Protect citizens’ freedom

SC should not allow Aadhaar to eliminate constitutional right of privacy

As a law teacher and lawyer working in my home system, but concerned with issues of law and technology that are global more than they are national, i’ve spent the last several years paying much more attention to the Indian Supreme Court. In cases involving decency regulation and intermediaries’ liabilities for user-generated content, the Supreme Court has begun to frame a voice on issues involving political and expressive freedom in the age of the networked society.

It will be considering these questions as will the highest constitutional courts of the United States, the European Union and its members, South Africa, or post-European Britain. A powerful court speaking for the world’s largest democracy on issues of privacy, expressive rights, surveillance, identity control and the other similar matters now coming to the fore in all societies will be immensely influential.

All of which leads me to regard with puzzlement the efforts the Supreme Court is apparently taking just now to avoid speaking at all on the most important of current questions, not just for India, but for humanity. The Supreme Court now has before it – pending already for a period of almost two years – petitions asking it to rule on whether Indian citizens have a constitutional right of privacy against government.

The pending case of Justice KS Puttaswamy & Ors vs Union of India & Ors was the first in the series of cases challenging the Aadhaar scheme. The case, along with 15 other matters tagged along with it, is currently pending before the apex court, after being referred to the Constitution Bench in 2015.

The Court has ruled, and occasionally reaffirms in commentary on related matters, that Aadhaar registration cannot be made generally mandatory, yet it has before it unaddressed numerous petitions concerning large numbers of social services for which Aadhaar registration has been made mandatory in apparent contempt of the Court’s ruling.

Taken together, these matters that the Supreme Court does not seem to want to hear ask the most important questions now pending anywhere among the societies that adhere to the rule of law, concerning citizens’ freedom in 21st century societies. If government does not have a positive responsibility to protect the privacy of its citizens, including against itself, then the technologies of behaviour collection now being grafted into the nervous system of humanity we call the internet will make new, hyper-efficient modes of despotism inevitable.

If citizens don’t have the right to inspect and understand biometric identification databases that contain all our identities and all the behaviour that is attributed to us, what we now think of as “free society” can be turned off at any time. The Indian Supreme Court’s docket now includes clear and pressing questions that lead to the heart of issues all the world’s democracies are going to face very soon.

But two successive Chief Justices have now found it impossible to constitute a seven-member bench to hear the privacy right petitions. No action is being taken on the Aadhaar contempt petitions as the Government moves on. The inertia is mysterious and surprising. The world is listening; the voice of India’s constitutional lawyers reasoning for their powerful and immense society will speak directly to the judges of the rest of the world’s democracies.

In the US Supreme Court, where i had the privilege to work for Justice Thurgood Marshall as a young law clerk, there is a valuable assumption that everything on the docket at the start of each term will be resolved by its end. Perhaps once in a decade, the Court will order a reargument of some matter, putting it over for a second yearly term.

The US Supreme Court, it is true, controls its docket and selects its cases differently than the Indian Supreme Court, and the presumption of an ability to dispose of everything within one year cannot be recommended here. But all our courts descend from those made in the England of King John’s Magna Carta of the year 1215, in which it was first promised to observe the truth that justice delayed is justice denied.

For all of us throughout the human race who live under the rule of law, how the Indian Supreme Court decides the cases now pending before it will have important consequences. All the other developed democracies recognise some form of the constitutional right of privacy against government. If the Indian Supreme Court shows that the world’s largest democracy believes it can survive without that commitment, it will weaken the cause of privacy throughout the few parts of the world that uphold it.

If, on the other hand, the Supreme Court places India in the vanguard of the constitutional democracies, then the evolution of Aadhaar, UPI, and other aspects of Digital India will occur in a legal and constitutional context that will become a light unto nations, an example to the world’s advanced societies. What is the Supreme Court waiting for?

— source blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com by Eben Moglen

Dow Lobbies White House to Reject Scientific Findings on Pesticides

Dow Chemical is asking the Trump administration to reject the findings of government scientists as they prepare a report on how pesticides known as organophosphates threaten human health and thousands of critically endangered species. Organophosphates were originally derived from a nerve agent developed in Nazi Germany. Peer-reviewed scientific studies have linked even small amounts of the chemicals to low birth weight and brain damage in children. Last month, Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt overturned a ban on one of the pesticides, produced by Dow Chemical, just before it was set to take effect. Dow Chemical paid $1 million to underwrite Donald Trump’s January inauguration, and Dow CEO Andrew Liveris was tapped by President Trump to head a White House manufacturing working group.

— source democracynow.org

MongoDB startup hired by Aadhaar got funds from CIA VC arm

Two weeks ago, Max Schireson, chief executive of MongoDB, a New York-based technology startup, was in New Delhi to sew up a very important contract for his company — with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). MongoDB, which makes software that helps manage large databases, especially unstructured data, has raised $231 million (Rs1,400 crore) since being founded in 2007. Some of its funding is from In-Q-Tel, the not-for-profit venture capital arm of CIA. Besides CIA, In-Q-Tel works with National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate. Schireson, the CEO, was also one of the national co-chairs for Technology for Obama, an interest group that campaigned for the reelection of President Barack Obama after his first term.

— source economictimes.indiatimes.com

2 journalists sue Trump over ‘kill list’

Two journalists who believe they are on the so-called “kill list” of individuals targeted by the U.S. for deadly drone strikes are suing President Donald Trump and other top administration officials. Former Al Jazeera Islamabad bureau chief Ahmad Zaidan and freelance journalist Bilal Kareem filed a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington, contending that they were erroneously placed on the “kill list” during the Obama administration and that Trump has illegally maintained that designation. The suit also alleges that Trump has loosened some of the safeguards the previous administration placed on the program.

— source politico.com

Republicans Are Using Big Tobacco’s Secret Science Playbook to Gut Health Rules

Much of the country has been watching in horror as Donald Trump has made good on his promises to eviscerate the Environmental Protection Agency — delaying 30 regulations, severely limiting the information staffers can release, and installing Scott Pruitt as the agency’s administrator to destroy the agency from within. But even those keeping their eyes on the EPA may have missed a quieter attack on environmental protections now being launched in Congress.

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is expected to hold a hearing on a bill to undermine health regulations that is based on a strategy cooked up by tobacco industry strategists more than two decades ago. At what Republicans on the committee have dubbed the “Making EPA Great Again” hearing, lawmakers are likely to discuss the Secret Science Reform Act, a bill that would limit the EPA to using only data that can be replicated or made available for “independent analysis.”

The proposal may sound reasonable enough at first. But because health research often contains confidential personal information that is illegal to share, the bill would prevent the EPA from using many of the best scientific studies. It would also prohibit using studies of one-time events, such as the Gulf oil spill or the effect of a partial ban of chlorpyrifos on children, which fueled the EPA’s decision to eliminate all agricultural uses of the pesticide, because these events — and thus the studies of them — can’t be repeated. Although it is nominally about transparency, the bill leaves intact protections that allow industry to keep much of its own inner workings and skewed research secret from the public, while delegitimizing studies done by researchers with no vested interest in their outcome.

The top-billed witness scheduled to provide testimony at the House hearing on Tuesday is a lawyer named Jeffrey Holmstead, who has has worked to block the EPA’s efforts to limit mercury pollution while representing coal companies including Duke Energy, Progress Energy, and Southern Company. Meanwhile, Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican chair of the House Science Committee who has been zealously promoting the“secret science” bill, is also in the pocket of the energy companies. Though he’s also received funding from Koch Industries and iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel Communications), Smith’s biggest contributors are oil and gas companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Also testifying on Tuesday will be Kimberly White of the American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry trade group.

This bald industry bid to subvert public health-based regulations that can cut into profit isn’t new. What’s new is that this upside-down environmental attack, in which those who benefit directly from polluting industries are policing the independent scientists who can show the harms of their products, could now succeed. Although the House passed the secret science bill in 2014 and 2015, it never made it to the Senate floor. After it passed the House in 2015, Barbara Boxer called the bill “insane,” Bernie Sanders called it “laughable,” and President Obama promised to veto it. This time, it’s not a joke. With a Republican majority in both houses and Trump in the White House, the secret science act could easily become law.

The small group of lawyers and PR strategists orchestrating the secret science effort are closely tied to those attacking the EPA from within. All have connections to either big tobacco, oil, or both — and almost all have been affiliated with a small, right-wing group called the Energy & Environment Legal Institute. It’s interesting that E&E should fixate on transparency since the group has gone to great lengths to conceal its donors. Nevertheless, public records document some of the group’s ties to big coal companies, including the now bankrupt Alpha Natural Resources, Peabody Coal, and Arch Coal.

E&E senior policy fellow Steve Milloy, a former tobacco industry attorney, has perhaps written the most — at least publicly — about the secret science strategy, both in an ebook and for Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News. Milloy calls Myron Ebell, who oversaw Trump’s EPA transition team, his “friend and hero.” In the late 1990s, Milloy and Ebell were both members of the American Petroleum Institute’s Global Climate Science Communications Team, which laid out the oil industry’s strategy to undermine the science of global warming. Meanwhile, three of Milloy’s colleagues from E&E are also members of the EPA landing team. Among them are David Schnare, E&E’s general counsel, who is perhaps best known for harassing Michael Mann and other environmental scientists with FOIA requests, and Amy Oliver Cooke, an energy industry think tanker who created MILF, Mothers In Love with Fracking.

Two other E&E associates have been wrapped up in the secret science strategy for years. The first is Christopher Horner, a senior fellow at both E&E and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who is also a member of Trump’s EPA landing team. Back in the 1990s, Horner worked for Bracewell LLP, the law firm (formerly known as Bracewell & Giuliani) supplying the top witness at Tuesday’s hearing. The dawning awareness of the dangers of second-hand smoke was putting tobacco companies on the defensive, including Horner’s client, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. In a 1996 memo, which seems to be the earliest known reference to the secret science strategy, Horner laid out a plan to fight back.

“We propose creating, beginning with congressional oversight and a goal of enacting legislation, required review procedures which EPA and other federal agencies must follow,” Horner wrote in his memo. “This is important to your organization because, at some point in the near future, EPA will most likely be ordered to re-examine ETS [environmental tobacco smoke].” Horner’s plan? “To construct explicit procedural hurdles the agency must follow in issuing scientific reports. Because there is virtually no chance of affecting change on this issue if the focus is ETS.”

Horner already saw that the secret science approach could subvert far more than the imminent regulations based on the science about second-hand smoke. “Our approach is one of addressing process as opposed to scientific substance, and global applicability to industry rather than focusing on any single industrial sector,” he wrote, going on to explain how the strategy could be used to interfere with the EPA’s efforts to address mercury emissions, hazardous waste, and dioxins as well as restrictions on air pollution.
The Attack on Air Pollution Protections

By 1998, Powell Tate, a lobbying firm that represented R.J. Reynolds, had helped organize a secret science working group to look at questions of “data access,” according to one internal memo. The memo clarified that its intention was to “focus public opinion on the importance of requiring the disclosure of tax-payer funded analytical data.”

Though it was the brainchild of tobacco strategists, the energy industry soon followed Horner’s advice and adopted the secret science approach as a way to hamper air quality improvement efforts. In the 1990s, the EPA began efforts to reduce the amount of tiny particles in the air, a kind of pollution known as PM 2.5, that are produced by combustion from power plants, cars, and manufacturing. The clearest evidence of the need to limit such particles came from the “Six Cities” study, in which a team of Harvard researchers clearly tied higher levels of PM 2.5 particles to increased mortality, as well as lung cancer, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome.

While the new limits were designed to save lives — preventing 15,000 premature deaths annually, according to EPA projections — the rules would also increase costs in some sectors by, for instance, making energy companies install pollution equipment. In response, a group funded by the Koch brothers rose up to challenge the EPA and the scientists on the grounds that scientists were hiding their data from the public. Citizens for a Sound Economy, a forerunner of the Koch brothers’ current Freedom Works, demanded that the Harvard researchers provide their original data so an “independent” scientist could analyze it.

At first the researchers refused to share the data, which they had collected from individuals with the promise that their health information would remain confidential. Eventually, after an elaborate and expensive pressure campaign, the Six Cities researchers agreed to allow their data to be reanalyzed by two separate teams of researchers. Both confirmed the group’s findings that rates of PM 2.5 were correlated with increased mortality.

The EPA went on to institute the changes. And scientists throughout the world have since come to recognize the dangers posed by small particle air pollution, which accounted for “over 2.1 million premature deaths and 52 million years of healthy life lost in 2010,” according to the 2010 Global Burden of Disease report. The report drew on research by more than 450 experts from around the world and was led by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington; the World Health Organization; the University of Queensland, Australia; Johns Hopkins University; and Harvard University.

Despite the scientific consensus, a small group of extremists has continued to fixate on the idea that the science on the dangers of air pollution is somehow a sham. Even more disturbingly, this small extreme group now holds sway in key parts of the U.S. government. Not least among them is Rep. Lamar Smith, who in 2013 subpoenaed the EPA in yet another effort to obtain the data from the Six Cities study.

In an op-ed that ran in the Wall Street Journal shortly afterward, Smith noted that “the data in question have not been subjected to scrutiny and analysis by independent scientists.” Smith pressed his point in a House Science Committee hearing a few days later, insisting that independent scientists were being denied access to the air pollution data. When Democrat Donna Edwards pressed Smith about who these scientists were, he mentioned the name Jim Enstrom.

Enstrom, you may not be surprised to learn, has been a research fellow at E&E and has received money from the Council for Tobacco Research, the Tobacco Institute, Philip Morris, and R.J. Reynolds. In part because he didn’t disclose his tobacco industry ties in a study he did on the connection between second-hand smoke and mortality (which he found to be inconclusive), he was widely criticized by the scientific community, including the American Cancer Society, and was subsequently dismissed from UCLA.

Correction: Feb. 7, 2017

An earlier version of this article gave the incorrect name of a representative of the American Chemistry Council who testified today before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Her name is Kimberly White, not Kimberly Smith.

— source theintercept.com By Sharon Lerner

Former Senior FBI Counterterrorism Agent Slams Trump on Torture and Muslim Ban

A veteran U.S. counterterrorism agent says that President Donald Trump’s executive order banning people from seven majority Muslim countries will harm the fight against terrorist organizations and make it more difficult for intelligence agencies to maintain partnerships with foreign partners in the battle against ISIS and al Qaeda.

“Any kind of blacklisting countries like this will probably ruin effective local partnerships that are already in place,” said Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent who served as one of the central U.S. officers targeting al Qaeda in the years leading up to 9/11. “When you’re operating in conflict zones in places like Yemen or in places like Iraq or Syria or Libya, you need local support,” he told The Intercept in an interview. “You need local help. You need people to assist you, to translate for you, to show you the lay of the land. Unfortunately, if this ban is seen as an anti-Muslim ban, or if this ban is blacklisting a whole entire population, that will end up fighting back on the much-needed, local cooperation that we depend on.”

Soufan was in the FBI from 1997 to 2005, when he served as a supervisory special agent. In 2005, Soufan resigned from the FBI because of what he alleged was the CIA’s refusal to share crucial counterterrorism intelligence. Soufan believes the CIA had information that if shared could have thwarted the 9/11 attacks. In 2009, Soufan rose to prominence after testifying in front of the U.S. Senate and penning an anti-torture Op-Ed in the New York Times. He has become an outspoken critic of torture on not only moral grounds, but because he has deemed it ineffective and counterproductive to intelligence gathering. Despite his criticism of torture, Soufan opposed prosecuting CIA personnel who participated in the torture program and has often voiced support for the agency.

Referring to Trump’s overt support for torture, Soufan said, “He’s not putting any lipstick on a pig. He’s just trying to sell a pig to the nation. I think there is overwhelming support for the idea that torture is not only illegal, but it’s also immoral and ineffective.”

In 2002, Soufan interrogated terrorist Abu Zubaydah for four months, obtaining what he called crucial and accurate intelligence from him, including the central role Khalid Sheikh Mohammed played in the planning of 9/11. In August 2002, however, the CIA snatched Zubaydah from the FBI and sent him to a CIA black site where he was waterboarded more than 80 times. Despite the intelligence gathered by Soufan from Zubaydah without torture, the CIA claimed it was their waterboarding that extracted the intelligence. “There was no actionable intelligence that was generated because of torture,” said Soufan. “Abu Zubaydah lied after 83 sessions of waterboarding. He claimed that he was a number three of al Qaeda, even though he wasn’t an al Qaeda member. And later on, when they went back to him and they said, ‘Why did you lie?’ He said, ‘Well, you were torturing me. I told you what you want to hear.’”

“You don’t want to get the information that you want to hear,” Soufan added. “You want to get the truth.”

Soufan pointed out that torture is illegal under U.S. law, though he recognized that Trump seems to believe his executive orders override such quaint facts. “The president can put any executive order that he wants, but in order to change the law, he needs Congress,” said Soufan. “And I really doubt you’re going have a congressional debate that authorizes the president to use torture. I would like to watch that hearing and see how they will try to sell it to the American people.”

— source theintercept.com

On Final Day of Obama Presidency

Eddie Glaude talking:

I think it was important for the president to kind of identify the threat that Donald Trump poses to the fourth estate. He did it in his own unique and, of course, centrist way, but the idea of calling attention to the fact that a free and independent press may very well be under siege as Donald Trump enters the White House, I think, is an important—was an important—an important gesture. I would—you know, I would want to caution, though, that the way in which the president made the point, he, of course, wasn’t attentive to the corporate dimensions of the press, that in some ways the so-called free press has been compromised by big money, by its own pursuit of profits. And so, it’s a critique that only goes so far.

And then I think to kind of point his attention or point our attention or direct our attention to the question of Israel and Palestine, the issues around the DREAMers, issues around race or continued inequality, the issues around LGBTQ—right?—communities, I think, was important as a way of, in some ways, framing his own presidency over and against what is to come. But I have this fear, though, Sister Amy, that he’s positioning himself as, in some ways, the voice of a kind of resistance post his presidency. And I worry about that because of—because of his containing and limiting voice, you know, because President Obama, at the end of the day, is just simply a centrist liberal.

I think his analysis is limited. I mean, to the extent to which the question of voter fraud or voter suppression, tracing its origins back to Jim Crow and slavery, giving it—giving attention to its racial underpinnings is right. But there’s a reluctance, though, to speak to voter suppression—right?—the ways in which voter ID laws are directly targeting black communities, what happened in North Carolina, what happened in Wisconsin, what happens—what tried to happen—what Texas tried to do, what Pennsylvania attempted to do. And to speak specifically to the ways in which race, and particularly the way black and brown communities are targeted today, there’s a reluctance. So, in other words, you get this kind of general claim about an assault on voting rights, that we’re making it more difficult for people to vote, tracing it specifically to Jim Crow and the institution of slavery, but a reluctance to name specifically the ways in which Republicans across the country have targeted black and brown voters in very distinct ways. I mean, the court was very clear in North Carolina, what North Carolina Republicans were doing. And instead, at this point, instead of making that move—and again, I want to begin by saying he’s right to give the historical backdrop to the question of trying to limit voting in the United States, but instead of kind of pointing our attention to what specifically is happening around race, and particularly with regards to people of color, today, he wants to say that people have the right to vote, but they don’t vote. Right? So it’s a kind of, again, on the one hand and then on the other, without him really going to the core of the problem.

it’s one thing for President Obama to point to increasing inequality in the country, and it’s another thing for us to look at his policies. When we look at over the last—when we kind of assess the last eight years, what we’ve seen is that you’ve had a series of policies that really have benefited Wall Street and left Main Street behind. We have a policy that is, in some ways, fit—it fits perfectly with the increasing financialization of our economy, that’s really tailored for the top 1 percent and top 0.01 percent. And there’s kind of modest gains for everyday, ordinary people working. Even if they tout job creation, we know, from one of my colleagues here at Princeton, that 95 percent of the jobs created over the last 15-plus years have been part-time and contractual work. So people are working harder and earning less. So, there’s one thing to point to inequality, but there’s another thing to kind of look to the policies that he has supported and pushed that’s produced inequality. That’s the first thing.

And the second thing—the second move that we have to kind of be very, very careful about is the way in which he always engages in this equivalency. Right? We have to pay attention to the fact that there are some white voters out there who voted for Donald Trump who are catching hell. Of course there are white voters out there who have lost ground, who have suffered in this economy. But at the same time, we have to be mindful that 53 percent of black wealth over the last eight years has just simply been wiped off the planet. It’s gone. And it has a lot to do with housing policy, has a lot to do with his failure over the last eight years to really address the racialized dimensions of the housing crisis. And so, I really want us to say that he’s right to point to inequality, but I’m not sure he’s the right messenger to point to inequality, if that makes sense.

Now, where do we—where are we now, and where are we going? Well, we have deepening racial inequality. We have deepening economic inequality. We have a neo-fascist who is about to be inaugurated. We have the billionaires and millionaires who are about to take over government. What we are in, in some ways, is a conjunctural moment where crisis opens up space for us to put forward a more progressive vision of what this country could and ought to be. So we need to prepare ourselves for day one, as Donald Trump ascends, and attack the policies that, in some ways, Barack Obama’s administration, Clintonism broadly, has made possible.

Rashid Khalidi talking:

he did what he’s been doing for eight years: He sent a signal. The most powerful country on Earth, the sole serious supporter of Israel, without whose support Israel couldn’t do anything, has now, yet again, for administration after administration, sent a signal that what Israeli governments have been doing for decades is going to lead to a one-state solution, in which Palestinians, as he said, are disenfranchised, are not even citizens and so on and so forth. So we have the diagnostician-in-chief telling us about this problem, which he and previous presidents have absolutely—done absolutely nothing to solve. The United States can, could, should act to stop this ongoing annexation, colonization and so forth, which has led to disenfranchisement. I mean, his analysis is impeccable, but his actions—as Professor Glaude said, his actions are just not in keeping with his words, and have not been over eight years in keeping with his words.

president-elect’s team includes people like his son-in-law, his nominee for ambassador to Israel and others, who are not just in favor of incendiary acts like moving the embassy, but are themselves major financial or political supporters of the Israeli settler movement. So we’re not just talking about people who are rhetorically in favor of this or that extremist position.

Jared Kushner, who will be a top adviser his son-in-law. David Friedman. the ambassador designate, and Jared Kushner are both, according to all the reports, major financial backers of the settlement movement. So, what we have in American and Israeli politics with the arrival of Trump is the completion of a convergence between the extreme right-wing settler, colonial regime that we have in Israel and a segment of the American ruling class, if you want. I mean, Jared Kushner is a major real estate entrepreneur, and he’s used many, many, many of his family’s millions to support not just charitable causes in Israel, but the settler movement, among many other extreme causes.

And so, what we’re seeing on the policy level, what we’re seeing on the media level, what we’re seeing in terms of people who are making political contributions to both the right-wing parties in Israel and American political parties is sort of a convergence of the two systems, but at a time when we’re going to have the most extreme—we have had the most extreme right-wing government in Israel’s history, and when we’re going to have a president who is in favor of things that are sometimes to the right even of that right-wing Israeli government, in terms of what his designees for various positions have said.

I think every American president who has stood by idly and just uttered words, like the president has done in his press conference and like the secretary of state did in his speech, and did nothing to actually stop this trend, that he so accurately described, are—they’re all responsible. He is certainly responsible. Had Security Council Resolution 2334 been passed in the first year of this president’s eight years, who knows what might have happened?

That resolution said that everything Israel has done in the Occupied Territories, in Jerusalem and the rest of them, is illegal. It has said that moving its population into occupied territories is a violation of the Geneva Convention, i.e. moving a half a million or 600,000 Israelis into territory occupied is illegal, that the acquisition of territory by force is illegal. And it went on to lay down various other parameters for a solution, including a two-state solution, and the ’67 borders as the basis of that. Now, none of this is new. The United Nations has said this again and again and again. This is a reiteration of Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967. It’s also a reiteration of positions that have been taken by every single American administration from President Johnson’s to George W. Bush’s, and this one, as well.

But had that been laid down as a marker, a slap in the face of the Netanyahu government, in 2009, when the president came into office, instead of mollycoddling them, instead of continuing to fund settlements—we fund settlements by giving American so-called charities 501(c)(3) status. The president could have reversed that on the first day he was in office, saying, “You cannot send money, tax-free money—you cannot reduce your taxes to support illegal occupation and colonization.” He didn’t do that. The Justice Department, the Treasury could have done that. So, we have financed by—we taxpayers, who are actually paying our taxes, have enabled people who are not paying our taxes, by making so-called charitable deductions, support the settlement movement. Jared Kushner is one of them. [David] Friedman is one of them. There are many, many others.

this should be a wake-up call for people in the United States who had some kind of idea of Israel as the light unto the nations, to wake up and realize that the United States has helped to create a situation in which Israeli Jews rule over disenfranchised Arabs, that this is not a light unto the nations. This is not really a democracy, if you have helots. He called them “not citizens.” Well, you can call them what you want. He said they’re disenfranchised. It’s actually worse than that. Go to the Occupied Territories. Go to Arab communities inside Israel. Look at what happened to a member of Knesset yesterday, shot in the face by Israeli border police, because he protested the demolition of a village in the south of Israel. You’re talking about people who, in some cases, nominally have rights—Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel—or in the Occupied Territories having really no rights, and both of whom live under an unjust and discriminatory regime. We have fostered that. We have helped to finance and fund that, all the while our political leaders talk about how wonderful Israel is, how its values and our values—well, these are Jim Crow values. The president talked about Jim Crow. What Israel is enforcing are worse than Jim Crow values. And I think we have to start talking and thinking in those terms and setting ourselves apart or understanding how to set ourselves apart from those kinds of practices that are discriminatory or racist.

– what do you think it was that led President Obama to have the ambassador for—to have the United States abstain from this, at the very end of his two terms?

I can’t speculate what was going on in his mind, why at the very end. It’s a really good question. I would love to have seen this eight years ago. Maybe it was his chance to get back at the slights and insults that he’s been receiving from Prime Minister Netanyahu over the past eight years, coming to Congress and attacking American—

– Netanyahu, famously, to say the least, disrespects him. And yet President Obama has been more solicitous of Israel than all the previous presidents from the Bushes on to Clinton, all involved with resolutions that were critical of Israel, but President Obama did not allow that to happen until now.

This is the first such resolution that has passed under Obama. Every—as you’ve just said, every previous American president has allowed or has sponsored resolutions that are just as harsh as this or involved elements of this resolution. So, maybe he was—you know, what he seems to be doing in his last few days, few weeks, few months, is to doing—is to do some of the things that maybe he wanted to do but felt he couldn’t do. And it’s really a terrible shame. I mean, this is a—this is a man who came into office, supposedly, with fresh ideas about how to deal with the Middle East. He appointed Senator Mitchell, who ultimately was undermined by people he himself had appointed, and was not able to do what he wanted to do. And from that point on, I think it really was downhill for this president, as far as the Middle East is concerned. His legacy is not a good one, as far as Arab-Israeli issues, as far as the Palestinians are concerned. Palestinians will not—and Arabs and, I would argue, Israelis should not remember this man’s legacy with any fondness.
____

Eddie Glaude
chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, author of several books, most recently “Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul.”

Rashid Khalidi
Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. He’s the author of several books; his most recent is titled Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.

— source democracynow.org