Category: Foreign Policy

One more time

 

A concise defense of Palestinians

 

Dear editor,

Cherry-picking Torah is a [favorite] hobby of fundamentalist Christians, but Israel is not America’s [magical] lucky charm. Rather, Israel is a festering injustice that only incubates fanaticism and terrorism [around the world]. On the [assumption biblical presumption] that truth will set you free, consider this alternative to the voodoo exegesis that excuses seven decades of brutal colonial occupation in Palestine.

What scant archaeological evidence exists suggests ancient Israelites were just one of many tribes in Canaan. Their particular regional deity was Yahweh.

And they were hardly monotheistic – fertility goddesses were routinely incorporated into their idols and religious practices.

It must have worked. Stories of bloody smiting and conquest are a lot sexier, but Israelites eventually emerged as the dominant tribe through plain old fertility – assimilation and population growth.

Of course, [chest-thumping] dominance only lasted as long as they were [ignored flying under the radar]. Whenever regional superpowers showed up, Jewish kingdoms quickly collapsed. Aristocrats were killed or taken away as hostages. When these exiles returned, they discovered left-behind peasants had “moved on up” – and that’s when Torah’s creation myths were discovered in the nick of time to reassert the old pecking order. The aristocracy and hereditary priesthood were back in town, large and in charge. Uppity peasants were shuffled back to their fields of labor.

Funny thing about creation myths. Like [Cecil B. DeMille’s and] Charlton Heston’s exodus from Egypt.  There’s absolutely no archaeological evidence to back any of it up. It could have just as easily happened along the western coasts of Yemen and Arabia.

By the time an itinerant rabbi from Nazareth wandered onto the scene, more Jews were living outside of Palestine than in it. In other words, the infamous Diaspora had already happened. The “Holy” land, and especially Jerusalem, had already faded in importance. Only a few nationalistic zealots [clung to the fantasy of fantasized about] an independent [Jerusalem kingdom].

Apocalyptic preachery [popularized popularizes] the notion that the Roman Empire completely emptied Palestine in 70 AD, leaving it desolate for the next thousand years. Modern historians revisiting logistical requirements for wholesale ethnic cleansing have concluded that theory is ludicrous. Major cities like Jerusalem were indeed devastated, but rural villages and farmlands were not.

Which means that today’s Palestinians are direct descendants of those same Jews and pagans and pilgrims and assorted mystics who lived in Palestine while Jesus was among them. A few[, now known as the Mizrahim,] clung to their Judaism, but most became Christians and, later, Muslims.

Early Zionist thinkers were well aware of this. Yitzhak Ben Zvi, who became president of Israel, and David Ben Gurion, its first prime minister, both stated (long before 1948) that the peasants of Palestine were descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea.

So maybe Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are right after all. And maybe Jeanine Pirro really is a dangerous idiot. Read Gary Burge’s book, “Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to ‘Holy Land’ Theology.” But consider yourselves warned – the bedrock of your fundamentalism is a[n slippery] illusion. It [can will] turn to quicksand when exposed to truth.

Jacques d’Nalgar
Hot Springs, Arkansas

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/04/08/one-more-time/

Items of interest

 

Morgan to address Republicans

 

Jan Morgan, commentator and local Hot Springs businesswoman, will be the featured speaker at the next monthly meeting of the Republican Party of Garland County on Thursday.

The RPGC meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Family Center of First Church of the Nazarene, 3804 Central Ave. Morgan will speak after the monthly business meeting. The public is welcome to attend. Admission is free.

“Morgan is an award-winning television journalist and during the past 27 years has been a contributor to numerous national publications, and television and internet news networks. She has appeared as a political analyst on Fox News, CNN, One America News, NRA-TV and ‘Gun Owners of America.’ Morgan has more than 1.5 million social media followers,” RPGC said in a news release.

Morgan is a certified firearms instructor and owns and operates The Gun Cave, which is located in Garland County.

Morgan is a member of the Republican Party of Arkansas TUSK Club, the RPGC, the 4th District Republican Committee and Garland County Republican Women. She is the National Chair of 2A Women and National Spokesperson of Citizens for Trump.

 

Photograph and hyper-inflated biography provided by (who else?) Jan Morgan.

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/03/30/items-of-interest/

Sick of patriotism

America Is Exceptional—in All the Wrong Ways

By Major Danny Sjursen, March 21, 2019

 

I was born and raised in an America far more Orwellian than many now remember. Matters have gone so far off the rails since 9/11 that few seem to recall the madness of the 1980s. The U.S. had a celebrity actor for president, who railed about America’s ostensibly existential adversary—the Soviet “evil empire.” Back then, Ronald Reagan nearly started a nuclear war during the all-too-real Able Archer war game. He also secretly sold missiles to Iran, and then laundered the windfall to the Contras’ Central American hit squads, resulting in some 100,000 dead.

Looking back from 2019, at least as the contemporary media tell it, those were the good old days. Heck, even Barack Obama—faux liberal that he was—proudly and publicly admired Reagan. Oh, and one of Reagan’s favorite campaign slogans: “Make America Great Again.”

Today, matters seem to be coming farcically full circle, what with Elliott Abrams—convicted in the aforementioned Iran-Contra scandal—being appointed special envoy to Venezuela, and Uncle Sam again bullying a Latin American country. Welcome to America’s own grisly ’80s foreign affairs theme party! Which all got me thinking, again, about the whole notion of American exceptionalism. Only a country that truly, deeply believes in its own special mission could repeat the hideous policies of the 1980s and hardly notice.

Perhaps one expects this absurd messianism from the likes of The Donald, but the real proof is that America’s supposed progressives—like Obama—also obediently pray at the temple of exceptionalism. “Orwellian” is the only word for a nation whose leaders and commentariat were absolutely aghast when candidate Obama was seen without (gasp!) an American flag pin on his lapel. Even more disturbing was how quickly he folded and dutifully adorned his mandatory flair. This sort of nonsense is dangerous, folks: It’s hypernationalism—the very philosophy that brought us World War I.

So it was this week, while sitting on a plane reading my oh-so-bourgeois Economist, and getting infuriated about seeing Elliott Abrams’ war-criminal face, that my thoughts again turned to good old American exceptionalism. My opinions on the topic have waxed and waned over the course of a career spent waging illegal war. First, as a young cadet at West Point, I bought it hook, line and sinker; then, as an Iraq War vet and dissenter, I rejected the entire notion. Only now, observing the world as it is, have I begun to think that America really is exceptional after all—only in all the wrong ways.

Humor me, please, while I run through a brief laundry list of the ways the US of A is wildly and disconcertingly different from all the other “big-boy countries” in the developed world. Let’s start with domestic policy:

    • The U.S. has been the site of exponentially more mass shootings than any other nation. And unlike in New Zealand—where officials took immediate steps to tighten gun control in the wake of its recent tragedy—American politicians won’t do a thing about it. We also own more guns per capita than any other country in the world. In second place is Yemen.
    • The U.S. is essentially alone in the Western world in not guaranteeing health care as a basic human right. It spends much more cash, yet achieves worse health outcomes than its near-peer countries.
    • America is home to some of the starkest income inequality on the globe—right up there with Turkey and South Africa.
    • The U.S. keeps migrant kids in cages at the border, or did until recently. Even more exceptional is that Washington is largely responsible for the very unrest in Central America that generates the refugees, all while American conservatives proudly wear their “Christianity” as badge of honor—but wasn’t Jesus a refugee child? Maybe I read the wrong Bible.
    • America is alone among 41 Western nations in not guaranteeing paid family leave. How’s that for “family values?”
    • As for representative democracy, only the U.S. has an Electoral College. This fun 18th-century gimmick ensures that here in America—in 40 percent of its elections since 2000—the presidential candidate with fewer votes actually won. Furthermore, our peculiar system ensures that a rural Wyoming resident has—proportionally—several times more representative power in Washington than someone who lives in California.
    • Similarly, America counts several non-state “territories”—think Guam, Samoa, Puerto Rico—that don’t even get to vote for the president that it can legally send to war. But hey, why should we grant them statehood? It’s not as though some of them have higher military enlistment rates than any U.S. state … oh, wait.
    • The U.S. is essentially solo in defining corporations as “people,” and thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, has lifted limits on money in politics. Buying elections is officially as American as apple pie.
    • The USA locks up its own people at the highest rate in the world and is nearly alone among developed nations in maintaining the death penalty. Last year, the U.S. was the only country in the Americas to conduct executions and the only Western democracy to do so. But our friends the Saudis still execute folks, so it’s got to be OK. Dostoyevsky famously claimed that “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” How are we doing there?

Then there’s the foreign policy of the great American empire:

    • The U.S. spends exponentially more on military defense than anyone else, and more than the next seven competitors (most of which are allies) combined.
    • America’s bloated military is all by itself in dotting the globe with hundreds of foreign military bases—by some estimates more than any country or empire in world history. As for our two biggest rivals, Russia has 21 (mostly close to home); China has maybe three.
    • Benevolent, peaceful, freedom-loving America is also the world’s top arms dealer—even selling death-dealing weapons to famous human rights abusers.
    • After Syria signed on, the U.S. became the last nation on earth not party to the Paris Climate Accord. Heck, the occupant of the Oval Office doesn’t even believe in man-made climate change.
    • Then there’s the discomfiting fact that the U.S.—along with Russia—won’t even make a “no-first-use” pledge regarding nuclear weapons. And that’s reality, not “Dr. Strangelove.”
    • The U.S. was first and, until recently, alone in flying its drone fleet through sovereign national airspace and executing “terrorists” from the sky at will. I wonder how Washington will respond when other countries cite that American precedent and do the same?
    • Only the U.S. Navy patrols all the world’s oceans in force and expects to maintain superiority everywhere. And only the U.S. boasts near total control of the goings-on in two whole continents—unflinchingly asserting that North and South America fall in its “sphere of influence.” Crimea abuts Russia and the people speak Russian—still, the U.S. denies Moscow any sphere of influence there or anywhere else. Ah, consistency.

Of course there is so, so much more, but let’s end our tour of American “exceptionalism” there in the interest of time.

What’s so staggeringly unique about the United States is ultimately this: It stands alone among historical hegemons in denying the very existence of its empire. This, truly, is something new. Kids in 19th-century Great Britain knew they had an empire—they even colored their colonies red on school maps. Not so here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. No, Washington seems to believe its own lie—and has its people convinced—that the U.S. is no empire at all, but rather a benevolent “democratic” gentle giant.

American colonies were founded from the outset as mini-empires wrested from the natives. Next, the nascent U.S. grew up enough to take what was left of the continent from the Mexicans. Since then, Washington has been trolling the world’s oceans and spreading the gospel of its own hyper-late-stage capitalism and bullying others in order to get its way. Sure, there are countries where worse human-rights abusers and worse authoritarian regimes are in power. But do we really want to be competing for last place? Especially if we’re supposedly so exceptional and indispensable?

Me, I’m sick of patriotism, of exceptionalism, of nationalism. I’ve seen where all those ideologies inevitably lead: to aggressive war, military occupations and, ultimately, dead children. So count me as over hegemony—it’s so 20th-century, anyway—and bring on the inevitable decline of U.S. pretense and power. Britain had to give up most of an empire to gain a social safety net. That was the humane thing to do.

 

Major Danny Sjursen is a retired U.S. Army officer and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his podcast “Fortress on a Hill,” co-hosted with fellow vet Chris ‘Henri’ Henrikson.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

Copyright 2019 Danny Sjursen

 

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/america-is-exceptional-in-all-the-wrong-ways/

Photograph:  http://kbjake.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/america-worn-and-tattered/

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/03/23/sick-of-patriotism/

Full response

What Did Ilhan Omar Say? Here’s the Full Transcript of Her Response to a Question about Anti-Semitism

Institute for Policy Studies, March 6, 2019

 

This is the transcript of the Rep. Ilhan Omar’s full response to the question about anti-Semitism from the Busboys & Poets event. Her response begins around 1:00:00:

Andy Shallal: [ question about dealing with accusations of anti-Semitism]

Rashida Tlaib – […] this conversation is about human rights for everyone, this conversation around what this looks like is not centered around hate, it’s actually centered around love.

Ilhan Omar – I get emotional every time I hear Rashida, and I think I’m just gonna stop hanging out with her, she’s messing with my [style?].

I know that I have a huge Jewish constituency, and you know, every time I meet with them they share stories of [the] safety and sanctuary that they would love for the people of Israel, and most of the time when we’re having the conversation, there is no actual relative that they speak of, and there still is lots of emotion that comes through because it’s family, right? Like my children still speak of Somalia with passion and compassion even though they don’t have a family member there.

But we never really allow space for the stories of Palestinians seeking safety and sanctuary to be uplifted. And to me, it is the dehumanization and the silencing of a particular pain and suffering of people, should not be ok and normal. And you can’t be in the practice of humanizing and uplifting the suffering of one, if you’re not willing to do that for everyone. And so for me I know that when I hear my Jewish constituents or friends or colleagues speak about Palestinians who don’t want safety, or Palestinians who aren’t deserving I stay focused on the actual debate about what that process should look like. I never go to the dark place of saying “here’s a Jewish person, they’re talking about Palestinians, Palestinians are Muslim, maybe they’re Islamophobic.” I never allow myself to go there because I don’t have to.

And what I am fearful of is that because Rashida and I are Muslim, that a lot of Jewish colleagues, a lot of our Jewish constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel, to be anti-Semitic, because we are Muslim. And so to me, it is something that becomes designed to end the debate. Because you get in this space, of like, I know what intolerance looks like and I’m sensitive when someone says that the words you use Ilhan, are resemblance of intolerance. And I am cautious of that and I feel pained by that. But it’s almost as if every single time we say something, regardless of what it is we say, that it’s supposed to about foreign policy or engagement, that our advocacy about ending oppression, or the freeing of every human life and wanting dignity, we get to be labeled in something, and that’s the end of the discussion, because we end up defending that, and nobody gets to have the broader debate of “what is happening with Palestine?” [applause]

So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is ok for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. And I want to ask, why is it ok for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby that is influencing policy? [applause] And I want to ask the question, why is it ok for you to push, for you to be… there are so many people… I mean most of us are new, but many members of Congress have been there forever. Some of them have been there before we were born. So I know many of them were fighting for people to be free, for people to live in dignity in South Africa. I know many of them fight for people around the world to have dignity to have self-determination. So I know, I know that they care about these things.

But now that you have two Muslims that are saying “here is a group of people that we want to make sure that they have the dignity that you want everyone else to have!” …we get to be called names, we get to be labeled as hateful. No, we know what hate looks like. We experience it every single day. [applause] We have to deal with death threats. I have colleagues who talk about death threats. And sometimes… there are cities in my state where the gas stations have written on their bathrooms “assassinate Ilhan Omar”. I have people driving around my district looking for my home, for my office, causing me harm. I have people every single day on Fox News and everywhere, posting that I am a threat to this country. So I know what fear looks like. The masjid I pray in in Minnesota got bombed by two domestic white terrorists. So I know what it feels to be someone who is of a faith that is vilified. I know what it means to be someone whose ethnicity that is vilified. I know what it feels to be of a race that is, like I am an immigrant, so I don’t have some of the historical drama of some of my sisters and brothers have in this country, but I know what it means for people to just see me as a black person, and to treat me as less than a human.

And so, when people say “you are bringing hate,” I know what their intention is. Their intention is to make sure that our lights are dimmed. That we walk around with our heads bowed. That we lower our face and our voice. But we have news for people. You can call us any kind of name. You can threaten us any kind of way. Rashida and I are not ourselves. Every single day we walk in the halls of Congress and we have people who have never had the opportunity to walk there walking with us. So we’re here, we’re here to stay and represent all the people who have been silenced for many decades and many generations. And we’re here to fight for the people of our district who want to make sure that there is actual prosperity, actual prosperity, being guaranteed. Because there is a direct correlation between not having clean water, and starting endless wars. It’s all about the profit and who gets benefit. There’s a direct correlation between corporations that are getting rich, and the fact that we have students who are shackled with debt. There is a direct correlation between the White House and the people who are benefiting from detention beds that are profitized. So, what people are afraid of is not that there are two Muslims in Congress. What people are afraid of is that there are two Muslims in Congress that have their eyes wide open, that have their feet to the ground, that know what they’re talking about, that are fearless, and that understand that they have the same election certificate that everyone in Congress does. [applause]

 

https://ips-dc.org/what-did-ilhan-omar-say-heres-the-full-transcript-of-her-response-to-a-question-about-anti-semitism/

Photo of Rep. Ilhan Omar by Tom Williams (CQ Roll Call via Getty Images). https://www.dailywire.com/news/44155/top-democrat-foreign-affairs-committee-condemns-ashe-schow

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/03/12/full-response/

Titans of journalism

Trump is trying to pay his way to an annihilation of Palestinian statehood, and an erasure of Israel’s crimes

By Robert Fisk, March 7 2019 CE

 

Palestine” has been compared to many things. The world’s longest colonial war, a “hell-disaster” – Churchill’s memorable epithet – and the site of Israel’s “war on terror”, a conflict in which we are supposed to believe that the Palestinians are playing the role of al-Qaeda or Isis or any other outfit which the west and its allies have helped into existence, and which Israel is going to fight on our behalf.

But there are times when Palestine turns out to have been located in the Bermuda Triangle. The Palestinians disappear. They cease to exist. They are forgotten, irrelevant, outside the landscape of fear, pain, injustice and occupation that we once heard about so often. No one can imagine what has happened to these Palestinians. Like the aircraft and boats which strayed into the mythical triangle, they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Sad to see them go. But it’s a mystery.

The last two weeks have been a case in point. Trump’s fey and vain son-in-law Jared Kushner, a supporter of Israel’s colonial expansion on Arab land, set off with Trump’s “special representative to the peace process” Jason Greenblatt (the man who says that “West Bank settlements are not an obstacle to peace”) to work out the economic underpinning of Trump’s “deal of the century” to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Middle East leaders may be murderers with lots of torturers to help them stay in power, but they are not entirely stupid. It’s clear that Kushner and Greenblatt need lots and lots of cash to prop up their plans for the final destruction of Palestinian statehood – we are talking in billions – and the Arab leaders they met did not hear anything about the political “dimension” of Trump’s “deal”. Because presumably there isn’t one. After all, Trump thinks that by moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and declaring it the capital of Israel, he has taken that most holy of cities “off the table”.

Our titans of journalism were silent – maybe they, too, fell into the Bermuda Triangle – and had absolutely nothing to say, absolutely zilch, about Kushner’s march of folly around the Middle East. They called it, inevitably, a “whirlwind tour” in which this foolish young man would – readers will recognise CNN’s equally inevitable clichés – “prep allies for a spring rollout” of the “plan”.

This very vagueness is amazing, because the Kushner-Greenblatt fandango was in fact a very historic event. It was unprecedented as well as bizarre, unequalled in recent Arab history for its temerity as well as its outrageous assumption.

For this was the first time in modern Arab history – indeed modern Muslim history – that America has constructed and prepared a bribe BEFORE the acquiescence of those who are supposed to take the money; before actually telling the Palestinians and other Arabs what they are supposed to do in order to get their hands on the loot.

Usually, the Americans or the EU come up with highfalutin “peace” proposals – two states, security for Israel, viability for Palestinians, talks about a joint capital, an end to Jewish colonies on occupied Arab land, mutual trust-building, refugees, the usual paint-pots – and then gently suggest that it might be financially worthwhile for everyone to start talking.

But now the bank account is being set up before the customers’ agreement. The banks themselves – we have to include Saudi Arabia, do we not? – have not even been told what investments their funds are meant to support. How many times can you fit a South Sea Bubble into a Bermuda Triangle?

It’s not a blank cheque the Americans want from the Arabs. It’s going to be a very big cheque with specific amounts, to be given to a people who have never – as an occupied, repressed, abandoned community – ever demanded cash from anyone. Sure – and this has been a Kushner theme – Palestinians would be happier if they were better off.

But who has ever seen, in all the bloody Palestinians protests, demonstrations and cries of despair and massacres, a single poster – just one demand – for prime business opportunities, new motorways, five-star hotels, hospitals or pre-natal clinics?

Palestinian demands have been uniformly identical: justice, dignity, freedom and – yes – the return of lost lands, if only of those properties thieved from them by Israel in the West Bank. Of the thousands of unarmed innocents eviscerated in the great Gaza wars, which of their families is now going to settle for an American cheque in return for the end of all their ideals, dreams and political demands? But then again, what do we care for any of those families?

For the Bermuda Triangle sucked into its vortex these past few days yet another Palestinian victim: the UN’s preliminary report on the mass killings by Israeli troops and snipers of unarmed Palestinians in Gaza demonstrating since 30 March last year – against their imprisonment in the enclave and their right, under UN General Assembly Resolution 194, to return to their families’ original homes or receive compensation for them.

More than 200 Palestinians have been killed and around 18,000 wounded. The UN investigated 189 fatalities. Its researchers thought that perhaps on two occasions, armed Palestinian men may have infiltrated the crowds to shoot at the Israeli army, but even the briefest reading of the UN report’s 22 pages makes it perfectly clear that the dead were largely the victims of deliberate and aimed shots. They included journalists, health workers, children. Israel may have committed war crimes, the UN report concluded.

But each new war, each new set of casualties, each new UN report has become normal. Or perhaps the word is “normalised”. None more so than the 25 February UN document. The demonstrators belonged to the “terrorist” Hamas, according to Israel. The investigation was a “theatre of the absurd”, announced Israel’s spokesman, “a report that is hostile, mendacious and biased against Israel”.

But what did we expect? Ever since Israel trashed and demeaned and politically destroyed that great Jewish jurist Richard Goldstone after his devastating critique of the 2008-2009 Israeli bombardment of Gaza – the accusations by Israel and Jewish Americans of his antisemitism and his innate “evil” (the latter from Alan Dershowitz, of course) make even US Democrat Ilhan Omar’s sins look childlike – UN reports have been little more than wallpaper. Yet none of this matters.

The Palestinians are even supposed to be duped by the closure of the US consulate in Jerusalem and its merger with Washington’s embassy in Israel to enhance “the efficiency and effectiveness of [America’s] diplomatic engagements”, according to the ambassador David Friedman, who also, by extraordinary chance, supports Israel’s land expropriations in the West Bank but claims he wants a “two-state solution”.

Hanan Ashrawi simply and eloquently explained that the merging of the consulate with the embassy “is not an administrative decision. It is an act of political assault on Palestinian rights and identity, and a negation of the consulate’s historic status and function, dating back nearly 200 years.” She was quite right. And no one paid the slightest attention. The US consulate simply got swallowed up by the Bermuda Triangle.

Is all this because Trump has now steamrolled morality and so indelibly soiled the American flag that we have all, somehow, closed down in the Middle East on ideas like principles, promises and humanity, and accepted everlasting night – even if the latter is referred to as the deal of the century? Is that what happens when you fall into the Bermuda Triangle? Goodbye to the Palestinians. Didn’t they know this was dangerous territory? Hadn’t they heard the stories? It’s all a mystery if you ask me.

 

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/israel-palestine-donald-trump-jared-kushner-saudi-arabia-bribe-a8811546.html

Photograph of Lebanese protesting against Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, in Aukar north of Beirut, Lebanon, on Sunday Jan. 18, 2009 (AP Photo/Hussein Malla).  http://www2.macleans.ca/?attachment_id=30255

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/03/07/titans-of-journalism/

AIPAC bares its arse

The Long Life of a Racist Smear

By Ashley Reese, March 5, 2019 CE

 

Cleanliness is next to godliness, and in the imaginations of racists, it is also next to whiteness—the next best thing or maybe even the same thing. In its absence, so the racist lie goes, you will find everyone else: black people, brown people, immigrants of all shades, groups of marginalized people. Dirty. Filthy.

There too, Trump campaign advisor Jeff Ballabon found Representative Ilhan Omar. On Monday, Ballabon called Omar “filthy” during a Fox Business interview while accusing the progressive congresswoman of being an anti-Semite due to her criticisms of Israel and its right-wing leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.

This is by now an old smear, told again and again about the Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, but the most recent iteration of the cycle started last week. The New York Times reports that during an event at a Washington, DC bookstore, Omar, responding to accusations of anti-Semitism, “questioned why it was acceptable for her to speak critically about the political influence of the National Rifle Association, fossil fuel industries, and ‘big pharma,’ but not the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.”

Soon after, Fox Business host Stuart Varney invited Ballabon to comment on the matter, asking if there was room for both Omar and Jewish voters in the Democratic Party. Ballabon said there isn’t. “The problem is that her beliefs are deeply rooted in hatred and anti-Semitism,” Ballabon said. “She is a hater. I’m going to say it, she is filth.”

Varney noted that “filth” was a very strong word to use.

“Yes,” Ballabon agreed. “She is a filthy, disgusting hater. So what if she’s in Congress? That’s the problem.”

Ballabon did not use such strong language when asked in 2017 about the neo-Nazis who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia in a fascist protest in 2017 that left one woman dead. Instead, he said they were simply “people who play dress up Nazi.” But of course, this isn’t really about anti-Semitism.

In the Fox Business segment, Varney gave Ballabon room to retract his statements given his position as a representative of the president, which is amusing considering his boss also employed the same racist tropes: Trump referred to African nations and Haiti as “shithole countries.” This kind of explicit racism is also baked into the vocabulary (and policy) of the administration as a whole: Trump’s former Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a speech on the U.S.-Mexico border in 2017 decrying undocumented immigrants, and at the last minute omitted a line in his prepared remarks that read: “It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth.” Invoking yet another racist trope about subhumans and invading hordes, the White House has referred to members of the MS-13 gang as “animals.” The same vocabulary is also familiar enough of Varney’s own network: In December, Tucker Carlson even wondered if immigration makes America dirtier.

Epithets of uncleanliness have long been used to dehumanize nonwhite peoples and groups perceived, at a time, to fall outside of whiteness: In 1911, lynch mob organizer and future governor of Louisiana John Parker said that Italian immigrants were, “just a little worse than the Negro, being if anything filthier in [their] habits, lawless, and treacherous.”

And as Carl A. Zimring, author of Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States, wrote for the Washington Post, these racist associations were injected into everything from soap advertisements at the turn of the 20th century to politics:

Racism conflating nonwhite immigrants with filth originated in that era — though then, unlike now, the population of immigrants considered “unclean” was more expansive, including Eastern and Southern Europeans, along with peoples originating from the Americas, Africa and Asia. Epithets like “greaser” and “sheenie” became common insults. These terms presupposed that Italians, Mexicans and Jews had greasier, oilier skin and hair, and that this condition was a biological fact and social problem.

It’s impossible to divorce Ballabon’s use of the term “filth” from Omar’s blackness or her identity as an immigrant. In Ballabon’s frame, and the history he invokes, nonwhite people are not just dirty, but less than human.

The smear has also traveled beyond the conservative circles where it first cropped up. This week, House Democrats plan to vote on a resolution in response to Omar’s comments on Israel, a move similar to a resolution taken up over comments made by Iowa’s Steve King, an actual white nationalist. An opinion piece in the Washington Post took the false equivalency a step further, calling Omar the “Steve King of the Left.”

These attacks serve two functions, both of which Omar has named clearly: They intend to shut down conversation about American foreign policy and the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians, and to strip her of her personhood and credibility as a lawmaker. Omar has rightly refused to accept these as the terms under which she must speak. Earlier this week, she tweeted: “We must be willing to combat hate of all kinds while also calling out oppression of all kinds. I will do my best to live up to that. I hope my colleagues will join me in doing the same.” Whether they will or not remains an open question.

 

https://theslot.jezebel.com/the-long-life-of-a-racist-smear-1833043318

Photograph of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, speaking during a press conference calling on Congress to cut funding for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and to defund border detention facilities, outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington Feb. 7 (AFP-JIJI).

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/03/06/aipac-bares-its-arse/

Recent observations

 

Our porous border

Dear editor:

How does anyone in the current political environment believe that our country will survive the partisan bickering and name calling to ensure the so-called “domestic tranquility?” I think these words were lost long ago when we decided to take care of everyone’s needs according to their abilities. We forgot to ask those who pay for perceived needs to forgo that for which they worked their entire lives. How is it that liberals can determine just what I am allowed to keep and exactly what I need to give? Why is it that those who pay for everything have no voice?

Recent observations disgust me:

The liberal idea is to not build the wall, but to add border security including up to 10,000 new border agents. Even as a liberal, maybe you can understand how a conservative thinks, based on the following example. I am going to make this really simple so you can understand. Let me use roofing to represent our border. Roofing is put on a home to prevent water leakage. This is usually done to keep moisture out and to eliminate rot later. You could wait, build the entire home, furnish it, paint it, move in and then add the roof, but the damage done will be impossible to repair without having to rebuild your dream. If I decide to put the roof on my home in the correct order, I eliminate hiring workers to fix damage. The conservative way is to save money, not pay for unnecessary overhead.

Our border, without a barrier, is porous. We can do it the liberal way and repair the damage later or we can fix it from the start, preventing our dream from being destroyed. We can hire thousands of people to watch our border and hope it does not “rain,” or we can install the “roofing” and stop the problem before it destroys our dream. I understand the conservative view. Unfortunately, I also know the liberal view. I am disgusted with those individuals that would throw away our heritage and make us adapt to another culture. We cannot sustain the influx of immigrants into this country without going broke. The strain on our welfare programs and medical care is unsustainable. I am for anyone bettering themselves legally, not deceptively. This move to cross our border and claim asylum is you telling me what type of “roof” is acceptable. No, you are not! This is my home! I am going to have a say before you “rain” on my home and it rots from within!

Edward K. Cherry
Hot Springs

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/02/04/recent-observations/