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Hometown: Connecticut
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Member since: Thu May 15, 2008, 04:37 PM
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Journal Archives

The Kerry Initiative: The Next Round

Norman Finkelstein

snip* You predicted that the negotiations process led by Secretary of State Kerry would culminate in an agreement ending the conflict. In fact, talks have broken down. What happened?

The Kerry initiative was launched out of the blue in July 2013, and in retrospect made perfect sense. Previous rounds of negotiations had come to naught largely because the Palestinians had refused to sign on to an agreement granting Israel’s bottom line demands: the annexation of its major settlement blocs on some 10 percent of the West Bank and the nullification of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return. But Kerry and President Barack Obama spied an opportunity. The Palestinian leadership was now completely in thrall to the U.S. and lacked even the residue of nationalist principle that had been possessed by Yasser Arafat, while for various reasons the Palestinians were politically the weakest they’d ever been since the occupation began in 1967. The Kerry initiative was an attempt by Kerry and Obama to exploit Palestinians’ unprecedented weakness to foist on them Israel’s bottom line demands and in that way to end the conflict. I thought that Kerry is a shrewd political actor who has been in politics for a long time and who has some pretty good advisors, and so the prospects were, I estimated, better than 50-50 that he would succeed.

But I entered in a qualification that is worth remembering, not just to protect myself but also in order to anticipate where things are heading. I did think it was going to take time for international pressures to knock Israel into the realisation that it has to resolve the conflict. Even when compelling motives for a settlement exist, agreements do not necessarily ensue. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin drove the U.S. delegation to distraction during negotiations leading to the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, while Arafat did the same during the various stages of the Oslo negotiations. The treaties look inevitable only in hindsight; politics is a delicate business, and in any such complex undertaking, with so many moving parts, negotiations can easily fly apart. I said that one of the smart things Kerry did was to begin early, giving himself two full years to line up all the ducks. In the event Kerry apparently thought he could pull it off much more quickly than I had thought possible.

My error was this: I thought that if Kerry presented Israel with an agreement that incorporated Israel’s own bottom line demands, then Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not put up quite as much resistance as he did. I figured he would kick and scream—the usual Israeli theatrics—but that he would come around fairly quickly. As it happened, Netanyahu simply felt no sense of urgency. Israel reached an accord with Egypt because it had suffered a major military setback in the 1973 war, and feared the outcome of a second round. It signed on to the Oslo accord with Palestinians because it had suffered a major public relations debacle during the first intifada, and worried about the army’s fighting ability if it got bogged down in policing the occupied territories. No comparable motive for ending the conflict existed this time around. Netanyahu, it’s clear, reached the conclusion that since the status quo is so comfortable, why sign an agreement? What’s the rush? Netanyahu is constitutionally a centre-right to far-right type of politician. That's his natural milieu. And so while he theoretically could have formed a centre-left government to push through a settlement, he wasn’t prepared to risk his preferred and existing coalition for a battle that could easily be deferred to his successors. He figured, ‘we’ve got what we wanted. The U.S. has endorsed our bottom line demands, from which there is now no going back: Abbas has conceded them, the U.S. has them more or less in writing, and there’s no way the U.S. will accept anything less from the Palestinians going forward. So, now that we have that in our back pocket to pull out whenever we so desire, why not continue for now with the status quo? Why do I have to be the one to implement the withdrawal?’ Calculating that he had nothing to lose—Palestinian concessions could not be rescinded—and something to gain—preserving his coalition from extreme rightwing defections—Netanyahu refused to budge.

in full: http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/the_kerry_initiative_the_next_round

Unity, Strategy, and Nonviolent Power for an unstoppable movement ( Metta Center for Non-Violence )

ROADMAP is a way of making the movement of movements visual, and set of tools activists (and those who wish to get active) can use to:

Build Community
Train in Nonviolence Principles
Create and pursue strategic thinking toward the realization of campaign goals.

These tools include:

the Roadmap MANDALA (see below)

web-based ways to connect with one another and benefit from many resources, such as the COMPASS, and Study Guides, and finally ways to build a strategy for long-term change integrated into the model itself.

Roadmap mandala


Find yourself in the picture: what issue(s) are you working on, or would like to? (The 18 sub-wedges are just examples).

Ask yourself with whom you need to connect to make an impact with the issue you choose. Using Roadmap, identify: Whom have you tended to work with on this issue and whom might you add to make your strategy more robust?

Articulate the “new story” central to your issue. E.g. Mass incarceration: “we do not get security from locking people away; we become secure by helping others to be secure,” etc.

Build a strategic campaign to address your issue using the Mandala as a guide to full participation and big-picture thinking.

Participate in the creation of a long-term STRATEGY for a “movement of movements.”

Peace from within approach:

Integral to Roadmap is a “peace from within” empowerment model based on Gandhi’s famous concept of svadeshi, or ‘localism:’ we work on ourselves, work with colleagues, and then use that energy to work against oppressing systems (but not the persons operating them!). For some of us this will be more a set of priorities than steps in time.


The Criminology of the “Sure Thing” Portrayed as “Risk”

By William K. Black

John Coates, a former derivatives trader at Goldman Sachs is now a researcher. He wrote a column in the New York Times entitled “The Biology of Risk” that I hope will be widely read.

In this column I explain why his most important conclusions cannot follow logically from his own description of his research finding. While he relies on blood tests, his account of trading when it goes horribly wrong is curiously bloodless and disingenuous. As a Goldman and Deutsche Bank refugee he knows better, but he presents a sanitized version of the crisis portraying the controlling officers and traders at the largest banks as helpless victims of raging hormones rather than fraud perpetrators and facilitators.

Coates’ description of the crisis as triggered by a biologically-induced excessive risk-aversion on the part of traders rests on a failure to understand why varieties of financial risk are vastly different. More fundamentally, he fails to even consider the facts (and relevant literature) demonstrating that the key financial participants were engaged in a series of “sure things” accomplished through accounting control fraud and cartels.

“Risk,” particularly Coates’ false implicit assumption that “risk” is a single concept in the financial sphere, has almost nothing to do with the current crisis, any more than it had to do with the Enron-era crisis or the second (and vastly more destructive) phase of the savings and loan debacle. Further, but for the recognition of S&L regulators that we were dealing with an epidemic of accounting control fraud and the resultant “sure things” the S&L debacle would have grown to resemble closely our most recent crisis in terms of its magnitude and damage.

Coates work is not flattering to finance in the conventional form of flattery. He essentially says Michael Lewis’ description of the “culture” in Liar’s Poker is correct – traders are males who act crazy because they are selected by crazy male bosses. Coates reports that traders have raging hormones and that these hormones vary and tend to be convergent. It is a measure of finance’s desperate search for praise that Coates’ work is warmly received by big finance. The attraction is that it serves as an apologia for their culpability. We’re not crooks – we’re perpetually pubescent prisoners of our pituitaries. White-collar defense attorneys are already seeking to present behavioral finance and neuroscience defenses to prosecution.


Moyers and Co. Joseph E. Stiglitz Calls for Fair Taxes for All

BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Our democracy is now probably better described as one dollar, one vote than one person, one vote. We have a tax system that reflects not the interest of the middle. We have a tax system that reflects the interest of the one percent.

snip* A new report by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz for the Roosevelt Institute suggests that paying our fair share of taxes and cracking down on corporate tax dodgers could be a cure for inequality and a faltering economy.

Transcript and video at link: http://billmoyers.com/episode/joseph-e-stiglitz-let%E2%80%99s-stop-subsidizing-tax-dodgers/

Sinking ties with US linked to Netanyahu's political fortunes

Never before has the status of the relations between Israel and the United States been the way it is now — not even during President Gerald Ford’s “reassessment period” or President George H. Bush’s failure to approve the international loan guarantees. It is the style that I am referring to particularly. Relations between the United States and its small ally in the Middle East have had their share of ups and downs. Despite knowing even lower points than the current one, never before did the situation turn into such a foul quarrel. Respectful of each other, the parties always made sure not to air their dirty linen in public, dissembling control on the outside. Well, no more.

The relationships between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama can be divided into a few chapters. Initially, there was mutual suspicion and repressed resentment, which was followed by a long period of status quo. In its wake and after the construction moratorium in the territories, the relationships relatively thrived. Their current term started out like a honeymoon when the negotiations (with the Palestinians) resumed and following the optimism that Secretary of State John Kerry imbued with everyone — even though it had no basis on the ground. With the breakdown of the negotiations came the breakdown in the relationships and trust, having reached its all-time low. An open struggle began, including statements from both sides as well as vitriolic leaks by associates.

Now we have entered the last and worst stage — that of the dirty war, the little tricks and attempts to stick it to each other. Rolling up their sleeves, both sides have spiraled out of control, their present goal being to hurt the other side as much as possible. No holds barred, it’s a free-for-all: open season. If we were to liken these relationships to a married couple, the next stage would see the man — or the woman — leaving the house while their lawyers dash to get their hands on the bank accounts and put a lien on them. Never before has such a state of affairs been recorded in US-Israel relations.

On June 2, Netanyahu addressed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for a periodic briefing. He was asked by Knesset member Zehava Gal-On, chairman of the Meretz Party, what would happen when the Palestinians introduced their reconciliation government. What could be inferred from Netanyahu’s reply was that he had been talking with the Americans (Kerry) who promised to look into it and weigh the matter before taking any action. Convinced that the United States would not be in a hurry to recognize the Palestinian government, Netanyahu turned a blind eye to intelligence reports, the signs on the ground and the various warnings. Instead, he relied on what Kerry ostensibly promised him. Even here at al-Monitor it was estimated that the Americans would be the first to recognize the Palestinian reconciliation government. But Bibi (Netanyahu) stuck to his guns.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/06/netanyahu-elections-jerusalem-washington-war-liberman.html#ixzz343bt8JBe

Egyptians for Democracy - UK slams EU stance on Egypt's presidential elections

June 7, 2014

Egyptians for Democracy - UK has described the EU's stance on Egypt's presidential elections as particularly objectionable given that Field Marshall Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi has committed what Human Rights Watch described as the 'worst human rights atrocity in modern Egyptian history'. The group deplored the EU's decision to congratulate Al-Sisi one year after his regime carried out the massacre of peaceful protestors in Cairo.

The statement added that Egyptians for Democracy-UK were extremely disappointed that the EU had not vetted the veracity of the government's claim of a 46% turnout.

Dr Maha Azzam, chair of Egyptians for Democracy-UK and a founding member of the Brussels Initiative said "It is particularly disappointing that the EU is endorsing a political leader who came to power on the back of a mass night rally, negating the democratic process by offering the prospect of a 'strong leader', murdering thousands of peaceful protestors and imprisoning tens of thousands of political dissidents."

"I would like to point out to the EU that it is poignant that their statement of support for this xenophobic military regime came out one day before we commemorated the 70th anniversary of D Day. I would have hoped that the lessons of history were not so quickly forgotten by Europe's democracies", she added.


In the war on terrorism, only al-Qa'ida thrives

World View: Exhaustion could end Syria's bloody civil conflict, so long as foreign backers really want it

June 8, 2014

It has been a good week for those who like their hypocrisy neat and straight from the bottle. There was US Secretary of State John Kerry condemning the Syrian presidential election in which Bashar al-Assad was re-elected for a third time against nominal opposition as "a great big zero". But at the same time, the US and Britain said they were officially looking forward to working with president-elect Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt who is turning out to be a somewhat comical figure who cannot even fix an election properly. Despite an official holiday, free transport, massive media support, religious encouragement and the threat of $70 fines for non-voters, polling booths remained stubbornly empty or underused.

Of course, the hypocrisy does not end there. For all his triumphalism over the turnout in Syria, Assad's way of dealing with parts of Syria not under his control is to shell them and drop barrel bombs on them. Nor is the opposition much better when it comes to targeting civilians, except that its means of destruction are much less than that of the state. In Aleppo, the government pounds rebel-held districts in the east of the city, with a population of 300,000, with barrel bombs dropped from helicopters. These attacks have become even more lethal since the helicopters started operating at night when civilians cannot see them in time to take cover.

A reporter in Aleppo, who writes under the name of Edward Dark for the online magazine al-Monitor, mentions a case that "clearly illustrates the ludicrous nature of this inhumane conflict that happened to the Sheikh Maksud neighbourhood in Aleppo". He relates how, when this district was held by Assad's forces, it was regularly shelled by the rebels who said it was full of pro-government militiamen. When the rebels stormed and captured Sheikh Maksud in March 2013, it was the Syrian army that blazed away indiscriminately into the civilian houses that were still standing.

Almost any development in Syria these days should be regarded with some cynicism. For instance, when a ceasefire is declared in a suburb of Damascus and the rebel fighters switch sides, it is often with the assurance that in future they will be allowed to man checkpoints in their districts and have 50 per cent of the takings extorted from passing vehicles. I was in Nabq on the Damascus-Homs main road earlier this year, where government forces had arranged a public celebration of their success in driving out the rebels. Local people angrily pointed out that all that had happened was that rebel fighters, having previously sworn to fight to the last bullet against Assad, had simply joined the pro-government National Defence Force militia and were happily taking part in celebrations of their own defeat and expulsion from Nabq.


Senate Debates Constitutional Amendment to Rein In Outside Cash

Though Democrats and Republicans are split down party lines on whether to add a constitutional amendment to limit campaign spending, both parties ignore 50 percent of Americans in favor of public financing

June 6, 14

Transcript: JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: The Senate Judiciary Committee met Tuesday to discuss a proposed constitutional amendment which would grant Congress the authority to regulate the campaign financing system.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid said the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, which ruled that corporate campaign contributions are a form of free speech, opened up the floodgates for unlimited and untraceable campaign cash.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): The decisions of the Supreme Court have the American people with a status quo in which one side's billionaires are pitted against the other side's billionaires. So we sit here today with a simple choice. We can keep the status quo and argue all day and all night, weekends, forever, about whose billionaires are right and whose billionaires are wrong. Or we can work together to change the system to get this shady money out of our democracy and restore the basic principles of one American, one vote.

DESVARIEUX: In April, the Supreme Court loosened campaign finance regulations even further in its ruling on the FEC v. McCutcheon case. It did away with aggregate limits on contributions to candidates, political parties, and political action committees. The previous limit was $123,000 during a two-year period. As with the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court ruled that campaign contributions are a form of free speech. Republican senator from iowa Chuck Grassley agrees.


Thousands of Area C Residents Face Expulsion ( B'Tselem )

Civil Administration demolishes nearly half the homes in community of Id’eis, the Jordan Valley

On 21 May 2014, Civil Administration and army forces demolished approximately half of the homes and livestock pens in the community of Id’eis in the Jordan Valley, leaving 53 persons homeless. This joins other extensive efforts by Israeli authorities to expel thousands of Palestinians from their homes throughout Area C, despite the prohibition on forced transfer in international law. B’Tselem calls on authorities to allow the Id’eis community continue its agricultural lifestyle undisturbed, as it has done for the last thirty years.

Ne’meh Id’eis, 56, a resident of the community and mother of four, described the demolition in her testimony to B’Tselem field researcher ‘Atef Abu a-Rub:

Many soldiers, big tractors, police and cars blocked off the lands around us. They ordered us to get our belongings out of our homes, and in less than half an hour they demolished everything. They left nothing. The little children and the lambs stood in the sun or under trees. All our personal belongings were outside, and the tractors scraped through and destroyed all our structures. They left no stone unturned. They left us no roof to shelter under. We were left outside with nothing. They even destroyed the stone oven I use to bake bread for the children. I asked them to leave it for us so we could eat, but it was like talking to a wall.

In just a few hours, the place was in ruins, I swear, like a war zone. The army and tractors left, and then the journalists came and everyone wanted to get pictures of the place.


WSJ Suggests Hollande May Redefine Chutzpah by Complaining to Obama about BNP Paribas on 70th D Day

Posted on June 1, 2014

By William K. Black

I am not a French hater – and there is no “but” to that clause. The Wall Street Journal, however, frequently engages in French bashing. The WSJ has also, unintentionally and unknowingly, suggested that the French may act in a manner that would provide a new humorous answer to the old joke that begins: “What is chutzpah?” The context is that the U.S. and New York state authorities are negotiating with BNP Paribas (a very large French bank) to settle a series of felonies involving primarily sanction-busting – and covering up those crimes.

A political movement has arisen in France opposing any U.S. criminal actions against Paribas. Americans will have no difficulty understanding this political dynamic, particularly because our Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to give a total pass to the U.S. officers who led the accounting control frauds that drove the crisis and prosecutes only foreign financial operations. What is remarkable is the WSJ’s suggestion of how the French Prime Minister Hollande might bring French objections personally to the attention of President Obama.

“ny hefty penalty imposed on BNP Paribas could revive trans-Atlantic tensions….”

“Mr. Hollande will meet with President Barack Obama next week during ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day….”

So, let me see whether I have this right. The French goal is to avoid “reviv trans-Atlantic tensions” and the means of doing so would be for Hollande to complain to Obama about Paribas – on “the 70th anniversary of D-Day.” I’m a strong critic of Hollande, but I don’t think he would display the chutzpah of using the anniversary of the death and grievous wounding of thousands of Americans who stormed the beaches of France to liberate that Nation from Nazi occupation as the time to complain about holding Paribas (mildly) accountable for the crimes of its officers.

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