Saturday, December 2, 2023

No Respect: Bernie, Gaza, and Liberal Zionism

No Respect: Bernie, Gaza, and Liberal Zionism

Jim Kavanagh

After Israeli strikes on houses in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, November 1, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Al-Masri/File photo 

With a New York Times op-ed on November 22nd, Bernie Sanders chimed in with his take on what’s happening in Gaza right now, and what must be done to “balance our desire to stop the fighting with the need to address the roots of the conflict.” It’s worth examining his piece as an example of the liberal-Zionist framework of thought, which begins with the assumption that Zionism is a necessary and virtuous project that "we" must support and that takes priority over everything else in the context, including the lives of Palestinians, and ends—after conjuring a happily-ever-after version of Zionism that pleases the minds and consciences of Western liberals like himself—right where it started.

Bernie begins by insisting that “we must first be cleareyed about facts” and immediately recounts the facts he finds relevant thusly:

On Oct. 7, Hamas, a terrorist organization, unleashed a barbaric attack against Israel, killing about 1,200 innocent men, women and children and taking more than 200 hostage.

Unfortunately, Bernie’s account of root facts is tendentious and factually incorrect. It does not “address” but obscures “the roots of the conflict,” by starting “On Oct. 7.” It is not clear-eyed but tendentious in trying to pass off as fact the characterization of Hamas as “a terrorist organization.”

Bernie’s use of “terrorist” here echoes the hypocrisy of all Western mainstream politicians and media, and it’s worth delving into.

Reign of “Terror”

Of course, “terrorist” is a terrible word, almost always used dishonestly—and Bernie knows it.  Even Ronald Reagan knew that “One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.” Insofar as it can be used factually, the word “terrorism” denotes a tactic used sporadically by virtually every state army and armed resistance group in history.

Those who support a group’s objective never dismissively use “terrorism” to describe its actions, let alone to condemn the group. They accept such tactics as unfortunate and morally problematic, but non-dispositive, elements of a legitimate struggle. On the other hand, when a group whose objective they oppose uses the same tactics, they insist that group must be condemned and eliminated. It’s never the tactic, always the objective, that’s the deal-breaker, the thing that determines when and how “terrorism” will be used.

Nobody had more contempt for this hypocrisy than the proudly self-identified “terrorists” who were the vanguard fighting founders and, latterly, Prime Ministers, of the Zionist state—like Menachem Begin, who embraced the title of ”Father of terrorism in all the world,” and Yitzhak Shamir, who wrote an article forthrightly entitled “Terror,” saying:

Neither Jewish morality nor Jewish tradition can be used to disallow terror as a means of war…We are very far from any moral hesitations when concerned with the national struggle….First and foremost, terror is for us a part of the political war appropriate for the circumstances of today, and its task is a major one: it demonstrates in the clearest language, heard throughout the world including by our unfortunate brethren outside the gates of this country, our war against the occupier.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Israel’s Solution to Gaza: War on Iran

 Israel’s Solution to Gaza: War on Iran

Jim Kavanagh

Youssef Massoud |AFP via Getty Images

A US-Israeli war on Iran is very likely very soon. Here are four reasons why I say that:

1. A military attack on Iran has been an Israeli demand for at least fifteen years, in active preparation by the U.S. and Israel for at least six years, and was already ordered by the president.

Per the long 2019 New York Times article, The Secret History of the Push to Strike Iran, “Hawks in Israel and America have spent more than a decade agitating for” war on Iran. In 2008, Israeli politicians Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Olmert, and Ehud Barak began to pressure U.S. President George W. Bush to join an attack on Iran, but he was “unequivocally against” it.

They ran into resistance again with the Obama administration, whose message, according to State Department official Wendy Sherman, was: “Please don’t go off on a hair trigger and start a war, because you’re going to want us to come in behind you,” Netanyahu thus saw Obama as “part of the problem, not the solution”—although maybe not then Vice President, “I am a Zionist” Joe Biden, who, in one meeting, “threw his arm around [Uzi] Arad [one of his former top advisers] and said with a smile, ‘Just remember that I am your best fucking friend here.’”

Israel had better luck with the Trump administration, especially after the ascension of Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, who were themselves hot for attacking Iran. in June 2017, CIA Director Pompeo up a stand-alone Iran Mission Center, replacing previous Iran specialists with “a much more focused and belligerent group.” Its purpose—as of any Mission Center—was to “elevate” the country as a target. It was headed by Michael D’Andrea, a convert to Islam known as “the undertaker” and "Ayatollah Mike, who was  notorious for his “central role in the agency's torture and targeted killing programs,” and for having an “aggressive stance toward Iran.”

This was followed in December 2017, by the signing, in a “secret” meeting at the White House, of a pact with Israel “to take on Iran.” This This was a pact to coordinate “steps on the ground” against “Tehran and its proxies.” The Israelis considered these secret “dramatic understandings” to be of “far greater impact” on Israel than Trump’s more public recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Friday, October 20, 2023

First and Foremost, Colonialism Must End

 First and Foremost, Colonialism Must End

Jim Kavanagh

It Is What It Is

It’s necessary to start with this, because it’s the core of the problem and must be put first and foremost: The horrific events over the last week in Gaza and Israel demonstrate at least one thing irrefutably: Zionism is colonialism. Israel is a colonial-settler, apartheid state that, as such, must exterminate, expel, or subjugate Palestinian Arabs.

You may think it’s colonialism that’s justified for some reason, but it’s still colonialism. If you want to support it, you have to make the argument that it’s an acceptable exception to the now-universal prohibition of colonialism and apartheid under jus cogens—the preemptory, compelling norms of international law “from which no derogation is ever permitted.” And you will be making an argument for colonialism.

You may think—as secular Western liberals are wont to do—that this exceptional colonialism is justified by the Holocaust, which you take as proof that Jews are the ur-victims of the planet and therefore are entitled to take and keep a global safe room for themselves, even if it means exterminating, expelling, and subjugating the people who have been living in that room for centuries. That’s an argument that the Palestinians (who had nothing to do with the European Holocaust) are just less important people, whose historical obligation is to get out of the way of the Jews (who, whether victims of the Holocaust or not, are always-already victims). It’s an argument for colonialism.

Leaving out, as much as they can, the part about the Palestinians, this is the argument secular Western liberals make to themselves for Zionism as righteous compensatory colonialism.

Please note that it is not the argument on which the original Zionist thinkers, their political progeny who rule Israel, or the religious-Zionist settlers who are Zionism’s shock troops base their colonial project. For them, the Holocaust is not the reason for the Zionist colonial project, though it does provide an excuse to Western liberals for supporting colonialism while convincing themselves they’re doing something else.

Those to whom you cannot make that argument with a straight face are the Palestinian people. They know, and will not let you ignore, disguise, or forget that that it’s colonialism, and they are the colonized. They have not and—what is finally so clear and so upsetting to self-deluded Western liberals who actually thought they could persuade everyone of Zionism’s righteousness—will never submit to being the colonized, to living, because they are not Jewish, as secondary “human animals” in ”a regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”  

The people of Gaza will never submissively accept their forced displacement and imprisonment in what Israeli scholar Baruch Kimmerling called “the largest concentration camp ever to exist.” The people of Palestine will never allow Jewish-supremacist settler colonist­s to live in the complacent comfort of the mastery to which they think they have the right—the comfort they need to complete the Zionist project. The Palestinians will never generously and passively accept Zionism’s right to take their homes, lives, and dignity, even if that makes the West feel better about its history with the Jews.

They will resist colonial domination and, as is their right, fight for liberation from colonial domination “by all available means, including armed struggle.” “No justice, no peace” isn’t a political slogan; it’s political science.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Cornel West on Jimmy Dore and Briahna on Kyle & Krystal: Who’s a Default Democrat?

Cornel West on Jimmy Dore and Briahna on Kyle & Krystal: Who’s a Default Democrat?

Jim Kavanagh

There were two energetic political conversations last week that have been the subject of much discussion in the lefty blogosphere: the Jimmy Dore exchange with Cornell West and the Kyle Kulinski-Krystal Ball conversation with Briahna Joy Gray. It's worth clarifying what I think is the essential issue in both of those exchanges.

On the face of it, they were very different.

In the Kyle-Krystal-Briahna conversation, the issues were: 1) whether Cornel West should be running as a third party candidate rather than as a Democrat challenging Joe Biden within the Democratic party, with Kyle and Krystal arguing for the latter and 2) whether or not there is a substantive reason for leftists to vote for Joe Biden, who, it was presumed, would be the Democratic nominee next November—with Kyle and Krystal arguing that Biden had “surprisingly” earned that support, and Briahna staunchly refusing.

In the Jimmy Dore-Cornel West conversation, on the other hand, no one was arguing against Cornel running third-party, and no one was arguing for voting for Biden. Jimmy supports Cornel’s third-party run, and Cornel continually states his objection to “milquetoast neoliberal” Biden, and never explicitly suggests that anyone should vote for him.

Dore was, somewhat clumsily, pressing Cornell West on something else, and did so in a way that lost focus and allowed the conversation to get sidetracked. There’s a specific, precise question that Jimmy could have asked, which would have gotten the answer about Cornel’s campaign that I think he was looking for.

I should say, first of all, that I know Cornel West. We were colleagues at Princeton together back in the day and ran in the same social and intellectual circles. He's a great guy, I respect him enormously, and he certainly has the best overall political position of anybody now running for president.

Nonetheless, there are important issues regarding the relation of Cornel and the Green Party’s campaign to the Democratic Party and Biden (or whoever is the Democratic nominee) that Jimmy was trying to get at, and that a lot of people on the left, myself included, want to understand precisely. Jimmy Dore missed the opportunity to pose a key question that would have clarified that. It’s a question that we, and Cornel, should know the answer to.

So, I asked him. On Monday, September 11th, I sent Cornel an email asking this question: 

Will you, actively campaign for every vote in every state, no matter who the Democratic and Republican nominees are and no matter what effect that has on either of them?
Or, come the crunch in November—when, we are told, the outcome in four states will decide the election—is there some possibility that you will adopt what's been the previous Green Party strategy of saying that voters in swing states should vote for the Democrat in order to stop Trump or whoever is the Republican nominee?

Friday, June 23, 2023

RFK Jr.'s Chances

RFK Jr,'s Chances

Jim Kavanagh

Robert Kennedy, Jr. enters the 2024 presidential race as a figure in whom many people across the political spectrum invest their hope for a politics that is at least intelligent, articulate, and honest. He has shown a willingness to engage in reasonable discussion that is vanishingly rare in today's American political climate. Even those who reflexively bristle at the “anti-vaxxer” label applied to him recognize that he stood up for what he thought was important, in the face of ostracism and ridicule that—as a scion of American and Democratic Party royalty—he did not need.

Nothing exemplifies what makes him a pole of attraction in the current American situation better than this tweet from a self-identified libertarian podcaster:

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Debt Ceiling Nonsense

Debt Ceiling Nonsense

Jim Kavanagh

“Could the Treasury skip the rigamarole and pay its bills without bonds? Economically, sure. Why doesn't it? Well, the Fed has regulations governing “overdrafts” -- but apart from these, the answer is plain: to do so would expose the ‘public debt’ as a fiction, and the debt ceiling as a sham.” - James K. Galbraith

It is infuriating to watch this “debt ceiling” charade play out again, and terribly depressing to see so many self-identified leftists accepting, and bargaining within, the ridiculous, fictional framework that guarantees their perpetual defeat within a never-ending cycle of such nonsense.

Just about everybody—certainly everybody with any “progressive” inclinations—recognizes what a tiresome farce this is. We all know the “debt ceiling” is the atavistic remnant of a 1917 gold-standard-era law that was ignored until Newt Gingrich dug it up in 1995 to start the now-perennial stunt cycle; that it exists in no other country besides Denmark, where it is set astronomically high precisely to avoid making it a political weapon; that it is used hypocritically by Republicans as a political weapon against Democratic presidents, to cut social spending and attack “entitlements” (Social Security and Medicare); that it enables a ludicrous, blatantly unconstitutional “do-over” by which right-wing legislators, who were unable to get the social program cuts they want through normal Congressional votes, try to force the Executive to stop spending that the Congress has already authorized, etc.  (For a nice critique of the constitutional pretzel-twisting the Republicans are engaged in, see Robert Hockett’s Stop the Charade: The Federal Budget Is Its Own ‘Debt-Ceiling’.)

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Zombie War: Plan B for Ukraine

Zombie War: Plan B for Ukraine

Jim Kavanagh

© xbrchx / Adobe Stock

 Something’s Gotta Give

Voices on all sides—U.S., Ukraine, Russia—assure us that a major break in the military situation in Ukraine is imminent. Even as the Russian forces (RF) advance steadily in the area of Bakhmut and Avdivka, the Ukraine army (UA) is said to be poised for a last-ditch major offensive, driving toward Crimea on the southern front, which it must launch and must win.

It’s impossible to know what’s true and what’s feint about all this, and one can never be certain of the outcome once armies start blowing each other up, but I feel comfortable saying that: 1) There will be a Ukrainian offensive. The Ukrainians will throw everything they have into it and will make immediate territorial advances. 2) It is very unlikely that Ukraine will advance far enough to seriously threaten to re-take Crimea, and impossible that it will drive Russia to capitulate. 3) It is likely that the UA will exhaust itself, that enormous, irreplaceable, quantities of its manpower and materiel will be destroyed, and that the massive Russian force that has been held back until now will begin its own offensive that will be able to advance at will. It will be evident and undeniable that there is no longer any military impediment to the RF moving as far west in Ukraine as it wants.

I understand that surprises can come from many directions—incompetence of key commanders, political pressure from citizens in various countries, immediate NATO intervention, etc.—but I think it’s important to address the predicament that last outcome—a decisive military defeat of Ukraine—will create. That outcome will be an urgent crisis for the US/NATO/Kiev, requiring immediate decision and action. It’s also the outcome they expect and fear, and for which they are already considering their choices.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Arresting Development: The ICC Arrest Warrant for Putin is A Weapon of War

 Arresting Development: The ICC Arrest Warrant for Putin is A Weapon of War

 Jim Kavanagh

Ann Telnaes/The Washington Post

The accumulation of ludicrous moves by the United States and its pawns over the past few months has reached a stage that would be risible if it were not so dangerous. The danger is exacerbated by the insistence of American media on, first, ignoring the most provocative and reckless moves, then proposing explanations for them that can't withstand three minutes of critical thought. The object is to keep the American public ignorant, make it stupid, and maintain the national-security state’s prerogative to do anything it wants.


High on the list, of course, is the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline and the various attempts to divert attention away from the obvious culprit. The US and its poodles’ initial story—that Russia blew up its own pipeline—was put forward under the correct assumption that compliant media would report it as implied fact and then forget about it.


Seymour Hersh's detailed and plausible account of a Biden-ordered sabotage operation, combined with the public statements of Biden and other administration officials announcing their intention to destroy the pipeline and celebrating its destruction, made it necessary to say something seemingly apposite. The result—a tale of five guys and a gal (fans of Ukraine but totally freelance) in a sailing yacht, which happened to appear in U.S. and German newspapers right after a hurried meeting between Biden and Scholz—elevates the diversion(ary discourse) from the ridiculous to the comic.


Garland Nixon suggests that this story—which I doubt a single sentient adult in the world believes—must have been concocted by deep-state dissidents and masters of irony, who wanted to undermine the Biden administration and the media by having them tell it. I can’t—and as a fan of irony, don’t want to—rule that out. But I tend to see it more like Dan Ackroyd’s classic, precognizant, SNL spoof ad for the three-bladed razor: “Because you’ll believe anything.” The tragedy is that Western—certainly U.S.—media do pretend to believe it, search engine algorithms will be adjusted to promote it, and the U.S. government, ostensibly non-governmental Western media, and impartial international organizations will refuse to investigate it. You are meant to believe it, whether anyone thinks it’s true or not.


But the epitome of delusional and dangerous gestures was reached with the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Marching Into the New Year with World Wars III, IV, and V (Part 2)

In Part 1, we covered the progress of World War III with Russia, a classic hit that’s rising with a bullet. Our producers, however, are not stingy with their talent and are now offering a

Bonus Track!

Yes, not content with its pursuit of WWIII with the world’s largest country and largest nuclear power, the United States is now also threatening and preparing for WWIV against the world’s most populous and most economically dynamic country, China.

By 2025, according to U.S. Air Force General Michael Minihan. Or 2027, according to the more optimistic CIA Director, William Burns.

In preparation for this conflict, according to Marine Lieutenant General James Bierman, the U.S. is “setting the theatre in Japan, in the Philippines, in other locations,” and “preposition[ing] weapons and other supplies on five more bases” in the Philippines. And President Biden “vows” to “transform Japan into a potent military power.”

So, Germany is sent against Russia, and Japan against China. Helluva song. I think we’ve heard it before.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Marching Into the New Year with World Wars III, IV, and V (Part 1)

 Marching Into the New Year with World Wars III, IV, and V (Part 1)

Jim Kavanagh

Last year, right after Russian troops entered Ukraine, I said that we were already in World War III between the US/NATO and Russia (“WWIII is not a remote possibility. We are already in it”). I’ve repeated that a number of times, and in October, gave even odds on the chance of nuclear war. Since then, actions and statements of principals on both sides of the conflict have only confirmed and worsened that assessment.

Regarding statements, we had Ukraine’s former president, Petro Poroshenko, hand-picked by Victoria Nuland, admitting in November that Ukraine used the Minsk Agreements to build a NATO army, to “train the Ukrainian military together with NATO to create the best armed forces in Eastern Europe, created according to NATO standards.” That admission was confirmed in December by Angela Merkel, who said that Minsk “was an attempt to buy time for Ukraine… to become stronger, as you can see today.” It was re-confirmed by François Hollande, who said, “Yes, Angela Merkel is right on this point.”  And it was quite emphatically confirmed in January by Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, who said that Ukraine has "already become a de facto member of the NATO alliance" that is “carrying out NATO’s mission today,” “defending the entire civilized world, the entire West,” and would “absolutely” enter formally into NATO.

The kicker, of course, is  German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s recent statement that "We are fighting a war against Russia.” It’s a war against Russia she intends to prosecute for “as long as” necessary, “No matter what my German voters think.”

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