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The most hated man in Israel

That would be writer Gideon Levy:

“My biggest struggle,” he says, “is to rehumanize the Palestinians. There’s a whole machinery of brainwashing in Israel which really accompanies each of us from early childhood, and I’m a product of this machinery as much as anyone else. [We are taught] a few narratives that it’s very hard to break. That we Israelis are the ultimate and only victims. That the Palestinians are born to kill, and their hatred is irrational. That the Palestinians are not human beings like us… So you get a society without any moral doubts, without any questions marks, with hardly public debate. To raise your voice against all this is very hard.”

So he describes the lives of ordinary Palestinians like Najawa and her pupils in the pages of Ha’aretz, Israel’s establishment newspaper. The tales read like Chekovian short stories of trapped people, in which nothing happens, and everything happens, and the only escape is death. One article was entitled “The last meal of the Wahbas family.” He wrote: “They’d all sat down to have lunch at home: the mother Fatma, three months pregnant; her daughter Farah, two; her son Khaled, one; Fatma’s brother, Dr Zakariya Ahmed; his daughter in law Shayma, nine months pregnant; and the seventy-eight year old grandmother. A Wahba family gathering in Khan Yunis in honour of Dr Ahmed, who’d arrived home six days earlier from Saudi Arabia. A big boom is heard outside. Fatma hurriedly scoops up the littlest one and tries to escape to an inner room, but another boom follows immediately. This time is a direct hit.”

In small biographical details, he recovers their humanity from the blankness of an ever-growing death toll. The Wahbas had tried for years to have a child before she finally became pregnant at the age of 36. The grandmother tried to lift little Khaled off the floor: that’s when she realised her son and daughter were dead.

Levy uses a simple technique. He asks his fellow Israelis: how would we feel, if this was done to us by a vastly superior military power? Once, in Jenin, his car was stuck behind an ambulance at a checkpoint for an hour. He saw there was a sick woman in the back and asked the driver what was going on, and he was told the ambulances were always made to wait this long. Furious, he asked the Israeli soldiers how they would feel if it was their mother in the ambulance – and they looked bemused at first, then angry, pointing their guns at him and telling him to shut up.

“I am amazed again and again at how little Israelis know of what’s going on fifteen minutes away from their homes,” he says. “The brainwashing machinery is so efficient that trying [to undo it is] almost like trying to turn an omelette back to an egg. It makes people so full of ignorance and cruelty.” He gives an example. During Operation Cast Lead, the Israel bombing of blockaded Gaza in 2008-9, “a dog – an Israeli dog – was killed by a Qassam rocket and it on the front page of the most popular newspaper in Israel. On the very same day, there were tens of Palestinians killed, they were on page 16, in two lines.”

At times, the occupation seems to him less tragic than absurd. In 2009, Spain’s most famous clown, Ivan Prado, agreed to attend a clowning festival on Ramallah in the West Bank. He was detained at the airport in Israel, and then deported “for security reasons.” Levy leans forward and asks: “Was the clown considering transferring Spain’s vast stockpiles of laughter to hostile elements? Joke bombs to the jihadists? A devastating punch line to Hamas?”

Yet the absurdity nearly killed him. In the summer of 2003, he was travelling in a clearly marked Israeli taxi on the West Bank. He explains: “At a certain stage the army stopped us and asked what we were doing there. We showed them our papers, which were all in order. They sent us up a road – and when we went onto this road, they shot us. They directed their fire to the centre of the front window. Straight at the head. No shooting in the air, no megaphone calling to stop, no shooting at the wheels. Shoot to kill immediately. If it hadn’t been bullet-proof, I wouldn’t be here now. I don’t think they knew who we were. They shot us like they would shoot anyone else. They were trigger-happy, as they always are. It was like having a cigarette. They didn’t shoot just one bullet. The whole car was full of bullets. Do they know who they are going to kill? No. They don’t know and don’t care.”

He shakes his head with a hardened bewilderment. “They shoot at the Palestinians like this on a daily basis. You have only heard about this because, for once, they shot at an Israeli.”

It’s very long, but you should read all of it.

Love has no pride

Linda Ronstadt:

Love needs a heart

Valerie Carter with Jackson Browne:

If he’s ever near

Karla Bonoff:

Anybody but Hillary

Max Sawicky is back, with some interesting thoughts on how (and why) to break open the Democratic primary:

The sort of campaign that can have some constructive effect is one that imposes costs on the front-runner and by extension, the party’s national elite/big donor/consultant machine. One cost is to compete with Clinton in such a way that she is obliged to do things she wouldn’t otherwise do, spend money and political capital she would prefer to deploy elsewhere. A critique of her centrism that effectively alienates potential liberal supporters is the obvious approach. But this would have to be quite a critique, to discourage support to the extent of depressing turn-out in a general election with very high stakes. To be clear, the ideal outcome is not to sabotage her campaign, it is to force her to commit to positions that are hard to reverse later.

Of course candidates’ primary campaign promises are never worth very much. I have a different, principal objective in mind. The Democratic Party needs to reconsider its purpose, since (like the Republicans) it is presently committed to policies that harm the nation and threaten the very survival of humanity. It needs to abandon the religion of deficit reduction. It needs to get serious about public investment, not content itself with a sprinkling of additional money (on top of a reduced baseline). It needs to reject its love for the corporatization of public K-12 education. It needs to reverse so-called welfare reform. It needs to be serious about climate change, rather than embracing the bogus theme of energy independence. And it needs to get out of the Empire business, not the least of which should include refusing to indulge every new barbarity committed by its Israeli allies.

Go read the rest!

Is the leftist Tea Party finally here?

Zephyr Teachout Hi-Five

We can only hope. Go read:

Teachout and Wu are trying to place the citizen at the center of policy. They do that through their proposals for public financing, for antitrust, for social insurance, infrastructure and labor. It’s a callback, not just to 20th century Democratic presidents like Franklin Roosevelt, but to the politics of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other 19th Century anti-monopoly Democrats. Cuomo and de Blasio, though they disagree on how much the middle class should have, place the CEO and the Wall Street banker at the center of policy. For them, it is apparently just fine for Citigroup — rather than the public — to make all key decisions on how to allocate credit in society.

This is not the last election in which populists, with a fully fleshed-out program, begin to take on the people who have dominated Democratic politics for decades. Many people, including the institutional progressive establishment, wish Teachout and Wu would just go away. But elections like this can create power and influence even if the underdog loses, just by creating credible rhetoric and showing there is a hunger for a different kind of policy framework. And if, by some remarkable turn of events, Teachout and Wu manage to come close or even win, that would send shockwaves throughout the entire political establishment. The races and voter pool are obviously quite different, but Eric Cantor, the House Republican leader who lost to populist insurgent Dave Brat despite an apparent 35 point lead in the polls just weeks before the election, showed just how vulnerable an incumbent in this environment can actually be.

That said, the entire establishment is against Teachout and Wu. Though these two are credible figures, they have virtually no institutional support. Liberal figures within the Democratic Party have been getting crushed in primary elections for the last six years. Despite ample reasons for unions, activist groups and liberals to come out for liberalism, it has been the Andrew Cuomos of the world that have been getting liberal votes. Cuomo is even maneuvering to crush the Working Families Party itself, by putting forward a similar party that will draw liberal votes from the WFP and put them under the 50,000 vote threshold required for a New York political party to stay in existence. Cuomo is attempting to ignore Teachout and Wu into submission, and teach liberals to not even think of challenging him again. The odds are he’ll succeed, as Democratic leaders have been succeeding in suppressing liberals for decades. If he does so, the prospects of a Democratic party revolt will remain slim.

Still, populism is always a powerful force, even if it is latent and suppressed by fear. It is why a group of dedicated, principled activists can threaten entrenched interests. Arguments about antitrust, corporate power, unions, infrastructure, democracy and immigrant-run small business are in the DNA of the Democratic Party, even if they have been suppressed for more than two decades. And for that reason, this race is very much worth watching, and could be one of the most important elections of the decade. A Democratic Tea Party may be on our doorstep.

Panhandle Slim… Art for Folk…

Tom Petty

Panhandle Slim…

Jon Stewart and the war on Gaza


This still cracks me up. The Russian Police Choir covers Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”:

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