On Bernie Sanders and the Palestine Issue

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Bernie Sanders is by far the best candidate in the current US presidential race. His stance on issues of social justice is admirable, and he would be far more tolerable as President than Clinton, Cruz, Trump or Kasich, all of whom exist in the same militaristic, hawkish, neoconservative spectrum. However, it seems that he has a blind spot when it comes to the issue of Palestine.

In 2014, Bernie Sanders voted in support of the Israeli attack on Gaza (known as ‘Operation Protective Edge’), which slaughtered over 2000 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, including up to 500 children and over 200 women. The opinion of journalist Max Blumenthal is that the reason he did this was obviously to please Party fundraisers. Blumenthal goes on to ask the obvious question that can be drawn from this: “if they [Bernie Sanders and other liberals] are willing to abandon millions of people to the malevolence of one of the most powerful militaries in the world because of fundraiser pressure, who else could they abandon?”. What does voting in favour of a brutal slaughter say about Sanders’ integrity?

Furthermore, his comments on the Palestine issue at best reflect great ignorance as to the reality of the situation. In a recent interview with the New York Daily News, Sanders opposed the continued building of settlements on Palestinian land, but said that there “are going to be demands being made of the Palestinian folks as well”. So, demands will have to be made of the people being dominated and occupied, who have been suffering under systematic subjugation over a number of decades, who are being subjected to continuous repression and humiliation, and who, in the words of Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, are being “ethnically cleansed”. The US will have to be tough on these people, too. What this reflects is a common condition in mainstream Western discourse: an inability or unwillingness to see that Palestine and Israel are not two equal sides. As pointed out by Max Blumenthal, “this is not a conflict; it’s a conquest”. Yes, there is resistance on the Palestinian side to Israeli terror, but this is in no way comparable to the brutal, vicious and unrestrained aggression on the Israeli side. This is not to excuse Hamas rockets or suicide bombings which sometimes result in civilian casualties; it is to point out how in liberation struggles and resistance movements throughout history, oppressed and persecuted people have always sometimes resorted to unjustified tactics. But to compare the oppressed to the oppressors and make them equal indicates at best ignorance about the situation, and at worst wilful distortion of the facts.

Furthermore, Bernie had said that Israel “overreacted” in the attack on Gaza which he voted for. But overreacted to what, exactly? If it was to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths some weeks before, then in what way was the destruction of Gaza a response to this? The kidnappers were not in any way affiliated with Hamas, the leadership in Gaza. So why would you carry out a murderous assault on a group of people totally unconnected with the incident, rather than carry out a criminal investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice? The answer is obvious: the attack on Gaza was not in response to anything. The Israeli government used the kidnappings as an opportunity to stoke hysteria and bloodlust in the Israeli public, which they could use to justify their latest attempt to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from the Holy Land. The US Senate does not even pretend that the Israeli assault was in response to the kidnappings – instead, it states that it was in response to “unprovoked rocket attacks from the Hamas terrorist organisation”. Ignoring the fact that these rockets are more like high school science projects and mostly land in empty fields, the fact remains that there were no Hamas rockets fired into Israel prior to an escalation of Israeli military operations in Gaza and the West Bank; the first Hamas rockets were fired on July 7 – almost a month after Israel’s Operation Brother’s Keeper began. So, the conclusion is clear: Operation Protective Edge was an unprovoked act of aggression carried out against a defenceless civilian population detained in the world’s largest open-air prison, not an “overreaction” to anything.

While it is true that Bernie Sanders is more progressive than the other candidates with regards to Palestine – refusing to speak at an AIPAC conference and simply recognising that the Gazans are human beings, which has led to him being accused of ‘blood libel’ by the former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren – he should still be held to account over his unsettling remarks on the issue and his support for the 2014 destruction of Gaza. If he truly is a ‘progressive’, he would own up to his mistakes and reverse his support for the Israeli government, rather than continue to make vague criticisms of Israel and refuse to talk frankly about Israeli aggression without constantly bringing up “Hamas rockets”, as if they were in any way comparable.

Why The Snoopers’ Charter is an Unprecedented Attack on Our Freedoms

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Last week, the UK government pushed forward its Investigatory Powers Bill (or Snoopers’ Charter) through Parliament, which vastly increased their surveillance capabilities and powers to penetrate the electronic communications of ordinary citizens. This extremely authoritarian piece of legislation moved forward with disturbing ease in the House of Commons, gathering 281 votes in favour with only 15 against. There has been extraordinarily little public protest over this, either.

The freedoms which we value so highly in Britain are gradually slipping from our fingers. Under the Snoopers’ Charter, the government will now store the records of websites visited by everyone in the UK for 12 months incase the police or the intelligence services want to have a look at what we’ve been doing, phones and computers can now legally be bugged and companies must assist the government in peeling back layers of encryption from communications if they are ordered to do so. The government can now also legally monitor journalists and their sources, raising serious concerns about what consequences this will have for freedom of the press in Britain, which is already under severe attack.

The Tory government has taken frightening steps in recent months to destroy civil liberties and basic freedoms in Britain, from outlawing speech that it deems ‘extremist’ in nature and keeping Julian Assange arbitrarily detained in the Ecuadorian Embassy to effectively legitimising the extrajudicial assassination of British citizens. The introduction of the Snoopers’ Charter is simply the latest in a long line of steps towards corroding our freedoms and increasing state control over the lives of ordinary citizens under the pretext of fighting terror. And for those who believe that these tyrannical measures are only aimed at ‘extremists’, then take a look at how David Cameron outlined his government’s approach towards fighting ‘extremism’:

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance. This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach”.

Meaning: the government will no longer leave you alone if you simply ‘obey the law’. Obeying the law is no longer enough if you don’t want to be targeted by the government. The era of ‘passive tolerance’ is gone. Now, citizens must actively subordinate themselves to the interests of the State and not only must they stay within the bounds of the law; now, they must make active efforts to stay within bounds within the law that only the government has the power to define. Meaning one mustn’t express the wrong opinion, as even though it is legal for them to do so, this is no longer enough to protect them from being targeted by the law, subjected to surveillance or even imprisoned by the State. And all of this is necessary in order to defend British Values – such as democracy, the Rule of Law, and tolerance. Yes, it is necessary to abolish freedom of speech, in order to maintain respect for tolerance. And as for the Rule of Law, that never really existed. Because if it did exist, then David Cameron and the other members of the government involved in the destruction of Yemen would be in prison for war crimes. If the Rule of Law did exist, then half the government would be facing legal action for engaging in acts of ‘extremism’ as they themselves define it. The law has never applied to those at the top. The law is a weapon used by the State to subjugate and repress ordinary citizens who don’t possess the power or the privilege to defend themselves.

This is not a war against terror; it is a war against dissent. Of course there are people out there who do wish to do us genuine harm, but the way to combat those people is not by destroying our own freedoms so they don’t have to. If British Values really do exist, and are not just propaganda churned out by the authoritarian extremists who wield unlimited power in this country, then surely we should be reasserting and strengthening those values, not just here at home but overseas as well, so that the people of the world will see that we are serious when we say we want to fight terror and defend democracy? Surely it is insanity to become the very people we are claiming to oppose? Once again, it is up to ordinary citizens to fight back. We must put pressure on the government to take steps towards curbing mass surveillance, rather than expanding it. We must make our voices heard. Before it is too late.

The Darkness Grows Thick…

How did we get here? How did we stray so far from all that is good? I wonder, if King Arthur were to be resurrected and journey through the halls of old, out of the gloom and into the fragile daylight… what would he say? What would he see?

Upon a high-raised hill in Avalon,
Four dragon sentinels with burnished scales
Keep ward and watch, and whether the sleets and hails
Of winter beat their caves, or in May magic the lawn.
Like a dull emerald smitten with the dawn,
Up brightens, guard and gleam; and still the Grail’s
Enchaliced splendors shake over those sweet dales,
Where, ‘neath a thick-leaved canopy unwithdrawn
Since the old days of Vivien’s sorcery,
Sleeps Merlin in a nest of nightingales–
Thus one clear moment–then the vision fails,
As his, who lone on a wreak-littered lea
Has mocking glimpse of star-mist on the sails,
Of some great ship that lies out to sea.

‘Avalon’, by Robert Elliot Gonzales.

Torture, illegal wars, a blind eye turned to atrocities, support for some of the most brutal regimes on Earth, the ever-increasing power of the Deep State…

This is what we’ve become. It is up to the few of us who can really see what’s going on to fight back.

Hope is not lost yet…

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