Hitler or UBER?

Stuck between fascism and neoliberalism, french voters are again blackmailed into voting for the lesser of two evils. While many refuse to vote, what are the other options to break the cycle?

We are millions to no longer bear this “voter for the lesser of two evils” blackmailing.

In a few days, the second round of the (french) presidential election will be held, with, for the umpteenth time, candidates whom are disconnected from our realities, and for the second time in fifteen years, the presence of the national front in the second round.

This situation was foreseeable. Successive governments, from both the right and the left, have on one side trivialized the National Front and on the other used their ideas.

The “de-demonization” of the National Front was brought about by the demonization of Muslim citizens.

The lure of gain, buzz, ratings, or simply the full adherence to racist ideas, beginning with Islamophobia, have made columnists and journalists help the National Front become approachable.

And it worked!

Ironically, this same press is already complaining that this party is expressing contempt towards them.

There are reasons to worry for May 7th (second round of the presidential election).

I have always thought that giving voting instructions is an insult to voters’ intelligence. But the aim of this video is to convince the abstentionists not to take risks and especially not to delegate to others the task of blocking the National Front.

The coming into power of Marine Le Pen will not provoke a revolution or opposition within the French State. No, it will not “blow up”. If she is here today, it is because many of the ruling elites already share her ideas.

As we have seen it for years, Islamophobia is a point of convergence from the extreme left to the far right. And it is because she has surfed on the wave Islamophobia that Marine Le Pen is not far from becoming president. Imagine the nightmare.

The extreme right-wing groups that are already preparing for civil war will have a boulevard. And don’t count on the police to be merciless with them, as they are with working class neighbourhoods or racialized people.

Yes, this same police which is phagocytosed by the extreme right and which are behaving as if their champion is already president.

If Marine Le Pen passes, she will have all the powers to make France a fascist and totalitarian country as was the case under Maréchal Petain, who is himself the spiritual father of her party.

We already know what living under the National Front looks like. It is enough to look at the cities that fallen in their hands to realize it:
Islamophobic obsession, corruption, violence, nepotism, refugee hunting, Petainist practices, guardianship of associations or intimidations, and contempt for institutions

I know, there is nothing new here

Under a socialist government we have experienced the brutality of the state of emergency, its indiscriminate violence, house searches, humiliations of families, ransacking of places of worship, arbitrary house arrests, militarization of the police, their brutality and their impunity, registration and filing of the population after having adopted the penalization of peaceful resistance movements (BDS, march against the labor law, freedom to boycott companies violating their social responsibilities, warning alert, solidarity with refugees …) , law on mass surveillance and the explosion of the prison population.

It is also under a socialist government that Muslim citizens have experienced the humiliation of their children in school, the increase of their demonization, the project of citizenship stripping or the national hysteria around the burkini.

And if a socialist government has been able to do this, imagine what it will be with a far-right president, in a country where overtly racist candidates have already won 46% of the votes in the first round.

Those who speak of abstaining from the second round or call to do so, are speaking from a position of privilege because few of them will fear for their integrity or that of their children.

As for those who give instructions for voting or abstention without sharing our daily lives, they miss an opportunity here to be silent. It’s easy to play Russian roulette with other people’s lives.

If Marine Le Pen is a political or ideological opponent for some, or a foreign problem for others … for the racialized populations to which I belong, blacks, Arabs, Muslims, Jews, Romas or Asians, she and her party represent a vital threat.

What about the other candidate?

With his neoliberal vision and his promise to turn France into a country of startup companies, which will decimate the working class and lock them into the digital proletariat, Emmanuel Macron represents a social threat.

Neither he nor Marine Le Pen represent a choice for social justice. Except that one is the heir of Milton Freedman, and the other, of Maréchal Petain. I let you guess which of the two is the immediate enemy.

But there is a third path. Your Emmanuel Macron bulletin will not be a vote of adherence but a vote of preparation for permanent defiance. It is out of the question to vote Macron and then resign and let him have it his way, but it is about voting Macron and to engage by joining associations, alongside activists, by responding to calls for mobilization and by filling the ranks demonstrations.

Our problems are structural and require a rethinking of our political regime. This fifth republic, inherited from the colonial era with its monarchical mode of operation, must be buried.

We need a new republic serving the citizens, which solves the racial question by liquidating the legacy of colonization,

A balanced organization of public authorities, a strengthened parliament, autonomous justice, transparency of the State, a demilitarized police force, social equity, taking environmental issues into account, in short, a new republic for a New world.

Once the national front disqualified from the presidential election, from the 8th of May on, civil society of which I am part, I belong will continue its struggle for social justice while others will be able to storm the national assembly by submitting their candidatures to the parliamentary elections.

Why?
Because both traditional parties will not recover from this presidential race and the renewal of the political class begins on 8 May. This is an opportunity for civil society to launch its own candidates at the local level, which at best will win, at worst will make others lose and will thus become the referees of the ballot.

After having made the (presidential) Elysée palace unattainable for the extreme right, it will be a matter of making France ungovernable for high finance and thus put an end to this neoliberal policy, in favor of a more social one.

You got it right, emancipation will be reached through politics and power struggles.

It’s on us to be up to the challenge on May 7th

— source medium.com/@yasserlouati by Yasser Louati

Islam’s Covergirls

The new citizenship test for intending migrants will probably be window dressing. Clearly it is aimed at Muslims, which is entirely appropriate. They are the ones who have problems fitting in; wherever they go in the West. But asking people to commit to certain values and eschew others is close to worthless, unless combined with a lie-detector test. And I doubt the ABC would agree to that, if you get my meaning.

Maybe it’s time to reconsider something tangible like dress standards. My club has them and they work well. You always have the choice of staying out. It’s a question of how the matter is approached.

To be clear, within the confines of prevailing standards of decency, people should have the freedom to dress as they wish in purely public places. But the key phrase is ‘as they wish’. Our values are not consistent with any group of women being forced to wear what they would not freely choose to wear. The intolerant cannot be tolerated when it bears down on a vulnerable group of our fellow citizens.

In this case it is plain that the face of intolerance puts many women in unattractive clothing they would not freely choose to wear. We know this by applying self-reflection. We personally, would find it intolerable to dress from head to toe in black serge (or in any other colour) when walking on a hot Australian summer’s day. We also know this from looking at pictures of the way women chose to dress in Egypt, or in Afghanistan, or in Iran in earlier times when free of Islamic religious strictures. Empathy and common observation tells the tale. (editor: the picture below is of Cairo University students in 1978. Not a hijab to be seen.)

It is an affront to our value of gender equality to acquiesce to a particular group of women being forced, pressured or cajoled into wearing dowdy coveralls. We owe it to Muslim women in Australia to do something about it.

Dutton’s toughened migrant entry criteria could require would-be Muslim women migrants to agree to a dress code broadly consistent with modern Australian standards. Or, better and less intrusively, maybe it should be a case of broadcasting loudly and openly in advance: “Please don’t apply if you want to wear a burka because refusal often offends.”

If that is too high a price to pay to enter one of the best, if not the best, country in the world; so be it. Of course, this would get the usual suspects – orchestrated women in scarves, left-wingers, greenies – into the streets with protesting placards. But the counter would be to present the policy as pro-women.

I wonder how those Muslim women who yearn to be liberated feel when so-called feminists ratify their subjection at the hands of a patriarchal religious culture. Women who dress in skirts, high heels and have stylish hairdos should not reach the false and naive conclusion that there are millions upon millions of women out there who prefer to be draped head to toe in a shapeless bag. They are not aliens. (editor: Cairo University, 2004. Cover up, girls. The misogynists of “the most feminist religion” insist you dress as ordered.)

Taking away a right is always contentious. But in this case, if it were possible to take away one right from Muslim migrant women — to dress in a specific way in specific places — it would serve to give them and their daughters, and their daughters in turn, much greater freedom express themselves as they wish. It would give them greater opportunity to integrate into the broader Australian community. It would be a good bargain for them, as it would be for the broader Australian community.

It would also give a positive signal to Muslim women already resident in Australia who wish to break free of oppressive cultural or religious practices. It is not politically feasible to do as Ataturk did and ban the hijab in all educational institutions and in the public service. Imagine Buckley’s chance of getting that through and then divide it by a sextillion (or whatever huge number you prefer). However, creating a supportive environment which encourages as many Muslim women as possible into the mainstream is important in breaking down barriers.

Look at it all another way. Short of stopping Muslim immigration entirely, the best option is to ensure, so far as possible, that those who come in will fit in. Mothers, wives and daughters in burkas is a sure sign that ain’t gonna happen.

— source quadrant.org.au by Peter Smith

With at Least 200 Killed, 2016 Was Deadliest Year Ever for Earth Defenders

Last year was the deadliest in history to be an environmental activist, according to a new report that found, on average, nearly four people were killed per week. Defenders of the Earth, released by U.K.-based human rights group Global Witness, lists the names and locations of 200 environmental advocates who were killed around the world. While the report found Brazil, Colombia, and the Philippines were the nations with the most murdered environmentalists in 2016, Honduras has been the deadliest country for environmental activists over the last decade.

Last year, Nicaragua was the most dangerous country per capita, where at least 11 environmental activists were killed—all but one were indigenous. In 2013, the Nicaraguan government agreed to allow a Chinese company to build a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; the canal will also force up to 120,000 indigenous people to relocate, according to the report.

— source commondreams.org

Oscar-nominated actor sent to jail

Oscar-nominated actor James Cromwell is reporting to jail at 4 p.m. today in upstate New York after he was sentenced to a week behind bars for taking part in a nonviolent protest against a natural gas-fired power plant. Cromwell says he’ll also launch a hunger strike. He was one of six activists arrested for blocking traffic at the sit-in outside the construction site of the 650-megawatt plant in Wawayanda, New York, in December of 2015. The activists say the plant would promote natural gas fracking in neighboring states and contribute to climate change.

— source democracynow.org

Why Obama’s Big Cash-In Matters

One of my little online entertainments this year has been to ask my social media network a question: “So, what’s Obama up to lately?”

I want to know, but I haven’t had the stomach to follow the man once he left the White House.

Truth be told, I burned out on Obama years ago.

I called him out as a corporate, neoliberal imperialist and a de facto white supremacist (as ironic as that might sound given his technical blackness) from the beginning of the nationwide “Obamas” phenomenon in the summer of 2004.

Empire’s New Clothes

From 2006 through 2011, I dedicated inordinate research and writing to the “BaRockstar.” Prior to his 2009 inauguration (an event I found likely once George W. Bush defeated John F. Kerry in 2004), I tried to warn progressives (and anyone else who would listen) about Obama’s coming presidential service to the rich and powerful, their global empire and the white majority’s desire to deny the continuing power of anti-black racism in the United States. I collected my warnings in a 2008 book that bore the deceptively neutral title “Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics.”

I continued to follow Obama closely. In 2010, my next book, “The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power,” detailed his dutiful fealty to the nation’s “deep state” masters of capital and empire (and to white majority opinion on race) during his first year in the White House. This volume exhaustively refuted partisan Democrats who insisted that Obama really wanted to do progressive things but was prevented from that by a Republican Congress. It was a nonsensical claim. Year One Obama had just won the presidency with a great voter mandate for progressive change and had a Democratic Congress. He could have steered well to the wide left of his corporate-center-right trajectory if he’d wanted. But he didn’t want to, consistent with Adolph Reed Jr.’s dead-on description of Obama after the future president first won elected office in Illinois:

In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program—the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance.

By acting in accord with Reed’s retrospectively haunting early description, the “deeply conservative” President Obama ironically helped create the very Republican “Tea Party” Congress his loyal liberal defenders were then able to cite as the excuse for his right-wing policymaking. Governing progressively in 2009 and 2010 would have been good politics for the Democrats. It might well have pre-empted the “Teapublican” victories of 2010.

You’ve Got to Meet Real Socialists

But that’s not what “Wall Street Barry” was about. He was a Hamilton Project, Robert Rubin-sponsored actor who never would have gotten the elite backing he needed to prevail had he been the peoples’ champion so many voters dreamed him to be.

Obama set new Wall Street election fundraising records for a reason in 2008. “It’s not always clear what Obama’s financial backers want,” Ken Silverstein noted in a fall 2006 Harper’s Magazine report titled “Obama, Inc.,” “but it seems safe to conclude that his campaign contributors are not interested merely in clean government and political reform. … On condition of anonymity, one Washington lobbyist I spoke with was willing to point out the obvious: that big donors would not be helping out Obama if they didn’t see him as a ‘player.’ The lobbyist added: ‘What’s the dollar value of a starry-eyed idealist?’ ”

After his 2012 re-election, Obama spoke at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council. “When you go to other countries,” Obama told the corporate chieftains, “the political divisions are so much more stark and wider. Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans—we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines. … People call me a socialist sometimes. But no, you’ve got to meet real socialists. [Laughter.] I’m talking about lowering the corporate tax rate. My health care reform is based on the private marketplace.”

It was what the socialist writer and activist Danny Katch called “a touching ruling class moment.”

The warm feelings made good capitalist sense. Fully 95 percent of the nation’s new income went to the top 1 percent during Obama’s first term. Obama won his second term partly by appropriating populist rhetoric from an Occupy Wall Street movement he’d helped dismantle with infiltration and force in the fall and winter of 2011. He did this after keeping Wall Street so comfortably bailed out and restored that plutocracy could reach the point where the top U.S. thousandth owned more wealth than the bottom U.S. 90 percent.

Obama Burnout

Documenting Obama’s predictable and predicted (by me and others on the officially marginalized left) betrayal of his “progressive base” was unpleasant and tiring work. The 44th president was an Energizer Bunny when it came to advancing the wolfish agenda of the rich, white and imperial in fake progressive sheep’s clothing.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner was way into wielding the American empire’s maiming and killing machine in Africa and the Middle East. His not-so-precisely targeted assassination drone program became what Noam Chomsky would aptly describe as “the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times.”

“Turns out I’m pretty good at killing people,” Obama once joked to his White House staff.

Funny guy.

It became nauseating history to closely track. I started to feel like the Martin Sheen character (Capt. Willard) after too much exposure to the sociopath Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) in the movie “Apocalypse Now.” I had to step back.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

So it is with a certain unmistakable tone of bemused cynicism that I ask my online correspondents: “What’s Obama up to now?”

The answers have been darkly amusing.

Post-presidential “O” has been spotted kiteboarding in the Caribbean with Richard Branson, the British billionaire airline mogul, who is leading the charge for the privatization of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.

Ex-prez “O” has been seen boating in the Pacific with Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen on a $300 million luxury yacht owned by recording mogul billionaire David Geffen.

Before that we learned that the Obamas reached an eight-figure publishing deal ($65 million) for his-and-her memoirs on their years in the White House.

And then we learned that Obama will speak for $400,000 at a Wall Street health care conference in September, hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P.

Nothing says “show me the money” like POTUS on your resume. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose bust sat behind Obama in the Oval Office, would not be pleased. The great civil rights leader and democratic socialist sternly refused to cash in on his fame.

The Times Disheartened, Bernie Disappointed

The New York Times editorial board felt compelled to criticize the coming Wall Street speech. On Monday, the Times’ editors opined:

It is disheartening that a man whose historic candidacy was premised on a moral examination of politics now joins almost every modern president in cashing in. And it shows surprising tone deafness, more likely to be expected from the billionaires the Obamas have vacationed with these past months than from a president keenly attuned to the worries and resentments of the 99 percent. … It’s the example he set that makes it jarring to see him conform to a lamentable post-presidential model created fairly recently, in historical terms.

The editors offer a limited and naïve critique. They are happy with the Obamas’ book deal, which dwarfs the speaking fee. They overlook the fact that Obama’s candidacy was premised on a quiet, behind-the-scenes promise to serve wealthy benefactors.

Obama was/is “keenly attuned to the worries and resentments of the 99 percent.” Really? He was so attuned that he:

● Bailed out the 1 percent with no questions asked, with no financial transactions tax advanced, after they crashed the national and global economy with their reckless selfishness.

● Made zero efforts to re-legalize union organizing (his campaign promise to push the Employee Free Choice Act was kicked to the curb from Day One).

● Passed a Republican health insurance reform (minus even a limited public option) that only the big insurance companies could love.

● Advanced a Grand Bargain that went beyond what the Republicans asked for when it came to assaulting Social Security and Medicare during the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis.

● Failed to prevent his Department of Homeland Security from joining with Democratic-run cities across the U.S. to in crushing the Occupy Movement (which coined the slogan “We are the 99 percent”) through brute force.

● Spent much of his second term trumpeting the darkly authoritarian and secretive, arch-global corporatist Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Do the Times’ editors recall presidential candidate Obama’s April 2008 description of Midwestern rural and working-class people as folks who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations”?

Bernie Sanders felt also compelled to speak out against Obama’s coming high-priced speaking date. He probably didn’t have much choice given that he built much of his primary campaign around criticism of Hillary Clinton’s big-money Wall Street speeches. “I think at a time when people are so frustrated with the power of Wall Street and the big-money interests,” Sanders told “CBS This Morning” on Friday, “it is unfortunate that President Obama is doing this. Wall Street has incredible power, and I would have hoped that the president would not have given a speech like this.”

That was a silly thing for which to hope, given Obama’s track record. Obama’s big cash-in is more evidence that he is precisely who some of us on the left said he was from the beginning.

The Ultimate Owner of the Deep State

None of Obama’s post-White House indulgence in the means and culture of hyper-affluence is surprising or shocking to anyone who has followed his history and career—or, more importantly, to anyone who has paid attention to the many methods by which the moneyed elite controls U.S. politics and policy. Offering politicos big paydays after they’ve spent years working at moderate taxpayer-ceilinged salaries in not-so “public service” is a significant way in which the finance-led corporate sector get what it wants from government.

As Mike Lofgren noted in his widely read book “The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government”: “Wall Street may be the ultimate owner of the Deep State and its strategies, if for no other reason than it has the money to reward government operatives with a second career beyond what is lucrative beyond the dreams of avarice—certainly beyond the dreams of a government salaryman” [emphasis added].

Smart “public” officials who want to live super-comfortably after stints on the government side of the great state-capitalist revolving door know better than to antagonize the ruling class that lives behind the marionette theater of electoral and parliamentary politics in the “visible state.”

Make That Money, Obama

What is just as troubling, if not more disturbing, is the readiness of many “liberal” Democrats to defend Obama’s right to cash in on his eight years serving the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire. “Who cares if Obama gets really rich now?” the line goes. “He worked his butt off. They all do it. Why shouldn’t he? Why should a black former president not cash in? White ones all do. You’re just jealous, and maybe a little racist, too. There’s lots of rich people, including lots of rich former elected officials. If Bill Clinton and Republican pigs like Newt Gingrich can do it, then why shouldn’t Barack Obama?”

The New York Times’ editors are right, of course, to note that “since Gerald Ford enriched himself with speaking fees and board memberships after leaving office, every former president but Jimmy Carter has supped often at the corporate table.”

These sorts of rationales for the Great Obama Cash-In are ubiquitous on “social media” and the comments sections attached to news reports on Obama’s forthcoming speaking fee. You can find them in the published and broadcast commentaries of established media pundits and talking heads. Check out this rant by Trevor Noah on “The Daily Show,” in which Noah elicits liberal laughter with these snarky and venal reflections:

“I agree the system must change, but it doesn’t change with Obama, all right? People are, like, why doesn’t he not accept the money? No, f—k that! No. No. [Cheers.] I’m sorry. The first black president must be the first one to not take money off us? No, no, no, my friend. He can’t be the first of everything. F—k [bleep] that and f—k [bleep] you. Yeah, I said it.” [Cheers and applause.]

“No! Make that money, Obama. Make that money. ‘But Obama should know better!’ What about the Clintons? ‘Yeah, well, the Clintons, it’s already done.’ Well, let him already ‘done it’ as well and you guys can start [bleep] the first white president to not take the money. [Bleep] you. Obama, make that money. Make that money.” [Applause.]

No Racial Double Standard

Where to begin in responding to such excuse-making? It is futile, I suppose, to deny that one wants to live a life of fabulous wealth. If you are a lefty, you probably don’t aspire to opulence, but good luck trying to tell many Americans otherwise. They’ve been indoctrinated to believe that the pursuit of riches is “human nature” (something that raises the question of what species we should assign to such historical persons as Gandhi, King and Marx).

The racism charge falsely assumes that one only opposes cashing in when it comes to a black politician. Any decent progressive is concerned about corporate and financial corruption as a problem in and of itself. The relevant color here is green, green as in money. I don’t care what color a “democratically elected” president is. I want him “working his butt off” for we the people, not the already super-rich and powerful.

I do not support the killing of unarmed inner-city youth by white police officers if I oppose the killing of unarmed inner-city youth by black police officers. I do not support a white congressman’s call for confrontation with Russia if I oppose a black congresswoman’s concurrence with that call. I do not support the paying of outrageous speaking fees by financial institutions to the technically white Bill and/or Hillary Clinton if I happen to oppose the paying of outrageous speaking fees to the technically black Barack Obama by the same institutions.

I oppose police killings of unarmed youth, OK? I oppose the corruption of politics and policy by the promise of obscene payouts to politicians and policymakers after they leave the public sector, all right? I oppose imperialism, get it?

Big money subversion of what’s left of American democracy is why it should matter to any decent liberal or progressive that a former president of any color is cashing in.

Bad Politics

It should matter on practical as well as moral grounds. Like the Clintons’ sellout, the Obamas’ big cash-in adventure is ammunition for the right-wing monsters in and atop the Republican Party these days. It adds dark empirical substance to the all-too-accurate charge that they, too, are an elitist, corporate-captive party. The story of Obama cashing in and playing around with the rich and famous is the perfect clickbait for right-wing, white nationalists at Breitbart News. It’s the perfect story for Fox News and right-wing talk radio in their efforts to keep the white working class on board with the arch-plutocratic GOP. This is what concerns the New York Times’ honchos the most. As the paper’s editors put it:

As the presidential election clarified so painfully, the traditional party of working people has lost touch with them. In a poll released last week, more than two-thirds of voters, including nearly half of Democrats themselves, said the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of the American people. For the first time in memory, Democrats are seen as more out of touch with ordinary Americans than the party’s political opponents. There’s little doubt that Democratic leaders’ unseemly attachment to the party’s wealthiest donors contributed to that indictment.

Not that I’m in the business of advising the dismal Democrats, but getting behind Obama’s post-presidential book bonanza and Wall Street speaking windfalls is just dumb in partisan and electoral terms. That kind of selfish indulgence is no small part of why the radically regressive Republicans control all three branches of the federal government and most of the state governments in a nation that understandably hates the Republican Party.

Liberals are free to retort that Trump’s regressive tax plan is yet more proof that he is not the pro-working-class populist he claimed to be on the campaign trail but is instead the arch-plutocrat we on the left said he was.

Nobody with a clue on the left side of the spectrum thought that Trump’s populism wasn’t hypocritical. The problem is that so many liberals and progressives who should know better can’t see through the game as well when charismatic and silver-tongued Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama play it.

— source truthdig.com by Paul Street

The Real Reasons behind the Palestinian Hunger Strike

Gaza is the world’s largest open air prison. The West Bank is a prison, too, segmented into various wards, known as areas A, B and C. In fact, all Palestinians are subjected to varied degrees of military restrictions. At some level, they are all prisoners.

East Jerusalem is cut off from the West Bank, and those in the West Bank are separated from one another.

Palestinians in Israel are treated slightly better than their brethren in the Occupied Territories, but subsist in degrading conditions compared to the first-class status given to Israeli Jews, as per the virtue of their ethnicity alone.

Palestinians ‘lucky’ enough to escape the handcuffs and shackles are still trapped in different ways.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon’s Ein el-Hilweh, like millions of Palestinian refugees in ‘shattat’ (Diaspora), are prisoners in refugee camps, carrying precarious, meaningless identification, cannot travel and are denied access to work. They languish in refugee camps, waiting for life to move forward, however slightly – as their fathers and grandfathers have done before them for nearly seventy years.

This is why the issue of prisoners is a very sensitive one for Palestinians. It is a real and metaphorical representation of all that Palestinians have in common.

The protests igniting across the Occupied Territories to support 1,500 hunger strikers are not merely an act of ‘solidarity’ with the incarcerated and abused men and women who are demanding improvements to their conditions.

Sadly, prison is the most obvious fact of Palestinian life; it is the status quo; the everyday reality.

The prisoners held captive in Israeli jails are a depiction of the life of every Palestinian, trapped behind walls, checkpoints, in refugee camps, in Gaza, in cantons in the West Bank, segregated Jerusalem, waiting to be let in, waiting to be let out. Simply waiting.

There are 6,500 prisoners in Israeli jails. This number includes hundreds of children, women, elected officials, journalists and administrative detainees, who are held with no charges, no due process. But these numbers hardly convey the reality that has transpired under Israeli occupation since 1967.

According to prisoners’ rights group, ‘Addameer’, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned under military rule since Israel commenced its occupation of Palestinian territories in June 1967.

That is 40 percent of the entire male population of the Occupied Territories.

Israeli jails are prisons within larger prisons. In times of protests and upheaval, especially during the uprisings of 1987-1993 and 2000-2005, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were subjected to prolonged military curfews, sometimes lasting weeks, even months.

Under military curfews, people are not allowed to leave their homes, with little or no breaks to even purchase food.

Not a single Palestinian who has lived (or is still living) through such conditions is alien to the experience of imprisonment.

But some Palestinians in that large prison have been granted VIP cards. They are deemed the ‘moderate Palestinians’, thus granted special permits from the Israeli military to leave the Palestinian prison and return as they please.

While former Palestinian leaders Yasser Arafat was holed up in his office in Ramallah for years, until his death in November 2004, current Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is free to travel.

While Israel can, at times, be critical of Abbas, he rarely deviates far from the acceptable limits set by the Israeli government.

This is why Abbas is free and Fatah leader, Marwan Barghouti, (along with thousands of others) is jailed.

The current prisoners’ hunger strike began on April 17, in commemoration of ‘Prisoner Day’ in Palestine.

On the eighth day of the strike, as the health of Marwan Barghouti deteriorated, Abbas was in Kuwait meeting a group of lavishly dressed Arab singers.

The reports, published in ‘Safa News Agency’ and elsewhere, generated much attention on social media. The tragedy of the dual Palestinian reality is an inescapable fact.

Barghouti is far more popular among supporters of Fatah, one of the two largest Palestinian political movements. In fact, he is the most popular leader amongst Palestinians, regardless of their ideological or political stances.

If the PA truly cared about prisoners and the well-being of Fatah’s most popular leader, Abbas would have busied himself forging a strategy to galvanize the energy of the hungry prisoners, and millions of his people who rallied in their support.

But mass mobilization has always scared Abbas and his Authority. It is too dangerous for him, because popular action often challenges the established status quo, and could hinder his Israeli-sanctioned rule over occupied Palestinians.

While Palestinian media is ignoring the rift within Fatah, Israeli media is exploiting it, placing it within the larger political context.

Abbas is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump on May 3.

He wants to leave a good impression on the impulsive president, especially as Trump is decreasing foreign aid worldwide, but increasing US assistance to the PA. That alone should be enough to understand the US administration’s view of Abbas and its appreciation of the role of his Authority in ensuring Israel’s security and in preserving the status quo.

But not all Fatah supporters are happy with Abbas’ subservience. The youth of the Movement want to reassert a strong Palestinian position through mobilizing the people; Abbas wants to keep things quiet.

Amos Harel argued in ‘Haaretz’ that the hunger strike, called for by Barghouti himself, was the latter’s attempt at challenging Abbas and “rain(ing) on Trump’s peace plan.”

However, Trump has no plan. He is giving Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, carte blanche to do as he pleases. His solution is: one state, two states, whichever ‘both parties like.’ But both sides are far from being equal powers. Israel has nuclear capabilities and a massive army, while Abbas needs permission to leave the Occupied West Bank.

In this unequal reality, only Israel decides the fate of Palestinians.

On his recent visit to the US, Netanyahu articulated his future vision.

“Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River,” he said.

Writing in The Nation, Professor Rashid Khalidi expounded the true meaning of Netanyahu’s statement.

By uttering these words, “Netanyahu proclaimed a permanent regime of occupation and colonization, ruling out a sovereign independent Palestinian state, whatever fiction of ‘statehood’ or ‘autonomy’ are dreamed up to conceal this brutal reality,” he wrote.

“Trump’s subsequent silence amounts to the blessing of the US government for this grotesque vision of enduring subjugation and dispossession for the Palestinians.”

Why then, should Palestinians be quiet?

Their silence can only contribute to this gross reality, the painful present circumstances, where Palestinians are perpetually imprisoned under an enduring Occupation, while their ‘leadership’ receives both a nod of approval from Israel and accolades and more funds from Washington.

It is under this backdrop that the hunger strike becomes far more urgent than the need to improve the conditions of incarcerated Palestinians.

It is a revolt within Fatah against their disengaged leadership, and a frantic attempt by all Palestinians to demonstrate their ability to destabilize the Israeli-American-PA matrix of control that has extended for many years.

“Rights are not bestowed by an oppressor,” wrote Marwan Barghouti from his jail on the first day of the hunger strike.

In truth, his message was directed at Abbas and his cronies, as much as it was directed at Israel

— source commondreams.org by Ramzy Baroud