Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Israel 3-31-2015

31, March 2015                      Israel  

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his pre-election racist diatribe against Arabs, pledged unequivocally, “there will never an independent Palestinian State.” In recent interviews, rabbis, scholars and Jews from across the country and a range of denominations said that his campaign tactics, had further divided American Jews and alienated even some conservatives, who had already suspected that he was more committed to building settlements than to building peace with the  Palestinians.

Many Americans were further outraged to learn that Israeli intelligence spied on the US-Iran talks and then fed the information to congressional Republicans in a desperate effort to scuttle the US-Iran nuclear talks.

William Quandt, who served on the National Security Council under Presidents Carter and Nixon, stated that there is a need to impose a cost on Israel’s intransigence and military occupation.

It is time the US presents an ultimatum to Israel. End the brutal and suffocating occupation; develop specific timelines to establish a Palestinian State, lift the crippling siege of Gaza and repatriate tax revenues withheld from the Palestine Authority. If Israel fails to respond to such demands, all US military and economic support should be halted immediately. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

“Holy Cow” 3-26-2015

26, March 2015                            “Holy Cow”

In a determined effort to impose its religious baggage on the Indian people, the Bharatiya Janata Party has issued a fatwa declaring “all meat is murder” and seems determined to elevate cow slaughter a capital crime; earlier this month Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party passed a law in the northern state of Haryana that makes cow slaughter punishable up to 10 years in prison.

This follows on the heel of a similar law passed in Maharashtra, which brings to date a staggering 20, out of 29, the number of states in India that outlaws cow slaughter. The beef-ban has generated a great deal of consternation and debate. What is conveniently overlooked is the inconvenient truth that India is one of the largest exporters of beef in the world, second only to Brazil.

In a crass politicization of the “holy cow,” both major parties have used icons in their election appeals. Ancient religious symbols like Kamadhenu, features a heavenly cow sporting a woman’s face.  In the early 1970s, the ruling Congress Party used a popular election slogan “Vote for Calf and Cow, Forget All Others Now.”

In a political gamesmanship to see who could sink lower in a bizarre game of ‘political limbo’, during last year’s national election campaign, Mr. Modi blasted the ruling Congress government for aggressively promoting the “pink revolution” in India’s beef exports. Ironically,  since ascending to power, the beef exports have increased by a staggering 17 percent while his party has instituted a zero-tolerance for domestic consumption.; 80 new slaughterhouses have been built in Uttar Pradesh alone. The double standard has hardly elicited much outrage.

It is puzzling why S.K. Swami, the founder of the Love4Cow organization, and his army of cow-protection supporters seem so unconcerned with the bludgeoning export of beef. It is also baffling why Muslim butchers get a free pass and are not harassed or receive citations by the ‘cow police’. Also, puzzling is the total unconcern for the legions of emaciated nomadic cows wondering along the streets of every major city looking for small scraps of food, often ingesting plastic to satisfy their perpetual hunger pangs. If India claims to be a true secular state religious rituals and practices should be confined to temples and not imposed on the population at large.

Pity there isn’t a Jon Stewart to mock the absurd claims of the beef – ‘cows are sacred’ aficionados: a few examples: Syed Ahmed Bukhari, imam of  Delhi’s Jama Masjid claims that he is a tolerant Muslim because the beef is cooked outside his home by a Hindu cook;  Sudhanshu Trivedi, court astrologer to the home minister (I am not kidding!) stated that “The ban on beef is logical, progressive and scientific.” Sounds eerily similar to US Republicans refuting burning fossil fuels do not contribute to climate change. Not to be outdone, Rakesh Sinha, the director of a right-wing think tank, asserted that “scientific research” had “proved” that eating beef is “dangerous.” McDonald’s are you listening? Mother India must be weeping!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Netanyahu flip flops again 3-23-2015

23, March 2015        Netanyahu flip flops again

President Obama was right in holding Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s feet to the fire in his pre-election race baiting flip flopping antics. In a shameless effort to garner right-wing votes, Netanyahu promised that there would never be an independent Palestinian State on his watch. But following his election victory responding to world-wide outrage, he made matters considerably worse by retreating from his earlier pledge angering his supporters and opponents alike.

Netanyahu seems to be suffering from a serious bout of amnesia, ignoring his earlier historic speech in 2009 in which he called for a two-state solution in which Israelis would be living alongside Palestinians. 

How can the US, indeed much of the free world, ever trust such a flip-flopping politician who will stop at nothing to get re-elected?

The Palestinians should follow the lead of African Americans in launching their own peaceful ‘Palestinian lives matter’ campaign to pressure the world community to issue a redline on Israel to halt settlement expansion, end its brutal occupation and lift the siege of Gaza. The US should demand the repatriation of Palestinian funds withheld from the PLO and make continued US support contingent on the creation of a viable independent state within a stipulated time period. In the meantime, the $3 billion foreign aid should be re-directed to Gaza to rebuild its infrastructure destroyed by Israel’s devastating attacks last August. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Israel’s Election 3-19-2015

19, March 2015                     Israel’s Election

Israel’s election exposed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s duplicity by rejecting a Palestinian state repudiating the promise he made in 2009. His race baiting rant against Arab voters demonstrated that he would stop at nothing to get re-elected.  There is little doubt that Israel will now face growing international isolation as it expands its settlements and maintains its brutal occupation. The boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (B.D.S.) has accelerated under Netanyahu’s polarizing leadership; he has repeatedly demonstrated his callous insensitivity to advance basic Palestinian human rights. His ‘wag the dog’ appearance before the Congress was a blatant effort to torpedo US efforts in reaching a peaceful accommodation with Iran and enhance his persona before Israelis that he was the savior of existential threats. He has repeatedly clashed with President Obama and has contributed to the partisan political gridlock in Washington.

America has invested heavily in promoting a two-state solution to remedy decades of injustice towards the Palestinians.  Tens of billions of dollars have been squandered in this effort. The Obama administration has signaled a major potential shift in policy and is now considering backing a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a two-state solution based on an Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

India’s Daughter 3-14-2015

14, March 2015                       India’s Daughter

Leslee Udwin’s documentary, ‘India’s Daughter’ chronicles the horrific gang-rape and murder of Jyoti Singh, in New Delhi on Dec. 16, 2012. It features interviews with the relatives of the victim and one of the men convicted of killing her; also included are the inflammatory views of the defendant’s lawyers. The unrepentant views of the killer who blamed the victim for venturing out in the evening with a male friend is symptomatic of unhealthy societal misogynistic attitudes towards women, a society that has always undervalued women. What was even more egregious was the outrageous comments of the one of killer’s lawyer who stated that women have no right to venture outdoors after sundown and would support dousing the woman in petrol and set her alight – “to maintain the family honor,” Clearly such lawyers should be disbarred and sent for remedial psychiatric care.  

The outrageous rantings of the defendant’s lawyers speaks volumes of the appalling bias against women – spinning gibberish to blame the victim.

Predictably, the documentary has generated passionate debate and the dubious reasons for the Indian government decision to ban it.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting claims the film will incite violence against women. The minister of parliamentary affairs makes the preposterous claim that it is “an international conspiracy to defame India.” What utter balderdash! How can India claim to be a democracy when it restricts free speech? Does our collective national pride triumph the welfare and safety of our women?

The deafening silence of Prime Minister Modi was another huge disappointment. He missed an important opportunity to show leadership. The prior Congress government displayed utter callousness and incompetence when this rape occurred.

Mr. Modi should have seized the moment and appealed to overturn the ban and called on all Indians to watch the film with an open mind and confront the issues it raises and demand a pledge from all men to respect women. He should have used his high profile position to further demand zero tolerance for such outrageous behavior. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

War Hawks try to undercut the President 2-12-2015

12, March 2015           War Hawks try to undercut the President

Secretary of State Kerry was right to condemn the action of 46 Senators who sent a letter to Iran attempting to scare their leaders in reaching an agreement with the US warning that the next President could invalidate such an agreement with the stroke of a pen. It was yet another clumsy effort to undercut the president on a grave national security issue. War hawk Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton spearheaded the effort after receiving nearly $1 million in donations from The Emergency Committee for Israel and conducting a secretive meeting with weapons contractors. By their actions these senators have sent a dangerous message that the signature of a US president is not legally binding and is therefore meaningless.

Once again Republicans have shown their appalling ignorance of international law, disdain for the president and put their own narrow political interests above the interests of the American people.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Netanyahu’s Speech 3-4-2015

4, March 2015                        Netanyahu’s Speech

Alarmist rhetoric theme has long been a staple of Mr. Netanyahu’s career. In an interview with the BBC in 1997, he warned that Iran was  “building a formidable arsenal of ballistic missiles,”  and urged nations to join him to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capability, stressing that “time is running out.” Earlier, as a Member of Parliament, in 1992, he predicted that Iran would be able to produce a nuclear weapon within three to five years. His speech last Tuesday, bore a strong resemblance to his testimony before the House government affairs committee in 2002 warning of Iraq’s possession of Centrifuges “the size of washing machines.” His own intelligence service, the Mossad, categorically rejected Netanyahu’s dire warnings. So where is Netanyahu obtaining his information? He seems to be using President George Bush’s playbook in injecting massive doses of fear to rally feckless Congressional members behind his bogus claims. His speech was pure theatre designed to scuttle Obama’s effort to reach a peaceful accord with Iran, forestall further conflict and offer a workable paradigm to degrade ISIS’s reign of terror.

Netanyahu maintains the mantra of existential threats to deflect from mounting criticisms of Israel’s illegal settlement activity, war crimes committed in Gaza, and the very legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians to have their own independent state.  His ‘get tough on Iran’ speech was targeted to  Israeli voters portraying himself as a ‘Churchillian’ personality deserving a third term in office. Finally, Israel should follow Iran’s example and sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.