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Israeli leaders lit the match that burned baby Ali Dawabsha

Crossposted from The Electronic Intifada

The savage burning alive of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsha in the occupied West Bank village of Duma has elicited energetic condemnations from Israeli leaders.

To anyone paying attention to the widespread expressions of hatred emanating from many quarters of Israeli Jewish society, these stern platitudes are not only unconvincing, they are an obvious handwashing performance meant for external consumption.

It is difficult to find a single Israeli cabinet minister who has not encouraged or perpetrated racist violence against Palestinians, largely because this kind of incitement – and worse – gets them elected.

Ali was killed in the middle of the night, early Friday, when persons, later seen by witnesses fleeing back to the settlement of Maaleh Efraim, smashed the windows of the child’s family’s home and threw Molotov cocktails and flammable liquid inside.

His parents and 4-year-old brother barely survived the attack – they are fighting for their lives with burns covering almost their whole bodies.

An autopsy found that Ali’s “body was completely blackened, his features had melted, parts of his extremities disintegrated from the burns, while parts of the lungs and rib cage had melted,” Ma’an News Agency reported.

Burning children, from Gaza to Duma

The attackers spray-painted a Star of David and the Hebrew words for “Revenge” and “Long live the Messiah King” on the walls of a neighoring house which they also burned – no one was injured in it – leaving no confusion about their motive.

Similar nationalist and racist graffiti was found on the walls of homes occupied by Israeli soldiers in Gaza during last summer’s military assault.

This is just one of many reasons the award for most disingenuous posturing goes to the Israeli army, which issued statements condemning “this barbaric act of terrorism” and vowing to intensify efforts “to locate those responsible.”

The notion that the same Israeli army that protects and allows settlers to harass and attack Palestinians with impunity is going to hold the Dawabshas’ attackers accountable is far fetched.

This is also the army that completely destroyed or severely damaged more than 25,000 homes in Gaza last summer, wiping out entire families sheltered inside, “including nineteen babies and 108 preschoolers between the ages of 1 and 5,” according to an AP investigation.

The only thing that separates the Israeli soldiers responsible for those killings from the settlers who burned baby Ali is a uniform and explicit orders from the state.

Less than 24 hours since vowing to bring the killers to justice, the Israeli army has shot dead two Palestinian teens – Muhammad Hamid al-Masri in Gaza, and 17-year-old Laith al-Khaldi in the West Bank – while the killers of baby Ali remain at large.

From killer to leaders

As for the Israeli officials who rushed to denounce the Duma attack as “terrorism,” all have well-documented histories of engaging in anti-Palestinian incitement. Some have even killed Palestinians themselves and later bragged about it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the architect of last summer’s 51-day assault that killed 551 Palestinian children in Gaza, responded to the settler attack with a statement that his government is “united in strong opposition to such deplorable and awful acts.”

This is the same man who, following the discovery of the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens one year ago, issued a call for blood vengeance, essentially lighting the match that burned alive 16-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Abu Khudair.

As journalist Dan Cohen observed, it seems vigilante burnings of Palestinian children have become a yearly Israeli ritual.

“Self-genocide”

Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Habeyit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party, said, “Arson against a house in Duma and the murder of a baby is a disgusting act of terror.”

This is the same Bennett who famously bragged, “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”

Perhaps the settlers who murdered baby Ali were following in the footsteps of Bennett, who rose to prominence after playing a key role in triggering Israel’s April 1996 massacre of more than 100 civilians and UN peacekeepers sheltering at a UN base in Qana, Lebanon, during that year’s Israeli invasion.

Over half of those killed in the attack were children.

Had the settlers who burned baby Ali been wearing Israeli army uniforms when they set fire to the Dawabsha house, Bennett would likely be praising rather than denouncing them, much like he did in response to international outrage at the Israeli massacre of the four Baker boys on the beach in Gaza last summer.

Appearing on CNN at the time, Bennett accused Palestinians of “conducting massive self-genocide” to make Israel look bad.

“Chemotherapy”

Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon referred to the killing of baby Ali as “horrible terror attacks that we cannot allow” and promised to “pursue the murderers until we bring them to justice.”

This is the same Yaalon who guaranteed that Israel would not hesitate to kill Palestinian and Lebanese civilians including children, if it felt it had to, in any future war between Israel and its neighbors.

Like most Israeli leaders, Yaalon has a pattern of engaging in violent incitement and of acting on it.

During his stint as Israeli army chief of staff, he likened Palestinians to a cancerous threat that can only be eliminated by “applying chemotherapy.”

If the murderers of baby Ali are anything like Yaalon, they will evade justice and advance their careers while doing it, as Yaalon has successfully done time and again despite his participation in war crimes.

In Israel, killing Palestinians and advocating for genocide builds political careers.

Violent demagogues occupy key positions in government, not in spite of their anti-Palestinian incitement or the killings they have perpetrated, but because of them.

After endorsing a call last June for Palestinian mothers to be slaughtered in their beds to prevent them from birthing “little snakes,” Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked was rewarded by being appointed justice minister.

Killings babies permitted

Eli Ben-Dahan, the settler rabbi in occupied East Jerusalem who decreed that “[Palestinians] are beasts, they are not human,” is Israel’s recently appointed deputy defense minister.

He is now in charge of the “Civil Administration,” the name Israel gives to the military body that rules Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

It is no accident that clerics like Ben-Dahan have been largely silent about baby Ali. After all, they inspire an extreme messianic, eliminationist version of Judaism that drives settler violence.

Two of the most notorious are Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur, who in 2009 co-wrote Torat Hamelech (The King’s Torah), a guidebook on when it is permissible to kill non-Jews.

The authors claim that Jewish law permits “killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”

Elitzur and Shapira run a hardline yeshiva – Jewish religious school – in the settlement of Yitzhar, home to some of the most violent settlers, not far from the Palestinian village of Duma.

In July 2014, Dov Lior, a leading West Bank settler rabbi who has endorsed Torat Hamelechissued his own ruling that the complete “destruction of Gaza” was permissible.

“At a time of war, the nation under attack is allowed to punish the enemy population with measures it finds suitable, such as blocking supplies or electricity, as well as shelling the entire area … to take crushing deterring steps to exterminate the enemy,” Lior wrote.

Israeli settlers, who see themselves in a perpetual state of war against an “enemy population,” would certainly take heed of such clerical guidance.

In February, the Israeli army raided Yitzhar and confiscated weapons that settlers there planned to use against Palestinians, including flammable liquids, tear gas canisters and black face masks.

Despite the horror expressed by Israel’s most prominent politicians, they have yet to utter a word against the rabbis who incite attacks on Palestinians in the name of their extreme version of Judaism.

Growing racism

Meanwhile, this broad ideological spectrum of hate has consequences that extend beyond the settlements.

A recent report by the Coalition Against Racism in Israel revealed a sharp rise in anti-Arab attacks since 2013, which coincided with racist incitement by Israeli elected officials and decisionmakers during last summer’s attack on Gaza and the February elections.

Over the last year, the report documented 237 racist attacks, with 192 of them directed at Arabs, up from 113 in 2013.

This tally excludes settler attacks in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The culture of hate and extremism that led to Ali Dawabsha’s slaying is rooted not just in the settlements, but within the very fabric of Israeli political culture, its discriminatory regime and the Zionism that underpins them.

Politicians that rule a society where Palestinian babies are routinely called a “demographic threat,” and where many joyfully celebrate their slaughter, cannot claim innocence and purport to be “shocked” when settlers burn Palestinian children alive.

ADL honor for St. Louis police ahead of Ferguson anniversary sparks outrage

Crossposted from The Electronic Intifada 

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is honoring the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) on 31 July, just days ahead of the first anniversary of the police killing of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown in the St. Louis-area municipality of Ferguson, Missouri.

The purpose of the event, according to an announcement on the ADL’s website, is to celebrate 10 years since the launch of the organization’s Holocaust education program, called “Law Enforcement and Society: Lessons of the Holocaust” (LEAS).

Designed by the ADL and the Holocaust Museum, LEAS is described as “an innovative training that increases law enforcement’s understanding of their role as protectors of the American people and the Constitution.”

“By examining the Holocaust, police learn about the dangers that anti-Semitism, bigotry and bias pose to all,” according to the ADL, which boasts of having trained more than 90,000 police officers in LEAS.

The program has also been introduced to US military personnel with plans to expand its reach.

SLMPD is slated to receive special recognition for being the first law enforcement agency to participate in LEAS when it was piloted in 2004.

The program was created at the behest of former DC Metropolitan police chief and current Philadelphia top cop Charles Ramsey, whose career has been punctuated by violent crackdowns on protests and the expansion of racially discriminatory practices.

Learning about law enforcement’s role in perpetuating the Nazi Holocaust appears to have had little impact on the SLMPD, which participated in the heavily militarized crackdown against Ferguson protesters after Michael Brown’s death and continued to violently crushdemonstrations across St. Louis in the months that followed.

Cut ties with white supremacy

The ADL’s mission at its founding a century ago was to defend Jews against then rampant discrimination. In recent decades, the group’s main preoccupation has been to ferociously pursue critics of Israel and defenders of Palestinian rights.

Notoriously, the ADL spied on both Palestine solidarity and anti-apartheid activists in the 1980s.

In response to the ADL’s event honoring the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the St. Louis chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (STL-JVP) issued a statement beseeching “all who oppose white supremacy to cut ties with the Anti-Defamation League.”

STL-JVP said it was particularly egregious to honor “a police force whose racist shooting spree targeting Black youth continues, most recently in the shooting of 16-year-old Brandon Claxton in the face last weekend even as witnesses say he posed no threat.”

“We are disgusted by the ADL’s grotesque invocation of the Nazi Holocaust – in which countless members of our families perished – both as a tool to give the ADL and St. Louis police cover as protectors of civil rights, and to frame racism in the US solely within the context of anti-Semitism,” the statement continued.

“We have cringed as the ADL positions itself locally as a champion of racial profiling legislation while sending US police – including former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch – to train on population control in Israel, an apartheid police state with more than 60 years of sophisticated expertise in racial profiling, mass incarceration, settler colonialism, and ethnic cleansing targeting the non-Jewish indigenous Palestinian people,” STL-JVP added.

The group takes to task mainstream Jewish organizations in St. Louis including the ADL, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Federation whose leaders “speak the language of justice” but “are overtly racist toward Palestinians.”

“Zionism – itself a form of white supremacy that oppresses Palestinians, Jews of color, and other marginalized groups – has no place in any antiracist movement,” STL-JVP states.

The statement concludes by imploring “St. Louis Jewish leaders and organizations, especially those who have been active in Ferguson, to stop playing both sides – chanting ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the streets while working closely with racist Jewish organizations.”

Meanwhile, STL-JVP is organizing a protest outside the ADL’s police celebration and has invited broad participation.

ADL stands by police

Despite the criticism, Karen Aroesty, ADL regional director in St. Louis, is refusing to cancel the event.

“We are validating a 10-year partnership that is not simply about the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, but about more than 50 other departments in the region who have participated in this program in the last decade,” Aroesty told this reporter by telephone.

While she acknowledged bias exists in policing, Aroesty said she believes the ADL’s event is warranted and that activists who are upset by police violence need to engage more.

“Those folks who are impacted by policing, they also need to understand that they have value in that learning process and simply being angry is not going to get the job done,” Aroesty said. “And I do think there are police departments that are kind of frustrated because they feel as if it’s all being put on them to change drastically but there’s certain things that they cannot change.”

When it was suggested that police are not being held accountable for killing citizens across the country, Aroesty said it is police who are being shot in the streets.

“I wonder what happens to our trust in democracy when people feel that they can just indiscriminately shoot police officers,” she said. “What does it do to the community’s sense of stability?” Aroesty asked, referencing the ambush shooting of an officer in St. Louis on 14 July, for which she implied the community bore responsibility.

There’s no doubt that police face threats on the job, but the statistics do not compare to the often racially charged police violence against citizens they are supposedly tasked with protecting.

Of the 67 US police officers that have died “in the line of duty” so far this year, 22 were killed by gunfire or assault, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. The rest died from previous illnesses, car crashes, heart attacks or various accidents.

In the same time period, police have killed more than 630 people – nearly ten times as many – with more than 80 deaths in July alone.

And while those who harm police officers are likely to be arrested, charged and convicted, police officers who kill are almost never held accountable.

Nonetheless, Aroesty denied that police impunity is widespread.

“I feel confidant that police officers who are in fact acting beyond the scope and abusing their discretion, that they are in fact being held accountable,” she said. “It is very very complex.”

Anti-Palestinian

Back in March, after the Jewish Community Relations Council pressured the Missouri History Museum to cancel a panel discussion on Ferguson, Palestine and the kidnapping and killing of students from Ayotzinapa College in Mexico, Aroesty applauded the censorship and encouraged the museum to contact SLMPD for assistance in quelling protests the cancellation provoked.

The ADL has repeatedly condemned solidarity between Black Americans and Palestinians, characterizing it as offensive and rooted in hostility toward Israel. It became so incensed, it compiled a blacklist of people and organizations that dared to compare state violence against Black Americans to Israeli violence against Palestinians, accusing Palestine solidarity activists of “trying to rouse support for an anti-Israel agenda by attracting like-minded activists.”

The main connection activists recognize from St. Louis to Palestine is the training relationship between US law enforcement agencies and Israel.

“That’s hogwash!” Aroesty interjected before this reporter could finish asking a question about the fact that senior commanders from numerous US police departments routinely travel to Israel to “learn” from state security and occupation forces. Many of these junkets are organized by the ADL.

“Sure, the Israelis have, because of their security issues, a unique capacity for training police chiefs from around the country who have been going [to Israel],” Aroesty conceded. “And a number of different agencies, not just ADL, sponsor training programs.”

Under the cover of “counterterrorism training” senior commanders from nearly every major US law enforcement agency have traveled to Israel, including the St. Louis County and St. Louis Metropolitan police departments.

In 2011, then St. Louis County Police Department chief Timothy Fitch attended the ADL’s National Counter-Terrorism Seminar, an annual week-long Israeli training camp where US law enforcement executives “study first hand Israel’s tactics and strategies” directly from “senior commanders in the Israel National Police, experts from Israel’s intelligence and security services and the Israel Defense Forces,” according to the ADL’s own website.

While Aroesty acknowledged Fitch’s participation, she rejected as “factually incorrect” any suggestion that the training had any impact on the behavior of St. Louis police in the weeks following Michael Brown’s death.

But on its website, the ADL boasts of sending more than 175 senior US law enforcement officials from 100 different agencies to the seminar since 2004, proudly stating that they are “taking the lessons they learned in Israel back to the United States.”

Still, Areosty insisted that the training junkets “had nothing to do with any of the police tactics or the optics that were experienced in the couple of weeks after Michael Brown was shot.”

She insisted that any criticism of the training programs and ADL’s role in them “was about the ideological goals of the anti-Israel movement” which was intent on using “whatever they could to make their point … whether they were factual or not.”

The protests the ADL’s event is sparking suggest that it getting harder for the pro-Israel group to pose as both a champion of civil rights in the US while defending the police forces that routinely trample those rights with impunity.

Podcast: The Dominican Republic’s Plan to Racially Cleanse the Country of Black Haitians

The Dominican Republic is set to purge its country of hundreds of thousands of black Haitian migrants or black Dominicans of Haitian descent. The government has stripped anyone born in Haiti after 1929 of their citizenship and rendered this entire population stateless. Numerous Haitians have fled or are hiding as they wait to see what the immigration agency will do next.

Army General Ruben Paulino, who leads the immigration agency, said his agency would conduct patrols of neighborhoods with “large numbers of migrants” after June 18. Any “non-citizens,” who were unregistered, would be “repatriated.” The individuals would be loaded on buses, trucks, or ambulances—and then expelled from the country.

On the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast this week, Dr. Jemima Pierre, a professor at UCLA of African Diaspora Studies & an editor for Black Agenda Report, joins the show to talk about the Dominican Republic. She describes the history of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, as well as the United States’ role since the US once occupied the island where Haiti and the Dominican Republic are located. She details the anti-black racism that has deep roots in the Dominican Republic.

During the discussion part of the show, the show’s hosts talk about Dylann Roof’s manifesto and share thoughts on the political and media reaction to the church massacre in Charleston. They also talk about a Louisville FOP president and his vitriolic open letter directed toward Black Lives Matter activists. And the show wraps with some quick thoughts about a court ordering US officials to intercept a Guatemalan mother and her child, who were deported, and return them to the United States.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode. And please follow the show on Twitter at @UnauthorizedDis.

Below is a partial transcript of the interview.
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Israeli-trained police invade Baltimore in crackdown on Black Lives Matter

Crossposted from The Electronic Intifada

Paramilitary police forces face off against peaceful protesters outside Baltimore City Hall after 10 pm curfew on Friday, 1 May. (Bryan MacCormack/Left in Focus

For the second time in less than a year, an American city was transformed into a hypermilitarized police state to subdue growing resistance to anti-Black police violence.

Eight months ago, paramilitary forces barreled down the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, following the gruesome police killing of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown.

Last week, martial law was imposed on the people of Baltimore, Maryland, in yet another crackdown aimed at crushing the Black Lives Matter uprising, galvanized this time by the police murder of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man whose spinal cord was severed while in police custody.

It was an occupation in the truest sense of the term. However, for Baltimore’s poor Black neighborhoods, it was a hypermilitarized version of the lower intensity occupation they are subjected to on a regular basis.

Protests demanding justice for Gray had been largely peaceful, until heavy-handed police tactics against Baltimore high school students on 27 April incited a riot.

Some young people responded by throwing bottles and rocks at police, prompting comparisons to Palestine, where children often toss stones at Israeli occupation forces as a means of resistance and self-defense.

Windows of police cruisers were smashed, stores were looted and a CVS store was set ablaze, throwing white America into a panicked frenzy that seemed to prioritize broken windows over broken spines, as one activist put it.

Martial law

Within hours of the riots, Baltimore city officials declared a state of emergency and instituted a 10pm curfew.

Practically overnight, Baltimore morphed into a heavily militarized police state with machine-like efficiency, demonstrating America’s frightening capacity to successfully implement martial law in a major US city in a matter of hours.

By Tuesday, 3,000 National Guard troops were deployed to Baltimore.

An armored police vehicle passes by the burned down a CVS store on the intersection of North and Pennsylvania avenues in Baltimore on 1 May. (Bryan MacCormack/Left in Focus

With assault rifles in hand, bored US soldiers in official military combat attire roamed the streets of downtown Baltimore, patrolling the National Aquarium, as well as the outlets of Forever 21, Cheesecake Factory and Barnes & Noble that dot the trendy and polished Inner Harbor.

The soldiers were flanked by police from a collection of law enforcement agencies from Maryland and across state lines, all working in concert with Baltimore police to crush the nascent uprising that erupted in the city’s long neglected poor Black neighborhoods. For these communities, martial law presented nothing more than an added layer to the ferocious police violence and intolerable economic deprivation that inform their daily lives.

Breaking curfew

On Friday, 1 May, around 80 protesters held their ground in the courtyard in front of City Hall. They were in high spirits and determined to break the 10pm curfew following news that six Baltimore police officers were charged in the killing of Freddie Gray.

Protesters huddle in the courtyard outside Baltimore City Hall on 1 May 2015, preparing to break the 10 pm curfew. (Rania Khalek / The Electronic Intifada)

The courtyard had become an unofficial media headquarters since the state of emergency began, saturated with TV news vans, cable news tents and lighting crews. The area also served as a command center for the National Guard and law enforcement.

As the curfew went into effect, a line of around a hundred riot police filed into the quad opposite the protesters, who had thinned out from a couple hundred to a few dozen. The mood was tense, but calm.

Riot police face off against protesters trying to break the curfew outiside Baltimore City Hall on 1 May. (Bryan MacCormack/Left in Focus)

 Minutes later, hidden units of riot police thundered into the crowd, charging at frightened protesters who soon learned there was nowhere to run. Protesters were woefully outnumbered and surrounded, with all possible escape routes cut off by either riot squads, officers on horseback, armored vehicles with rooftop snipers or National Guard troops, reinforced by a police helicopter circling overhead.

Police officers dressed like storm troopers attacked one protester after the next completely unprovoked. I watched as police all around me tackled civilians, slamming them into the ground face first, piling on top of them and blindly swinging their batons. It was a police riot.

Meanwhile, police closed in on the media, jostling members of the press and repeatedly threatening them to get back.

Mass arrests

Among those arrested that night was 32-year-old Chicago-based activist Danielle Villarreal, who was knocked to the ground by officers while quietly looking to see which of her comrades had been grabbed.

Her friend, Jackie Spreadbury, 26, instinctively reached for Villareal’s arm to protect her from police and was instantly thrown against a van and tossed to the ground, her cheek pressed up against the curb.

“They hit me with their batons on the back of the calf below the knee as I was already down on the ground,” Spreadbury told me, recollecting her arrest. “I didn’t realize at the time that I was getting hit. I was just looking at Danielle to see if she was okay.”

“A bunch of cops were yelling different things at me. And then they started yelling at me for not listening to all the different things they were demanding,” Spreadbury recalled.

“I’ve been to lots of demonstrations over the years and I’ve never seen this sort of pre-emptive oppression — outside of NATO in Chicago — where they lunged at us and chased us down without warning, and just pre-emptively attacked people,” said Villarreal, referring to the virtual police state during the NATO summit in Chicago in 2012 that saw protesters corralled, abused and arrested.

“If you want to see who wants a riot, look at who’s dressed for it,” added Villarreal, noting that police were the ones wearing body armor and carrying billy clubs.

During their 22 hour stay in jail, the women met countless Baltimore residents who were swept up by police for breaking curfew while going about their daily lives. “They were put in a cell with us — women, mothers daughters — they got picked up because of this police state. There was a 51–year-old woman who was arrested on her way from work at 4:45am during curfew,” said Spreadbury.

At least 486 people have been arrested in Baltimore since 23 April, a fifth of whom were held for 48 hours without explanation and released without charge.

Others were given astronomically high bails.

Allen Bullock, 18, turned himself in at the behest of his parents after a photo of him smashing a police windshield with a traffic cone was plastered in news reports across the country. Bullock is currently being held on a half a million dollar bail that his family can’t possibly afford. In stark contrast, the officers who severed Freddie Gray’s spine received bails no greater than $350,000.

Palestine contingent lends support

Building on the deepening bond between the Palestinian and Black liberation struggles, Palestinian civil society organizations issued a declaration of support for those struggling against racial injustice in Baltimore.

“We send our condolences to the family of Freddie Gray and all those murdered in police custody,” says the statement. “We stand in solidarity with those whose homes have been foreclosed, with those who live under the constant watch of surveillance cameras and under the constant threat of being stopped, harassed, arrested and assaulted by a militarized police force in their own streets. Your struggle for justice, equality and freedom is our struggle.”

A contingent of Palestine solidarity activists affiliated with Students for Justice with Palestine (SJP) at American University and Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) at George Mason University turned those words into action.

Palestine solidarity activists from Washington, DC, supporting protesters in Baltimore. (Rania Khalek / The Electronic Intifada)

Wearing their kuffiyehs — Palestinian checkered scarves — to remain easily visible to one another amid the likely chaos, the group shuffled back and forth between Washington, DC and Baltimore to lend their support as legal observers and medics.

“Oftentimes we struggle with wanting to participate because we don’t know if it’s our place and we don’t want to be co-opting,” said Ntebo Maya Mokuena, a 19-year-old member of SJP at AU. “But I think it’s important for people in DC to show solidarity in Baltimore because we’re so close.”

Mokuena gravitated toward Palestine solidarity work due to her father’s activism against apartheid in South Africa. “I saw the connections between his experiences in South Africa and what happens in Palestine. I thought it was really important to carry on the family legacy,” she told The Electronic Intifada.

“From Palestine to Baltimore, there are parallels with militarization of police and the tactics they use to take over space in other people’s land. They’re occupying people’s neighborhoods where they live. It’s like the second wave for Baltimore because it’s already economically occupied,” said Mokuena.

The group managed to avoid arrest during Friday night’s melee, though some told The Electronic Intifada that they were more frightened of police in Baltimore than Israeli forces at protests they had attended in Palestine.

“Even though I’ve been to protests in Palestine, I saw more physical abuse in Baltimore,” said Tareq Radi, a Palestinian American organizer and founding member of SAIA. Still, what he witnessed in Baltimore reminded him of Israeli crowd control in Palestine. “I went to the ‘day of rage’ protests in the Negev [Naqab] and I saw people getting slammed on the ground, hogtied, police grabbing their arms and legs and throwing them in the paddy wagon — the exact same imagery as Baltimore.”

“If Baltimore was a Middle Eastern country, we would be calling it a dictatorship,” Radi added.

Echoes of Israeli tactics in Baltimore

The similarities in suppression tactics employed by Baltimore and Israeli security forces are no coincidence.

Under the cover of counterterrorism training, nearly every major police agency in the United States has traveled to Israel for lessons in occupation enforcement, including many of the agencies active in Baltimore last week.

In 2002, Baltimore city police officers went to Israel on a junket organized by the neoconservative Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), where they studied Israeli occupation tactics used against Palestinians, including “crowd control, and coordination with the media,” according to a JINSA press release. “Participants resolved to begin the process of sharing ‘lessons learned’ in Israel with their law enforcement colleagues in the United States,” boasted JINSA.

Baltimore city police returned to Israel for more occupation training in a 2009 triparranged by the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange.

On a 2007 training session in Israel, Baltimore County police reportedly “received valued lessons from Israeli officials … about gathering human and electronic intelligence” that can “apply to investigations into organized crime and gangs.”

The Montgomery County Police Department, which sent dozens of police officers to assist in the Baltimore crackdown, has attended several training sessions in Israel, including one in 2010 and another in 2012, both hosted by Project Interchange.

New Jersey State Police, which donated around 150 of its officers to Baltimore’s police state, learned lessons in occupation enforcement on trips to Israel arranged by the Anti-Defamation League in 2011 and 2013, and JINSA in 2004.

Pennsylvania State Police, which contributed 300 state troopers to Baltimore, studied counterterrorism in Israel in 2004.

While there is a wealth of scholarship on police militarization in the US, there has been little to no examination of the ways Israel’s security apparatus facilitates it. Instead, the issue is virtually ignored or flat out denied, despite the troubling implications of emulating an apartheid regime actively engaged in ethnic cleansing and war crimes.

Armed with cameras

There is something eerily consistent about occupation, whether in the ghettos of Palestine or the United States, including one of the most widely used means of resistance to it.

“A camera is the most trusted witness and the best protection tool,” Issa Amro, the founder and director of Youth Against Settlements, told me last year after his organization faced violent retaliation for recording Israeli soldiers pointing assault rifles at Palestinian teens in a video that went viral.

Kevin Moore, who filmed the video of Freddie Gray’s brutal arrest, sees the camera in a similar light.

“The most powerful weapon that we have against the police right now is a camcorder or any type of record that you can get against them performing those police brutal events,” argued Moore after his video of Gray went viral. After speaking out about Gray’s killing, Moore complained that police were intimidating him. He was later arrested with two activists from Copwatch, the police accountability organization he is a member of and released two hours later without charge.

Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed the chokehold killing of Eric Garner by NYPD officers in Staten Island last year, met an even worse fate. He was arrested along with his mother, brother and wife in what he contends is a campaign of vengeful harassment by the NYPD.

Meanwhile, not one of the officers who killed Garner on video will face charges; Video evidence of deadly police violence rarely results in accountability.

Under such intolerable conditions, where even video evidence of their murders isn’t enough to hold their killers accountable, it is no wonder that the oppressed are fighting back, from Baltimore to Ferguson to Palestine.

“American Sniper” spawns death threats against Arabs and Muslims

Originally published at The Electronic Intifada

Following the release of the film American Sniper in theaters across the US, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has warned of a “significant rise in violent hate rhetoric targeting the Arab and Muslim-American communities.”

While the ADC believes the threats “are directly linked to the negative media coverage and hateful propaganda launched against the Arab and Muslim communities following the attacks on the Charlie Hedbo offices in France” earlier this month, the civil rights organization notes that racist threats have intensified in the wake of American Sniper, with moviegoers taking to social media to express their desire to murder Arabs and Muslims after leaving the theater.

Having both watched the movie and read the book on which it is based, I am not the least bit surprised by the incitement it has spawned. American Sniper is brilliant propaganda that valorizes American military aggression while delivering Hollywood’s most racist depiction of Arabs in recent memory, effectively legitimizing America’s ongoing bombing campaigns across the Middle East.

Unrepentant mass killer

American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, is based on the autobiography of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, reputedly the deadliest sniper in American history.

Replete with hatred, bigotry and unrepentant bloodlust, Kyle’s book boasts of killing 160 Iraqi “savages” during his four deployments in Iraq following the illegal US invasion and occupation in 2003.

“Savage, despicable evil. That’s what we were fighting in Iraq,” Kyle writes in his book.

“I only wish I had killed more,” he writes, adding, “I loved what I did…It was fun. I had the time of my life.”

“They hated us because we weren’t Muslim. They wanted to kill us, even though we just booted out their dictator, because we practiced a different religion than they did,” adds Kyle, who goes on to confess, “I don’t shoot people with Korans – I’d like to, but I don’t.” In Kyle’s mind, all Iraqis who resisted the invading US soldiers were irrationally violent religious fanatics.

In stark contrast, Hollywood sanitizes Kyle, humanizing him as a complex, likable and anguished hero.

Hateful

Following the movie’s debut in select theaters on Christmas Day, author and journalist Max Blumenthal and I were deluged with death and rape threats for tweeting our disgust with Hollywood’s glorification of a mass killer and exposing the racism and lies espoused by Kyle. Although Kyle’s most ardent supporters claim to hate ISIS and al-Qaeda, they often call on these terrorist groups to behead critics of US military aggression.

The movie has since broken box office records, grossing $105 million during its nationwide opening and garnered accolades from across the political spectrum (Vice-President Joe Biden said he wept at the Washington, DC premier). In addition, the movie scored six Academy Award nominations.

Frustrated by the glorification and whitewash of a racist mass killer, I posted passages from Kyle’s book on Twitter, highlighting his hateful and homicidal statements and drew attention to the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim threats the movie was inspiring, all of which I compiled into a Storify that went viral.

Image by Rania Khalek

The reaction to the movie has since snowballed into a partisan bickering match, with celebrities chiming in.

Actor Seth Rogen compared American Sniper to Stolz der Nation (Nation’s Pride), a fictitious Nazi propaganda film about a glorified Nazi sniper that appears at the end of the Quentin Tarantino movie Inglorious Basterds (the Nazi sniper is shown mowing down American and British soldiers with great efficiency and apparent moral superiority). Documentary maker Michael Moore also stirred controversy when he tweeted that snipers “aren’t heroes,” though he later clarified he was not referring to American Sniper, which he liked. Nevertheless, a who’s who of rightwing celebrities, pundits, politicians and worshippers of US military aggression have whipped up a blindly patriotic frenzy, firing back against the movie’s critics.

Meanwhile, growing criticism of American Sniper appears to be damaging its chances of winning at the Oscars, with Academy members expressing concern that the film glorifies a “sociopath.”

Racist atrocity porn

While the canonization of Kyle on the big screen is appalling, the movie’s whitewash of the US destruction of Iraq and its racist portrayal of Arabs has proven to be far more dangerous.

The US destruction of Iraq left an estimated one million Iraqis dead, 4.5 million displaced, five million orphaned, some two million widowed and birth defects and cancer rates significantly worse than those seen in the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Japan at the end of the Second World War. The US war on Iraq also fueled the rise of ISIS. This immeasurable suffering is completely erased from the narrative presented in American Sniper.

In the opening scene of the film a conflicted Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) is perched on a rooftop with an Iraqi mother and child in the crosshairs of his sniper scope. He watches the mother give the child a grenade to throw at a US marine convoy. He reluctantly seeks permission to shoot.

Suddenly the screen cuts to Kyle as a child hunting with his father in Texas. Another scene shows him at church. Next he’s at the dinner table.

“There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs,” saysKyle’s father. “Now, some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world…those are the sheep. And then you got predators who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. And then there are those who have been blessed with the gift of aggression, and the overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed that live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.”

For the rest of the movie Kyle is the sheepdog, the protector, the hero. And Iraqis are the evil wolves he must put down to protect the lives of his fellow “sheepdogs.”

Next we see Kyle as an adult. We watch him fall in love, get married and join the SEALs. Then the Twin Towers fall and he is deployed to Iraq, a narrative that leaves the poorly informed with the impression that Iraq was involved in the 11 September 2001 attacks, the very lie that the Iraq war was predicated on. This false narrative is reaffirmed when al-Qaeda appears in Iraq on Kyle’s first tour in 2003, a revisionist history that conflates indigenous armed resistance to a foreign occupier with a terrorist group that attacked the United States. In a country where 43 percent of Americans still believe that Iraq was connected to the 11 September 2001 attacks, perpetuating this falsehood, even if unintentional, is reckless.

Eventually, we return to the scene in the movie’s opening. Kyle shoots the child to save the Marine convoy. The mother runs towards the felled child, collects the grenade and prepares to launch it in the direction of the soldiers. Kyle shoots the woman dead at mid-launch. The grenade explodes before it reaches the soldiers.

“There was a kid who barely had any hair on his balls, his mother gives him a grenade and sends him out there to kill Marines,” says an agonized Kyle. “That was evil like I’d never seen before.”

This black and white, good versus evil theme continues throughout the movie’s entirety. US soldiers are humanized. They have names and families, fiancés and children. And they return home with deep physical and psychological wounds, whereas the local Arab population, including the women and children, are depicted as terrorists. The only time Arab women and children are innocent victims is when they are being brutalized by scary Arab men, but even they are nameless figures.

Marlow Stern at The Daily Beast provides a cogent summary of the movie’s depiction of Arab characters:

The “savages” consist of [Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi, who’s introduced via the infamous clip of him decapitating [American radio-tower repairman] Nick Berg; his No. 2, “The Butcher,” who brutally executes an informant’s young son by drilling his head with a power tool, and stores people’s heads on shelves; and Mustafa, a Syrian Olympic sharpshooter who videotapes his kills and hawks bootlegs of them on the street. Mustafa is, like all classic villains, dressed in black, doesn’t utter in a word, and is single-minded in his pursuit of Kyle – he has a poster of Kyle’s bounty, $180,000, on his wall, and spends his spare time spinning an armor-piercing bullet on a table.

In the end, it wasn’t Iraqi “savages” that killed Kyle. A fellow soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder shot Kyle dead at a Texas gun range in 2013, a fact the film glosses over before cutting to footage from Kyle’s real-life funeral. Some may have even left the theater with the impression that Kyle was killed in Iraq.

Where are the moderates?

As the threats against Arab and Muslim-Americans and critics of American Sniperescalate in their ferocity, one is left wondering: Where are the American moderates? Why haven’t the movie’s director, producers and actors condemned the violent extremism their film is inciting?

(Jim DeFelice, one of the co-authors of the book American Sniper, condemned the threats of violence unleashed after I implored him to in a debate on Uprising Radio.)

Under the threatening circumstances, the ADC is encouraging Arab, Muslim, South Asian and Sikh-American communities to be on alert and report any hate crimes to the authorities.

“If you are placed in physical danger because of your ethnicity, religion or national origin: Call the police (dial 911 in most communities), and/or click here to contact your local FBI office. It is the FBI’s job to investigate hate-motivated crimes and specific threats of violence. You can also report a hate crime to the FBI online using this form,” says the ADC advisory.

“If you feel you have been a victim of a hate crime, of if any individual or place of worship needs any assistance with any of the above, including dealing with law enforcement, please contact the ADC Pro-Bono Legal Department at 202-244-2990 or legal AT adc DOT org.”

White supremacy and Zionism converge in deleted Times of Israel post on Ferguson

Following an uproar on social media, a viciously racist blog post was removed from The Times of Israel. Titled “Nine Parallels between Palestine and Ferguson,” the post attacked African American protestors in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson and Palestinians as violent, “savage,” irrationally “angry” and deserving of the institutionalized state violence wielded against them.

(A web cache of the article can be found here. A copy is also included at the bottom of this post.)

In the now-deleted post, the writer, Robert Wilkes, a member of the advisory board and media response team at StandWithUs, embraces the increasingly popular comparison between Ferguson and Palestine. But Wilkes does so by proudly likening anti-Palestinian Jewish Israelis to American police, the real victims according to him.

The post was removed despite its author being defended as an “amazing guy” by a staffer at StandWithUs, a right-wing group that works closely with the Israeli government.

This is at least the second time in recent months that an offensive article has been deleted from The Times of Israel after coming under fire on social media. A similar scenario played out during Israel’s summertime assault on the besieged Gaza Strip, after The Times of Israel published an item titled ”When Genocide is Permissible.”

“Anger defines them”

Wilkes’ piece is as remarkable as it is vile in its appeal to anti-Palestinian and white American racism.

On African Americans and Palestinians, Wilkes writes, “Anger defines them, and anger keeps both mired in failure. Rather than make better choices they prefer to ride the ‘victim’ train to nowhere.”

He continues, “Both wish to undermine the state’s moral authority by provoking violent reactions, then portraying themselves as victims of oppression.”

Mocking Black American leaders as “con artists” and “race-hustlers in a ‘business’ fueled by anger,” Wilkes decries supposedly irrational Black and Palestinian anger as a product of inferior cultures that teach hate.

“Black problems in America,” he argues, “derive from the breakdown of family and unhealthy aspects of black culture.”

These are some of the most pernicious and cliché tropes long employed by liberal and right-wing racists to blame and pathologize people of color as being responsible for their own oppression and disadvantage.

“In both places, the innocent pay the price” for the supposed Black and Palestinian lust for violence, Wilkes claims. “The businesses destroyed in Ferguson belong to hard-working citizens who had nothing to do with the incident in which a policeman shot a robbery suspect in self-defense,” he says, justifying Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s August killing of Black youth Michael Brown.

But, Wilkes allows, “The Palestinians are, tragically, far more bloodthirsty.”

Wilkes ends his screed by praising the Israeli army and Missouri police for exercising restraint: “Authorities in both places have their hands tied by their high standards of human rights and reverence for the rule of law.” Of course this last point makes sense given that St. Louis-area police departments have received training from the Israeli security apparatus in recent years.

Defending racism

StandWithUs director of Israeli education Hen Mazzig initially praised Robert Wilkes and his article in a tweet that was favorited by the official StandWithUs Twitter account.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

Podcast: Going to the UN Committee Against Torture to Call Attention to Rampant Police Violence

On last week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure (sorry for posting late) Kevin Gosztola and I interviewed Page May, an organizer with We Charge Genocide, about the “shadow report” her organization submitted to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) about deadly police violence. (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here).

More from Kevin:

Chicago police officers have shot over three hundred people in the past five years. They have killed at least 89 people, predominantly people of color, in that same period. They have used force and received an astounding number of complaints about brutality from citizens in Chicago. Yet, Chicago police seem to enjoy a stunning level of immunity from accountability and justice.

In response to systematic police brutality and misconduct, a group of young organizers have formed a group called We Charge Genocide, which has submitted a “shadow report” to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) to call attention to police violence and further expose the issue as a violation of the anti-torture treaty. Organizers will, in fact, be traveling to Geneva in November to present their report to the UN Committee.

Page May, organizer with We Charge Genocide, joined “Unauthorized Disclosure” this week to talk about the group’s “shadow report” to the UN Committee Against Torture and the process of putting it together. She discusses police militarization, sexual assault by police, mass detention and harassment in the context of a system with a history that goes all the way back to the days of slavery in the United States. She also addresses where the name comes from, its historical basis and how it helps frame the group’s organizing efforts.

In the discussion portion, we discuss Israel closing the Al Aqsa mosque, US military plans to deploy“advisers” to the Anbar province in Iraq and the FBI impersonating repairmen and media organization, accused cop killer Eric Frein’s capture, and Josh Rogin and Eli Lake’s new job with Bloomberg.

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