Forces for counterterrorism, Sanders responded, “Well, all of that and more.”

He continued, “Look, we all know, you know, that there are people as of this moment plotting against the United States. We have got to be vigorous in protecting our country, no question about it.”

In another portion of the interview, Sanders reiterated his false claim to the label “socialist.” It is impossible to combine socialism and support for imperialism and its wars, let alone pledge, as Sanders has repeatedly, to defend “America’s vital strategic interests.” Those are the interests of corporate America, the interests of the millionaires and billionaires whom Sanders demagogically claims to oppose, but whose global dominance he vows to safeguard as commander-in-chief.

The unanimity of the Democratic presidential field when it comes to the central issue of war—under conditions of mounting global conflicts between the US and Russia over Ukraine and now Syria, and between the US and China over the South China Sea—only underscores the fraud of the corporate-controlled two-party system in the United States.

Both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party pledge to defend the global interests of Wall Street and maintain the dominant world role of the US military-intelligence apparatus. No candidate in either party speaks for the vast majority of working people in America, who are opposed to war and militarism.

Here a critical role is played by the pseudo-left groups such as the International Socialist Organization, Socialist Alternative and the various Stalinist and ex-Stalinist organizations, all of which orbit around the Democrats. They are seeking to use the Sanders campaign to pump up illusions in this discredited right-wing party of imperialism. In pursuit of this goal, they cover up for Sanders’ support for Obama’s wars in Iraq and Syria.

When it was a Republican in the White House acting as the frontman for the military-intelligence apparatus, these groups were happy to spout anti-war rhetoric and posture as opponents of US imperialism. Now that it is a Democrat signing the orders for drone missile assassinations, bombings and the dispatch of military forces, the pseudo-left groups have fallen into line: in Libya, in Iraq and now in Syria. The only complaint of the pseudo-left groups is that, like Hillary Clinton, they feel Obama has been insufficiently aggressive in intervening in Syria against the Assad regime.

These organizations, representing more privileged layers of the middle class, long ago abandoned any opposition to imperialism. They are now pro-imperialist and pro-war, and bear primary political responsibility for the absence of an organized anti-war movement despite mass popular anti-war sentiment.

Patrick Martin

The Backstory on Bernie Sanders and Israel-Palestine

Why Is He So Quiet About the Mideast Tragedy?

Tensions between progressives and Sanders on the issue of Palestine aren’t going away any time soon.

One of the most appealing qualities about Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency is how consistent he is. While Hillary Clinton continually faces questions about her changing positions, Sanders is seen as the good kind of broken record – someone who says what progressives want to hear over and over again, for decades.

But there is one area where Sanders used to be much more outspoken, and has in recent years been very quiet about: Palestine. Considering the elevated role of the Israel-Palestine issue in progressive circles, and Sanders’ continued success leading up to the primaries, it’s worth revisiting Sanders’ history on the topic and his early approach to foreign policy.

Burlington’s Foreign Policy

Sanders’ first big political office was as mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the early 1980s. Under the Sanders administration, Burlington was rejuvenated, becoming a much more equitable and progressive city. But not all of his policies were focused at the city itself.

“[H]ow many cities of 40,000 have a foreign policy? Well we did,” writes Sanders in his memoir Outsider In The House. “I saw no magic line separating local, state, national and international issues.”

It was this sort of thinking that convinced Sanders to bring linguist and foreign policy critic Noam Chomsky to speak in Burlington in 1985, mostly about U.S. policy in Latin America.

Latin America was a hot topic in the city, and Sanders frequently wrote to federal leaders to condemn U.S. involvement there. The same year he invited Chomsky, he traveled to Nicaragua himself, witnessing the casualties of the U.S.-sponsored civil wars firsthand. “I will never forget…dozens and dozens of amputees in wheelchairs – young soldiers, many of them in their teens, who had lost their legs in a war foisted on them and financed by the U.S. government,” he wrote in his memoir.

Speaking Up For Palestinians, Once

Jesse Jackson’s progressive-charged 1988 campaign for the Democratic nomination, which Sanders endorsed, prompted Sanders’ first politically articulated views on Israel-Palestine. Political reporters pressed Sanders to explain his support for Jackson and to react to attacks on Jackson’s belief that the Palestinians have a right to an independent state. Jackson had been under heavy fire for this stance from the Democratic establishment, led by then-Senator Al Gore.

Sanders offered support for Jackson’s position, and went further when asked about Israeli treatment of Palestinians during the first intifada (their uprising against occupation at the time). “The sight of Israeli soldiers breaking the arms sand legs of Arabs is reprehensible. The idea of Israel closing down towns and sealing them off is unacceptable,” he said.

“The United States of America is pouring billions of dollars into arms and into other types of aid in the Middle East. Has the United States of America used its clout, the tremendous clout that it has by providing all kinds of aid to the Middle East, to demand that these countries sit down and talk about a reasonable settlement which will guarantee Israel’s sovereignty, which must be guaranteed, but will begin to deal with the rights of Palestinian refugees,” said Sanders.

A follow-up question asked Sanders if he was asking the United States to impose sanctions. He said he wasn’t, but did say that “you have the ability when you are the United States of America, which is supporting the armies of the Middle East, to demand that these people sit down and support a reasonable settlement.”

“Or else what?” asked another reporter.

“Or else you cut off arms,” suggested Sanders. “If the United States goes into the Middle East and demands a reasonable, a responsible, and a peaceful solution to the conflict that has gone there because of its clout because of the tremendous amounts of money that it is pouring into that region I think we can do it.”

Watch the full exchange:

In that moment, Sanders aligned himself with where the basic position of today’s global human rights community – that the way to resolve Israel-Palestine is for the United States to use its leverage as the major underwriter of Israel’s development and security to push a political solution on the country.

The Missing Palestine Plank

Throughout the 90’s and into the 21st century, Sanders has put out a fairly mainstream line on the question of the Palestinians. And since being elected to the US Senate, Sanders has been in a much stronger position draw a lot more attention to Israel’s behavior.  But he’s been totally quiet on the matter.

Sander’s basic thinking on Israel-Palestine was on display a recent event in Chicago; a young Muslim student told him that “progressives have great ideas when it comes to race class and many other issues but often not as progressive of ideas when it comes to the Israel-Palestine question, very simply could dyou state your position on Israel-Palestine.”

“In terms of Israel and Palestine you are looking at one of the more depressing tragedies that has gone on in the world for the last sixty years. And I would not be telling you the truth if I said I have a magical solution. But this is what I do believe. I believe in two simple principles. Number one, Israel has a right to exist in peace and security. The Palestinians are entitled to a state of their own with full political and economic power,” he told her. “That’s the broad view that I hold and I will do everything that I can to make that happen.”

What Sanders said there and has said many times on the campaign trail in response to this question is basically a restatement of the U.S. Diplomatic line on the conflict: that it will only be resolved with a so-called two-state solution that guarantees Palestinian rights and Israeli security.

The problem with such rhetoric, whether it comes from Sanders, or Congress, or President Obama, is that it is talking about a goal without offering a path to get us there. It’s like saying you support world peace or stopping global warming, without offering any sort of tangible solution. And it’s the solutions that are the most politically controversial – such as floating the idea of cutting off arms transfers to Israel, as Sanders did in 1988.

That isn’t to say that Sanders has become quite your typical ordinary politician when it comes to the issue – he isn’t that, either. Witness the fact that earlier in campaign season, during an interview with Diane Rehm, Sanders told the host that he “I’m not a great fan” of Netanyahu – a remarkable comment from a man who is now a viable contender for the presidency; there is no real record of any electable candidate from either major party openly criticizing the leader of Israel for the last 27 years. Later, in an interview with Vox, he told interviewerEzra Klein that he would like to move away from providing military aid to Egypt and Israel and instead “provide more economic aid to help improve the standard of living of the people in that area.”

And there is no record of Sanders attending events with the primary Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which every presidential contender makes sure to appear at. Sanders also does not speak at pro-Israel rallies, and he hasn’t traveled to the region in decades. Although he is Jewish, he does not seem to align with the harsh anti-Palestinian politics of many of the mainstream Jewish organizations in the United States such as the American Jewish Committee or the Anti-Defamation League – something that seems to run in the family, his brother Larry in the United Kingdom is a supporter of the Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions campaign.

Put together, these are genuinely iconoclastic statements in the moribund mainstream Israel-Palestine debate in the United States. But there is little evidence that Sanders wants to pursue them to their logical conclusion. In a statement given to a local website a few weeks after the Vox interview, Sanders spokesperson Michael Briggs said “Bernie does not and has not ever supported cutting off arms to Israel and that has never been his position.” If you go strictly by how the Senator votes, that is very true – Sanders does not vote against military aid to Israel, even if he has floated it on a number of occasions. But the tension between Sanders’ words, his actions, and the statement put out by his press secretary point to a wider issue: his inability to stand up on the issue when it counts.

The most glaring example of this is a raucous town hall he held in the summer of 2014. While he condemned Israeli attacks against United Nations schools, he also defended the wider Israeli war, and even tried to deflect attention from the conflict altogether by talking about ISIS. As his constituents grew more and more angry, he threatened to call the police on them. Watch it:

Sanders’s defense to the crowd was that he did not cosponsor the legislation before Congress that praised Israel’s war on Gaza. But his failure to do anything to block it – it passed by unanimous consent – reinforces the idea that while Sanders does hold somewhat dissident views on Palestine, he fails to put his votes where his mouth is.

Since that town hall, questions about Palestine have dogged him. During a panel he held after a massive climate change march in New York City, Sanders was confronted by Palestine activists who unfurled a banner criticizing him for failing to oppose the war against Gaza:

There is some evidence that these criticisms of Sanders have started to make an impact on his approach. In the last month, his campaign finally started to roll out foreign policy platforms on his website. The platform repeats much of the same U.S. foreign policy mantras about the need for a two-state solution and Israel’s right to defend itself, but it also condemns “disproportionate” violence by Israel and killings of civilians by the Israeli army. Most notably, the platform calls for Israel to end its blockade of Gaza, a topic all but forgotten about in U.S. discourse.

Engaging With A Growing Movement

In the beginning of October, Sanders held a mega-rally in Boston that drew over 25,000 people, the largest Democratic primary rally in the history of the city. A group of young people with Boston Students for Justice in Palestine wanted to attend the rally with a banner reading, “Will Bernie #feelthebern 4 Palestine?”

A campaign staffer saw their banner and refused to allow them into the event. To many, this was confirmation that the campaign just doesn’t have time for the Palestinian issue.

But after the event became public and many activists chimed in with their disapproval, the campaign responded. Sanders’s manager, Jeff Weaver, personally called the student activists and apologized to them. “They shouldn’t have been excluded,” he said in a public statement. “It was an overreaction  by an over-eager staffer who didn’t show good judgment.” He then vowed that the staffer who refused to let them in would no longer be working at campaign events.

Engagement with the Palestinian issue also presents an opportunity to make an additional contrast with his chief rival, Hillary Clinton. Clinton wrote a letterto major Israeli-American donor Haim Saban vowing to help fight the Palestinian movement, and recently parroted an Israeli government talking point when she said recently there cannot be a resolution to the conflict until the nearby civil war and rise of ISIS in Syria are concluded.

Conventional wisdom says that this is a political minefield for any Democratic candidate, something that is likely to push pro-Israel donors away from a campaign. But Sanders is not relying on big pro-Israel billionaire donors like Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson. The average donation to his campaign is less than $30. And he’s grappling with a Democratic Party whose rising youth and minority base is averse to the politics of the Israeli government; by two-to-one, Americans under the age of twenty-nine said Israel’s 2014 war against Gaza was “unjustified”; views were most intense among nonwhite voters, particularly Hispanics and African-Americans.

If Sanders wants to reunite the Obama coalition, and truly stake out territory no presidential candidate has entered since Jesse Jackson’s race more than 25 ago, he can show that he does, indeed, “feel the Bern” for the Palestinians and the human rights the U.S. government helps deny them.

Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani on Twitter.

Ben Carson, the Neurosurgeon Who Can’t Think

Along with Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson is way ahead of the pack for the Republican presidential nomination.

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – MARCH 8, 2014: Neurosurgeon and author Ben Carson speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Photo Credit: Christopher Halloran /

What does it say about higher education, that you can graduate from Yale and still believe that the devil made Darwin do it?  What does it say about medicine, that you can both be a gifted neurosurgeon and also declare, “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away”?

Along with Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson is way ahead of the pack for the Republican presidential nomination.  When Trump, an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, says that climate change is a hoax, I can believe it’s a cynical lie pandering to the Republican base, rather than an index of his ignorance.  But when Carson, a retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, denies that climate change is man-made, or calls the Big Bang a fairy tale, or blames gun control for the extent of the Holocaust, I think he truly believes it.

It’s conceivable that the exceptional hand-eye coordination and 3D vision that enabled Carson to separate conjoined twins is a compartmentalized gift, wholly independent of his intellectual acuity. But he could not have risen to the top of his profession without learning the Second Law of Thermodynamics (pre-meds have to take physics), without knowing that life on earth began more than 6,000 years ago (pre-meds have to take biology), without understanding the scientific method (an author of more than 120 articles in peer-reviewed journals can’t make up his own rules of evidence).  Yet what does it mean to learn such things, if they don’t stop you from spouting scientific nonsense?

This hasn’t hindered his campaign.  Participants in focus groups of Republican caucus and primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, conducted in recent days by Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, used these words to describe Carson: “deep,” “thoughtful,” “intelligent,” “smart,” “brilliant,” a “top mind.” I get this.  According to a recent Public Policy Polling report, 46 percent of Carson supporters (and 61 percent of Trump supporters) think President Obama was not born in the U.S., and 61 percent of Carson supporters (and 66 percent of Trump supporters) think the president is a Muslim.  Carson’s being called brilliant by that base ain’t baffling.

What I don’t get is how his rigorous scientific education and professional training gave Carson’s blind spots a pass.  Was it, in George W. Bush’s memorable phrase, “the soft tyranny of low expectations”?  Or was it the tyranny of fundamentalism over facts?

In the humanities, the equivalent conundrum is the failure of a deep appreciation for masterworks of art, literature and music to instill virtue.  I first came across this disturbing indictment when I was an undergraduate at the chief rival of Carson’s alma mater.  My field of concentration (Harvard’s pretentious term for “major”) was molecular biology, and I would have quickly flamed out if I’d maintained that science was consistent with creationism, or any of the other canards that survived Carson’s education.  But I was also in love with literature, and ended up with a doctorate in it.  On the way there, what troubled me about my studies was an essay called “To Civilize Our Gentlemen” by George Steiner. Its thesis ran so counter to the bedrock of an elite education – the belief that the humanities humanize – that I went to England for two years to study at Cambridge with Steiner, as passionate an embodiment of academic high culture as could be, in order to reconcile my love for humanistic learning with its apparent inability to prevent barbarism.

My copy of the essay, and the book it appeared in, “Language and Silence,” is full of a 20-year-old’s underlining and marginalia (“right on!”).  These are some of the passages that jangled me:

“We know now that a man can read Goethe or Rilke in the evening, that he can play Bach and Schubert, and go to the day’s work at Auschwitz in the morning. To say that he has read them without understanding or that is ear is gross, is cant…. The simple yet appalling fact is that we have very little solid evidence that literary studies do very much to enrich or stabilize moral perception, that they humanize…. Indeed, I would go further: it is at least conceivable that the focusing of consciousness on a written text… diminishes the sharpness and readiness of our actual moral response…. The capacity for [moral response]… is not limitless; on the contrary, it can be rapidly absorbed by fictions, and thus the cry in the poem may come to sound louder, more urgent, more real than the cry in the street outside. The death in the novel may move us more potently than the death in the next room…. [S]urely there is something terrible in our doubt whether the study and delight a man finds in Shakespeare makes him any less capable of organizing a concentration camp.”

When Wolf Blitzer asked Carson if he wanted to amend or take back his comparison of Obama’s America to Nazi Germany, he replied, “Absolutely not.” Am I comparing Carson to Nazis? Absolutely not. I’m comparing the compatibility of a scientific education and intellectual ignorance with the compatibility of a humanistic education and moral ignorance.

The simple yet appalling fact is that we have at least some solid evidence that a top scientific education and a distinguished career in medicine does not make a man any less capable of believing untruths to be true and truths to be false.

I don’t know how I’d react if a shooter opened fire in my classroom.  Maybe I’d risk my safety to protect others. Maybe I’d be too petrified do anything. But I do know the feeling that would devastate me if someone I loved became “a body with bullet holes”; it would not be the feeling that the Second Amendment is in jeopardy. It is at least conceivable that the clinical detachment required by a doctor to deal with the deaths in this room makes the deaths in the next room less urgent, less real.

I know plenty of physicians of whom that is not true. But when Ben Carson blames a mass murderer’s victims for failing to foil him, I know of at least one man of science whose capacity for moral response has been absorbed by fictions.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at

Israeli forces step up repression in Jerusalem, West Bank


By Jean Shaoul
10 October 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has responded to the escalating violence between right-wing Israeli Jews and Palestinians by blaming the crisis on “Islamic extremism” and putting Israel on a war footing.

Violence provoked by right-wing zealots, who want the government to take control of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque compound and allow Jewish prayers on the entire site, has spilled over beyond the predominantly Palestinian areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem into Israel itself. It has the potential to spark a third Palestinian intifada (uprising) or even a bitter religious civil war.

It could also ignite protests throughout the Arab world, disrupting Israel’s relations with Washington, and its Arab and Muslim neighbours that it has been covertly aiding in the US-backed war to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

So tense is the situation that Netanyahu cancelled Thursday’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin that was to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Instead, speaking alongside his military and security chiefs, at his first press conference since the violence erupted in September, Netanyahu said, “Hateful terrorists are trying to hurt our people.” He blamed Hamas, the Islamic Movement in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and countries in the region for fomenting unrest over “lies” that Israel was seeking to change the arrangements at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound known as the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims and as Temple Mount to Jews.

Netanyahu has ordered the police to stop government ministers and Jewish and Palestinian legislators from entering the al-Aqsa compound, saying, “We do not need more detonators to ignite the ground.” He did so while stressing that his primary obligation was the security of Israel and for this he needed international support for “anti-terror” measures.

After praising the security forces, which have killed two Palestinian children and injured more than 1,600 Palestinians since October 3, he said, “Israel has always known how to push back the terrorists and build the country.”

Israel had already taken measures to “root out the terror,” he said. These included the temporary closure of Jerusalem’s Old City to Palestinians without Jerusalem residency, the outlawing of the Muslim guardians of al-Aqsa, strict limitations on Palestinian worship at the compound, the authorisation of the use of live-fire against stone throwers, minimum jail sentences of four years for petrol bombers and stone throwers, and the fast-track demolition of the homes of relatives of Palestinians who carry out attacks.

These repressive measures follow the dispatch of four additional Israel Defence Forces battalions to the Nablus area in the northern part of the West Bank, which was put on lockdown, and the banning of Palestinians under 40 years of age from the al-Aqsa compound. Police reinforcements have been sent to the Old City and the surrounding area, and barricades have been erected all over East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu called on the opposition parties to form a National Unity Government, saying that there were no real differences between them. His right-wing coalition has a majority of just one in the Knesset.

The far-right settler movement has been cultivated by the ruling Likud and other ultra-nationalist and religious parties ever since the 1967 June War that brought the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights under Israeli control. Their call to establish exclusive Jewish control of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque is a flagrant breach of the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, which supervises the Islamic Endowment that manages the Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem and allows Muslims to pray there—with Jewish worship confined to the Wailing or Western Wall.

The 35-acre al-Aqsa complex in the Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the third holiest site in Islam. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. It was Ariel Sharon’s provocative march into the al-Aqsa compound, escorted by a massive armed guard in September 2000, that sparked the second intifada.

Numerous attempts have been made to bring the compound under Israeli control as part of longstanding Zionist plans to Judaicize the city, remove most of its Palestinian inhabitants and surround it with Jewish settlements—thereby cutting East Jerusalem off from its Palestinian hinterland. The aim is to remove any possibility of the Palestinians claiming East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Netanyahu claims to be committed to the status quo. But he has repeatedly allowed provocations in the al-Aqsa compound, which has become the focal point of the right-wing settler project to take control of the entire West Bank.

Tensions have risen markedly since the end of August after police prevented Palestinians from entering the area between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m., while allowing right-wing Israeli groups under heavy guard to tour the compound, in defiance of objections raised by the Islamic Endowment.

Protests and demonstrations erupted all over the West Bank and East Jerusalem, resulting in frequent clashes with the security forces in which dozens of Palestinians and several soldiers were injured.

Since then, the violence has escalated. On Thursday, six Israelis were wounded and an assailant shot dead in separate stabbing attacks in Tel Aviv, East Jerusalem and the West Bank. These incidents follow the shooting or stabbing to death of four Israelis and three attackers in a series of attacks since last week.

There have been violent incidents outside the occupied territories, including the suburbs of Tel Aviv and towns in southern Israel. On Friday morning, an Israeli man went on a stabbing spree, wounding three Palestinians and an Arab Israeli citizen. Police arrested the man but did not identify him, although they said his motive for the attacks was “nationalistic.”

An Israeli Arab woman tried to stab a security guard Thursday at the central bus station in Afula, an Israeli city near the West Bank, but was shot and taken to hospital.

In Bethlehem, Israeli security forces shot and killed a 13-year-old boy returning home from school during clashes with local youth. His death, the sixth Palestinian child killed by the military or settlers in the West Bank this year, followed an announcement by Netanyahu that Israel was “at war” with stone throwers, and prompted further demonstrations and clashes.

Video footage of the clashes in the West Bank has emerged showing Israeli undercover soldiers dressed as Palestinians taking part in the stone throwing, before suddenly drawing their concealed weapons and turning on the Palestinians to carry out arrests. The Israeli army has not as yet commented on the footage, but the practice is reportedly widespread.

Settlers in the West Bank have carried out numerous attacks on Palestinians, their homes, cars, orchards and mosques that go unpunished. According to the Palestinian organisation Ahrar Centre for Detainees’ Studies and Human Rights, there were at least 126 attacks or acts of vandalism against Palestinians during the first four days of October. In Jerusalem, Israeli mobs have gone on the rampage chanting, “Death to the Arabs” and assaulting bystanders.

For the past week, the settlers, whose leaders in the Yisrael Beiteinu, the Jewish Home party, Likud and various religious parties have criticised Netanyahu for his “soft” approach towards the Palestinians, have camped outside his official residence in Jerusalem. They are demanding further measures against the Palestinians and the building of a new settlement for every Palestinian attack.

A crucial weapon in Netanyahu’s armoury is the Palestinian Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas called on Palestinians to avoid an “escalation” with Israel, confirming his role as Israel’s policeman. He told a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee in Ramallah Tuesday, “We do not want a military or security escalation between us and them.”


The Hitler gun control lie

Gun rights activists who cite the dictator as a reason against gun control have their history dangerously wrong

The Hitler gun control lie

This week, people were shocked when the Drudge Report posted a giant picture of Hitler over a headline speculating that the White House will proceed with executive orders to limit access to firearms. The proposed orders are exceedingly tame, but Drudge’s reaction is actually a common conservative response to any invocation of gun control.

The NRA, Fox News, Fox News (again), Alex Jones, email chains, Joe “the Plumber” WurzelbacherGun Owners of America, etc., all agree that gun control was critical to Hitler’s rise to power. Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (“America’s most aggressive defender of firearms ownership”) is built almost exclusively around this notion, popularizing posters of Hitler giving the Nazi salute next to the text: “All in favor of ‘gun control’ raise your right hand.”

In his 1994 book, NRA head Wayne LaPierre dwelled on the Hitler meme at length, writing: “In Germany, Jewish extermination began with the Nazi Weapon Law of 1938, signed by Adolf Hitler.”

And it makes a certain amount of intuitive sense: If you’re going to impose a brutal authoritarian regime on your populace, better to disarm them first so they can’t fight back.

Unfortunately for LaPierre et al., the notion that Hitler confiscated everyone’s guns is mostly bogus. And the ancillary claim that Jews could have stopped the Holocaust with more guns doesn’t make any sense at all if you think about it for more than a minute.

University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt explored this myth in depth ina 2004 article published in the Fordham Law Review. As it turns out, the Weimar Republic, the German government that immediately preceded Hitler’s, actually hadtougher gun laws than the Nazi regime. After its defeat in World War I, and agreeing to the harsh surrender terms laid out in the Treaty of Versailles, the German legislature in 1919 passed a law that effectively banned all private firearm possession, leading the government to confiscate guns already in circulation. In 1928, the Reichstag relaxed the regulation a bit, but put in place a strict registration regime that required citizens to acquire separate permits to own guns, sell them or carry them.

The 1938 law signed by Hitler that LaPierre mentions in his book basically does the opposite of what he says it did. “The 1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition,” Harcourt wrote. Meanwhile, many more categories of people, including Nazi party members, were exempted from gun ownership regulations altogether, while the legal age of purchase was lowered from 20 to 18, and permit lengths were extended from one year to three years.

The law did prohibit Jews and other persecuted classes from owning guns, but this should not be an indictment of gun control in general. Does the fact that Nazis forced Jews into horrendous ghettos indict urban planning? Should we eliminate all police officers because the Nazis used police officers to oppress and kill the Jews? What about public works — Hitler loved public works projects? Of course not. These are merely implements that can be used for good or ill, much as gun advocates like to argue about guns themselves. If guns don’t kill people, then neither does gun control cause genocide (genocidal regimes cause genocide).

Besides, Omer Bartov, a historian at Brown University who studies the Third Reich, notes that the Jews probably wouldn’t have had much success fighting back. “Just imagine the Jews of Germany exercising the right to bear arms and fighting the SA, SS and the Wehrmacht. The [Russian] Red Army lost 7 million men fighting the Wehrmacht, despite its tanks and planes and artillery. The Jews with pistols and shotguns would have done better?” he told Salon.

Proponents of the theory sometimes point to the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as evidence that, as Fox News’ Judge Andrew Napolitano put it, “those able to hold onto their arms and their basic right to self-defense were much more successful in resisting the Nazi genocide.” But as the Tablet’s Michael Moynihan points out, Napolitano’s history (curiously based on a citation of work by French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson) is a bit off. In reality, only about 20 Germans were killed, while some 13,000 Jews were massacred. The remaining 50,000 who survived were promptly sent off to concentration camps.

Robert Spitzer, a political scientist who studies gun politics and chairs the political science department at SUNY Cortland, told Mother Jones’ Gavin Aronsen that the prohibition on Jewish gun ownership was merely a symptom, not the problem itself. “[It] wasn’t the defining moment that marked the beginning of the end for Jewish people in Germany. It was because they were persecuted, were deprived of all of their rights, and they were a minority group,” he explained.

Meanwhile, much of the Hitler myth is based on an infamous quote falsely attributed to the Fuhrer, which extols the virtue of gun control:

This year will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!

The quote has been widely reproduced in blog posts and opinion columns about gun control, but it’s “probably a fraud and was likely never uttered,” according to Harcourt. “This quotation, often seen without any date or citation at all, suffers from several credibility problems, the most significant of which is that the date often given [1935] has no correlation with any legislative effort by the Nazis for gun registration, nor would there have been any need for the Nazis to pass such a law, since gun registration laws passed by the Weimar government were already in effect,” researchers at the useful website GunCite note.

“As for Stalin,” Bartov continued, “the very idea of either gun control or the freedom to bear arms would have been absurd to him. His regime used violence on a vast scale, provided arms to thugs of all descriptions, and stripped not guns but any human image from those it declared to be its enemies. And then, when it needed them, as in WWII, it took millions of men out of the Gulags, trained and armed them and sent them to fight Hitler, only to send back the few survivors into the camps if they uttered any criticism of the regime.”

Bartov added that this misreading of history is not only intellectually dishonest, but also dangerous.  “I happen to have been a combat soldier and officer in the Israeli Defense Forces and I know what these assault rifles can do,” he said in an email.

He continued: “Their assertion that they need these guns to protect themselves from the government — as supposedly the Jews would have done against the Hitler regime — means not only that they are innocent of any knowledge and understanding of the past, but also that they are consciously or not imbued with the type of fascist or Bolshevik thinking that they can turn against a democratically elected government, indeed turn their guns on it, just because they don’t like its policies, its ideology, or the color, race and origin of its leaders.”

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon’s political reporter. Email him at, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

Global Crises


9 October 2015

In a Perspective column published at the beginning of 2015, the WSWS commented on the frequency of crises convulsing the global capitalist system. “The ‘peaceful’ intervals between the eruption of major crises—geopolitical, economic and social—have become so short that they can hardly be described as intervals,” we wrote. “Crises, on the other hand, appear not as isolated ‘episodes,’ but as more or less permanent features of contemporary reality.”

As the world enters the final months of 2015, it can be said that not only the frequency, but also the intensity of crises is reaching a new inflection point. The necessity of resolving the crisis of revolutionary leadership is posed with ever-greater urgency.

The global economy remains mired in the contradictions that erupted to the surface seven years ago. The policy of the ruling class in response to the Wall Street crash has reached an impasse. The flooding of financial markets with money has inflated asset bubbles while failing to produce any significant economic growth. Yet any move to curb the easy money policy of the Federal Reserve and other central banks risks sparking a financial panic even more severe than that which erupted in 2008.

This week, the International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecast to just 3.1 percent for 2015, the slowest growth rate since 2009. “Six years after the world economy emerged from its broadest and deepest postwar recession,” IMF Economic Counselor Maurice Obstfeld reported, “a return to robust and synchronized global expansion remains elusive.”

This is a considerable understatement. In the more advanced capitalist countries, economic growth is stagnant, with persistent widespread unemployment and flat or declining wages. The situation is even worse in the so-called “emerging markets.”

Lawrence Summers, US treasury secretary under President Clinton, pointed to the crisis facing the ruling class in a comment published in the Washington Post on Thursday. Under the headline, “A global economy in peril,” Summers wrote that the dangers “are more severe than at any time since the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in 2008.” He continued: “The problem of secular stagnation—the inability of the industrial world to grow at satisfactory rates even with very loose monetary policies—is growing worse in the wake of problems in most big emerging markets, starting with China.”

The world economy is faced with the “specter of a global vicious cycle in which slow growth in industrial countries hurts emerging markets, thereby slowing Western growth further,” Summers declared, adding, “Industrialized economies that are barely running above stall speed can ill afford a negative global shock.”

The economic crisis at once intensifies and is compounded by mounting geopolitical crises and international conflicts, driven above all by the relentless pursuit of global hegemony by American imperialism. For a quarter century, the American ruling class has been engaged in endless wars of ever-expanding geographical scope. For the past fifteen years, the military interventions have been waged under the banner of the “war on terror,” the ideological framework used by the American financial aristocracy to reorganize the Middle East and Central Asia through bloodletting and violence.

One country after another has been targeted for regime change or subversion by the US and its allies: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen. The carnage produced by these wars has led to a virtual collapse of state structures throughout the Middle East, producing a flood of desperate refugees to which the ruling classes of Europe have responded with violence and repression.

Here too, the crisis is reaching a tipping point. The local wars in the Middle East are leading increasingly to direct conflict between the major powers. This week, French President Francois Hollande declared that the conflict in Syria risked devolving into “a total war, a war that will also affect our territories,” i.e., Europe.

Over the past week, the Russian ruling class has sought to defend its interests in Syria by more openly backing the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which is targeted for overthrow by US-backed Islamist militias. The US and NATO powers have responded with extreme belligerence.

Speaking at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter declared that Russia’s moves “will have consequences for Russia itself, which is rightly fearful of attacks. In coming days, the Russians will begin to suffer casualties,” he warned ominously.

Even as it intensifies its threats against Russia, the US is ratcheting up its military maneuvers in Asia. According to media reports, the US is planning within the next two weeks to sail warships inside territorial waters claimed by China. These provocative actions follow the finalization of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade and investment deal between the US, Japan and other Asian economies concluded with the specific aim of isolating China and countering its influence in the region.

The United States is not the only imperialist power asserting its interests on the global stage. Japan is remilitarizing and expanding its arms industry, currently with the encouragement of the Obama administration. Germany is once again asserting its claim to hegemony over the European continent, and has global ambitions. German imperialism, which came into conflict with the United States in the two world wars of the Twentieth Century, has its own interests in Syria, Iran, Russia and China.

To the economic and geopolitical crisis must be added the extreme crisis of bourgeois rule. The old political institutions, used by the ruling class for decades, are breaking apart or in disarray. In the United States, in the midst of an election campaign dominated by the spokesmen of various billionaires, the political system is increasingly dysfunctional.

One of the principal parties of the ruling class, the Republican Party, has been thrown into chaos following the withdrawal of Kevin McCarthy, the current House majority leader, from the contest to become the new House speaker. According to media reports, representatives who had gathered to select the speaker of the house—the second person in the line of presidential succession—were in “total shock,” with some audibly weeping as the gathering broke up.

All of these crises are surface manifestations of something more profound: the crisis of the world capitalist system itself. This crisis brings with it the danger of world war and a descent into barbarism. At the same time, it creates the objective basis for the overthrow of the capitalist system—the radicalization of the working class internationally.

Decades of war, intensifying economic crisis and growing social inequality have produced immense changes in the consciousness of billions of workers and young people internationally. These subterranean processes are beginning to break to the surface. There is everywhere a growing restlessness and desire to fight.

In a period of crisis, the class character of political tendencies emerges more clearly. In Greece, opposition to austerity swept the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) to power at the beginning of the year. The organization was proclaimed by all manner of pseudo-socialist and pseudo-left organizations to be the hope for the future, an alternative to the bank-dictated impoverishment of the Greek working class and youth.

Ten months later, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras is leading the campaign to impose a new round of EU-backed austerity. “We have to tighten our belts,” he declared this week as he unveiled the government’s new budget, “to dare to implement the reforms this country needs.” Meanwhile, former Syriza Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, the self-described “erratic Marxist,” has announced his admiration for Margaret Thatcher.

Not only have the pseudo-left representatives of more privileged sections of the middle class been exposed in Greece as the accomplices of austerity, they have also served as champions of imperialist operations in the Middle East. In Syria, groups and publications such as the International Socialist Organization and International Viewpoint have provided the “human rights” justifications for the CIA drive to bring down the Assad regime by stoking a catastrophic sectarian civil war. Parroting the most rabidly militaristic factions of the US ruling class, they criticize the Obama administration for not moving quickly or aggressively enough to oust Assad.

A political realignment is beginning to take place, bringing with it a growing intersection between the perspective and program fought for by the International Committee of the Fourth International and the upsurge of working-class struggle. In the United States, the WSWS has played a central role in a growing movement of autoworkers, who are striving to cast off the dead weight of the trade unions and take an independent path. This is a significant indication of a radicalization and political reorientation of the working class in the United States.

The expanding crisis is a symptom of capitalism in an advanced state of disintegration.

Joseph Kishore