position:chairman

  • Burying the Nakba: How Israel systematically hides evidence of 1948 expulsion of Arabs
    By Hagar Shezaf Jul 05, 2019 - Israel News - Haaretz.com
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-how-israel-systematically-hides-evidence-of-1948-expulsio

    International forces overseeing the evacuation of Iraq al-Manshiyya, near today’s Kiryat Gat, in March, 1949. Collection of Benno Rothenberg/Israel State Archives

    Four years ago, historian Tamar Novick was jolted by a document she found in the file of Yosef Vashitz, from the Arab Department of the left-wing Mapam Party, in the Yad Yaari archive at Givat Haviva. The document, which seemed to describe events that took place during the 1948 war, began:

    “Safsaf [former Palestinian village near Safed] – 52 men were caught, tied them to one another, dug a pit and shot them. 10 were still twitching. Women came, begged for mercy. Found bodies of 6 elderly men. There were 61 bodies. 3 cases of rape, one east of from Safed, girl of 14, 4 men shot and killed. From one they cut off his fingers with a knife to take the ring.”

    The writer goes on to describe additional massacres, looting and abuse perpetrated by Israeli forces in Israel’s War of Independence. “There’s no name on the document and it’s not clear who’s behind it,” Dr. Novick tells Haaretz. “It also breaks off in the middle. I found it very disturbing. I knew that finding a document like this made me responsible for clarifying what happened.”

    The Upper Galilee village of Safsaf was captured by the Israel Defense Forces in Operation Hiram toward the end of 1948. Moshav Safsufa was established on its ruins. Allegations were made over the years that the Seventh Brigade committed war crimes in the village. Those charges are supported by the document Novick found, which was not previously known to scholars. It could also constitute additional evidence that the Israeli top brass knew about what was going on in real time.

    Novick decided to consult with other historians about the document. Benny Morris, whose books are basic texts in the study of the Nakba – the “calamity,” as the Palestinians refer to the mass emigration of Arabs from the country during the 1948 war – told her that he, too, had come across similar documentation in the past. He was referring to notes made by Mapam Central Committee member Aharon Cohen on the basis of a briefing given in November 1948 by Israel Galili, the former chief of staff of the Haganah militia, which became the IDF. Cohen’s notes in this instance, which Morris published, stated: “Safsaf 52 men tied with a rope. Dropped into a pit and shot. 10 were killed. Women pleaded for mercy. [There were] 3 cases of rape. Caught and released. A girl of 14 was raped. Another 4 were killed. Rings of knives.”

    Morris’ footnote (in his seminal “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949”) states that this document was also found in the Yad Yaari Archive. But when Novick returned to examine the document, she was surprised to discover that it was no longer there.

    Palestine refugees initially displaced to Gaza board boats to Lebanon or Egypt, in 1949. Hrant Nakashian/1949 UN Archives

    “At first I thought that maybe Morris hadn’t been accurate in his footnote, that perhaps he had made a mistake,” Novick recalls. “It took me time to consider the possibility that the document had simply disappeared.” When she asked those in charge where the document was, she was told that it had been placed behind lock and key at Yad Yaari – by order of the Ministry of Defense.

    Since the start of the last decade, Defense Ministry teams have been scouring Israel’s archives and removing historic documents. But it’s not just papers relating to Israel’s nuclear project or to the country’s foreign relations that are being transferred to vaults: Hundreds of documents have been concealed as part of a systematic effort to hide evidence of the Nakba.

    The phenomenon was first detected by the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research. According to a report drawn up by the institute, the operation is being spearheaded by Malmab, the Defense Ministry’s secretive security department (the name is a Hebrew acronym for “director of security of the defense establishment”), whose activities and budget are classified. The report asserts that Malmab removed historical documentation illegally and with no authority, and at least in some cases has sealed documents that had previously been cleared for publication by the military censor. Some of the documents that were placed in vaults had already been published.
    An investigative report by Haaretz found that Malmab has concealed testimony from IDF generals about the killing of civilians and the demolition of villages, as well as documentation of the expulsion of Bedouin during the first decade of statehood. Conversations conducted by Haaretz with directors of public and private archives alike revealed that staff of the security department had treated the archives as their property, in some cases threatening the directors themselves.

    Yehiel Horev, who headed Malmab for two decades, until 2007, acknowledged to Haaretz that he launched the project, which is still ongoing. He maintains that it makes sense to conceal the events of 1948, because uncovering them could generate unrest among the country’s Arab population. Asked what the point is of removing documents that have already been published, he explained that the objective is to undermine the credibility of studies about the history of the refugee problem. In Horev’s view, an allegation made by a researcher that’s backed up by an original document is not the same as an allegation that cannot be proved or refuted.

    The document Novick was looking for might have reinforced Morris’ work. During the investigation, Haaretz was in fact able to find the Aharon Cohen memo, which sums up a meeting of Mapam’s Political Committee on the subject of massacres and expulsions in 1948. Participants in the meeting called for cooperation with a commission of inquiry that would investigate the events. One case the committee discussed concerned “grave actions” carried out in the village of Al-Dawayima, east of Kiryat Gat. One participant mentioned the then-disbanded Lehi underground militia in this connection. Acts of looting were also reported: “Lod and Ramle, Be’er Sheva, there isn’t [an Arab] store that hasn’t been broken into. 9th Brigade says 7, 7th Brigade says 8.”
    “The party,” the document states near the end, “is against expulsion if there is no military necessity for it. There are different approaches concerning the evaluation of necessity. And further clarification is best. What happened in Galilee – those are Nazi acts! Every one of our members must report what he knows.”

    The Israeli version
    One of the most fascinating documents about the origin of the Palestinian refugee problem was written by an officer in Shai, the precursor to the Shin Bet security service. It discusses why the country was emptied of so many of its Arab inhabitants, dwelling on the circumstances of each village. Compiled in late June 1948, it was titled “The Emigration of the Arabs of Palestine.”

    Read a translation of the document here (1)

    This document was the basis for an article that Benny Morris published in 1986. After the article appeared, the document was removed from the archive and rendered inaccessible to researchers. Years later, the Malmab team reexamined the document, and ordered that it remain classified. They could not have known that a few years later researchers from Akevot would find a copy of the text and run it past the military censors – who authorized its publication unconditionally. Now, after years of concealment, the gist of the document is being revealed here.

    The 25-page document begins with an introduction that unabashedly approves of the evacuation of the Arab villages. According to the author, the month of April “excelled in an increase of emigration,” while May “was blessed with the evacuation of maximum places.” The report then addresses “the causes of the Arab emigration.” According to the Israeli narrative that was disseminated over the years, responsibility for the exodus from Israel rests with Arab politicians who encouraged the population to leave. However, according to the document, 70 percent of the Arabs left as a result of Jewish military operations.

    Palestinian children awaiting distribution of milk by UNICEF at the Nazareth Franciscan Sisters’ convent, on January 1, 1950. AW / UN Photo

    The unnamed author of the text ranks the reasons for the Arabs’ departure in order of importance. The first reason: “Direct Jewish acts of hostility against Arab places of settlement.” The second reason was the impact of those actions on neighboring villages. Third in importance came “operations by the breakaways,” namely the Irgun and Lehi undergrounds. The fourth reason for the Arab exodus was orders issued by Arab institutions and “gangs” (as the document refers to all Arab fighting groups); fifth was “Jewish ’whispering operations’ to induce the Arab inhabitants to flee”; and the sixth factor was “evacuation ultimatums.”

    The author asserts that, “without a doubt, the hostile operations were the main cause of the movement of the population.” In addition, “Loudspeakers in the Arabic language proved their effectiveness on the occasions when they were utilized properly.” As for Irgun and Lehi operations, the report observes that “many in the villages of central Galilee started to flee following the abduction of the notables of Sheikh Muwannis [a village north of Tel Aviv]. The Arab learned that it is not enough to forge an agreement with the Haganah and that there are other Jews [i.e., the breakaway militias] to beware of.”

    The author notes that ultimatums to leave were especially employed in central Galilee, less so in the Mount Gilboa region. “Naturally, the act of this ultimatum, like the effect of the ’friendly advice,’ came after a certain preparing of the ground by means of hostile actions in the area.”
    An appendix to the document describes the specific causes of the exodus from each of scores of Arab locales: Ein Zeitun – “our destruction of the village”; Qeitiya – “harassment, threat of action”; Almaniya – “our action, many killed”; Tira – “friendly Jewish advice”; Al’Amarir – “after robbery and murder carried out by the breakaways”; Sumsum – “our ultimatum”; Bir Salim – “attack on the orphanage”; and Zarnuga – “conquest and expulsion.”

    Short fuse
    In the early 2000s, the Yitzhak Rabin Center conducted a series of interviews with former public and military figures as part of a project to document their activity in the service of the state. The long arm of Malmab seized on these interviews, too. Haaretz, which obtained the original texts of several of the interviews, compared them to the versions that are now available to the public, after large swaths of them were declared classified.

    These included, for example, sections of the testimony of Brig. Gen. (res.) Aryeh Shalev about the expulsion across the border of the residents of a village he called “Sabra.” Later in the interview, the following sentences were deleted: “There was a very serious problem in the valley. There were refugees who wanted to return to the valley, to the Triangle [a concentration of Arab towns and villages in eastern Israel]. We expelled them. I met with them to persuade them not to want that. I have papers about it.”

    In another case, Malmab decided to conceal the following segment from an interview that historian Boaz Lev Tov conducted with Maj. Gen. (res.) Elad Peled:
    Lev Tov: “We’re talking about a population – women and children?”
    Peled: “All, all. Yes.”
    Lev Tov: “Don’t you distinguish between them?”
    Peled: “The problem is very simple. The war is between two populations. They come out of their home.”
    Lev Tov: “If the home exists, they have somewhere to return to?”
    Peled: “It’s not armies yet, it’s gangs. We’re also actually gangs. We come out of the house and return to the house. They come out of the house and return to the house. It’s either their house or our house.”
    Lev Tov: “Qualms belong to the more recent generation?”
    Peled: “Yes, today. When I sit in an armchair here and think about what happened, all kinds of thoughts come to mind.”
    Lev Tov: “Wasn’t that the case then?”
    Peled: “Look, let me tell you something even less nice and cruel, about the big raid in Sasa [Palestinian village in Upper Galilee]. The goal was actually to deter them, to tell them, ‘Dear friends, the Palmach [the Haganah “shock troops”] can reach every place, you are not immune.’ That was the heart of the Arab settlement. But what did we do? My platoon blew up 20 homes with everything that was there.”
    Lev Tov: “While people were sleeping there?”
    Peled: “I suppose so. What happened there, we came, we entered the village, planted a bomb next to every house, and afterward Homesh blew on a trumpet, because we didn’t have radios, and that was the signal [for our forces] to leave. We’re running in reverse, the sappers stay, they pull, it’s all primitive. They light the fuse or pull the detonator and all those houses are gone.”

    IDF soldiers guarding Palestinians in Ramle, in 1948. Collection of Benno Rothenberg/The IDF and Defense Establishment Archives

    Another passage that the Defense Ministry wanted to keep from the public came from Dr. Lev Tov’s conversation with Maj. Gen. Avraham Tamir:
    Tamir: “I was under Chera [Maj. Gen. Tzvi Tzur, later IDF chief of staff], and I had excellent working relations with him. He gave me freedom of action – don’t ask – and I happened to be in charge of staff and operations work during two developments deriving from [Prime Minister David] Ben-Gurion’s policy. One development was when reports arrived about marches of refugees from Jordan toward the abandoned villages [in Israel]. And then Ben-Gurion lays down as policy that we have to demolish [the villages] so they won’t have anywhere to return to. That is, all the Arab villages, most of which were in [the area covered by] Central Command, most of them.”
    Lev Tov: “The ones that were still standing?”
    Tamir: “The ones that weren’t yet inhabited by Israelis. There were places where we had already settled Israelis, like Zakariyya and others. But most of them were still abandoned villages.”
    Lev Tov: “That were standing?”
    Tamir: “Standing. It was necessary for there to be no place for them to return to, so I mobilized all the engineering battalions of Central Command, and within 48 hours I knocked all those villages to the ground. Period. There’s no place to return to.”
    Lev Tov: “Without hesitation, I imagine.”
    Tamir: “Without hesitation. That was the policy. I mobilized, I carried it out and I did it.”

    Crates in vaults
    The vault of the Yad Yaari Research and Documentation Center is one floor below ground level. In the vault, which is actually a small, well-secured room, are stacks of crates containing classified documents. The archive houses the materials of the Hashomer Hatzair movement, the Kibbutz Ha’artzi kibbutz movement, Mapam, Meretz and other bodies, such as Peace Now.
    The archive’s director is Dudu Amitai, who is also chairman of the Association of Israel Archivists. According to Amitai, Malmab personnel visited the archive regularly between 2009 and 2011. Staff of the archive relate that security department teams – two Defense Ministry retirees with no archival training – would show up two or three times a week. They searched for documents according to such keywords as “nuclear,” “security” and “censorship,” and also devoted considerable time to the War of Independence and the fate of the pre-1948 Arab villages.
    “In the end, they submitted a summary to us, saying that they had located a few dozen sensitive documents,” Amitai says. “We don’t usually take apart files, so dozens of files, in their entirety, found their way into our vault and were removed from the public catalog.” A file might contain more than 100 documents.
    One of the files that was sealed deals with the military government that controlled the lives of Israel’s Arab citizens from 1948 until 1966. For years, the documents were stored in the same vault, inaccessible to scholars. Recently, in the wake of a request by Prof. Gadi Algazi, a historian from Tel Aviv University, Amitai examined the file himself and ruled that there was no reason not to unseal it, Malmab’s opinion notwithstanding.

    According to Algazi, there could be several reasons for Malmab’s decision to keep the file classified. One of them has to do with a secret annex it contains to a report by a committee that examined the operation of the military government. The report deals almost entirely with land-ownership battles between the state and Arab citizens, and barely touches on security matters.

    Another possibility is a 1958 report by the ministerial committee that oversaw the military government. In one of the report’s secret appendixes, Col. Mishael Shaham, a senior officer in the military government, explains that one reason for not dismantling the martial law apparatus is the need to restrict Arab citizens’ access to the labor market and to prevent the reestablishment of destroyed villages.
    A third possible explanation for hiding the file concerns previously unpublished historical testimony about the expulsion of Bedouin. On the eve of Israel’s establishment, nearly 100,000 Bedouin lived in the Negev. Three years later, their number was down to 13,000. In the years during and after the independence war, a number of expulsion operations were carried out in the country’s south. In one case, United Nations observers reported that Israel had expelled 400 Bedouin from the Azazma tribe and cited testimonies of tents being burned. The letter that appears in the classified file describes a similar expulsion carried out as late as 1956, as related by geologist Avraham Parnes:

    The evacuation of Iraq al-Manshiyya, near today’s Kiryat Gat, in March, 1949. Collection of Benno Rothenberg/The IDF and Defense Establishment Archives

    “A month ago we toured Ramon [crater]. The Bedouin in the Mohila area came to us with their flocks and their families and asked us to break bread with them. I replied that we had a great deal of work to do and didn’t have time. In our visit this week, we headed toward Mohila again. Instead of the Bedouin and their flocks, there was deathly silence. Scores of camel carcasses were scattered in the area. We learned that three days earlier the IDF had ‘screwed’ the Bedouin, and their flocks were destroyed – the camels by shooting, the sheep with grenades. One of the Bedouin, who started to complain, was killed, the rest fled.”

    The testimony continued, “Two weeks earlier, they’d been ordered to stay where they were for the time being, afterward they were ordered to leave, and to speed things up 500 head were slaughtered.... The expulsion was executed ‘efficiently.’” The letter goes on to quote what one of the soldiers said to Parnes, according to his testimony: “They won’t go unless we’ve screwed their flocks. A young girl of about 16 approached us. She had a beaded necklace of brass snakes. We tore the necklace and each of us took a bead for a souvenir.”

    The letter was originally sent to MK Yaakov Uri, from Mapai (forerunner of Labor), who passed it on to Development Minister Mordechai Bentov (Mapam). “His letter shocked me,” Uri wrote Bentov. The latter circulated the letter among all the cabinet ministers, writing, “It is my opinion that the government cannot simply ignore the facts related in the letter.” Bentov added that, in light of the appalling contents of the letter, he asked security experts to check its credibility. They had confirmed that the contents “do in fact generally conform to the truth.”

    Nuclear excuse
    It was during the tenure of historian Tuvia Friling as Israel’s chief archivist, from 2001 to 2004, that Malmab carried out its first archival incursions. What began as an operation to prevent the leakage of nuclear secrets, he says, became, in time, a large-scale censorship project.
    “I resigned after three years, and that was one of the reasons,” Prof. Friling says. “The classification placed on the document about the Arabs’ emigration in 1948 is precisely an example of what I was apprehensive about. The storage and archival system is not an arm of the state’s public relations. If there’s something you don’t like – well, that’s life. A healthy society also learns from its mistakes.”

    Why did Friling allow the Defense Ministry to have access the archives? The reason, he says, was the intention to give the public access to archival material via the internet. In discussions about the implications of digitizing the material, concern was expressed that references in the documents to a “certain topic” would be made public by mistake. The topic, of course, is Israel’s nuclear project. Friling insists that the only authorization Malmab received was to search for documents on that subject.

    But Malmab’s activity is only one example of a broader problem, Friling notes: “In 1998, the confidentiality of the [oldest documents in the] Shin Bet and Mossad archives expired. For years those two institutions disdained the chief archivist. When I took over, they requested that the confidentiality of all the material be extended [from 50] to 70 years, which is ridiculous – most of the material can be opened.”

    In 2010, the confidentiality period was extended to 70 years; last February it was extended again, to 90 years, despite the opposition of the Supreme Council of Archives. “The state may impose confidentiality on some of its documentation,” Friling says. “The question is whether the issue of security doesn’t act as a kind of cover. In many cases, it’s already become a joke.”
    In the view of Yad Yaari’s Dudu Amitai, the confidentiality imposed by the Defense Ministry must be challenged. In his period at the helm, he says, one of the documents placed in the vault was an order issued by an IDF general, during a truce in the War of Independence, for his troops to refrain from rape and looting. Amitai now intends to go over the documents that were deposited in the vault, especially 1948 documents, and open whatever is possible. “We’ll do it cautiously and responsibly, but recognizing that the State of Israel has to learn how to cope with the less pleasant aspects of its history.”
    In contrast to Yad Yaari, where ministry personnel no longer visit, they are continuing to peruse documents at Yad Tabenkin, the research and documentation center of the United Kibbutz Movement. The director, Aharon Azati, reached an agreement with the Malmab teams under which documents will be transferred to the vault only if he is convinced that this is justified. But in Yad Tabenkin, too, Malmab has broadened its searches beyond the realm of nuclear project to encompass interviews conducted by archival staff with former members of the Palmach, and has even perused material about the history of the settlements in the occupied territories.

    Malmab has, for example, shown interest in the Hebrew-language book “A Decade of Discretion: Settlement Policy in the Territories 1967-1977,” published by Yad Tabenkin in 1992, and written by Yehiel Admoni, director of the Jewish Agency’s Settlement Department during the decade he writes about. The book mentions a plan to settle Palestinian refugees in the Jordan Valley and to the uprooting of 1,540 Bedouin families from the Rafah area of the Gaza Strip in 1972, including an operation that included the sealing of wells by the IDF. Ironically, in the case of the Bedouin, Admoni quotes former Justice Minister Yaakov Shimshon Shapira as saying, “It is not necessary to stretch the security rationale too far. The whole Bedouin episode is not a glorious chapter of the State of Israel.”

    Palestinian refugees leaving their village, unknown location, 1948. UNRWA

    According to Azati, “We are moving increasingly to a tightening of the ranks. Although this is an era of openness and transparency, there are apparently forces that are pulling in the opposite direction.”
    Unauthorized secrecy
    About a year ago, the legal adviser to the State Archives, attorney Naomi Aldouby, wrote an opinion titled “Files Closed Without Authorization in Public Archives.” According to her, the accessibility policy of public archives is the exclusive purview of the director of each institution.
    Despite Aldouby’s opinion, however, in the vast majority of cases, archivists who encountered unreasonable decisions by Malmab did not raise objections – that is, until 2014, when Defense Ministry personnel arrived at the archive of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. To the visitors’ surprise, their request to examine the archive – which contains collections of former minister and diplomat Abba Eban and Maj. Gen. (res.) Shlomo Gazit – was turned down by its then director, Menahem Blondheim.

    According to Blondheim, “I told them that the documents in question were decades old, and that I could not imagine that there was any security problem that would warrant restricting their access to researchers. In response, they said, ‘And let’s say there is testimony here that wells were poisoned in the War of Independence?’ I replied, ‘Fine, those people should be brought to trial.’”
    Blondheim’s refusal led to a meeting with a more senior ministry official, only this time the attitude he encountered was different and explicit threats were made. Finally the two sides reached an accommodation.
    Benny Morris is not surprised at Malmab’s activity. “I knew about it,” he says “Not officially, no one informed me, but I encountered it when I discovered that documents I had seen in the past are now sealed. There were documents from the IDF Archive that I used for an article about Deir Yassin, and which are now sealed. When I came to the archive, I was no longer allowed to see the original, so I pointed out in a footnote [in the article] that the State Archive had denied access to documents that I had published 15 years earlier.”
    The Malmab case is only one example of the battle being waged for access to archives in Israel. According to the executive director of the Akevot Institute, Lior Yavne, “The IDF Archive, which is the largest archive in Israel, is sealed almost hermetically. About 1 percent of the material is open. The Shin Bet archive, which contains materials of immense importance [to scholars], is totally closed apart from a handful of documents.”

    A report written by Yaacov Lozowick, the previous chief archivist at the State Archives, upon his retirement, refers to the defense establishment’s grip on the country’s archival materials. In it, he writes, “A democracy must not conceal information because it is liable to embarrass the state. In practice, the security establishment in Israel, and to a certain extent that of foreign relations as well, are interfering with the [public] discussion.”

    Advocates of concealment put forward several arguments, Lozowick notes: “The uncovering of the facts could provide our enemies with a battering ram against us and weaken the determination of our friends; it’s liable to stir up the Arab population; it could enfeeble the state’s arguments in courts of law; and what is revealed could be interpreted as Israeli war crimes.” However, he says, “All these arguments must be rejected. This is an attempt to hide part of the historical truth in order to construct a more convenient version.”

    What Malmab says
    Yehiel Horev was the keeper of the security establishment’s secrets for more than two decades. He headed the Defense Ministry’s security department from 1986 until 2007 and naturally kept out of the limelight. To his credit, he now agreed to talk forthrightly to Haaretz about the archives project.
    “I don’t remember when it began,” Horev says, “but I do know that I started it. If I’m not mistaken, it started when people wanted to publish documents from the archives. We had to set up teams to examine all outgoing material.”
    From conversations with archive directors, it’s clear that a good deal of the documents on which confidentiality was imposed relate to the War of Independence. Is concealing the events of 1948 part of the purpose of Malmab?

    Palestinian refugees in the Ramle area, 1948. Boris Carmi / The IDF and Defense Establishment Archives

    “What does ‘part of the purpose’ mean? The subject is examined based on an approach of whether it could harm Israel’s foreign relations and the defense establishment. Those are the criteria. I think it’s still relevant. There has not been peace since 1948. I may be wrong, but to the best of my knowledge the Arab-Israeli conflict has not been resolved. So yes, it could be that problematic subjects remain.”

    Asked in what way such documents might be problematic, Horev speaks of the possibility of agitation among the country’s Arab citizens. From his point of view, every document must be perused and every case decided on its merits.

    If the events of 1948 weren’t known, we could argue about whether this approach is the right one. That is not the case. Many testimonies and studies have appeared about the history of the refugee problem. What’s the point of hiding things?
    “The question is whether it can do harm or not. It’s a very sensitive matter. Not everything has been published about the refugee issue, and there are all kinds of narratives. Some say there was no flight at all, only expulsion. Others say there was flight. It’s not black-and-white. There’s a difference between flight and those who say they were forcibly expelled. It’s a different picture. I can’t say now if it merits total confidentiality, but it’s a subject that definitely has to be discussed before a decision is made about what to publish.”

    For years, the Defense Ministry has imposed confidentiality on a detailed document that describes the reasons for the departure of those who became refugees. Benny Morris has already written about the document, so what’s the logic of keeping it hidden?
    “I don’t remember the document you’re referring to, but if he quoted from it and the document itself is not there [i.e., where Morris says it is], then his facts aren’t strong. If he says, ‘Yes, I have the document,’ I can’t argue with that. But if he says that it’s written there, that could be right and it could be wrong. If the document were already outside and were sealed in the archive, I would say that that’s folly. But if someone quoted from it – there’s a difference of day and night in terms of the validity of the evidence he cited.”

    In this case, we’re talking about the most quoted scholar when it comes to the Palestinian refugees.
    “The fact that you say ‘scholar’ makes no impression on me. I know people in academia who spout nonsense about subjects that I know from A to Z. When the state imposes confidentiality, the published work is weakened, because he doesn’t have the document.”

    But isn’t concealing documents based on footnotes in books an attempt to lock the barn door after the horses have bolted?
    “I gave you an example that this needn’t be the case. If someone writes that the horse is black, if the horse isn’t outside the barn, you can’t prove that it’s really black.”

    There are legal opinions stating that Malmab’s activity in the archives is illegal and unauthorized.
    “If I know that an archive contains classified material, I am empowered to tell the police to go there and confiscate the material. I can also utilize the courts. I don’t need the archivist’s authorization. If there is classified material, I have the authority to act. Look, there’s policy. Documents aren’t sealed for no reason. And despite it all, I won’t say to you that everything that’s sealed is 100 percent justified [in being sealed].”

    The Defense Ministry refused to respond to specific questions regarding the findings of this investigative report and made do with the following response: “The director of security of the defense establishment operates by virtue of his responsibility to protect the state’s secrets and its security assets. The Malmab does not provide details about its mode of activity or its missions.”

    Lee Rotbart assisted in providing visual research for this article.

    (1) https://www.haaretz.co.il/st/inter/Heng/1948.pdf

  • Democrats and Republicans Passing Soft Regulations - The Atlantic
    https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/06/democrats-and-republicans-passing-soft-regulations/592558

    Your face is no longer just your face—it’s been augmented. At a football game, your face is currency, used to buy food at the stadium. At the mall, it is a ledger, used to alert salespeople to your past purchases, both online and offline, and shopping preferences. At a protest, it is your arrest history. At the morgue, it is how authorities will identify your body.

    Facial-recognition technology stands to transform social life, tracking our every move for companies, law enforcement, and anyone else with the right tools. Lawmakers are weighing the risks versus rewards, with a recent wave of proposed regulation in Washington State, Massachusetts, Oakland, and the U.S. legislature. In May, Republicans and Democrats in the House Committee on Oversight and Reform heard hours of testimony about how unregulated facial recognition already tracks protesters, impacts the criminal-justice system, and exacerbates racial biases. Surprisingly, they agreed to work together to regulate it.

    The Microsoft president Brad Smith called for governments “to start adopting laws to regulate this technology” last year, while the Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy echoed those comments in June, likening the technology to a knife. It’s a less dramatic image than the plutonium and nuclear-waste metaphors critics employ, but his message—coming from an executive at one of the world’s most powerful facial-recognition technology outfits—is clear: This stuff is dangerous.

    But crucially, Jassy and Smith seem to argue, it’s also inevitable. In calling for regulation, Microsoft and Amazon have pulled a neat trick: Instead of making the debate about whether facial recognition should be widely adopted, they’ve made it about how such adoption would work.

    Without regulation, the potential for misuse of facial-recognition technology is high, particularly for people of color. In 2016 the MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini published research showing that tech performs better on lighter-skinned men than on darker-skinned men, and performs worst on darker-skinned women. When the ACLU matched Congress members against a criminal database, Amazon’s Rekognition software misidentified black Congress members more often than white ones, despite there being far fewer black members.

    This includes House Chairman Elijah Cummings, a Baltimore native whose face was also scanned when he attended a 2015 rally in memory of Freddie Gray, the unarmed black teenager who died of a spinal-cord injury while in police custody. The Baltimore Police Department used facial recognition to identify protesters and target any with outstanding warrants. Most of the protesters were black, meaning the software used on them might have been less accurate, increasing the likelihood of misidentification. Expert witnesses at the committee hearing in May warned of a chilling effect: Protesters, wary of being identified via facial recognition and matched against criminal databases, could choose to stay home rather than exercise their freedom of assembly.

    Microsoft and Amazon both claim to have lessened the racial disparity in accuracy since the original MIT study and the ACLU’s report. But fine-tuning the technology to better recognize black faces is only part of the process: Perfectly accurate technology could still be used to support harmful policing, which affects people of color. The racial-accuracy problem is a distraction; how the technology is used matters, and that’s where policy could prevent abuse. And the solution Microsoft and Amazon propose would require auditing face recognition for racial and gender biases after they’re already in use—which might be too late.

    In early May, The Washington Post reported that police were feeding forensic sketches to their facial-recognition software. A witness described a suspect to a sketch artist, then police uploaded the sketch to Amazon’s Rekognition, looking for hits, and eventually arrested someone. Experts at the congressional hearing in May were shocked that a sketch submitted to a database could credibly qualify as enough reasonable suspicion to arrest someone.

    Read: Half of American adults are in police facial-recognition databases

    But Jassy, the Amazon Web Services CEO, claimed that Amazon has never received a report of police misuse. In May, Amazon shareholders voted down a proposal that would ban the sale of Rekognition to police, and halt sales to law enforcement and ICE. Jassy said that police should only rely on Rekognition results when the system is 99 percent confident in the accuracy of a match. This is a potentially critical safeguard against misidentification, but it’s just a suggestion: Amazon doesn’t require police to adhere to this threshold, or even ask. In January, Gizmodo quoted an Oregon sheriff’s official saying his department ignores thresholds completely. (“There has never been a single reported complaint from the public and no issues with the local constituency around their use of Rekognition,” a representative from Amazon said, in part, in a statement to Gizmodo.)

    #Reconnaissance_faciale #Libertés #Espace_public #Etat_policier

  • The Tiananmen Square massacre, 30 years on - World Socialist Web Site
    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/06/08/tian-j08.html

    By Peter Symonds, 8 June 2019 - Thirty years have passed since heavily-armed Chinese troops, backed by tanks, moved through the suburbs of Beijing on the night of June 3–4, 1989, killing hundreds, probably thousands, of unarmed civilians. The military forces overwhelmed makeshift barricades with brute force as they made their way to Tiananmen Square—the site of weeks of mass protests by students and workers.

    Those barbaric events, which demonstrated the willingness of the Stalinist Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime to do anything to stay in power, have gone down in history as the Tiananmen Square massacre. Yet most of deaths during that murderous assault were of workers who courageously tried to halt the progress of troops to central Beijing. Estimates vary, but up to 7,000 were killed and 20,000 wounded.

    Moreover, in the reign of terror that followed throughout China it was the workers who received the harshest penalties, including lengthy jail terms and death sentences. Around 40,000 people were arrested just in June and July, mostly members of Workers Autonomous Federations that had sprung up in the course of the protests.
    Protesters in Tiananmen Square

    What is commonly depicted as the crushing of student protesters was in fact a wave of repression directed overwhelmingly against a mass movement of the working class. What had begun in April as student protests calling for democratic reforms had swelled into the millions as workers joined the demonstrations by mid-May, making their own class demands.

    The Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation was established on April 20 with a handful of workers and rapidly expanded to become a major organising centre by mid-May. On May 17, up to two million people marched through the centre of Beijing, the majority being workers and their families under the banners of their work units or enterprises. Reflecting the impact of events in Beijing, Workers Autonomous Federations were established in a host of major cities, including Changsha, Shaoyang, Xiangtan, Hengyang and Yueyang.

    While moderate student leaders were intent on pressing the CCP bureaucracy for concessions on democratic rights, workers were animated by concerns over deteriorating living standards, soaring inflation and a wave of sackings and closures. The regime’s embrace of the capitalist market since the 1970s had led to widening social inequality and rampant bureaucratic corruption and profiteering. Workers were bitterly hostile to the accumulation of privileges and wealth by the top CCP leaders, such as Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng, Zhao Ziyang, Jiang Zemin, Chen Yun and their family members, and were contemptuous of their claims to be communist and socialist.

    A statement by workers issued on May 25 expressed the rebellious currents in the working class. “Our nation was created by the struggle and labour of we workers and all other mental and manual labourers. We are the rightful masters of this nation. We must be heard in national affairs. We must not allow this small band of degenerate scum of the nation and the working class to usurp our name and suppress the students, murder democracy and trample human rights.” [1]

    Premier Zhao Ziyang had been sympathetic to the demands of student leaders and had counselled making small concessions to calls for basic democratic rights. However, no compromise was possible with the working class, whose unrest threatened the very existence of the regime. As the protest movement rapidly grew in size and confidence, paramount leader Deng Xiaoping removed his ally Zhao as premier, installed hardline Li Peng in his place and ordered the military to violently suppress the protests in Beijing and nationally.
    The crisis of Stalinism

    The resort to such extreme measures was bound up with the profound crisis of Stalinism, not only in China but internationally. In response to deepening economic and social crises, a turn was underway in China, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union toward the dismantling of centralised bureaucratic planning mechanisms, encouragement of private enterprise and establishment of market mechanisms.

    After assuming the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev introduced his keynote policies of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness and transparency) that laid the framework for greater autonomy for enterprises outside the central planning mechanisms and, under the guise of democratic reform, sought to establish a base of social support for the regime among the petty bourgeoisie.

    Gorbachev’s pro-market restructuring also encouraged the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe in their plans for capitalist restoration, making desperate bids to resolve their mounting economic and political crises. These processes dramatically accelerated as Gorbachev signaled that the Soviet Union would not intervene militarily to prop up its Soviet bloc allies, as it had done in Hungary in 1956 to crush the workers’ uprising and in Czechoslovakia in 1968 to end liberal reforms. In December 1987, he announced the withdrawal of 500,000 Soviet troops from Eastern Europe.

    In a very short period of time, during 1989–90, the Stalinist bureaucracies in one Eastern European country after another moved to restore capitalism, dismantling what remained of nationalised property relations and centralised planning.

    In Poland, talks between the government and opposition Solidarity leaders resulted in a deal in April 1989 to hold limited elections. This paved the way for the installation in August of Solidarity leader Tadeusz Mazowiecki as prime minister. He unleashed sweeping pro-market restructuring.

    Similar negotiations in Hungary, where the processes of pro-market restructuring were already advanced, led to a new constitution in August 1989. Multi-party elections in May 1990 resulted in a government that junked what remained of centralised planning and carried out wholesale privatisation.

    Amid a mounting economic and political crisis, Gorbachev visited Berlin in October 1989 to urge the East German government to accelerate pro-market reforms. Erich Honecker resigned as leader two weeks later. On November 9, the government announced the end of all border restrictions and Berlin citizens tore down the hated Berlin Wall. Before the end of the month, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl unveiled a plan to integrate East Germany with capitalist West Germany—a process that was completed by October 1990.

    The collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Czechoslovakia, Romania and Bulgaria quickly followed. By the end of 1990, governments throughout Eastern Europe were giving full rein to the plunder of state-owned property, an influx of foreign capital and the dismantling of social services, leading to a precipitous deterioration in living standards.

    Gorbachev’s policies in the Soviet Union gave rise to intense pressures within the Stalinist bureaucracy and the emerging layer of entrepreneurs for a far speedier dismantling of all fetters on private ownership and market relations. This found expression in the installation of Boris Yeltsin in July 1991 and the implementation of pro-market “shock therapy.” In December 1991, the Soviet Union was formally dissolved.

    The break-up of the Soviet Union and collapse of the Stalinist states in Eastern Europe led to an orgy of triumphalism in the capitalist media proclaiming the end of socialism. Pundits, politicians and academics, who had foreseen nothing and could explain nothing, exulted over the triumph of the market, even going so far as to pronounce the end of history. In other words, capitalism supposedly represented the highest and final stage of human development. A new period of peace, prosperity and democracy would dawn, they all declared.

    The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), based on the analysis made by Leon Trotsky of Stalinism, had rejected the universal adulation of Gorbachev and warned that his policies were rapidly leading to the dismantling of the gains of the first workers’ state. Its perspectives resolution entitled “The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International,” published in August 1988, made clear that the breakdown of the Soviet Union was not a product of socialism, but rather of Stalinism and its reactionary autarchic conception of “socialism in one country”:

    The very real crisis of the Soviet economy is rooted in its enforced isolation from the resources of the world market and the international division of labour. There are only two ways this crisis can be tackled. The way proposed by Gorbachev involves the dismantling of state industry, the renunciation of the planning principle, and the abandonment of the state monopoly on foreign trade, i.e., the reintegration of the Soviet Union into the structure of world capitalism. The alternative to this reactionary solution requires the smashing of imperialism’s domination over the world economy by linking up the Soviet and international working class in a revolutionary offensive aimed at extending the planned economy into the European, North American and Asian citadels of capitalism. [2]

    In the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the ICFI identified the root cause of the crisis of Stalinism in the processes of the globalisation of production that had been underway since the late 1970s, which had undermined all programs based on national economic regulation. While the crisis of Stalinism was the most immediate and acute expression, these same processes lay behind the international embrace of pro-market restructuring by Social Democratic and Labour parties, and trade unions, and their abandonment of any defence of the social rights of the working class.
    Capitalist restoration in China

    The events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union had a profound impact in China, where processes of capitalist restoration had been underway since the 1970s. The CCP’s decision in June 1989 to use the military to brutally suppress the working class was in no small measure conditioned by its longstanding fear of a repetition in China of the mass strike movement in Poland in 1980–81 that led to the formation of the Solidarity trade union.

    China specialist Maurice Meisner explained that the involvement of masses of workers in the protests in Tiananmen Square on May 17 “did much to rekindle the ‘Polish fear’ among Party leaders, their decade-old obsession about the rise of a Solidarity-type alliance between workers and intellectuals in opposition to the Communist state. And that fear, in turn, contributed to their fateful decision to impose martial law.” [3]

    While Deng Xiaoping recognised the affinity of Gorbachev’s perestroika with the policies that he had already enacted, he did not embrace the political liberalisation of glasnost, fearing it would undermine the foundations of the CCP regime. When Gorbachev visited Beijing in mid-May 1989 to cement closer Sino-Soviet ties, the Chinese leadership kept him closeted from public view, anxious that his presence would give further impetus to the protests in Tiananmen Square. The rapid collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe only heightened the determination of the CCP bureaucracy to suppress any opposition.

    The roots of the crisis in China lay in the outcome of the 1949 Chinese revolution. The monumental events that brought the Chinese Communist Party to power ended more than a century of imperialist oppression that had mired the country of more than 500 million in squalor and backwardness. It expressed the aspirations of the vast majority of the population for economic security, basic democratic and social rights, and a decent standard of living. Decades of political upheaval and a war against Japanese imperialism from 1937 to 1945 had ravaged the country and left an estimated 14 million Chinese soldiers and civilians dead.

    Like the Soviet bureaucracy, however, the new CCP apparatus was based on the reactionary nationalist program of “socialism in one country,” which was a repudiation of socialist internationalism and Leon Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution which underpinned the October Revolution in Russia in 1917.

    As a result, the course of the revolution and the subsequent evolution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) proclaimed by Mao Zedong in 1949 was distorted and deformed by Stalinism, which dominated the CCP in the wake of Stalin’s betrayal of the Second Chinese Revolution of 1925–27. Stalin subordinated the very young CCP to the bourgeois nationalist Kuomintang, resulting in crushing blows to the Chinese Communists and working class in April 1927, and again in May 1927. CCP leaders and members who supported Trotsky’s analysis of the tragedy were expelled.

    In the wake of the 1949 Chinese Revolution, the pragmatic, nationalist ideology of Maoism led China rapidly into a blind alley. Mao’s perspective of a “New Democracy” sought to maintain a bloc with the national bourgeoisie, but the CCP government was driven, under conditions of the Korean War and the internal sabotage by bourgeois and petty bourgeois elements, to go further than intended. By 1956, virtually every aspect of the economy was nationalised and subject to bureaucratic planning along the lines of the Soviet Union, but the working class had no say through its own democratic organs.

    The organic hostility of the Maoist regime to the working class was expressed in its repression of Chinese Trotskyists, all of whom were jailed in 1952 amid the rising resistance by workers. As with the Eastern European states, the Fourth International characterised China as a deformed workers’ state, a highly conditional formula that placed the emphasis on the deformed, bureaucratic character of the regime.

    The national autarky of “socialism in one country” generated worsening economic and social turmoil, and crises for which the CCP bureaucracy had no solution, leading to bitter internal factional warfare. Mao’s fanciful scheme for a peasant socialist society, which underpinned his “Great Leap Forward,” ended in economic catastrophe and mass starvation. His factional opponents, led by Liu Shaoqi, followed the Soviet model of bureaucratic planning with its emphasis on heavy industry, but this provided no alternative.

    The economic crisis was greatly worsened by the 1961–63 split with the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of Soviet aid and advisers, as the two Stalinist regimes advanced their conflicting national interests. In a last desperate bid to oust his rivals, Mao unleashed the Cultural Revolution in 1966, which rapidly span out of his control, leading to confused and convulsive social struggles that threatened the very existence of the regime. Mao turned to the military to suppress workers who had taken literally his edict to “Bombard the Headquarters,” resulting in mass strikes in Shanghai and the formation of an independent Shanghai People’s Commune in 1967.

    Incapable of resolving the immense economic and social problems wracking the country, and facing a military confrontation with the Soviet Union, the CCP bureaucracy forged an anti-Soviet alliance with US imperialism that laid the basis for China’s integration into global capitalism. While Deng Xiaoping is generally credited with initiating market reforms, Mao’s rapprochement with US President Richard Nixon in 1972 was the essential political and diplomatic pre-condition for foreign investment and increased trade with the West.

    The process of “opening and reform” went hand-in-hand with the imposition of strict discipline and emphasis on boosting production in workplaces. Maurice Meissner noted: “Factory managers dismissed during the Cultural Revolution were restored to their former posts, accompanied by calls to strengthen managerial authority, labour discipline, and factory rules and regulations—and to struggle against ‘anarchism’ and ‘ultra-leftism.’ There were dramatic increases in foreign trade and in imports of foreign technology. Veteran party leaders attacked during the Cultural Revolution were ‘rehabilitated’ at an increasingly rapid pace; by 1973, it has been noted, ‘the pre-Cultural Revolution cadres were running the government ministries.” [4]

    From 1969 to 1975, the value of foreign trade increased from $US4 billion to $14 billion per annum. From the end of 1972 until mid-1975, China imported whole industrial plants, valued at $2.8 billion, mainly from Japan and western Europe.

    Deng Xiaoping who had been ostracised during the Cultural Revolution as the “No 2 capitalist roader,” was rehabilitated, appointed a vice premier of the state council under Zhou Enlai. Deng led the Chinese delegation to a special session of the UN in 1974 where he declared that the “socialist bloc” no longer existed and China was part of the Third World. In the factional power struggle that followed Mao’s death in 1976, Deng emerged as the dominant figure in the Stalinist bureaucracy. He embraced US imperialism ever more closely, formalising diplomatic relations in 1979, launching a border war against neighbouring Vietnam, and defending US allies such as the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

    From 1978, Deng greatly accelerated the “reform and opening” pro-market reforms. Four Special Economic Zones (SEZs) were established in 1979 in Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou and Xiamen, where foreign entrepreneurs and joint ventures produced goods for export and enjoyed tax breaks and other concessions. A similar system was later implemented in key port cities such as Shanghai. In the countryside, the collectivised communes were dismantled and restrictions removed on the operation of private enterprises. Prices for agricultural produce were lifted. In the cities, moves were made to transform thousands of state-owned enterprises into profit-making corporations. Private enterprises were permitted, the market was increasingly allowed to determine prices for consumer goods, and a “labour market” was initiated, allowing the hiring and firing of workers.

    The pro-market reforms led to the rapid rise of social inequality. Millions of former peasants were left landless and forced to seek employment in the cities. In the SEZs, where the capitalist market was given free rein, corruption and criminal activity was rampant, including smuggling, bribery and the theft of state-owned property. The sons and daughters of the top party leaders took full advantage of their political connections to establish their own business empires. With the lifting of price restrictions, inflation rocketed to 18.5 percent in 1988, to which the regime responded by drastically reducing credit and re-imposing import restrictions. Hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs, as private enterprises reduced their workforces or closed down altogether. Unemployment, the loss of job security, as well as skyrocketing prices, combined with disgust at the corruption and enrichment of CCP bureaucrats, fueled the social unrest that erupted in the mass protests by workers the following year.
    Capitalist restoration following Tiananmen Square

    In the aftermath of the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square and the police dragnet throughout the country, the factional battle inside the CCP leadership sharpened in the next three years over Deng’s program of capitalist restoration. In ordering the troops against workers and students, Deng had removed his chief ally in pro-market restructuring, Zhao Ziyang, as premier. Former Shanghai party leader Jiang Zemin was installed as a compromise choice to the top post of CCP secretary general. The initiative shifted to the so-called hardliners—Li Peng and Chen Yun, who, in criticising Zhao, were also criticising Deng’s policies.

    However, in advocating restrictions on market relations, Li and Chen based their policies on the status quo ante and the nationalist perspective of “socialism in country,” which had already proven to be a dead-end. They were looking toward the Soviet Union, even as the deformed workers’ states in Eastern Europe were collapsing and Gorbachev’s policies were undermining centralised planning and nationalised property relations. Their so-called “Soviet faction” represented sections of the Chinese bureaucracy whose power and privileges resided in their control of key sections of state-owned industry and the central apparatus in Beijing.

    At the Fifth Plenum in November 1989, Li delivered the main report, based on the recommendations of a revived State Planning Commission. The adopted plan called for cutting inflation to 10 percent in 1990 and economic growth to 5 percent by maintaining tight controls on credit and balancing the national budget. Rural industries would not be allowed to compete with state-owned enterprises. While keeping the SEZs and “open door” policy in place, the new restrictions hit rural and provincial industries, particularly in the south of the country.

    While Deng no longer held any official party or state position, he still retained considerable political clout, especially in the southern provinces where the new profit-making industries were concentrated. Deng had sided with the hardliners in opposing any political liberalisation and, above all, supported the 1989 military crackdown, but he was adamant that the restrictions on private enterprises and foreign investment had to be completely dismantled.

    The snowballing crisis in the Soviet Union brought matters to a head. An attempted Stalinist putsch in August 1991 to oust Gorbachev and Yeltsin and wind back their program of pro-market restructuring ended in dismal failure. China scholar Michael Marti explained: “This one event changed the thinking about the political equation within the Chinese leadership, including that of Deng Xiaoping. The failure of the Soviet Red Army to support the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in its bid to regain control threw the CCP into a panic. The Chinese leadership feared that a precedent had been established.” [5]

    The factional battle lines were drawn. While the “Soviet faction” began to call into question the entire agenda of pro-market reforms, including the establishment of the SEZs, Deng insisted that the levels of economic growth were too low to maintain employment and social stability. “If the economy cannot be boosted over a long time,” he told a meeting of party elders as far back as late 1989, “it [the government] will lose people’s support at home and will be oppressed and bullied by other nations. The continuation of this situation will lead to the collapse of the Communist Party.” [6]

    Deng was also concerned that the crisis in the Soviet Union, following the collapse of Stalinism in Eastern Europe, would greatly change geo-political relations. Not only had Deng’s strategy sought to balance between the US and the Soviet Union, but his economic policies depended on a large influx of foreign investment, which could potentially shift to exploiting new opportunities opening up in the former Soviet republics.

    Along with provincial leaders in the southern provinces, Deng counted on the support of People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The generals had been shocked by the way in which US imperialism and its allies had deployed hi-tech weaponry in the 1990–91 Gulf War to rapidly destroy the Iraqi military. Their conclusion was that China had to invest heavily in modernising the PLA and only Deng’s policies could transform the economy and produce the growth needed to supply that investment.

    Deng set out on his “Southern tour” in January–February 1992, just 20 days after the formal liquidation of the Soviet Union in December 1991, accompanied by top generals, the state security chief Qiao Shi and party elder Bo Yibo. As he visited the SEZs and southern cities, he declared that there would be no reversal of economic policies in the face of the Soviet collapse. Dismissing concerns about growing social inequality, he is said to have declared: “Let some people get rich first.”

    In a showdown with Chen Yun in Shanghai, Deng reportedly shouted: “Any leader who cannot boost the economy should leave office.” Openly backing capitalist restoration, he declared: “We should absorb more foreign capital and more foreign-advanced experiences and technologies, and set up more foreign-invested enterprises. Do not fear when others say we are practicing capitalism. Capitalism in nothing fearsome.” [7]

    Deng prevailed, opening the door for wholesale capitalist restoration that transformed the whole country into a giant free trade zone for the exploitation of cheap Chinese labour. The crocodile tears shed by Western politicians over the Tiananmen Square massacre were rapidly cast aside as foreign investors recognised that the police-state regime in Beijing was willing to use any method, no matter how brutal, to discipline the working class. In 1993, the CCP proclaimed that its objective was a “socialist market economy,” giving a threadbare “socialist” disguise to its embrace of capitalism.

    In 1994, the CCP formally established a “labour market,” by legitimising the sale and purchase of labour power. State-owned enterprises were corporatised into companies run for profit. The unprofitable ones were restructured or shut down. The better equipped, in sectors not designated as strategic, were sold off or converted into subsidiaries of foreign transnationals. A small number were preserved as state-owned “national flagships.”

    Between 1996 and 2005, the number of employees in state- and collective-owned enterprises halved, from 144 million to 73 million workers. Along with guaranteed life-time employment, the “iron rice bowl” of cradle-to-grave services was also dismantled. Essential services that had previously been provided by state-owned enterprises—childcare, education, health care and pensions—were now left to individual workers.
    Chinese capitalism today

    The restoration of capitalism in China over the past 30 years has only exacerbated the underlying social tensions within Chinese society and compounded the political and geo-political dilemmas confronting the CCP apparatus.

    The extraordinary economic expansion of China to become the world’s second largest economy has rested, in the first place, on the immense gains of the 1949 Revolution that unified China for the first time in decades, created an educated and skilled workforce, and developed basic industries and essential infrastructure. The flood of foreign investment into the country transformed China into the sweatshop of the world and produced a massive 11-fold increase in the economy between 1992 and 2010. This rapid growth, however, did not reflect an inherent strength of the Chinese economy, but rather its role in the world economy, dependent on foreign investment and technology.

    The imperialist powers, above all the United States, were more than willing to exploit cheap Chinese labour as long as China’s economic expansion did not challenge their own established geo-political interests. However, the vast quantity of raw materials and energy that Chinese industries require from around the world have increasingly brought it into conflict with the US and other major powers, in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and internationally. Moreover, as China has sought to create its own hi-tech “national champions” such as Huawei and ZTE, the US, under the Trump administration, has declared economic war on Beijing, not just in matters of trade. It has openly opposed Chinese plans to develop and expand hi-tech industries and to more closely link Eurasia to China through massive infrastructure projects under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

    The delusion promoted by CCP leaders that China could, through a “peaceful rise,” become a world power on a parity with the US has been shattered. China’s expansion has brought it into conflict with the global imperialist order dominated by the United States. Under Obama and now Trump, the US has begun using all means at its disposal to ensure its continued global hegemony. Trump’s economic war goes hand-in-hand with a military build-up in the Indo-Pacific, escalating naval provocations in the South China Sea, under the guise of “freedom of navigation operations, and more open preparations for a war between the two nuclear-armed powers.

    The CCP leadership has no answer to the mounting danger of war, other than desperately seeking an accommodation with imperialism, while engaging in a frenetic arms race that can only end in catastrophe for the working class in China and internationally. Capitalist restoration, far from strengthening China’s capacity to counter the US, has greatly weakened it. The regime is organically incapable of making any appeal to the international working class, as that would inevitably lead to social struggles by the working class at home.

    Having abandoned even its previous nominal commitment to socialism and internationalism, the CCP has increasing relied on whipping up Chinese nationalism to try to create a social base in layers of the middle class. There is nothing progressive about Chinese chauvinism and patriotism, which divides Chinese workers from their class brothers and sisters internationally, and within China from non-Han Chinese minorities. Its repressive measures against Uighurs, Tibetans and other ethnic groups have provided an opening that the US is seeking to exploit. Under the bogus banner of “human rights,” Washington is promoting separatist groups as part of its ambition to fracture and subordinate China to its interests.

    Thirty years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, the CCP leadership is terrified of a renewal of working-class opposition, the first stirrings of which have been seen in the more numerous reports of workers’ strikes and protests, and, significantly over the past year, in a turn by a layer of university students to assist workers in their struggles. Since 1989, the working class in China has vastly expanded to an estimated 400 million and as a proportion of the population. One indicator is the growth of the country’s urban population from just 26.4 percent of the total in 1990, to 58.5 percent in 2017.

    The CCP leadership boasts of having lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, using the UN’s very austere measures of poverty. Such benchmarks ignore the many factors that are fueling discontent among workers, including the common practice of late or unpaid wages, unhealthy and dangerous factory conditions, harsh corporate disciplinary practices, and the lack of basic social rights for tens of millions of internal migrants in the cities. All of these oppressive conditions are monitored and policed by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, which functions as an arm of the CCP bureaucracy in workplaces.

    Capitalist restoration has produced a dramatic rise in social inequality: from one of the most equal societies in the world, China has become one of the most unequal countries. It is home to more dollar billionaires than any other country except the United States. While Chinese workers struggle to survive on the minimum wage of $370 a month, the wealthiest individual, Tencent chairman Pony Ma, has a personal fortune of almost $40 billion. These super-rich oligarchs, who in many cases have built their fortunes through naked corruption and the looting of state-owned property, are represented in the Chinese Communist Party and sit on powerful advisory bodies.

    The gulf between the super-rich and the vast majority of the workers and the poor is generating huge social tensions that, sooner rather than later, will explode on a scale that will eclipse the rebellion by workers and students 30 years ago. The lesson drawn by the Stalinist leadership from the 1989 events was that it had to suppress, through all available means, any expression of opposition that could become the focus of a broader movement against the regime. Incapable of meeting the pressing social needs of the majority of the population, the CCP has vastly expanded its police-state apparatus, now spending more each year on its internal security forces than it does on external defence.

    The working class must also draw the necessary political lessons from the defeat of that movement in 1989, which was rapidly assuming revolutionary dimensions. What was lacking was not determination, audacity and courage, nor numbers, which were rapidly swelling across China, but the essential problem facing the international working class in the 20th century—the absence of revolutionary leadership.

    James Cogan summed up the issue in his analysis “Ten years since the Tiananmen Square massacre,” stating:

    Inexperienced politically and lacking a political perspective outside of opposition to the existing regime, the workers’ leaders advanced no alternative to, and deferred to, the student bodies. The workers of China knew in their life experience what they were against—Stalinism and capitalism—but they were not able to articulate any perspective for an alternative social order.

    Decades of domination by Stalinism and the active suppression of genuine Marxism in China meant there was no revolutionary socialist, that is, Trotskyist, tendency in the working class. No organisation within the country could spontaneously advance the program that was implicit in the actions and sentiments of the Chinese working class—a political revolution to overthrow the Stalinist regime and introduce major reforms into the economy for the benefit of the working class. [8]

    The essential political task of building a Trotskyist leadership in the Chinese working class as a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International remains. None of the oppositional tendencies that emerged out of the 1989 protests offer a viable political perspective for the working class. Advocates of independent trade unions such as Han Dongfang, who was prominent in the Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation in 1989, have underscored the political bankruptcy of syndicalism by lurching to the right and into the arms of US trade union apparatus, in other words of US imperialism.

    A layer of youth, intellectuals and workers have turned to Maoism, and its banal “revolutionary” slogans, for answers. Capitalist restoration in China, however, was not a break from Maoism. It flowed organically out of the dead-end of “socialism in one country.” Maoism could aptly be termed Stalinism with Chinese characteristics, with its hostility to the working class, its emphasis on subjective will, and above all its putrid nationalism. It is diametrically opposed to genuine Marxism, that is the perspective of socialist internationalism, which alone was upheld by the Trotskyist movement, including the Chinese Trotskyists.

    The establishment of a genuinely revolutionary party in China, as part of the ICFI, requires the assimilation of the essential strategic experiences of the international working class, of which the Chinese revolutions of the 20th century are a critical component. The CCP leaders are petrified that workers and youth will begin to work over the lessons of history. They attempt to censor and black out any knowledge and discussion of the events of 1989, and continue to perpetrate the lies of Stalinism about the course of the 20th century.

    The crucial political lessons of the protracted struggle of Trotskyism against Stalinism are embedded in the program, perspective and documents of the International Committee of the Fourth International. Workers and youth should make a serious study of the political issues involved, beginning with the documents of the ICFI on the Tiananmen Square massacre, republished this week on the World Socialist Web Site. We urge you to contact the International Committee of the Fourth International, which is the first step toward forging a Trotskyist leadership in the Chinese working class.

    Footnotes:

    [1] Cited in “Workers in the Tiananmen protests: The politics of the Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation,” by Andrew G. Walder and Gong Xiaoxia, first published in the Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, No 29, January 1993.

    [2] The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International: Perspectives Resolution of the International Committee of the Fourth International, August 1988, Labor Publications, pp.30–31.

    [3] Maurice Meisner, Mao’s China and After: A History of the People’s Republic, The Free Press, Third edition, 1999, p.508.

    [4] ibid, p.389.

    [5] Michael Marti, China and the Legacy of Deng Xiaoping: From Communist Revolution to Capitalist Evolution, Brassey’s Inc, 2002, pp.47–48.

    [6] Cited in John Chan, “Twenty years since Deng Xiaoping’s ‘Southern tour’—Part 1”, 26 November 2012.

    [7] Cited in John Chan, “Twenty years since Deng Xiaoping’s ‘Southern tour’—Part 2”, 27 November 2012.

    [8] James Cogan, “Ten years since the Tiananmen Square massacre: Political lessons for the working class,” 4 June 1999.

    #Chine #4689

  • The Museum of the Palestinian People: ’We want our story told not just once, not as an event, but over and over again’
    Bridey Heing - June 24, 2019

    https://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/art/the-museum-of-the-palestinian-people-we-want-our-story-told-not-just-onc

    The Museum of the Palestinian People opened its doors in Washington, DC, earlier this month. The museum is a first in the city and is dedicated to telling the stories of the people of Palestine, fostering a conversation about what it means to be Palestinian and nurturing a better understanding of an identity that remains highly politicised and largely obscured in the West.

    “It’s a museum where people get introduced to the Palestinian story and Palestinians as a people, not as a news item,” says Nizar Farsakh, chairman of the museum. Farsakh, who has advised Palestinian leaders, became involved with the project after meeting with founder and director Bshara Nassar. (...)

  • The woman fighting back against India’s rape culture

    When a man tried to rape #Usha_Vishwakarma she decided to fight back by setting up self-defence classes for women and girls.

    At first, people accused her of being a sex worker. But now she runs an award-winning organisation and has won the community’s respect.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-48474708/the-woman-fighting-back-against-india-s-rape-culture
    #Inde #résistance #femmes #culture_du_viol

    • In China, a Viral Video Sets Off a Challenge to Rape Culture

      The images were meant to exonerate #Richard_Liu, the e-commerce mogul. They have also helped fuel a nascent #NoPerfectVictim movement.

      Richard Liu, the Chinese e-commerce billionaire, walked into an apartment building around 10 p.m., a young woman on his arm and his assistant in tow. Leaving the assistant behind, the young woman took Mr. Liu to an elevator. Then, she showed him into her apartment.

      His entrance was captured by the apartment building’s surveillance cameras and wound up on the Chinese internet. Titled “Proof of a Gold Digger Trap?,” the heavily edited video aimed to show that the young woman was inviting him up for sex — and that he was therefore innocent of her rape allegations against him.

      For many people in China, it worked. Online public opinion quickly dismissed her allegations. In a country where discussion of rape has been muted and the #MeToo movement has been held back by cultural mores and government censorship, that could have been the end of the story.

      But some in China have pushed back. Using hashtags like #NoPerfectVictim, they are questioning widely held ideas about rape culture and consent.

      The video has become part of that debate, which some feminism scholars believe is a first for the country. The government has clamped down on discussion of gender issues like the #MeToo movement because of its distrust of independent social movements. Officials banned the #MeToo hashtag last year. In 2015, they seized gender rights activists known as the Feminist Five. Some online petitions supporting Mr. Liu’s accuser were deleted.

      But on Weibo, the popular Chinese social media service, the #NoPerfectVictim hashtag has drawn more than 17 million page views, with over 22,000 posts and comments. Dozens at least have shared their stories of sexual assault.

      “Nobody should ask an individual to be perfect,” wrote Zhou Xiaoxuan, who has become the face of China’s #MeToo movement after she sued a famous TV anchor on allegations that he sexually assaulted her in 2014 when she was an intern. “But the public is asking this of the victims of sexual assault, who happen to be in the least favorable position to prove their tragedies.” Her lawsuit is pending.

      The allegations against Mr. Liu, the founder and chairman of the online retailer JD.com, riveted China. He was arrested last year in Minneapolis after the young woman accused him of raping her after a business dinner. The prosecutors in Minnesota declined to charge Mr. Liu. The woman, Liu Jingyao, a 21-year-old student at the University of Minnesota, sued Mr. Liu and is seeking damages of more than $50,000. (Liu is a common surname in China.)

      Debate about the incident has raged online in China. When the “Gold Digger” video emerged, it shifted sentiment toward Mr. Liu.
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      Mr. Liu’s attorney in Beijing, who shared the video on Weibo under her verified account, said that according to her client the video was authentic.

      “The surveillance video speaks for itself, as does the prosecutor’s decision not to bring charges against our client,” Jill Brisbois, Mr. Liu’s attorney in the United States, said in a statement. “We believe in his innocence, which is firmly supported by all of the evidence, and we will continue to vigorously defend his reputation in court.”

      The video is silent, but subtitles make the point so nobody will miss it. “The woman showed Richard Liu into the elevator,” says one. “The woman pushed the floor button voluntarily,” says another. “Once again,” says a third, “the woman gestured an invitation.”

      Still, the video does not show the most crucial moment, which is what happened between Mr. Liu and Ms. Liu after the apartment door closed.

      “The full video depicts a young woman unable to locate her own apartment and a billionaire instructing her to take his arm to steady her gait,” said Wil Florin, Ms. Liu’s attorney, who accused Mr. Liu’s representatives of releasing the video. “The release of an incomplete video and the forceful silencing of Jingyao’s many social media supporters will not stop a Minnesota civil jury from hearing the truth.”

      JD.com declined to comment on the origin of the video.

      In the eyes of many, it contradicted the narrative in Ms. Liu’s lawsuit of an innocent, helpless victim. In my WeChat groups, men and women alike said the video confirmed their suspicions that Ms. Liu was asking for sex and was only after Mr. Liu’s money. A young woman from a good family would never socialize on a business occasion like that, some men said. A businesswoman asked why Ms. Liu didn’t say no to drinks.

      At first, I saw the video as a setback for China’s #MeToo movement, which was already facing insurmountable obstacles from a deeply misogynistic society, internet censors and a patriarchal government. Already, my “no means no” arguments with acquaintances had been met with groans.
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      Catch up and prep for the week ahead with this newsletter of the most important business insights, delivered Sundays.

      The rare people of prominence who spoke in support of Ms. Liu were getting vicious criticism. Zhao Hejuan, chief executive of the technology media company TMTPost, had to disable comments on her Weibo account after she received death threats. She had criticized Mr. Liu, a married man with a young daughter, for not living up to the expectations of a public figure.

      Then I came across a seven-minute video titled “I’m also a victim of sexual assault,” in which four women and a man spoke to the camera about their stories. The video, produced by organizers of the hashtag #HereForUs, tried to clearly define sexual assault to viewers, explaining that it can take place between people who know each other and under complex circumstances.

      The man was molested by an older boy in his childhood. One of the women was raped by a classmate when she was sick in bed. One was assaulted by a powerful man at work but did not dare speak out because she thought nobody would believe her. One was raped after consuming too much alcohol on a date.

      “Slut-shaming doesn’t come from others,” she said in the video. “I’ll be the first one to slut-shame myself.”

      One woman with a red cross tattooed on her throat said an older boy in her neighborhood had assaulted her when she was 10. When she ran home, her parents scolded her for being late after school.

      “My childhood ended then and there,” she said in the video. “I haven’t died because I toughed it out all these years.”

      The video has been viewed nearly 700,000 times on Weibo. But creators of the video still have a hard time speaking out further, reflecting the obstacles faced by feminists in China.

      It was produced by a group of people who started the #HereForUs hashtag in China as a way to support victims of sexual harassment and assault. They were excited when I reached out to interview them. One of them postponed her visit to her parents for the interview.

      Then the day before our meeting, they messaged me that they no longer wanted to be interviewed. They worried that their appearance in The New York Times could anger the Chinese government and get their hashtag censored. I got a similar response from the organizer of the #NoPerfectVictim hashtag. Another woman begged me not to connect her name to the Chinese government for fear of losing her job.

      Their reluctance is understandable. They believe their hashtags have brought women together and given them the courage to share their stories. Some victims say that simply telling someone about their experiences is therapeutic, making the hashtags too valuable to be lost, the organizers said.

      “The world is full of things that hurt women,” said Liang Xiaowen, a 27-year-old lawyer now living in New York City. She wrote online that she had been molested by a family acquaintance when she was 11 and had lived with shame and guilt ever since. “I want to expand the boundaries of safe space by sharing my story.”

      A decentralized, behind-the-scenes approach is essential if the #MeToo movement is to grow in China, said Lü Pin, founding editor of Feminist Voices, an advocacy platform for women’s rights in China.

      “It’s amazing that they created such a phenomenon under such difficult circumstances,” Ms. Lü said.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/05/business/china-richard-liu-rape-video-metoo.html
      #Chine #vidéo

  • Inquiries Into Reckless Loans to Taxi Drivers Ordered by State Attorney General and Mayor - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/20/nyregion/nyc-taxi-medallion-loans-attorney-general.html

    May 20, 2019 - The investigations come after The New York Times found that thousands of drivers were crushed under debt they could not repay.

    The New York attorney general’s office said Monday it had opened an inquiry into more than a decade of lending practices that left thousands of immigrant taxi drivers in crushing debt, while Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a separate investigation into the brokers who helped arrange the loans.

    The efforts marked the government’s first steps toward addressing a crisis that has engulfed the city’s yellow cab industry. They came a day after The New York Times published a two-part investigation revealing that a handful of taxi industry leaders artificially inflated the price of a medallion — the coveted permit that allows a driver to own and operate a cab — and made hundreds of millions of dollars by issuing reckless loans to low-income buyers.

    The investigation also found that regulators at every level of government ignored warning signs, and the city fed the frenzy by selling medallions and promoting them in ads as being “better than the stock market.”

    The price of a medallion rose to more than $1 million before crashing in late 2014, which left borrowers with debt they had little hope of repaying. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, and thousands more are struggling to stay afloat.

    The findings also drew a quick response from other elected officials. The chairman of the Assembly’s banking committee, Kenneth Zebrowski, a Democrat, said his committee would hold a hearing on the issue; the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, said he was drafting legislation; and several other officials in New York and Albany called for the government to pressure lenders to soften loan terms.

    The biggest threat to the industry leaders appeared to be the inquiry by the attorney general, Letitia James, which will aim to determine if the lenders engaged in any illegal activity.

    “Our office is beginning an inquiry into the disturbing reports regarding the lending and business practices that may have created the taxi medallion crisis,” an office spokeswoman said in a statement. “These allegations are serious and must be thoroughly scrutinized.”

    Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said through a spokesman that he supported the inquiry. “If any of these businesses or lenders did something wrong, they deserve to be held fully accountable,” the spokesman said in a statement.

    Lenders did not respond to requests for comment. Previously, they denied wrongdoing, saying regulators had approved all of their practices and some borrowers had made poor decisions and assumed too much debt. Lenders blamed the crisis on the city for allowing ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to enter without regulation, which they said led medallion values to plummet.

    Mr. de Blasio said the city’s investigation will focus on the brokers who arranged the loans for drivers and sometimes lent money themselves.

    “The 45-day review will identify and penalize brokers who have taken advantage of buyers and misled city authorities,” the mayor said in a statement. “The review will set down strict new rules that prevent broker practices that hurt hard-working drivers.”

    Four of the city’s biggest taxi brokers did not respond to requests for comment.

    Bhairavi Desai, founder of the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drivers and independent owners, said the city should not get to investigate the business practices because it was complicit in many of them.

    The government has already closed or merged all of the nonprofit credit unions that were involved in the industry, saying they participated in “unsafe and unsound banking practices.” At least one credit union leader, Alan Kaufman, the former chief executive of Melrose Credit Union, a major medallion lender, is facing civil charges.

    The other lenders in the industry include Medallion Financial, a specialty finance company; some major banks, including Capital One and Signature Bank; and several loosely regulated taxi fleet owners and brokers who entered the lending business.

    At City Hall, officials said Monday they were focused on how to help the roughly 4,000 drivers who bought medallions during the bubble, as well as thousands of longtime owners who were encouraged to refinance their loans to take out more money during that period.

    One city councilman, Mark Levine, said he was drafting a bill that would allow the city to buy medallion loans from lenders and then forgive much of the debt owed by the borrowers. He said lenders likely would agree because they are eager to exit the business. But he added that his bill would force lenders to sell at discounted prices.

    “The city made hundreds of millions by pumping up sales of wildly overpriced medallions — as late as 2014 when it was clear that these assets were poised to decline,” said Mr. Levine, a Democrat. “We have an obligation now to find some way to offer relief to the driver-owners whose lives have been ruined.”

    Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, proposed a similar solution in a letter to the mayor. He said the city should convene the lenders and pressure them to partially forgive loans.

    “These lenders too often dealt in bad faith with a group of hard-working, unsuspecting workers who deserved much better and have yet to receive any measure of justice,” wrote Mr. Stringer, who added that the state should close a loophole that allowed the lenders to classify their loans as business deals, which have looser regulations.

    Last November, amid a spate of suicides by taxi drivers, including three medallion owners with overwhelming debt, the Council created a task force to study the taxi industry.

    On Monday, a spokesman for the speaker, Mr. Johnson, said that members of the task force would be appointed very soon. He also criticized the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the city agency that sold the medallions.

    “We will explore every tool we have to ensure that moving forward, the T.L.C. protects medallion owners and drivers from predatory actors including lenders, medallion brokers, and fleet managers,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement.

    Another councilman, Ritchie Torres, who heads the Council’s oversight committee, disclosed Monday for the first time that he had been trying to launch his own probe since last year, but had been stymied by the taxi commission. “The T.L.C. hasn’t just been asleep at the wheel, they have been actively stonewalling,” he said.

    A T.L.C. spokesman declined to comment.

    In Albany, several lawmakers also said they were researching potential bills.

    One of them, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou of Manhattan, a member of the committee on banks, said she hoped to pass legislation before the end of the year. She said the state agencies involved in the crisis, including the Department of Financial Services, should be examined.

    “My world has been shaken right now, to be honest,” Ms. Niou said.

    Brian M. Rosenthal is an investigative reporter on the Metro Desk. Previously, he covered state government for the Houston Chronicle and for The Seattle Times. @brianmrosenthal

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/nyregion/taxi-medallions.html

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    At a cramped desk on the 22nd floor of a downtown Manhattan office building, Gary Roth spotted a looming disaster.

    An urban planner with two master’s degrees, Mr. Roth had a new job in 2010 analyzing taxi policy for the New York City government. But almost immediately, he noticed something disturbing: The price of a taxi medallion — the permit that lets a driver own a cab — had soared to nearly $700,000 from $200,000. In order to buy medallions, drivers were taking out loans they could not afford.

    Mr. Roth compiled his concerns in a report, and he and several colleagues warned that if the city did not take action, the loans would become unsustainable and the market could collapse.

    They were not the only ones worried about taxi medallions. In Albany, state inspectors gave a presentation to top officials showing that medallion owners were not making enough money to support their loans. And in Washington, D.C., federal examiners repeatedly noted that banks were increasing profits by steering cabbies into risky loans.

    They were all ignored.

    Medallion prices rose above $1 million before crashing in late 2014, wiping out the futures of thousands of immigrant drivers and creating a crisis that has continued to ravage the industry today. Despite years of warning signs, at least seven government agencies did little to stop the collapse, The New York Times found.

    Instead, eager to profit off medallions or blinded by the taxi industry’s political connections, the agencies that were supposed to police the industry helped a small group of bankers and brokers to reshape it into their own moneymaking machine, according to internal records and interviews with more than 50 former government employees.

    For more than a decade, the agencies reduced oversight of the taxi trade, exempted it from regulations, subsidized its operations and promoted its practices, records and interviews showed.

    Their actions turned one of the best-known symbols of New York — its signature yellow cabs — into a financial trap for thousands of immigrant drivers. More than 950 have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records, and many more struggle to stay afloat.

    Remember the ‘10,000 Hours’ Rule for Success? Forget About It
    “Nobody wanted to upset the industry,” said David Klahr, who from 2007 to 2016 held several management posts at the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the city agency that oversees cabs. “Nobody wanted to kill the golden goose.”

    New York City in particular failed the taxi industry, The Times found. Two former mayors, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg, placed political allies inside the Taxi and Limousine Commission and directed it to sell medallions to help them balance budgets and fund priorities. Mayor Bill de Blasio continued the policies.

    Under Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. de Blasio, the city made more than $855 million by selling taxi medallions and collecting taxes on private sales, according to the city.

    But during that period, much like in the mortgage lending crisis, a group of industry leaders enriched themselves by artificially inflating medallion prices. They encouraged medallion buyers to borrow as much as possible and ensnared them in interest-only loans and other one-sided deals that often required them to pay hefty fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up most of their monthly incomes.

    When the medallion market collapsed, the government largely abandoned the drivers who bore the brunt of the crisis. Officials did not bail out borrowers or persuade banks to soften loan terms.

    “They sell us medallions, and they knew it wasn’t worth price. They knew,” said Wael Ghobrayal, 42, an Egyptian immigrant who bought a medallion at a city auction for $890,000 and now cannot make his loan payments and support his three children.

    “They lost nothing. I lost everything,” he said.

    The Times conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed thousands of records and built several databases to unravel the story of the downfall of the taxi industry in New York and across the United States. The investigation unearthed a collapse that was years in the making, aided almost as much by regulators as by taxi tycoons.

    Publicly, government officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing firms such as Uber and Lyft.

    In interviews with The Times, they blamed each other.

    The officials who ran the city Taxi and Limousine Commission in the run-up to the crash said it was the job of bank examiners, not the commission, to control lending practices.

    The New York Department of Financial Services said that while it supervised some of the banks involved in the taxi industry, it deferred to federal inspectors in many cases.

    The federal agency that oversaw many of the largest lenders in the industry, the National Credit Union Administration, said those lenders were meeting the needs of borrowers.

    The N.C.U.A. released a March 2019 internal audit that scolded its regulators for not aggressively enforcing rules in medallion lending. But even that audit partially absolved the government. The lenders, it said, all had boards of directors that were supposed to prevent reckless practices.

    And several officials criticized Congress, which two decades ago excepted credit unions in the taxi industry from some rules that applied to other credit unions. After that, the officials said, government agencies had to treat those lenders differently.

    Ultimately, former employees said, the regulatory system was set up to ensure that lenders were financially stable, and medallions were sold. But almost nothing protected the drivers.

    Matthew W. Daus, far right, at a hearing of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2004. CreditMarilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
    Matthew W. Daus was an unconventional choice to regulate New York’s taxi industry. He was a lawyer from Brooklyn and a leader of a political club that backed Mr. Giuliani for mayor.

    The Giuliani administration hired him as a lawyer for the Taxi and Limousine Commission before appointing him chairman in 2001, a leadership post he kept after Mr. Bloomberg became mayor in 2002.

    The commission oversaw the drivers and fleets that owned the medallions for the city’s 12,000 cabs. It licensed all participants and decided what cabs could charge, where they could go and which type of vehicle they could use.

    And under Mr. Bloomberg, it also began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    At the time, the mayor said the growing city needed more yellow cabs. But he also was eager for revenue. He had a $3.8 billion hole in his budget.

    The sales put the taxi commission in an unusual position.

    It had a long history of being entangled with the industry. Its first chairman, appointed in 1971, was convicted of a bribery scheme involving an industry lobbyist. Four other leaders since then had worked in the business.

    It often sent staffers to conferences where companies involved in the taxi business paid for liquor, meals and tickets to shows, and at least one past member of its board had run for office in a campaign financed by the industry.

    Still, the agency had never been asked to generate so much money from the business it was supposed to be regulating.

    Former staffers said officials chose to sell medallions with the method they thought would bring in the most revenue: a series of limited auctions that required participants to submit sealed bids above ever-increasing minimums.

    Ahead of the sales, the city placed ads on television and radio, and in newspapers and newsletters, and held seminars promoting the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

    “Medallions have a long history as a solid investment with steady growth,” Mr. Daus wrote in one newsletter. In addition to guaranteed employment, he wrote, “a medallion is collateral that can assist in home financing, college tuition or even ‘worry-free’ retirement.”

    At the first auctions under Mr. Bloomberg in 2004, bids topped $300,000, surprising experts.

    Some former staffers said in interviews they believed the ad campaign inappropriately inflated prices by implying medallions would make buyers rich, no matter the cost. Seven said they complained.

    The city eventually added a disclaimer to ads, saying past performance did not guarantee future results. But it kept advertising.

    During the same period, the city also posted information on its website that said that medallion prices were, on average, 13 percent higher than they really were, according to a Times data analysis.

    In several interviews, Mr. Daus defended the ad campaigns, saying they reached people who had been unable to break into the tight market. The ads were true at the time, he said. He added he had never heard internal complaints about the ads.

    In all, the city held 16 auctions between 2004 and 2014.

    “People don’t realize how organized it is,” Andrew Murstein, president of Medallion Financial, a lender to medallion buyers, said in a 2011 interview with Tearsheet Podcast. “The City of New York, more or less, is our partner because they want to see prices go as high as possible.”

    Help from a federal agency

    New York City made more than $855 million from taxi medallion sales under Mayor Bill de Blasio and his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

    For decades, a niche banking system had grown up around the taxi industry, and at its center were about half a dozen nonprofit credit unions that specialized in medallion loans. But as the auctions continued, the families that ran the credit unions began to grow frustrated.

    Around them, they saw other lenders making money by issuing loans that they could not because of the rules governing credit unions. They recognized a business opportunity, and they wanted in.

    They found a receptive audience at the National Credit Union Administration.

    The N.C.U.A. was the small federal agency that regulated the nation’s credit unions. It set the rules, examined their books and insured their accounts.

    Like the city taxi commission, the N.C.U.A. had long had ties to the industry that it regulated. One judge had called it a “rogue federal agency” focused on promoting the industry.

    In 2004, its chairman was Dennis Dollar, a former Mississippi state representative who had previously worked as the chief executive of a credit union. He had just been inducted into the Mississippi Credit Union Hall of Fame, and he had said one of his top priorities was streamlining regulation.

    Dennis Dollar, the former chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, is now a consultant in the industry. 

    Under Mr. Dollar and others, the N.C.U.A. issued waivers that exempted medallion loans from longstanding rules, including a regulation requiring each loan to have a down payment of at least 20 percent. The waivers allowed the lenders to keep up with competitors and to write more profitable loans.

    Mr. Dollar, who left government to become a consultant for credit unions, said the agency was following the lead of Congress, which passed a law in 1998 exempting credit unions specializing in medallion loans from some regulations. The law signaled that those lenders needed leeway, such as the waivers, he said.

    “If we did not do so, the average cabdriver couldn’t get a medallion loan,” Mr. Dollar said.

    The federal law and the N.C.U.A. waivers were not the only benefits the industry received. The federal government also provided many medallion lenders with financial assistance and guaranteed a portion of their taxi loans, assuring that if those loans failed, they would still be partially paid, according to records and interviews.

    As lenders wrote increasingly risky loans, medallion prices neared $500,000 in 2006.

    ‘Snoozing and napping’

    Under Mr. Bloomberg, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    Another agency was also supposed to be keeping an eye on lending practices. New York State banking regulators are required to inspect all financial institutions chartered in the state. But after 2008, they were forced to focus their attention on the banks most affected by the global economic meltdown, according to former employees.

    As a result, some industry veterans said, the state stopped examining medallion loans closely.

    “The state banking department would come in, and they’d be doing the exam in one room, and the N.C.U.A. would be in another room,” said Larry Fisher, who was then the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders. “And you could catch the state banking department snoozing and napping and going on the internet and not doing much at all.”

    The state banking department, which is now called the New York Department of Financial Services, disputed that characterization and said it had acted consistently and appropriately.

    Former federal regulators described a similar trend at their agencies after the recession.

    Some former employees of the N.C.U.A., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said that as medallion prices climbed, they tried to raise issues with loans and were told not to worry. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Board also oversaw some lenders and did not intervene.

    A spokesman for the Federal Reserve said the agency was not a primary regulator of the taxi lending industry. The rest of the agencies declined to comment.

    “It was obvious that the loans were unusual and risky,” said Patrick Collins, a former N.C.U.A. examiner. But, he said, there was a belief inside his agency that the loans would be fine because the industry had been stable for decades.

    Meanwhile, in New York City, the taxi commission reduced oversight.

    For years, it had made medallion purchasers file forms describing how they came up with the money, including details on all loans. It also had required industry participants to submit annual disclosures on their finances, loans and conflicts of interest.

    But officials never analyzed the forms filed by buyers, and in the 2000s, they stopped requiring the annual disclosures altogether.

    “Reviewing these disclosures was an onerous lift for us,” the commission’s communications office said in a recent email.

    By 2008, the price of a medallion rose to $600,000.

    At around the same time, the commission began focusing on new priorities. It started developing the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” a model for future cabs.

    The agency’s main enforcement activities targeted drivers who cheated passengers or discriminated against people of color. “Nobody really scrutinized medallion transfers,” said Charles Tortorici, a former commission lawyer.

    A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement that during the mayor’s tenure, the city improved the industry by installing credit card machines and GPS devices, making fleets more environmentally efficient and creating green taxis for boroughs outside Manhattan.

    “The industry was always its own worst enemy, fighting every reform tooth and nail,” said the spokesman, Marc La Vorgna. “We put our energy and political capital into the reforms that most directly and immediately impacted the riding public.”

    Records show that since 2008, the taxi commission has not taken a single enforcement action against brokers, the powerful players who arrange medallion sales and loans.

    Alex Korenkov, a broker, suggested in an interview that he and other brokers took notice of the city’s hands-off approach.

    “Let’s put it this way,” he said. “If governing body does not care, then free-for-all.”

    By the time that Mr. Roth wrote his report at the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2010, it was clear that something strange was happening in the medallion market.

    Mr. Daus gave a speech that year that mentioned the unusual lending practices. During the speech, he said banks were letting medallion buyers obtain loans without any down payment. Experts have since said that should have raised red flags. But at the time, Mr. Daus seemed pleased.

    “Some of these folks were offering zero percent down,” he said. “You tell me what bank walks around asking for zero percent down on a loan? It’s just really amazing.”

    In interviews, Mr. Daus acknowledged that the practice was unusual but said the taxi commission had no authority over lending.

    Inside the commission, at least four employees raised concerns about the medallion prices and lending practices, according to the employees, who described their own unease as well as Mr. Roth’s report.

    David S. Yassky, a former city councilman who succeeded Mr. Daus as commission chairman in 2010, said in an interview that he never saw Mr. Roth’s report.

    Mr. Yassky said the medallion prices puzzled him, but he could not determine if they were inflated, in part because people were still eager to buy. Medallions may have been undervalued for decades, and the price spike could have been the market recognizing the true value, he suggested.

    Meera Joshi, who became chairwoman in 2014, said in an interview that she was worried about medallion costs and lending practices but was pushed to prioritize other responsibilities. Dominic Williams, Mr. de Blasio’s chief policy adviser, said the city focused on initiatives such as improving accessibility because no one was complaining about loans.

    Worries about the taxi industry also emerged at the National Credit Union Administration. In late 2011, as the price of some medallions reached $800,000, a group of agency examiners wrote a paper on the risks in the industry, according to a recent report by the agency’s inspector general.

    In 2012, 2013 and 2014, inspectors routinely documented instances of credit unions violating lending rules, the inspector general’s report said.

    David S. Yassky, the former chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.

    The N.C.U.A. chose not to penalize medallion lenders or impose extra oversight. It did not take any wide industry action until April 2014, when it sent a letter reminding the credit unions in the taxi market to act responsibly.

    Former staffers said the agency was still focused on the fallout from the recession.

    A spokesman for the N.C.U.A. disputed that characterization and said the agency conducted appropriate enforcement.

    He added the agency took actions to ensure the credit unions remained solvent, which was its mission. He said Congress allowed the lenders to concentrate heavily on medallion loans, which left them vulnerable when Uber and Lyft arrived.

    At the New York Department of Financial Services, bank examiners noticed risky practices and interest-only loans and repeatedly wrote warnings starting in 2010, according to the state. At least one report expressed concern of a potential market bubble, the state said.

    Eventually, examiners became so concerned that they made a PowerPoint presentation and called a meeting in 2014 to show it to a dozen top officials.

    “Since 2001, individual medallion has risen 455%,” the presentation warned, according to a copy obtained by The Times. The presentation suggested state action, such as sending a letter to the industry or revoking charters from some lenders.

    The state did neither. The department had recently merged with the insurance department, and former employees said it was finding its footing.

    The department superintendent at the time, Benjamin M. Lawsky, a former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said he did not, as a rule, discuss his tenure at the department.

    In an emailed statement, the department denied it struggled after the merger and said it took action to stop the collapse of the medallion market. A department spokesman provided a long list of warnings, suggestions and guidelines that it said examiners had issued to lenders. He said that starting in 2012, the department downgraded some of its own internal ratings of the lenders.

    The list did not include any instances of the department formally penalizing a medallion lender, or making any public statement about the industry before it collapsed.

    Between 2010 and 2014, as officials at every level of government failed to rein in the risky lending practices, records show that roughly 1,500 people bought taxi medallions. Over all, including refinancings of old loans and extensions required by banks, medallion owners signed at least 10,000 loans in that time.

    Several regulators who tried to raise alarms said they believed the government stood aside because of the industry’s connections.

    Many pointed to one company — Medallion Financial, run by the Murstein family. Former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, the current governor’s father, was a paid member of its board from 1996 until he died in 2015.

    Others noted that Mr. de Blasio has long been close to the industry. When he ran for mayor in 2013, an industry lobbyist, Michael Woloz, was a top fund-raiser, records show. And Evgeny Freidman, a major fleet owner who has admitted to artificially inflating medallion prices, has said he is close to the mayor.

    Some people, including Mr. Dollar, the former N.C.U.A. chairman, said Congress excepted the taxi trade from rules because the industry was supported by former United States Senator Alfonse D’Amato of New York, who was then the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

    “The taxi industry is one of the most politically connected industries in the city,” said Fidel Del Valle, who was the chairman of the taxi commission from 1991 to 1994. He later worked as a lawyer for drivers and a consultant to an owner association run by Mr. Freidman. “It’s been that way for decades, and they’ve used that influence to push back on regulation, with a lot of success.”

    A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said Medallion Financial was not regulated by the state, so the elder Mr. Cuomo’s position on the board was irrelevant. A spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio said the industry’s connections did not influence the city.

    Mr. Murstein, Mr. Woloz, Mr. Freidman and Mr. D’Amato all declined to comment.

    The aftermath
    “I think city will help me,” Mohammad Hossain, who is in deep debt from a taxi medallion loan, said at his family’s home in the Bronx.

    New York held its final independent medallion auction in February 2014. By then, concerns about medallion prices were common in the news media and government offices, and Uber had established itself. Still, the city sold medallions to more than 150 bidders. (“It’s better than the stock market,” one ad said.)

    Forty percent of the people who bought medallions at that auction have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records.

    Mohammad Hossain, 47, from Bangladesh, who purchased a medallion for $853,000 at the auction, said he could barely make his monthly payments and was getting squeezed by his lender. “I bought medallion from the city,” he said through tears. “I think city will help me, you know. I assume that.”

    The de Blasio administration’s only major response to the crisis has been to push for a cap on ride-hail cars. The City Council at first rejected a cap in 2015 before approving it last year.

    Taxi industry veterans said the cap did not address the cause of the crisis: the lending practices.

    Richard Weinberg, a taxi commission hearing officer from 1988 to 2002 and a lawyer for drivers since then, said that when the medallion bubble began to burst, the city should have frozen prices, adjusted fares and fees and convinced banks to be flexible with drivers. That could have allowed prices to fall slowly. “That could’ve saved a lot of people,” he said.

    In an interview, Dean Fuleihan, the first deputy mayor, said the city did help taxi owners, including by reducing some fees, taxes and inspection mandates, and by talking to banks about loans. He said that if the City Council had passed the cap in 2015, it would have helped.

    “We do care about those drivers, we care about those families. We attempted throughout this period to take actions,” he said.

    Federal regulators also have not significantly helped medallion owners.

    In 2017 and 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed or merged several credit unions for “unsafe business practices” in medallion lending. It took over many of the loans, but did not soften terms, according to borrowers. Instead, it tried to get money out as quickly as possible.

    The failure of the credit unions has cost the national credit union insurance fund more than $750 million, which will hurt all credit union members.

    In August 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed Melrose in what it said was the biggest credit union liquidation in United States history. The agency barred Melrose’s general counsel from working for credit unions and brought civil charges against its former C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, saying he used company funds to help industry partners in exchange for gifts.

    The general counsel, Mitchell Reiver, declined to answer questions but said he did nothing wrong. Mr. Kaufman said in an interview that the N.C.U.A. made up the charges to distract from its role in the crisis.

    “I’m definitely a scapegoat,” Mr. Kaufman said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

    Glamour, then poverty
    After he struggled to repay his taxi medallion loan, Abel Vela left his family in New York and moved back to Peru, where living costs were cheaper. 

    During the medallion bubble, the city produced a television commercial to promote the permits. In the ad, which aired in 2004, four cabbies stood around a taxi discussing the perks of the job. One said buying a medallion was the best decision he had ever made. They all smiled. Then Mr. Daus appeared on screen to announce an auction.

    Fifteen years later, the cabbies remember the ad with scorn. Three of the four were eventually enticed to refinance their original loans under far riskier terms that left them in heavy debt.

    One of the cabbies, Abel Vela, had to leave his wife and children and return to his home country, Peru, because living costs were lower there. He is now 74 and still working to survive.

    The city aired a commercial in 2004 to promote an upcoming auction of taxi medallions. The ad featured real cab drivers, but three of them eventually took on risky loans and suffered financial blows.
    The only woman in the ad, Marie Applyrs, a Haitian immigrant, fell behind on her loan payments and filed for bankruptcy in November 2017. She lost her cab, and her home. She now lives with her children, switching from home to home every few months.

    “When the ad happened, the taxi was in vogue. I think I still have the tape somewhere. It was glamorous,” she said. “Now, I’m in the poorhouse.”

    Today, the only person from the television commercial still active in the industry is Mr. Daus. He works as a lawyer for lenders.

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    Madeline Rosenberg contributed reporting. Doris Burke contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • ‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/nyregion/nyc-taxis-medallions-suicides.html


    Mohammed Hoque with his three children in their studio apartment in Jamaica, Queens.

    May 19, 2019 - The phone call that ruined Mohammed Hoque’s life came in April 2014 as he began another long day driving a New York City taxi, a job he had held since emigrating from Bangladesh nine years earlier.

    The call came from a prominent businessman who was selling a medallion, the coveted city permit that allows a driver to own a yellow cab instead of working for someone else. If Mr. Hoque gave him $50,000 that day, he promised to arrange a loan for the purchase.

    After years chafing under bosses he hated, Mr. Hoque thought his dreams of wealth and independence were coming true. He emptied his bank account, borrowed from friends and hurried to the man’s office in Astoria, Queens. Mr. Hoque handed over a check and received a stack of papers. He signed his name and left, eager to tell his wife.

    Mr. Hoque made about $30,000 that year. He had no idea, he said later, that he had just signed a contract that required him to pay $1.7 million.

    Over the past year, a spate of suicides by taxi drivers in New York City has highlighted in brutal terms the overwhelming debt and financial plight of medallion owners. All along, officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

    But a New York Times investigation found much of the devastation can be traced to a handful of powerful industry leaders who steadily and artificially drove up the price of taxi medallions, creating a bubble that eventually burst. Over more than a decade, they channeled thousands of drivers into reckless loans and extracted hundreds of millions of dollars before the market collapsed.

    These business practices generated huge profits for bankers, brokers, lawyers, investors, fleet owners and debt collectors. The leaders of nonprofit credit unions became multimillionaires. Medallion brokers grew rich enough to buy yachts and waterfront properties. One of the most successful bankers hired the rap star Nicki Minaj to perform at a family party.

    But the methods stripped immigrant families of their life savings, crushed drivers under debt they could not repay and engulfed an industry that has long defined New York. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records. Thousands more are barely hanging on.

    The practices were strikingly similar to those behind the housing market crash that led to the 2008 global economic meltdown: Banks and loosely regulated private lenders wrote risky loans and encouraged frequent refinancing; drivers took on debt they could not afford, under terms they often did not understand.

    Some big banks even entered the taxi industry in the aftermath of the housing crash, seeking a new market, with new borrowers.

    The combination of easy money, eager borrowers and the lure of a rare asset helped prices soar far above what medallions were really worth. Some industry leaders fed the frenzy by purposefully overpaying for medallions in order to inflate prices, The Times found.

    Between 2002 and 2014, the price of a medallion rose to more than $1 million from $200,000, even though city records showed that driver incomes barely changed.

    About 4,000 drivers bought medallions in that period, records show. They were excited to buy, but they were enticed by a dubious premise.

    What Actually Happened to New York’s Taxi DriversMay 28, 2019

    After the medallion market collapsed, Mayor Bill de Blasio opted not to fund a bailout, and earlier this year, the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, shut down the committee overseeing the taxi industry, saying it had completed most of its work.

    Over 10 months, The Times interviewed 450 people, built a database of every medallion sale since 1995 and reviewed thousands of individual loans and other documents, including internal bank records and confidential profit-sharing agreements.

    The investigation found example after example of drivers trapped in exploitative loans, including hundreds who signed interest-only loans that required them to pay exorbitant fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up almost all their monthly income, indefinitely.

    A Pakistani immigrant who thought he was just buying a car ended up with a $780,000 medallion loan that left him unable to pay rent. A Bangladeshi immigrant said he was told to lie about his income on his loan application; he eventually lost his medallion. A Haitian immigrant who worked to exhaustion to make his monthly payments discovered he had been paying only interest and went bankrupt.

    Abdur Rahim, who is from Bangladesh, is one of several cab drivers who allege they were duped into signing exploitative loans. 
    It is unclear if the practices violated any laws. But after reviewing The Times’s findings, experts said the methods were among the worst that have been used since the housing crash.

    “I don’t think I could concoct a more predatory scheme if I tried,” said Roger Bertling, the senior instructor at Harvard Law School’s clinic on predatory lending and consumer protection. “This was modern-day indentured servitude.”

    Lenders developed their techniques in New York but spread them to Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and elsewhere, transforming taxi industries across the United States.

    In interviews, lenders denied wrongdoing. They noted that regulators approved their practices, and said some borrowers made poor decisions and assumed too much debt. They said some drivers were happy to use climbing medallion values as collateral to take out cash, and that those who sold their medallions at the height of the market made money.

    The lenders said they believed medallion values would keep increasing, as they almost always had. No one, they said, could have predicted Uber and Lyft would emerge to undercut the business.

    “People love to blame banks for things that happen because they’re big bad banks,” said Robert Familant, the former head of Progressive Credit Union, a small nonprofit that specialized in medallion loans. “We didn’t do anything, in my opinion, other than try to help small businesspeople become successful.”

    Mr. Familant made about $30 million in salary and deferred payouts during the bubble, including $4.8 million in bonuses and incentives in 2014, the year it burst, according to disclosure forms.

    Meera Joshi, who joined the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2011 and became chairwoman in 2014, said it was not the city’s job to regulate lending. But she acknowledged that officials saw red flags and could have done something.

    “There were lots of players, and lots of people just watched it happen. So the T.L.C. watched it happen. The lenders watched it happen. The borrowers watched it happen as their investment went up, and it wasn’t until it started falling apart that people started taking action and pointing fingers,” said Ms. Joshi, who left the commission in March. “It was a party. Why stop it?”

    Every day, about 250,000 people hail a New York City yellow taxi. Most probably do not know they are participating in an unconventional economic system about as old as the Empire State Building.

    The city created taxi medallions in 1937. Unlicensed cabs crowded city streets, so officials designed about 12,000 specialized tin plates and made it illegal to operate a taxi without one bolted to the hood of the car. The city sold each medallion for $10.

    People who bought medallions could sell them, just like any other asset. The only restriction: Officials designated roughly half as “independent medallions” and eventually required that those always be owned by whoever was driving that cab.

    Over time, as yellow taxis became symbols of New York, a cutthroat industry grew around them. A few entrepreneurs obtained most of the nonindependent medallions and built fleets that controlled the market. They were family operations largely based in the industrial neighborhoods of Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan and Long Island City in Queens.

    Allegations of corruption, racism and exploitation dogged the industry. Some fleet bosses were accused of cheating drivers. Some drivers refused to go outside Manhattan or pick up black and Latino passengers. Fleet drivers typically worked 60 hours a week, made less than minimum wage and received no benefits, according to city studies.

    Still, driving could serve as a path to the middle class. Drivers could save to buy an independent medallion, which would increase their earnings and give them an asset they could someday sell for a retirement nest egg.

    Those who borrowed money to buy a medallion typically had to submit a large down payment and repay within five to 10 years.

    The conservative lending strategy produced modest returns. The city did not release new medallions for almost 60 years, and values slowly climbed, hitting $100,000 in 1985 and $200,000 in 1997.

    “It was a safe and stable asset, and it provided a good life for those of us who were lucky enough to buy them,” said Guy Roberts, who began driving in 1979 and eventually bought medallions and formed a fleet. “Not an easy life, but a good life.”

    “And then,” he said, “everything changed.”

    – Before coming to America, Mohammed Hoque lived comfortably in Chittagong, a city on Bangladesh’s southern coast. He was a serious student and a gifted runner, despite a small and stocky frame. His father and grandfather were teachers; he said he surpassed them, becoming an education official with a master’s degree in management. He supervised dozens of schools and traveled on a government-issued motorcycle. In 2004, when he was 33, he married Fouzia Mahabub. -

    That same year, several of his friends signed up for the green card lottery, and their thirst for opportunity was contagious. He applied, and won.

    His wife had an uncle in Jamaica, Queens, so they went there. They found a studio apartment. Mr. Hoque wanted to work in education, but he did not speak enough English. A friend recommended the taxi industry.

    It was an increasingly common move for South Asian immigrants. In 2005, about 40 percent of New York cabbies were born in Bangladesh, India or Pakistan, according to the United States Census Bureau. Over all, just 9 percent were born in the United States.

    Mr. Hoque and his wife emigrated from Bangladesh, and have rented the same apartment in Queens since 2005.

    Mr. Hoque joined Taxifleet Management, a large fleet run by the Weingartens, a Russian immigrant family whose patriarchs called themselves the “Three Wise Men.”

    He worked 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., six days a week. On a good day, he said, he brought home $100. He often felt lonely on the road, and he developed back pain from sitting all day and diabetes, medical records show.

    He could have worked fewer shifts. He also could have moved out of the studio. But he drove as much as feasible and spent as little as possible. He had heard the city would soon be auctioning off new medallions. He was saving to buy one.

    Andrew Murstein, left, with his father, Alvin.CreditChester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
    In the early 2000s, a new generation took power in New York’s cab industry. They were the sons of longtime industry leaders, and they had new ideas for making money.

    Few people represented the shift better than Andrew Murstein.

    Mr. Murstein was the grandson of a Polish immigrant who bought one of the first medallions, built one of the city’s biggest fleets and began informally lending to other buyers in the 1970s. Mr. Murstein attended business school and started his career at Bear Stearns and Salomon Brothers, the investment banks.

    When he joined the taxi business, he has said, he pushed his family to sell off many medallions and to establish a bank to focus on lending. Medallion Financial went public in 1996. Its motto was, “In niches, there are riches.”

    Dozens of industry veterans said Mr. Murstein and his father, Alvin, were among those who helped to move the industry to less conservative lending practices. The industry veterans said the Mursteins, as well as others, started saying medallion values would always rise and used that idea to focus on lending to lower-income drivers, which was riskier but more profitable.

    The strategy began to be used by the industry’s other major lenders — Progressive Credit Union, Melrose Credit Union and Lomto Credit Union, all family-run nonprofits that made essentially all their money from medallion loans, according to financial disclosures.

    “We didn’t want to be the one left behind,” said Monte Silberger, Lomto’s controller and then chief financial officer from 1999 to 2017.

    The lenders began accepting smaller down payments. By 2013, many medallion buyers were not handing over any down payment at all, according to an analysis of buyer applications submitted to the city.

    “It got to a point where we didn’t even check their income or credit score,” Mr. Silberger said. “It didn’t matter.”

    Lenders also encouraged existing borrowers to refinance and take out more money when medallion prices rose, according to interviews with dozens of borrowers and loan officers. There is no comprehensive data, but bank disclosures suggest that thousands of owners refinanced.

    Industry veterans said it became common for owners to refinance to buy a house or to put children through college. “You’d walk into the bank and walk out 30 minutes later with an extra $200,000,” said Lou Bakalar, a broker who arranged loans.

    Yvon Augustin has been living with help from his children ever since he declared bankruptcy and lost his taxi medallion.

    Some pointed to the refinancing to argue that irresponsible borrowers fueled the crisis. “Medallion owners were misusing it,” said Aleksey Medvedovskiy, a fleet owner who also worked as a broker. “They used it as an A.T.M.”

    As lenders loosened standards, they increased returns. Rather than raising interest rates, they made borrowers pay a mix of costs — origination fees, legal fees, financing fees, refinancing fees, filing fees, fees for paying too late and fees for paying too early, according to a Times review of more than 500 loans included in legal cases. Many lenders also made borrowers split their loan and pay a much higher rate on the second loan, documents show.

    Lenders also extended loan lengths. Instead of requiring repayment in five or 10 years, they developed deals that lasted as long as 50 years, locking in decades of interest payments. And some wrote interest-only loans that could continue forever.

    “We couldn’t figure out why the company was doing so many interest-only loans,” said Michelle Pirritano, a Medallion Financial loan analyst from 2007 to 2011. “It was a good revenue stream, but it didn’t really make sense as a loan. I mean, it wasn’t really a loan, because it wasn’t being repaid.”

    Almost every loan reviewed by The Times included a clause that spiked the interest rate to as high as 24 percent if it was not repaid in three years. Lenders included the clause — called a “balloon” — so that borrowers almost always had to extend the loan, possibly at a higher rate than in the original terms, and with additional fees.

    Yvon Augustin was caught in one of those loans. He bought a medallion in 2006, a decade after emigrating from Haiti. He said he paid $2,275 every month — more than half his income, he said — and thought he was paying off the loan. But last year, his bank used the balloon to demand that he repay everything. That is when he learned he had been paying only the interest, he said.

    Mr. Augustin, 69, declared bankruptcy and lost his medallion. He lives off assistance from his children.

    During the global financial crisis, Eugene Haber, a lawyer for the taxi industry, started getting calls from bankers he had never met.

    Mr. Haber had written a template for medallion loans in the 1970s. By 2008, his thick mustache had turned white, and he thought he knew everybody in the industry. Suddenly, new bankers began calling his suite in a Long Island office park. Capital One, Signature Bank, New York Commercial Bank and others wanted to issue medallion loans, he said.

    Some of the banks were looking for new borrowers after the housing market collapsed, Mr. Haber said. “They needed somewhere else to invest,” he said. He said he represented some banks at loan signings but eventually became embittered because he believed banks were knowingly lending to people who could not repay.

    Instead of lending directly, the big banks worked through powerful industry players. They enlisted large fleet owners and brokers — especially Neil Greenbaum, Richard Chipman, Savas Konstantinides, Roman Sapino and Basil Messados — to use the banks’ money to lend to medallion buyers. In return, the owners and brokers received a cut of the monthly payments and sometimes an additional fee.

    The fleet owners and brokers, who technically issued the loans, did not face the same scrutiny as banks.

    “They did loans that were frankly insane,” said Larry Fisher, who from 2003 to 2016 oversaw medallion lending at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders originally in the industry. “It contributed to the price increases and put a lot of pressure on the rest of us to keep up.”

    Evgeny Freidman, a fleet owner, has said he purposely overbid for taxi medallions in order to drive up their value.CreditSasha Maslov
    Still, Mr. Fisher said, Melrose followed lending rules. “A lot of people tend to blame others for their own misfortune,” he said. “If they want to blame the lender for the medallion going down the tubes the way it has, I think they’re misplaced.”

    Mr. Konstantinides, a fleet owner and the broker and lender who arranged Mr. Hoque’s loans, said every loan issued by his company abided by federal and state banking guidelines. “I am very sympathetic to the plight of immigrant families who are seeking a better life in this country and in this city,” said Mr. Konstantinides, who added that he was also an immigrant.

    Walter Rabin, who led Capital One’s medallion lending division between 2007 and 2012 and has led Signature Bank’s medallion lending division since, said he was one of the industry’s most conservative lenders. He said he could not speak for the brokers and fleet owners with whom he worked.

    Mr. Rabin and other Signature executives denied fault for the market collapse and blamed the city for allowing ride-hail companies to enter with little regulation. “It’s the City of New York that took the biggest advantage of the drivers,” said Joseph J. DePaolo, the president and chief executive of Signature. “It’s not the banks.”

    New York Commercial Bank said in a statement that it began issuing medallion loans before the housing crisis and that they were a very small part of its business. The bank did not engage in risky lending practices, a spokesman said.

    Mr. Messados said in an interview that he disagreed with interest-only loans and other one-sided terms. But he said he was caught between banks developing the loans and drivers clamoring for them. “They were insisting on this,” he said. “What are you supposed to do? Say, ‘I’m not doing the sale?’”

    Several lenders challenged the idea that borrowers were unsophisticated. They said that some got better deals by negotiating with multiple lenders at once.

    Mr. Greenbaum, Mr. Chipman and Mr. Sapino declined to comment, as did Capital One.

    Some fleet owners worked to manipulate prices. In the most prominent example, Evgeny Freidman, a brash Russian immigrant who owned so many medallions that some called him “The Taxi King,” said he purposefully overpaid for medallions sold at city auctions. He reasoned that the higher prices would become the industry standard, making the medallions he already owned worth more. Mr. Freidman, who was partners with Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, disclosed the plan in a 2012 speech at Yeshiva University. He recently pleaded guilty to felony tax fraud. He declined to comment.

    As medallion prices kept increasing, the industry became strained. Drivers had to work longer hours to make monthly payments. Eventually, loan records show, many drivers had to use almost all their income on payments.

    “The prices got to be ridiculous,” said Vincent Sapone, the retired manager of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners, an owner association. “When it got close to $1 million, nobody was going to pay that amount of money, unless they came from another country. Nobody from Brooklyn was going to pay that.”

    Some drivers have alleged in court that lenders tricked them into signing loans.

    Muhammad Ashraf, who is not fluent in English, said he thought he was getting a loan to purchase a car but ended up in debt to buy a taxi medallion instead.

    Muhammad Ashraf, a Pakistani immigrant, alleged that a broker, Heath Candero, duped him into a $780,000 interest-only loan. He said in an interview in Urdu that he could not speak English fluently and thought he was just signing a loan to buy a car. He said he found out about the loan when his bank sued him for not fully repaying. The bank eventually decided not to pursue a case against Mr. Ashraf. He also filed a lawsuit against Mr. Candero. That case was dismissed. A lawyer for Mr. Candero declined to comment.

    Abdur Rahim, a Bangladeshi immigrant, alleged that his lender, Bay Ridge Credit Union, inserted hidden fees. In an interview, he added he was told to lie on his loan application. The application, reviewed by The Times, said he made $128,389, but he said his tax return showed he made about $25,000. In court, Bay Ridge has denied there were hidden fees and said Mr. Rahim was “confusing the predatory-lending statute with a mere bad investment.” The credit union declined to comment.

    Several employees of lenders said they were pushed to write loans, encouraged by bonuses and perks such as tickets to sporting events and free trips to the Bahamas.

    They also said drivers almost never had lawyers at loan closings. Borrowers instead trusted their broker to represent them, even though, unbeknown to them, the broker was often getting paid by the bank.

    Stan Zurbin, who between 2009 and 2012 did consulting work for a lender that issued medallion loans, said that as prices rose, lenders in the industry increasingly lent to immigrants.

    “They didn’t have 750 credit scores, let’s just say,” he said. “A lot of them had just come into the country. A lot of them just had no idea what they were signing.”

    The $1 million medallion
    Video
    Mrs. Hoque did not want her husband to buy a medallion. She wanted to use their savings to buy a house. They had their first child in 2008, and they planned to have more. They needed to leave the studio apartment, and she thought a home would be a safer investment.

    But Mr. Hoque could not shake the idea, especially after several friends bought medallions at the city’s February 2014 auction.

    One friend introduced him to a man called “Big Savas.” It was Mr. Konstantinides, a fleet owner who also had a brokerage and a lending company, Mega Funding.

    The call came a few weeks later. A medallion owner had died, and the family was selling for $1 million.

    Mr. Hoque said he later learned the $50,000 he paid up front was just for taxes. Mega eventually requested twice that amount for fees and a down payment, records show. Mr. Hoque said he maxed out credit cards and borrowed from a dozen friends and relatives.

    Fees and interest would bring the total repayment to more than $1.7 million, documents show. It was split into two loans, both issued by Mega with New York Commercial Bank. The loans made him pay $5,000 a month — most of the $6,400 he could earn as a medallion owner.

    Mohammed Hoque’s Medallion Loans Consumed Most of His Taxi Revenue
    After paying his two medallion loans and business costs, Mr. Hoque had about $1,400 left over each month to pay the rent on his studio apartment in Queens and cover his living expenses.

    Estimated monthly revenue $11,845

    Gas $1,500

    Income after expenses $1,400

    Vehicle maintenance $1,300

    Medallion loan 1 $4,114

    Insurance $1,200

    Car loan $650

    Credit card fees $400

    Medallion loan 2 $881

    Other work-related expenses $400

    By the time the deal closed in July 2014, Mr. Hoque had heard of a new company called Uber. He wondered if it would hurt the business, but nobody seemed to be worried.

    As Mr. Hoque drove to the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s downtown office for final approval of the purchase, he fantasized about becoming rich, buying a big house and bringing his siblings to America. After a commission official reviewed his application and loan records, he said he was ushered into the elegant “Taxi of Tomorrow” room. An official pointed a camera. Mr. Hoque smiled.

    “These are little cash cows running around the city spitting out money,” Mr. Murstein said, beaming in a navy suit and pink tie.

    He did not mention he was quietly leaving the business, a move that would benefit him when the market collapsed.

    By the time of the appearance, Medallion Financial had been cutting the number of medallion loans on its books for years, according to disclosures it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Murstein later said the company started exiting the business and focusing on other ventures before 2010.

    Mr. Murstein declined numerous interview requests. He also declined to answer some written questions, including why he promoted medallions while exiting the business. In emails and through a spokesman, he acknowledged that Medallion Financial reduced down payments but said it rarely issued interest-only loans or charged borrowers for repaying loans too early.

    “Many times, we did not match what our competitors were willing to do and in retrospect, thankfully, we lost the business,” he wrote to The Times.

    Interviews with three former staffers, and a Times review of loan documents that were filed as part of lawsuits brought by Medallion Financial against borrowers, indicate the company issued many interest-only loans and routinely included a provision allowing it to charge borrowers for repaying loans too early.

    Other lenders also left the taxi industry or took precautions long before the market collapsed.

    The credit unions specializing in the industry kept making new loans. But between 2010 and 2014, they sold the loans to other financial institutions more often than in the previous five years, disclosure forms show. Progressive Credit Union, run by Mr. Familant, sold loans off almost twice as often, the forms show. By 2012, that credit union was selling the majority of the loans it issued.

    In a statement, Mr. Familant said the selling of loans was a standard banking practice that did not indicate a lack of confidence in the market.

    Several banks used something called a confession of judgment. It was an obscure document in which the borrower admitted defaulting on the loan — even before taking out any money at all — and authorized the bank to do whatever it wanted to collect.

    Larry Fisher was the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders originally in the industry, from 2003 to 2016.
    Congress has banned that practice in consumer loans, but not in business loans, which is how lenders classified medallion deals. Many states have barred it in business loans, too, but New York is not among them.

    Even as some lenders quietly braced for the market to fall, prices kept rising, and profits kept growing.

    By 2014, many of the people who helped create the bubble had made millions of dollars and invested it elsewhere.

    Medallion Financial started focusing on lending to R.V. buyers and bought a professional lacrosse team and a Nascar team, painting the car to look like a taxi. Mr. Murstein and his father made more than $42 million between 2002 and 2014, disclosures show. In 2015, Ms. Minaj, the rap star, performed at his son’s bar mitzvah.

    The Melrose C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, had the highest base salary of any large state-chartered credit union leader in America in 2013 and 2015, records show. His medallion lending supervisor, Mr. Fisher, also made millions.

    It is harder to tell how much fleet owners and brokers made, but in recent years news articles have featured some of them with new boats and houses.

    Mr. Messados’s bank records, filed in a legal case, show that by 2013, he had more than $50 million in non-taxi assets, including three homes and a yacht.

    The bubble bursts

    At least eight drivers have committed suicide, including three medallion owners with overwhelming loans.
    The medallion bubble burst in late 2014. Uber and Lyft may have hastened the crisis, but virtually all of the hundreds of industry veterans interviewed for this article, including many lenders, said inflated prices and risky lending practices would have caused a collapse even if ride-hailing had never been invented.

    At the market’s height, medallion buyers were typically earning about $5,000 a month and paying about $4,500 to their loans, according to an analysis by The Times of city data and loan documents. Many owners could make their payments only by refinancing when medallion values increased, which was unsustainable, some loan officers said.

    City data shows that since Uber entered New York in 2011, yellow cab revenue has decreased by about 10 percent per cab, a significant bite for low-earning drivers but a small drop compared with medallion values, which initially rose and then fell by 90 percent.

    As values fell, borrowers asked for breaks. But many lenders went the opposite direction. They decided to leave the business and called in their loans.

    They used the confessions to get hundreds of judgments that would allow them to take money from bank accounts, court records show. Some tried to get borrowers to give up homes or a relative’s assets. Others seized medallions and quickly resold them for profit, while still charging the original borrowers fees and extra interest. Several drivers have alleged in court that their lenders ordered them to buy life insurance.

    Many lenders hired a debt collector, Anthony Medina, to seize medallions from borrowers who missed payments.

    The scars left on cabs after medallions were removed.

    Mr. Medina left notes telling borrowers they had to give the lender “relief” to get their medallions back. The notes, which were reviewed by The Times, said the seizure was “authorized by vehicle apprehension unit.” Some drivers said Mr. Medina suggested he was a police officer and made them meet him at a park at night and pay $550 extra in cash.

    One man, Jean Demosthenes, a 64-year-old Haitian immigrant who could not speak English, said in an interview in Haitian Creole that Mr. Medina cornered him in Midtown, displayed a gun and took his car.

    In an interview, Mr. Medina denied threatening anyone with a gun. He said he requested cash because drivers who had defaulted could not be trusted to write good checks. He said he met drivers at parks and referred to himself as the vehicle apprehension unit because he wanted to hide his identity out of fear he could be targeted by borrowers.

    “You’re taking words from people that are deadbeats and delinquent people. Of course, they don’t want to see me,” he said. “I’m not the bad guy. I’m just the messenger from the bank.”

    Some lenders, especially Signature Bank, have let borrowers out of their loans for one-time payments of about $250,000. But to get that money, drivers have had to find new loans. Mr. Greenbaum, a fleet owner, has provided many of those loans, sometimes at interest rates of up to 15 percent, loan documents and interviews showed.

    New York Commercial Bank said in its statement it also had modified some loans.

    Other drivers lost everything. Most of the more than 950 owners who declared bankruptcy had to forfeit their medallions. Records indicate many were bought by hedge funds hoping for prices to rise. For now, cabs sit unused.

    Jean Demosthenes said his medallion was repossessed by a man with a gun. The man denied that he was armed.

    Bhairavi Desai, founder of the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drivers and independent owners, has asked the city to bail out owners or refund auction purchasers. Others have urged the city to pressure banks to forgive loans or soften terms.

    After reviewing The Times’s findings, Deepak Gupta, a former top official at the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said the New York Attorney General’s Office should investigate lenders.

    Mr. Gupta also said the state should close the loophole that let lenders classify medallion deals as business loans, even though borrowers had to guarantee them with everything they owned. Consumer loans have far more disclosure rules and protections.

    “These practices were indisputably predatory and would be illegal if they were considered consumer loans, rather than business loans,” he said.

    Last year, amid eight known suicides of drivers, including three medallion owners with overwhelming loans, the city passed a temporary cap on ride-hailing cars, created a task force to study the industry and directed the city taxi commission to do its own analysis of the debt crisis.

    Earlier this year, the Council eliminated the committee overseeing the industry after its chairman, Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx, said the Council was “controlled by the homosexual community.” The speaker, Mr. Johnson, said, “The vast majority of the legislative work that we have been looking at has already been completed.”

    In a statement, a council spokesman said the committee’s duties had been transferred to the Committee on Transportation. “The Council is working to do as much as it can legislatively to help all drivers,” the spokesman said.

    As of last week, no one had been appointed to the task force.

    On the last day of 2018, Mr. and Mrs. Hoque brought their third child home from the hospital.

    Mr. Hoque cleared space for the boy’s crib, pushing aside his plastic bags of T-shirts and the fan that cooled the studio. He looked around. He could not believe he was still living in the same room.

    His loan had quickly faltered. He could not make the payments and afford rent, and his medallion was seized. Records show he paid more than $12,000 to Mega, and he said he paid another $550 to Mr. Medina to get it back. He borrowed from friends, promising it would not happen again. Then it happened four more times, he said.

    Mr. Konstantinides, the broker, said in his statement that he met with Mr. Hoque many times and twice modified one of his loans in order to lower his monthly payments. He also said he gave Mr. Hoque extra time to make some payments.

    In all, between the initial fees, monthly payments and penalties after the seizures, Mr. Hoque had paid about $400,000 into the medallion by the beginning of this year.

    But he still owed $915,000 more, plus interest, and he did not know what to do. Bankruptcy would cost money, ruin his credit and remove his only income source. And it would mean a shameful end to years of hard work. He believed his only choice was to keep working and to keep paying.

    His cab was supposed to be his ticket to money and freedom, but instead it seemed like a prison cell. Every day, he got in before the sun rose and stayed until the sky began to darken. Mr. Hoque, now 48, tried not to think about home, about what he had given up and what he had dreamed about.

    “It’s an unhuman life,” he said. “I drive and drive and drive. But I don’t know what my destination is.”

    [Read Part 2 of The Times’s investigation: As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money]

    Reporting was contributed by Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Suzanne Hillinger, Derek M. Norman, Elisha Brown, Lindsey Rogers Cook, Pierre-Antoine Louis and Sameen Amin. Doris Burke and Susan Beachy contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    Follow Brian M. Rosenthal on Twitter at @brianmrosenthal

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • #Elite gathering reveals anxiety over ‘class war’ and ‘#revolution’
    Financial Times 2 mai 2019

    The Milken Institute’s annual gathering of the investment, business and political elites this week featured big names from US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin to David Solomon, chief executive of Goldman Sachs.

    [..,]

    Despite widespread optimism about the outlook for the US economy and financial markets, some of the biggest names on Wall Street and in corporate America revealed their anxiety about the health of the economic model that made them millionaires and billionaires.

    Mr Milken himself, whose conference was known as the predators’ ball when he ruled over the booming junk bond market of the 1980s, was among those fretfully revisiting a debate that has not loomed so large since before the fall of the Berlin Wall: whether capitalism’s supremacy is threatened by creeping socialism.

    Mr Milken played a video of Thatcher from two years before she became UK prime minister. “Capitalism has a moral basis,” she declared, and “to be free, you have to be capitalist”. Applause rippled through the ballroom.

    In the run-up to the conference, essays by Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase about the case for reforming capitalism to sustain it have been widely shared. Executives are paying close attention to what one investment company CEO called “the shift left of the Democratic party”, personified by 2020 presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and the social media success of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the democratic socialist elected to Congress last year.

    Former Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt issued his own rallying cry as he sat beside Ivanka Trump to discuss the conference theme of “driving shared prosperity”.

    “I’m concerned with this notion that somehow socialism’s going to creep back in, because capitalism is the source of our collective wealth as a country,” Mr Schmidt said, urging his fellow capitalists to get the message out that “it’s working”.

    Mr Milken asked Ken Griffin, the billionaire founder of the hedge fund Citadel, why young Americans seemed to have lost faith in the free market, flashing up a poll on the screen behind them which showed 44 per cent of millennials saying they would prefer to live in a socialist country.

    “You and I grew up in a different era, where the cold war was waking up and there was a great debate in America about the strengths and weaknesses of socialism as compared to the economic freedom that we enjoy in our country,” Mr Griffin replied, saying that they had “seen that question answered” with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    The younger generation that support socialism are “people who don’t know history”, he said.

    Guggenheim Partners’ Alan Schwartz put the risks of rising income inequality more starkly. “You take the average person . . . they’re just basically saying something that used to be 50:50 is now 60:40; it’s not working for me,” he told another conference session, pointing to the gap between wage growth and the growth of corporate profits.

    “If you look at the rightwing and the leftwing, what’s really coming is class warfare,” he warned. “Throughout centuries what we’ve seen when the masses think the elites have too much, one of two things happens: legislation to redistribute the wealth . . . or revolution to redistribute poverty. Those are the two choices historically and debating it back and forth, saying ‘no, it’s capitalism; no, it’s socialism’ is what creates revolution.”

    There was less discussion of the prospect of higher taxes on America’s wealthiest, which some Democrats have proposed to finance an agenda many executives support, such as investing in education, infrastructure and retraining a workforce threatened by technological disruption and globalisation.

    One top investment company executive echoed the common view among the conference’s wealthy speakers: “ Punitive #redistribution won’t work.”

    But another financial services executive, who donated to Hillary Clinton’s US presidential campaign in 2016, told the Financial Times: “ I’d pay 5 per cent more in tax to make the world a slightly less scary place .”

    #capitalisme #anxiété #capitalistes

  • The Terrifying Potential of the 5G Network | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-communications/the-terrifying-potential-of-the-5g-network

    Two words explain the difference between our current wireless networks and 5G: speed and latency. 5G—if you believe the hype—is expected to be up to a hundred times faster. (A two-hour movie could be downloaded in less than four seconds.) That speed will reduce, and possibly eliminate, the delay—the latency—between instructing a computer to perform a command and its execution. This, again, if you believe the hype, will lead to a whole new Internet of Things, where everything from toasters to dog collars to dialysis pumps to running shoes will be connected. Remote robotic surgery will be routine, the military will develop hypersonic weapons, and autonomous vehicles will cruise safely along smart highways. The claims are extravagant, and the stakes are high. One estimate projects that 5G will pump twelve trillion dollars into the global economy by 2035, and add twenty-two million new jobs in the United States alone. This 5G world, we are told, will usher in a fourth industrial revolution.

    A totally connected world will also be especially susceptible to cyberattacks. Even before the introduction of 5G networks, hackers have breached the control center of a municipal dam system, stopped an Internet-connected car as it travelled down an interstate, and sabotaged home appliances. Ransomware, malware, crypto-jacking, identity theft, and data breaches have become so common that more Americans are afraid of cybercrime than they are of becoming a victim of violent crime. Adding more devices to the online universe is destined to create more opportunities for disruption. “5G is not just for refrigerators,” Spalding said. “It’s farm implements, it’s airplanes, it’s all kinds of different things that can actually kill people or that allow someone to reach into the network and direct those things to do what they want them to do. It’s a completely different threat that we’ve never experienced before.”

    Spalding’s solution, he told me, was to build the 5G network from scratch, incorporating cyber defenses into its design.

    There are very good reasons to keep a company that appears to be beholden to a government with a documented history of industrial cyber espionage, international data theft, and domestic spying out of global digital networks. But banning Huawei hardware will not secure those networks. Even in the absence of Huawei equipment, systems still may rely on software developed in China, and software can be reprogrammed remotely by malicious actors. And every device connected to the fifth-generation Internet will likely remain susceptible to hacking. According to James Baker, the former F.B.I. general counsel who runs the national-security program at the R Street Institute, “There’s a concern that those devices that are connected to the 5G network are not going to be very secure from a cyber perspective. That presents a huge vulnerability for the system, because those devices can be turned into bots, for example, and you can have a massive botnet that can be used to attack different parts of the network.”

    This past January, Tom Wheeler, who was the F.C.C. chairman during the Obama Administration, published an Op-Ed in the New York Times titled “If 5G Is So Important, Why Isn’t It Secure?” The Trump Administration had walked away from security efforts begun during Wheeler’s tenure at the F.C.C.; most notably, in recent negotiations over international standards, the U.S. eliminated a requirement that the technical specifications of 5G include cyber defense. “For the first time in history,” Wheeler wrote, “cybersecurity was being required as a forethought in the design of a new network standard—until the Trump F.C.C. repealed it.” The agency also rejected the notion that companies building and running American digital networks were responsible for overseeing their security. This might have been expected, but the current F.C.C. does not consider cybersecurity to be a part of its domain, either. “I certainly did when we were in office,” Wheeler told me. “But the Republicans who were on the commission at that point in time, and are still there, one being the chairman, opposed those activities as being overly regulatory.”

    Opening up new spectrum is crucial to achieving the super-fast speeds promised by 5G. Most American carriers are planning to migrate their services to a higher part of the spectrum, where the bands are big and broad and allow for colossal rivers of data to flow through them. (Some carriers are also working with lower-spectrum frequencies, where the speeds will not be as fast but likely more reliable.) Until recently, these high-frequency bands, which are called millimetre waves, were not available for Internet transmission, but advances in antenna technology have made it possible, at least in theory. In practice, millimetre waves are finicky: they can only travel short distances—about a thousand feet—and are impeded by walls, foliage, human bodies, and, apparently, rain.

    Deploying millions of wireless relays so close to one another and, therefore, to our bodies has elicited its own concerns. Two years ago, a hundred and eighty scientists and doctors from thirty-six countries appealed to the European Union for a moratorium on 5G adoption until the effects of the expected increase in low-level radiation were studied. In February, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, took both the F.C.C. and F.D.A. to task for pushing ahead with 5G without assessing its health risks. “We’re kind of flying blind here,” he concluded. A system built on millions of cell relays, antennas, and sensors also offers previously unthinkable surveillance potential. Telecom companies already sell location data to marketers, and law enforcement has used similar data to track protesters. 5G will catalogue exactly where someone has come from, where they are going, and what they are doing. “To give one made-up example,” Steve Bellovin, a computer-science professor at Columbia University, told the Wall Street Journal, “might a pollution sensor detect cigarette smoke or vaping, while a Bluetooth receiver picks up the identities of nearby phones? Insurance companies might be interested.” Paired with facial recognition and artificial intelligence, the data streams and location capabilities of 5G will make anonymity a historical artifact.

    To accommodate these limitations, 5G cellular relays will have to be installed inside buildings and on every city block, at least. Cell relays mounted on thirteen million utility poles, for example, will deliver 5G speeds to just over half of the American population, and cost around four hundred billion dollars to install. Rural communities will be out of luck—too many trees, too few people—despite the F.C.C.’s recently announced Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

    Deploying millions of wireless relays so close to one another and, therefore, to our bodies has elicited its own concerns. Two years ago, a hundred and eighty scientists and doctors from thirty-six countries appealed to the European Union for a moratorium on 5G adoption until the effects of the expected increase in low-level radiation were studied. In February, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, took both the F.C.C. and F.D.A. to task for pushing ahead with 5G without assessing its health risks. “We’re kind of flying blind here,” he concluded. A system built on millions of cell relays, antennas, and sensors also offers previously unthinkable surveillance potential. Telecom companies already sell location data to marketers, and law enforcement has used similar data to track protesters. 5G will catalogue exactly where someone has come from, where they are going, and what they are doing. “To give one made-up example,” Steve Bellovin, a computer-science professor at Columbia University, told the Wall Street Journal, “might a pollution sensor detect cigarette smoke or vaping, while a Bluetooth receiver picks up the identities of nearby phones? Insurance companies might be interested.” Paired with facial recognition and artificial intelligence, the data streams and location capabilities of 5G will make anonymity a historical artifact.

    #Surveillance #Santé #5G #Cybersécurité

  • ‘Siding with Big Pharma’ : Republicans warn CEOs not to cooperate with Democrats’ drug price probe – Alternet.org
    https://www.alternet.org/2019/04/siding-with-big-pharma-republicans-warn-ceos-not-to-cooperate-with-democra

    Jusqu’où iront les Républicains US en tordant les déclarations et en absolvant d’avance les Big Pharma. La bataille politique ne porte plus sur les projets, mais sur les détournements du langage. Ce ne sont plus les « petites phrases », mais les « extraits de phrases utilisés pour faire dire l’inverse ». Ce phénomène est grave. Il est un symptôme de la fin des Lumières... du mauvais côté (il y a des critiques à faire aux Lumières, mais pas celles portant sur le Tribunal de la raison et le développement d’une connaissance appuyées sur les faits).

    As Democrats on the House Oversight Committee attempt to investigate soaring drug prices in the U.S., Republicans are warning the CEOs of some of America’s largest pharmaceutical companies against cooperating with the probe.

    Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), leaders of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, sent letters (pdf) to a dozen drug company CEOs “warning that information they provide to the committee could be leaked to the public by Democratic chair Elijah Cummings in an effort to tank their stock prices,” Buzzfeed reported Monday.

    Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, launched his investigation in January with a request for “information and communications on price increases, investments in research and development, and corporate strategies to preserve market share and pricing power” from pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer, Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and others.

    In their letters to the same pharmaceutical companies, Jordan and Meadows suggested that Cummings is attempting to obtain information that “would likely harm the competitiveness of your company if disclosed publicly.”

    “While we cannot speculate about Chairman Cummings’s motives, we believe the committee should not pursue an investigation to ‘impact… stock prices with regard to drugs’—especially when there is bipartisan interest in real oversight of rising prescription drug prices,” the Republicans wrote in their letters, dated April 5.

    As Buzzfeed notes, Jordan and Meadows’ claims rest on an out-of-context quote from Cummings:

    The [Republicans’] letter quotes Cummings as saying of his drug team: “If you follow the headlines, we have already seen the impact they have had… on stock prices with regard to drugs. I mean, it has been astronomical.” The letter omits the rest of the sentence: “saving the taxpayers money.”

    In the edited quote, Cummings seems to be bragging about an “astronomical” impact on drug company stocks. In the context of his statements before and after, he seems to be saying the “astronomical” impact is on taxpayer savings, which justify giving his committee more resources. A minute later he says: “Whatever you all give us, we will give it back in savings by rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse.”

    In a statement to Buzzfeed, Cummings said Jordan—the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee—”is on the absolute wrong side here.”

    “He would rather protect drug company ‘stock prices’ than the interests of the American people,” Cummings added.

    Economist and University of California, Berkeley professor Robert Reich expressed agreement with Cummings, tweeting of the two Republicans, “Once again, they’re siding with Big Pharma at the expense of the American people.”

    #Big_pharma #Politique_USA #Langage

  • #CBP terminates controversial $297 million #Accenture contract amid continued staffing struggles

    #Customs_and_Border_Protection on Thursday ended its controversial $297 million hiring contract with Accenture, according to two senior DHS officials and an Accenture representative.
    As of December, when CBP terminated part of its contract, the company had only completed processing 58 applicants and only 22 had made it onto the payroll about a year after the company was hired.
    At the time, the 3,500 applicants that remained in the Accenture hiring pipeline were transferred to CBP’s own hiring center to complete the process.

    CBP cut ties with Accenture on processing applicants a few months ago, it retained some services, including marketing, advertising and applicant support.
    This week, the entire contract was terminated for “convenience,” government speak for agreeing to part ways without placing blame on Accenture.
    While government hiring is “slow and onerous, it’s also part of being in the government” and that’s “something we have to accept and deal with as we go forward,” said one of the officials.
    For its efforts, CBP paid Accenture around $19 million in start-up costs, and around $2 million for 58 people who got job offers, according to the officials.
    Over the last couple of months, CBP explored how to modify the contract, but ultimately decided to completely stop work and return any remaining funds to taxpayers.
    But it’s unclear how much money, if any, that will be.

    In addition, to the funds already paid to Accenture, CBP has around $39 million left to “settle and close the books” with the company, an amount which has yet to be determined.
    In November 2017, CBP awarded Accenture the contract to help meet the hiring demands of an executive order on border security that President Donald Trump signed during his first week in office. The administration directed CBP to hire an additional 7,500 agents and officers on top of its current hiring goals.
    “We were in a situation where we needed to try something new” and “break the cycle of going backwards,” said a DHS official about why the agency started the contract.

    Meanwhile, hiring remains difficult for the agency amid a surge of migrants at the southern border that is stretching CBP resources thin.
    It “continues to be a very challenging environment,” said one official about hiring efforts this year.

    In fact, one of the reasons that CBP didn’t need Accenture to process applicants, is because the agency didn’t receive as many applications as it initially planned for.
    The agency has been focused on beating attrition and has been able to recently “beat it by a modest amount,” said the official. “Ultimately we would like to beat it by a heck of a lot, but we’re not there yet.”

    https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/05/politics/cbp-terminate-hiring-contract-accenture/index.html
    #frontières #contrôles_frontaliers #USA #Ests-Unis #complexe_militaro-industriel #business

    • Border Profiteers

      On a recent sunny spring afternoon in Texas, a couple hundred Border Patrol agents, Homeland Security officials, and salespeople from a wide array of defense and security contractors gathered at the Bandera Gun Club about an hour northwest of San Antonio to eat barbecue and shoot each other’s guns. The techies wore flip-flops; the veterans wore combat boots. Everyone had a good time. They were letting loose, having spent the last forty-eight hours cooped up in suits and ties back at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez convention center, mingling and schmoozing, hawking their wares, and listening to immigration officials rail about how those serving in enforcement agencies are not, under any circumstances, Nazis.

      These profiteers and bureaucrats of the immigration-industrial complex were fresh from the 2019 #Border_Security_Expo —essentially a trade show for state violence, where law enforcement officers and weapons manufacturers gather, per the Expo’s marketing materials, to “identify and address new and emerging border challenges and opportunities through technology, partnership, and innovation.” The previous two days of panels, speeches, and presentations had been informative, a major in the Argentine Special Forces told me at the gun range, but boring. He was glad to be outside, where handguns popped and automatic rifles spat around us. I emptied a pistol into a target while a man in a Three Percenter militia baseball hat told me that I was a “natural-born killer.” A drone buzzed overhead until, in a demonstration of a company’s new anti-drone technology, a device that looked like a rocket launcher and fired a sort of exploding net took it down. “This is music to me,” the Argentine major said.

      Perhaps it’s not surprising the Border Security Expo attendees were so eager to blow off steam. This year’s event found many of them in a defensive posture, given the waves of bad press they’d endured since President Trump’s inauguration, and especially since the disastrous implementation of his family separation policy, officially announced by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April of 2018, before being rescinded by Trump two-and-a-half months later. Throughout the Expo, in public events and in background roundtable conversations with reporters, officials from the various component parts of the Department of Homeland Security rolled out a series of carefully rehearsed talking points: Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) need more money, personnel, and technology; taking migrants to hospitals distracts CBP officers from their real mission; and the 1997 Flores court settlement, which prohibits immigration enforcement agencies from detaining migrant families with children for more than twenty days, is undermining the very sovereignty of the United States. “We want a secure border, we want an immigration system that has integrity,” Ronald Vitiello, then–acting head of ICE, said in a keynote address to the hundreds of people gathered in San Antonio. “We have a generous immigration system in this country, but it has to have integrity in order for us to continue to be so generous.”

      More of a technocrat than his thuggish predecessor Thomas Homan, Vitiello also spoke at length about using the “dark web” to take down smugglers and the importance of having the most up-to-date data-management technology. But he spoke most adamantly about needing “a fix” for the Flores settlement. “If you prosecute crimes and you give people consequences, you get less of it,” he said. “With Flores, there’s no consequence, and everybody knows that,” a senior ICE official echoed to reporters during a background conversation immediately following Vitiello’s keynote remarks. “That’s why you’re seeing so many family units. We cannot apply a consequence to a family unit, because we have to release them.”

      Meanwhile, around 550 miles to the west, in El Paso, hundreds of migrants, including children and families, were being held by CBP under a bridge, reportedly forced to sleep on the ground, with inadequate medical attention. “They treated us like we are animals,” one Honduran man told Texas Monthly. “I felt what they were trying to do was to hurt us psychologically, so we would understand that this is a lesson we were being taught, that we shouldn’t have crossed.” Less than a week after the holding pen beneath the bridge closed, Vitiello’s nomination to run ICE would be pulled amid a spate of firings across DHS; President Trump wanted to go “in a tougher direction.”

      Family Values

      On the second day of the Border Security Expo, in a speech over catered lunch, Scott Luck, deputy chief of Customs and Border Protection and a career Border Patrol agent, lamented that the influx of children and families at the border meant that resources were being diverted from traditional enforcement practices. “Every day, about 150 agents spend their shifts at hospitals and medical facilities with illegal aliens receiving treatment,” he said. “The annual salary cost for agents on hospital watch is more than $11.5 million. Budget analysts estimate that 13 percent of our operational budget—the budget that we use to buy equipment, to buy vehicles for our men and women—is now used for transportation, medical expenses, diapers, food, and other necessities to care for illegal aliens in Border Patrol custody.”

      As far as Luck was concerned, every dollar spent on food and diapers is one not spent on drones and weapons, and every hour an agent spends guarding a migrant in a hospital is an hour they don’t spend on the border. “It’s not what they signed up for. The mission they signed up for is to protect the United States border, to protect the communities in which they live and serve,” he told reporters after his speech. “The influx, the volume, the clutter that this creates is frustrating.” Vitiello applied an Orwellian inversion: “We’re not helping them as fast as we want to,” he said of migrant families apprehended at the border.

      Even when discussing the intimate needs of detained migrant families, the language border officials used to describe their remit throughout the Expo was explicitly militaristic: achieving “operational control,” Luck said, requires “impedance and denial” and “situational awareness.” He referred to technology as a “vital force multiplier.” He at least stopped short of endorsing the president’s framing that what is happening on the border constitutes an invasion, instead describing it as a “deluge.”

      According to the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, the U.S. immigrant population has continued to grow—although at a slower rate than it did before the 2007 recession, and undocumented people appear to make up a smaller proportion of the overall population. Regardless, in fiscal year 2018, both ICE and CBP stepped up their enforcement activities, arresting, apprehending, and deporting people at significantly higher rates than the previous year. More than three times as many family members were apprehended at the border last year than in 2017, the Pew Research Center reports, and in the first six months of FY 2019 alone there were 189,584 apprehensions of “family units”: more than half of all apprehensions at the border during that time, and more than the full-year total of apprehended families for any other year on record. While the overall numbers have not yet begun to approach those of the 1980s and 1990s, when apprehensions regularly exceeded one million per year, the demographics of who is arriving at the United States southern border are changing: fewer single men from Mexico and more children and families from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—in other words, an ever-wider range of desperate victims of drug gangs and American policies that have long supported corrupt regimes.

      This change has presented people like Luck with problems they insist are merely logistical: aging Border Patrol stations, he told us at the Expo, “are not luxurious in any way, and they were never intended to handle families and children.” The solution, according to Vitiello, is “continued capital investment” in those facilities, as well as the cars and trucks necessary to patrol the border region and transport those apprehended from CBP custody to ICE detention centers, the IT necessary to sift through vast amounts of data accumulated through untold surveillance methods, and all of “the systems by which we do our work.”

      Neither Vitiello nor Luck would consider whether those systems—wherein thousands of children, ostensibly under the federal government’s care, have been sexually abused and five, from December through May of this year, have died—ought to be questioned. Both laughed off calls from migrant justice organizers, activists, and politicians to abolish ICE. “The concept of the Department of Homeland Security—and ICE as an agency within it—was designed for us to learn the lessons from 9/11,” Vitiello said. “Those needs still exist in this society. We’re gonna do our part.” DHS officials have even considered holding migrant children at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, according to the New York Times, where a new $23 million “contingency mass migration complex” is being built. The complex, which is to be completed by the end of the year, will have a capacity of thirteen thousand.

      Violence is the Point

      The existence of ICE may be a consequence of 9/11, but the first sections of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border—originally to contain livestock—went up in 1909 through 1911. In 1945, in response to a shift in border crossings from Texas to California, the U.S. Border Patrol and the Immigration and Naturalization Service recycled fencing wire and posts from internment camps in Crystal City, Texas, where more than a hundred thousand Japanese Americans had been imprisoned during World War II. “Although the INS could not erect a continuous line of fence along the border, they hoped that strategic placement of the fence would ‘compel persons seeking to enter the United States illegally to attempt to go around the ends of the fence,’” historian Kelly Lytle Hernández, quoting from government documents, writes in Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol. “What lay at the end of the fences and canals were desert lands and mountains extremely dangerous to cross without guidance or sufficient water. The fences, therefore, discouraged illegal immigration by exposing undocumented border crossers to the dangers of daytime dehydration and nighttime hypothermia.”

      Apprehension and deportation tactics continued to escalate in the years following World War II—including Operation Wetback, the infamous (and heavily propagandized) mass-deportation campaign of 1954—but the modern, militarized border era was greatly boosted by Bill Clinton. It was during Clinton’s first administration that Border Patrol released its “Strategic Plan: 1994 and Beyond,” which introduced the idea of “prevention through deterrence,” a theory of border policing that built on the logic of the original wall and hinges upon increasing the “cost” of migration “to the point that many will consider it futile to continue to attempt illegal entry.” With the Strategic Plan, the agency was requesting more money, officers, and equipment in order to “enhance national security and safeguard our immigration heritage.”

      The plan also noted that “a strong interior enforcement posture works well for border control,” and in 1996, amid a flurry of legislation targeting people of color and the poor, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which empowered the federal government to deport more people more quickly and made it nearly impossible for undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status. “Before 1996, internal enforcement activities had not played a very significant role in immigration enforcement,” the sociologists Douglas Massey and Karen A. Pren wrote in 2012. “Afterward these activities rose to levels not seen since the deportation campaigns of the Great Depression.” With the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001 and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2002, immigration was further securitized and criminalized, paving the way for an explosion in border policing technology that has further aligned the state with the defense and security industry. And at least one of Border Patrol’s “key assumptions,” explicitly stated in the 1994 strategy document, has borne out: “Violence will increase as effects of strategy are felt.”

      What this phrasing obscures, however, is that violence is the border strategy. In practice, what “prevention through deterrence” has meant is forcing migrants to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in the desert, putting already vulnerable people at even greater risk. Closing urban points of entry, for example, or making asylum-seekers wait indefinitely in Mexico while their claims are processed, pushes migrants into remote areas where there is a higher likelihood they will suffer injury and death, as in the case of seven-year-old Jakil Caal Maquin, who died of dehydration and shock after being taken into CBP custody in December. (A spokesperson for CBP, in an email response, deflected questions about whether the agency considers children dying in its custody a deterrent.) Maquin is one of many thousands who have died attempting to cross into the United States: the most conservative estimate comes from CBP itself, which has recovered the remains of 7,505 people from its southwest border sectors between 1998 and 2018. This figure accounts for neither those who die on the Mexican side of the border, nor those whose bodies remain lost to the desert.

      Draconian immigration policing causes migrants to resort to smugglers and traffickers, creating the conditions for their exploitation by cartels and other violent actors and increasing the likelihood that they will be kidnapped, coerced, or extorted. As a result, some migrants have sought the safety of collective action in the form of the “caravan” or “exodus,” which has then led the U.S. media and immigration enforcement agencies to justify further militarization of the border. Indeed, in his keynote address at the Expo, Luck described “the emerging prevalence of large groups of one hundred people or more” as “troubling and especially dangerous.” Later, a sales representative for the gun manufacturer Glock very confidently explained to me that this was because agents of al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, were embedded with the caravans.

      Branding the Border

      Unsurprisingly, caravans came up frequently at the Border Security Expo. (An ICE spokesperson would later decline to explain what specific threat they pose to national security, instead citing general statistics about the terrorist watchlist, “special interest aliens,” and “suspicious travel patterns.”) During his own keynote speech, Vitiello described how ICE, and specifically its subcomponent Homeland Security Investigations, had deployed surveillance and intelligence-gathering techniques to monitor the progress of caravans toward the border. “When these caravans have come, we’ve had trained, vetted individuals on the ground in those countries reporting in real time what they were seeing: who the organizers were, how they were being funded,” he said, before going on an astonishing tangent:

      That’s the kind of capability that also does amazing things to protecting brands, property rights, economic security. Think about it. If you start a company, introduce a product that’s innovative, there are people in the world who can take that, deconstruct it, and create their own version of it and sell it as yours. All the sweat that went into whatever that product was, to build your brand, they’ll take it away and slap it on some substandard product. It’s not good for consumers, it’s not good for public safety, and it’s certainly an economic drain on the country. That’s part of the mission.

      That the then–acting director of ICE, the germ-cell of fascism in the bourgeois American state, would admit that an important part of his agency’s mission is the protection of private property is a testament to the Trump administration’s commitment to saying the quiet part out loud.

      In fact, brands and private industry had pride of place at the Border Security Expo. A memorial ceremony for men and women of Border Patrol who have been killed in the line of duty was sponsored by Sava Solutions, an IT firm that has been awarded at least $482 million in federal contracts since 2008. Sava, whose president spent twenty-four years with the DEA and whose director of business development spent twenty with the FBI, was just one of the scores of firms in attendance at the Expo, each hoping to persuade the bureaucrats in charge of acquiring new gear for border security agencies that their drones, their facial recognition technology, their “smart” fences were the best of the bunch. Corporate sponsors included familiar names like Verizon and Motorola, and other less well-known ones, like Elbit Systems of America, a subsidiary of Israel’s largest private defense contractor, as well as a handful of IT firms with aggressive slogans like “Ever Vigilant” (CACI), “Securing the Future” (ManTech), and “Securing Your Tomorrow” (Unisys).

      The presence of these firms—and indeed the very existence of the Expo—underscores an important truth that anyone attempting to understand immigration politics must reckon with: border security is big business. The “homeland security and emergency management market,” driven by “increasing terrorist threats and biohazard attacks and occurrence of unpredictable natural disasters,” is projected to grow to more than $742 billion by 2023 from $557 billion in 2018, one financial analysis has found. In the coming decades, as more people are displaced by climate catastrophe and economic crises—estimates vary between 150 million and 1 billion by 2050—the industry dedicated to policing the vulnerable stands to profit enormously. By 2013, the United States was already spending more on federal immigration enforcement than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, including the FBI and DEA; ICE’s budget has doubled since its inception in 2003, while CBP’s has nearly tripled. Between 1993 and 2018, the number of Border Patrol agents grew from 4,139 to 19,555. And year after year, Democrats and Republicans alike have been happy to fuel an ever more high-tech deportation machine. “Congress has given us a lot of money in technology,” Luck told reporters after his keynote speech. “They’ve given us over what we’ve asked for in technology!”

      “As all of this rhetoric around security has increased, so has the impetus to give them more weapons and more tools and more gadgets,” Jacinta Gonzalez, a senior campaign organizer with Mijente, a national network of migrant justice activists, told me. “That’s also where the profiteering comes in.” She continued: “Industries understand what’s good for business and adapt themselves to what they see is happening. If they see an administration coming into power that is pro-militarization, anti-immigrant, pro-police, anti-communities of color, then that’s going to shape where they put their money.”

      By way of example, Gonzalez pointed to Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who spent $1.25 million supporting Trump’s 2016 election campaign and followed that up last year by donating $1 million to the Club for Growth—a far-right libertarian organization founded by Heritage Foundation fellow and one-time Federal Reserve Board prospect Stephen Moore—as well as about $350,000 to the Republican National Committee and other GOP groups. ICE has awarded Palantir, the $20 billion surveillance firm founded by Thiel, several contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to manage its data streams—a partnership the agency considers “mission critical,” according to documents reviewed by The Intercept. Palantir, in turn, runs on Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing service provided by the world’s most valuable public company, which is itself a key contractor in managing the Department of Homeland Security’s $6.8 billion IT portfolio.

      Meanwhile, former DHS secretary John Kelly, who was Trump’s chief of staff when the administration enacted its “zero-tolerance” border policy, has joined the board of Caliburn International—parent organization of the only for-profit company operating shelters for migrant children. “Border enforcement and immigration policy,” Caliburn reported in an SEC filing last year, “is driving significant growth.” As Harsha Walia writes in Undoing Border Imperialism, “the state and capitalism are again in mutual alliance.”

      Triumph of the Techno-Nativists

      At one point during the Expo, between speeches, I stopped by a booth for Network Integrity Systems, a security firm that had set up a demonstration of its Sentinel™ Perimeter Intrusion Detection System. A sales representative stuck out his hand and introduced himself, eager to explain how his employer’s fiber optic motion sensors could be used at the border, or—he paused to correct himself—“any kind of perimeter.” He invited me to step inside the space that his coworkers had built, starting to say “cage” but then correcting himself, again, to say “small enclosure.” (It was literally a cage.) If I could get out, climbing over the fencing, without triggering the alarm, I would win a $500 Amazon gift card. I did not succeed.

      Overwhelmingly, the vendors in attendance at the Expo were there to promote this kind of technology: not concrete and steel, but motion sensors, high-powered cameras, and drones. Customs and Border Patrol’s chief operating officer John Sanders—whose biography on the CBP website describes him as a “seasoned entrepreneur and innovator” who has “served on the Board of Directors for several leading providers of contraband detection, geospatial intelligence, and data analytics solutions”—concluded his address by bestowing on CBP the highest compliment he could muster: declaring the agency comparable “to any start-up.” Rhetoric like Sanders’s, ubiquitous at the Expo, renders the border both bureaucratic and boring: a problem to be solved with some algorithmic mixture of brutality and Big Data. The future of border security, as shaped by the material interests that benefit from border securitization, is not a wall of the sort imagined by President Trump, but a “smart” wall.

      High-ranking Democrats—leaders in the second party of capital—and Republicans from the border region have championed this compromise. During the 2018-2019 government shutdown, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told reporters that Democrats would appropriate $5.7 billion for “border security,” so long as that did not include a wall of Trump’s description. “Walls are primitive. What we need to do is have border security,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said in January. He later expanded to CNN: “I’ve said that we ought to have a smart wall. I defined that as a wall using drones to make it too high to get over, using x-ray equipment to make it too wide to get around, and using scanners to go deep enough not to be able to tunnel under it. To me, that would be a smart thing to do.”

      Even the social democratic vision of Senator Bernie Sanders stops short at the border. “If you open the borders, my God, there’s a lot of poverty in this world, and you’re going to have people from all over the world,” he told Iowa voters in early April, “and I don’t think that’s something that we can do at this point.” Over a week later, during a Fox News town hall with Pennsylvania voters, he recommitted: “We need border security. Of course we do. Who argues with that? That goes without saying.”

      To the extent that Trump’s rhetoric, his administration’s immigration policies, and the enforcement agencies’ practices have made the “border crisis” more visible than ever before, they’ve done so on terms that most Democrats and liberals fundamentally agree with: immigration must be controlled and policed; the border must be enforced. One need look no further than the high priest of sensible centrism, Thomas Friedman, whose major complaint about Trump’s immigration politics is that he is “wasting” the crisis—an allusion to Rahm Emanuel’s now-clichéd remark that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” (Frequently stripped of context, it is worth remembering that Emanuel made this comment in the throes of the 2008 financial meltdown, at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council, shortly following President Obama’s election.) “Regarding the border, the right place for Democrats to be is for a high wall with a big gate,” Friedman wrote in November of 2018. A few months later, a tour led by Border Patrol agents of the San Ysidro port of entry in San Diego left Friedman “more certain than ever that we have a real immigration crisis and that the solution is a high wall with a big gate—but a smart gate.”

      As reasonable as this might sound to anxious New York Times readers looking for what passes as humanitarian thinking in James Bennet’s opinion pages, the horror of Friedman’s logic eventually reveals itself when he considers who might pass through the big, smart gate in the high, high wall: “those who deserve asylum” and “a steady flow of legal, high-energy, and high-I.Q. immigrants.” Friedman’s tortured hypothetical shows us who he considers to be acceptable subjects of deportation and deprivation: the poor, the lazy, and the stupid. This is corporate-sponsored, state-sanctioned eugenics: the nativism of technocrats.

      The vision of a hermetically sealed border being sold, in different ways, by Trump and his allies, by Democrats, and by the Border Security Expo is in reality a selectively permeable one that strictly regulates the movement of migrant labor while allowing for the unimpeded flow of capital. Immigrants in the United States, regardless of their legal status, are caught between two factions of the capitalist class, each of which seek their immiseration: the citrus farmers, construction firms, and meat packing plants that benefit from an underclass of unorganized and impoverished workers, and the defense and security firms that keep them in a state of constant criminality and deportability.

      You could even argue that nobody in a position of power really wants a literal wall. Even before taking office, Trump himself knew he could only go so far. “We’re going to do a wall,” he said on the campaign trail in 2015. However: “We’re going to have a big, fat beautiful door on the wall.” In January 2019, speaking to the American Farm Bureau Association, Trump acknowledged the necessity of a mechanism allowing seasonal farmworkers from Mexico to cross the border, actually promising to loosen regulations on employers who rely on temporary migrant labor. “It’s going to be easier for them to get in than what they have to go through now,” he said, “I know a lot about the farming world.”

      At bottom, there is little material difference between this and what Friedman imagines to be the smarter, more humane approach. While establishment liberals would no doubt prefer that immigration enforcement be undertaken quietly, quickly, and efficiently, they have no categorical objection to the idea that noncitizens should enjoy fewer rights than citizens or be subject to different standards of due process (standards that are already applied in deeply inequitable fashion).

      As the smorgasbord of technologies and services so garishly on display at the Border Security Expo attests, maintaining the contradiction between citizens and noncitizens (or between the imperial core and the colonized periphery) requires an ever-expanding security apparatus, which itself becomes a source of ever-expanding profit. The border, shaped by centuries of bourgeois interests and the genocidal machinations of the settler-colonial nation-state, constantly generates fresh crises on which the immigration-industrial complex feeds. In other words, there is not a crisis at the border; the border is the crisis.

      CBP has recently allowed Anduril, a start-up founded by one of Peter Thiel’s mentees, Palmer Luckey, to begin testing its artificial intelligence-powered surveillance towers and drones in Texas and California. Sam Ecker, an Anduril engineer, expounded on the benefits of such technology at the Expo. “A tower doesn’t get tired. It doesn’t care about being in the middle of the desert or a river around the clock,” he told me. “We just let the computers do what they do best.”

      https://thebaffler.com/outbursts/border-profiteers-oconnor

  • Navy Bid to Retire Truman Stirs Debate Over Aircraft Carriers - Bloomberg
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-21/navy-bid-to-retire-truman-stirs-debate-over-aircraft-carriers


    The USS Harry S. Truman transits the Strait of Hormuz on Dec. 26, 2015
    Photographer: Mass Communication Specialist 2n/U.S. Navy

    Visiting the USS Gerald R. Ford two years ago, U.S. President Donald Trump extolled the importance of an enlarged naval force featuring a dozen aircraft carriers—including the Ford, the most expensive ship ever built.

    Having 12 of these behemoths—sometimes accompanied by a half-dozen other ships—would send an international signal of U.S. resolve and restore the fleet to its post-Cold War size during the 1990s.

    The Pentagon’s latest budget proposal, however, seems to do the opposite.

    The Defense Department is seeking to—at least for now—shrink the carrier fleet, proposing that the USS Harry Truman be effectively decommissioned in 2024. This would mean that a multibillion-dollar, nuclear-powered super-carrier deployed in 2000 would be mothballed two decades before the end of its service life. 

    The Pentagon plan would skip the vessel’s $6.5 billion midlife nuclear refueling and overhaul to save funds for other military priorities. The Ford alone costs $13 billion.

    The proposal—which already faces congressional headwinds—would for a time leave the Navy with 10 carriers, one fewer than the congressionally mandated fleet size. Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, signaled last week that he opposes the plan. “I’m a little disturbed by the idea,” he said.

    Patrick Shanahan, the acting U.S. secretary of defense, said the decision “represents some of the strategic choices we made in this year’s budget.

    Being forced to choose, however, may prompt Congress to simply find more money to rehabilitate the Truman and move forward with an existing deal to buy a second and third Ford-class carrier. A similar quandary during the Obama administration was resolved this way. Indeed, there’s some question as to whether the Truman proposal is simply a feint: The Navy’s new 30-year shipbuilding plan has a section called “Navy The Nation Needs,” which includes 12 carriers as part of a desired 355-vessel fleet.

  • Israeli Arab slate, far-left candidate banned from election hours after Kahanist leader allowed to run
    Jonathan Lis and Jack Khoury Mar 07, 2019 7:07 AM
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/elections/.premium-far-left-lawmaker-banned-from-israeli-election-for-supporting-terr

    Arab political sources say the move is evidence of racism and the delegitimization of Arab society in Israel, accusing Netanyahu’s Likud party of anti-Arab incitement

    The Central Election Committee disqualified the Arab joint slate Balad-United Arab List and Ofer Cassif, a member of politicial alliance Hadash-Ta’al, from running in the election on Wednesday, opposing the opinion of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.

    Michael Ben Ari and Itamar Ben-Gvir from the Kahanist, far-right Otzma Yehudit party had petitioned against both lists. The committee approved Ben Air to run in the election earlier Wednesday.

    The decisions will be referred to the Supreme Court on Sunday for approval. A ban against a party slate may be appealed in the Supreme Court, which holds a special “election appeals” process, while a ban on an individual candidate automatically requires approval by the Supreme Court if it is to take effect.

    Arab political sources described the disqualification of the Balad-United Arab List slate as evidence of racism and the delegitimization of Arab society in Israel and accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party of anti-Arab incitement.

    MK David Bitan petitioned on behalf of Likud against Balad-United Arab List, and Yisrael Beitenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman petitioned against Cassif. Petitioners claimed both lists and Cassif supported terror and ruled out Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and Democratic state. Mendelblit said he opposed all the petitions.

    Ben-Gvir presented the committee with findings he claimed should disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al slate. He mentioned a call from Ta’al chairman Ahmed Tibi to annul the Declaration of Independence, and quoted a Facebook post by Ayman Odeh, the head of Hadash.

    In the post, written following a meeting with Fatah member Marwan Barghouti at an Israeli prison, Odeh compared Barghouti to Nelson Mandela. “The meeting was moving, as well as speaking to a leader who shares my political stances.” Ben-Gvir noted Odeh defined Ahed Tamimi as an “excellent girl,” and said she showed “legitimate resistance.” Tamimi, a Palestinian teenage girl, served time in prison for slapping an Israeli soldier in 2018.

    Cassif was accused of equating Israel and the Israel Defense Forces with the Nazi regime, and it was noted that he called to fight “Judeo-Nazism,” expressed support for changing the anthem, and called Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked “Neo-Nazi scum.” He did not attend the session, but was called after committee chairman Justice Hanan Melcer insisted on his presence.

    “I come from an academic background, and my area of expertise is among other things the subject of Fascism, Nazis and nationalism in general,” said Cassif, explaining his comments. “When I speak to a friend or write a post as a private person, I use metaphors. When I used the aforementioned terms – they were metaphors.”

    In an interview last month, Cassif said Israel conducts a “creeping genocide” against the Palestinian people.

    The top candidate on the slate, Mansour Abbas, said he had expected that most of the representatives of the Zionist parties on the election committee would support the move to disqualify the slate, but added: “We are a democratic Arab list that is seeking to represent Arab society with dignity and responsibility.”

    Commenting on Benny Gantz, the leader of Kahol Lavan, which is ahead of Likud in recent polls, Abbas said: “There’s no difference between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benjamin Gantz.”

    Mtanes Shehadeh, who is No. 2 on the Balad-United Arab list slate said the decision to disqualify his slate was expected because he said the Central Election Committee has a right-wing majority and “is also controlled by a fascist, right-wing ideology.”

    His Balad faction, Shehadeh said, “presents a challenge to democracy in Israel” and challenges what he called “the right-wing regime that is controlling the country.”

    Sources from the Balad-United Arab list slate said there is in an urgent need to strip the Central Election Committee of the authority to disqualify candidates and parties from running in elections. The considerations that go into the decision are purely political, the sources said.

    Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka said the decision to disqualify the slate sends a “hostile message to the Arab public” in the country. “We will petition the High Court of Justice against the decision and in any event, we will not change our position, even if we are disqualified.”

    Earlier Wednesday, the Central Elections Committee approved Ben Ari, the chairman of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, to run for the Knesset.

    Meretz, Stav Shaffir (Labor) and the Reform Movement, who filed the petition to the Central Elections Committee to ban Ben Ari from running for Knesset, all said they would file a petition with the High Court of Justice against the committee’s decision.

    Prior to deliberations, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit submitted his opinion to the comittee, stating he was in favor of disqualifying Ben Ari from running for Knesset on the grounds of incitement to racism.

    In November 2017, for instance, at an annual memorial for Rabbi Meir Kahane, Ben Ari gave a speech in which he said of Israeli Arabs, “Let’s give them another 100,000 dunams [of land] and affirmative action, maybe they’ll love us. In the end, yes, they’ll love us when we’re slaughtered.”

    In May 2018, Ben Ari gave another speech in which he said, “The Arabs of Haifa aren’t different in any way from the Arabs of Gaza. How are they different? In that they’re here, enemies from within. They’re waging war against us here, within the state. And this is called – it has a name – it’s called a fifth column. We need to call the dog by its name. They’re our enemies. They want to destroy us. Of course there are loyal Arabs, but you can count them – one percent or less than one percent.”

    #Hadash

    • Outlaw Israel’s Arabs
      They are already regarded as illegitimate citizens. Why not just say so and anchor it in law?
      Gideon Levy | Mar 10, 2019 3:15 AM
      https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-outlaw-israel-s-arabs-1.7003010

      The time has come to put an end to the stammering and going around in circles: Outlaw the Arabs, all of them. Make them all illegal dwellers in their land and have the Border Police hunt them down like animals, as they know how to do. They are already regarded as illegitimate citizens. It’s time to say so and to anchor it in law.

      Discerning the differences among them is artificial: What’s the difference between the United Arab List–Balad ticket and between the Hadash–Ta’al ticket (acronyms for the Arab political parties)? Why is only the first one on this list being disqualified? And what is the difference between the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens and those living under occupation?

      Why does one group have rights while the others don’t? The time has come to rectify the situation: Ta’al should be treated like Balad; citizens of the state should be treated like those under occupation. Anything less is like paying lip service to the guardians of political correctness, to a supposed semblance of fairness, to a deceptive image of democracy. Outlawing all the Arabs is the way to ensure you have a Jewish state. Who’s against that?

      Whoever thinks what I’ve written is wrong or an exaggeration isn’t reading reality. Disqualifying the Arabs is the issue that has the broadest consensus of the current election campaign. “I’ll put it simply,” Yair Lapid, the democrat, said. “We won’t form a blocking majority with the Arabs. Period.”

      Now I, will humbly put it simply, too: This is a revolting display of racism. Period. More than the torture of the residents of Gaza and the West Bank under the guise of security concerns, in this we see a broader Israeli racism in all its glory: Pure, unadulterated and acceptable racism. It’s not Balad, but the Arabs who are being disqualified. It’s not Ofer Kassif but the left that’s being disqualified. It’s a step-by-step slide down the slope and we can no longer shut our eyes to it.

      If this discourse delegitimizing our Arab citizens isn’t driving Israeli democrats mad – then there is no democracy. We don’t need any studies or institutes: A regime that disqualifies voters and elected officials because of their blood and nationality is not a democracy.

      You don’t need to cite the occupation to expose the lie of democracy – now it’s also apparent at home, within. From Benny Gantz to Bezalel Smotrich – all of them are Ben-Zion Gopsteins. The laws against racism and all the rest are only lip service. The Israeli Knesset has 107 lawmakers; thirteen of them, most of them among the best there are, are outside the game, they have less say than the ushers.

      Now we must try to imagine what they’re going through. They hear everyone trying to distance themselves from them, as though they’re a contagious disease, and they’re silent. They hear nobody seeking to get near them as though their bodies stink, and they avoid comment. The Knesset is like a bus that has segregated its Jewish and Arab passengers, an arena of political apartheid, not yet officially so, which declares from the outset that the Arabs are disqualified.

      Why even bother participating in this game that’s already been decided? The response should have been to boycott the elections. If you don’t want us, we don’t want you. The fig leaf is torn and has long been full of holes. But this is exactly what Israel wants: A country only for Jews. Therefore Arab citizens must not play this game and must head in their masses to the polling stations, just like the prime minister said, to poke Israeli racism painfully in the eye.

      For avowed racists, it’s all very clear. They say what they think: The Jews are a supreme race, the recipients of a divine promise, they have rights to this land, the Arabs are, at best, fleeting guests.

      The problem is with the racists in masquerade like Gantz and Lapid. I have a question for them: Why are Hadash and Ta’al not eligible to be part of a bloc? Why can’t you rely on their votes and why shouldn’t their representatives belong to the government? Would Ayman Odeh be any worse a culture minister than Miri Regev? Would Ahmad Tibi be any less skillful a health minister than Yaakov Litzman? The truth is this: The center-left is as racist as the right.

      Let’s hope no Gantz-Lapid government can be formed, just because of the Arab votes that it fails to have. That would be the sweetest revenge for racism.

    • La Cour suprême israélienne invalide la candidature d’un leader d’extrême droite
      La justice a interdit la candidature du chef d’Otzma Yehudit. Elle a approuvé la liste arabe, les présences d’un candidat juif d’extrême gauche et de Ben Gvir d’Otzma Yehudit
      Par Times of Israel Staff 18 mars 2019,
      https://fr.timesofisrael.com/la-cour-supreme-israelienne-invalide-la-candidature-dun-leader-dex

      (...) Les juges ont en revanche fait savoir que Itamar Ben Gvir, qui appartient également à la formation d’extrême-droite, est autorisé à se présenter.

      Ils ont aussi donné le feu vert à une participation au scrutin du 9 avril à Ofer Kassif ainsi qu’aux factions de Balad-Raam. Kassif est le seul candidat juif à figurer que la liste Hadash-Taal et il avait été disqualifié par la commission centrale électorale en raison de déclarations controversées faites dans le passé, notamment une dans laquelle il avait qualifié la ministre de la Justice Ayelet Shaked de « racaille néo-nazie ». (...)

      #Ofer_Kassif

  • For six months, these Palestinian villages had running water. Israel put a stop to it
    For six months, Palestinian villagers living on West Bank land that Israel deems a closed firing range saw their dream of running water come true. Then the Civil Administration put an end to it

    Amira Hass Feb 22, 2019 3:25 PM

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-why-doesn-t-israel-want-palestinians-to-have-running-water-1.69595

    The dream that came true, in the form of a two-inch water line, was too good to be true. For about six months, 12 Palestinian West Bank villages in the South Hebron Hills enjoyed clean running water. That was until February 13, when staff from the Israeli Civil Administration, accompanied by soldiers and Border Police and a couple of bulldozers, arrived.

    The troops dug up the pipes, cut and sawed them apart and watched the jets of water that spurted out. About 350 cubic meters of water were wasted. Of a 20 kilometer long (12 mile) network, the Civil Administration confiscated remnants and sections of a total of about 6 kilometers of piping. They loaded them on four garbage trucks emblazoned with the name of the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan on them.

    The demolition work lasted six and a half hours. Construction of the water line network had taken about four months. It had been a clear act of civil rebellion in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King against one of the most brutal bans that Israel imposes on Palestinian communities in Area C, the portion of the West Bank under full Israeli control. It bars Palestinians from hooking into existing water infrastructure.

    The residential caves in the Masafer Yatta village region south of Hebron and the ancient cisterns used for collecting rainwater confirm the local residents’ claim that their villages have existed for decades, long before the founding of the State of Israel. In the 1970s, Israel declared some 30,000 dunams (7,500 acres) in the area Firing Range 918.

    In 1999, under the auspices of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the army expelled the residents of the villages and demolished their structures and water cisterns. The government claimed that the residents were trespassing on the firing range, even though these were their lands and they have lived in the area long before the West Bank was captured by Israel.

    When the matter was brought to the High Court of Justice, the court approved a partial return to the villages but did not allow construction or hookups to utility infrastructure. Mediation attempts failed, because the state was demanding that the residents leave their villages and live in the West Bank town of Yatta and come to graze their flocks and work their land only on a few specific days per year.

    But the residents continued to live in their homes, risking military raids and demolition action — including the demolition of public facilities such as schools, medical clinics and even toilets. They give up a lot to maintain their way of life as shepherds, but could not forgo water.

    “The rainy season has grown much shorter in recent years, to only about 45 days a year,” explained Nidal Younes, the chairman of the Masafer Yatta council of villages. “In the past, we didn’t immediately fill the cisterns with rainwater, allowing them to be washed and cleaned first. Since the amount of rain has decreased, people stored water right away. It turns out the dirty water harmed the sheep and the people.”

    Because the number of residents has increased, even in years with abundant rain, at a certain stage the cisterns ran dry and the shepherds would bring in water by tractor. They would haul a 4 cubic meter (140 square foot) tank along the area’s narrow, poor roads — which Israel does not permit to have widened and paved. “The water has become every family’s largest expense,” Younes said.

    In the village of Halawa, he pointed out Abu Ziyad, a man of about 60. “I always see him on a tractor, bringing in water or setting out to bring back water.”

    Sometimes the tractors overturn and drivers are injured. Tires quickly wear out and precious work days go to waste. “We are drowning in debt to pay for the transportation of water,” Abu Ziyad said.

    In 2017, the Civil Administration and the Israeli army closed and demolished the roads to the villages, which the council had earlier managed to widen and rebuild. That had been done to make it easier to haul water in particular, but also more generally to give the villages better access.

    The right-wing Regavim non-profit group “exposed” the great crime committed in upgrading the roads and pressured the Civil Administration and the army to rip them up. “The residents’ suffering increased,” Younes remarked. “We asked ourselves how to solve the water problem.”

    The not very surprising solution was installing pipes to carry the water from the main water line in the village of Al-Tuwani, through privately owned lands of the other villages. “I checked it out, looking to see if there was any ban on laying water lines on private land and couldn’t find one,” Younes said.

    Work done by volunteers

    The plumbing work was done by volunteers, mostly at night and without heavy machinery, almost with their bare hands. Ali Debabseh, 77, of the village of Khalet al-Daba, recalled the moment when he opened the spigot installed near his home and washed his face with running water. “I wanted to jump for joy. I was as happy as a groom before his wedding.”

    Umm Fadi of the village of Halawa also resorted to the word “joy” in describing the six months when she had a faucet near the small shack in which she lives. “The water was clean, not brown from rust or dust. I didn’t need to go as far as the cistern to draw water, didn’t need to measure every drop.”

    Now it’s more difficult to again get used to being dependent on water dispensed from tanks.

    The piping and connections and water meters were bought with a 100,000 euro ($113,000) European donation. Instead of paying 40 shekels ($11) per cubic meter for water brought in with water tanks, the residents paid only about 6 shekels for the same amount of running water. Suddenly they not only saved money, but also had more precious time.

    The water lines also could have saved European taxpayers money. A European project to help the residents remain in their homes had been up and running since 2011, providing annual funding of 120,000 euros to cover the cost of buying and transporting drinking water during the three summer months for the residents (but not their livestock).

    The cost was based on a calculation involving consumption of 750 liters per person a month, far below the World Health Organization’s recommended quantity. There are between 1,500 and 2,000 residents. The project made things much easier for such a poor community, which continued to pay out of its own pocket for the water for some 40,000 sheep and for the residents’ drinking water during the remainder of the year. Now that the Civil Administration has demolished the water lines, the European donor countries may be forced to once again pay for the high price of transporting water during the summer months, at seven times the cost.

    For its part, the Civil Administration issued a statement noting that the area is a closed military zone. “On February 13,” the statement said, “enforcement action was taken against water infrastructure that was connected to illegal structures in this area and that were built without the required permits.”

    Ismail Bahis should have been sorry that the pipes were laid last year. He and his brothers, residents of Yatta, own water tankers and were the main water suppliers to the Masafer Yatta villages. Through a system of coupons purchased with the European donation, they received 800 shekels for every shipment of 20 cubic meters of water. But Bahis said he was happy he had lost out on the work.

    “The roads to the villages of Masafer Yatta are rough and dangerous, particularly after the army closed them,” he said. “Every trip of a few kilometers took at least three and a half hours. Once I tipped over with the tanker. Another time the army confiscated my brother’s truck, claiming it was a closed military zone. We got the truck released three weeks later in return for 5,000 shekels. We always had other additional expenses replacing tires and other repairs for the truck.

    Nidal Younes recounted that the council signed a contract with another water carrier to meet the demand. But that supplier quit after three weeks. He wouldn’t agree to drive on the poor and dangerous roads.

    On February 13, Younes heard the large group of forces sent by the Civil Administration beginning to demolish the water lines near the village of Al-Fakhit. He rushed to the scene and began arguing with the soldiers and Civil Administration staff.

    Border Police arrests

    Border Police officers arrested him, handcuffed him and put him in a jeep. His colleague, the head of the Al-Tuwani council, Mohammed al-Raba’i, also approached those carrying out the demolition work to protest. “But they arrested me after I said two words. At least Nidal managed to say a lot,” he said with a smile that concealed sadness.

    Two teams carried out the demolition work, one proceeding toward the village of Jinbah, to the southeast, the second advanced in the direction of Al-Tuwani, to the northwest. They also demolished the access road leading to the village of Sha’ab al-Butum, so that even if Bahis wanted to transport water again, he would have had to make a large detour to do so.

    Younes was shocked to spot a man named Marco among the team carrying out the demolition. “I remembered him from when I was a child, from the 1980s when he was an inspector for the Civil Administration. In 1985, he supervised the demolition of houses in our village, Jinbah — twice, during Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr [marking the end of the Ramadan holy month],” he said.

    “They knew him very well in all the villages in the area because he attended all the demolitions. The name Marco was a synonym for an evil spirit. Our parents who saw him demolish their homes, have died. He disappeared, and suddenly he has reappeared,” Younes remarked.

    Marco is Marco Ben-Shabbat, who has lead the Civil Administration’s supervision unit for the past 10 years. Speaking to a reporter from the Israel Hayom daily who accompanied the forces carrying out the demolition work, Ben-Shabbat said: “The [water line] project was not carried out by the individual village. The Palestinian Authority definitely put a project manager here and invested a lot of money.”

    More precisely, it was European governments that did so.

    From all of the villages where the Civil Administration destroyed water lines, the Jewish outposts of Mitzpeh Yair and Avigayil can be seen on the hilltops. Although they are unauthorized and illegal even according to lenient Israeli settlement laws, the outposts were connected almost immediately to water and electricity grids and paved roads lead to them.

    “I asked why they demolished the water lines,” Nidal Younes recalled. He said one of the Border Police officers answered him, in English, telling him it was done “to replace Arabs with Jews.”

    #Financementeuropéen

    • Under Israeli Occupation, Water Is a Luxury

      Of all the methods Israel uses to expel Palestinians from their land, the deprivation of water is the most cruel. And so the Palestinians are forced to buy water that Israel stole from them
      Amira Hass
      Feb 24, 2019 9:45 PM
      https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-under-israeli-occupation-water-is-a-luxury-1.6962821

      Water pipes cut by the Israeli military in the village of Khalet al-Daba, February 17, 2019. Eliyahu Hershkovitz

      When I wrote my questions and asked the spokesperson’s office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to explain the destruction of the water pipelines in the Palestinian villages southeast of Yatta, on February 13, my fingers started itching wanting to type the following question: “Tell me, aren’t you ashamed?” You may interpret it as a didactic urge, you can see it as a vestige of faith in the possibility of exerting an influence, or a crumb of hope that there’s somebody there who doesn’t automatically carry out orders and will feel a niggling doubt. But the itching in my fingers disappeared quickly.

      This is not the first time that I’m repressing my didactic urge to ask the representatives of the destroyers, and the deprivers of water, if they aren’t ashamed. After all, every day our forces carry out some brutal act of demolition or prevent construction or assist the settlers who are permeated with a sense of racial superiority, to expel shepherds and farmers from their land. The vast majority of these acts of destruction and expulsion are not reported in the Israeli media. After all, writing about them would require the hiring of another two full-time reporters.

      These acts are carried out in the name of every Israeli citizen, who also pays the taxes to fund the salaries of the officials and the army officers and the demolition contractors. When I write about one small sampling from among the many acts of destruction, I have every right as a citizen and a journalist to ask those who hand down the orders, and those who carry them out: “Tell me, can you look at yourself in the mirror?”

      But I don’t ask. Because we know the answer: They’re pleased with what they see in the mirror. Shame has disappeared from our lives. Here’s another axiom that has come down to us from Mount Sinai: The Jews have a right to water, wherever they are. Not the Palestinians. If they insist on living outside the enclaves we assigned to them in Area A, outside the crowded reservations (the city of Yatta, for example), let them bear the responsibility of becoming accustomed to living without water. It’s impossible without water? You don’t say. Then please, let the Palestinians pay for water that is carried in containers, seven times the cost of the water in the faucet.

      It’s none of our business that most of the income of these impoverished communities is spent on water. It’s none of our business that water delivery is dangerous because of the poor roads. It’s none of our business that the Israel Defense Forces and the Civil Administration dig pits in them and pile up rocks – so that it will be truly impossible to use them to transport water for about 1,500 to 2,000 people, and another 40,000 sheep and goats. What do we care that only one road remains, a long detour that makes delivery even more expensive? After all, it’s written in the Torah: What’s good for us, we’ll deny to others.

      I confess: The fact that the pyramid that carries out the policy of depriving the Palestinians of water is now headed by a Druze (Brig. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) made the itching in my fingers last longer. Maybe because when Abu Rokon approaches the faucet, he thinks the word “thirsty” in the same language used by the elderly Ali Dababseh from the village of Khalet al-Daba to describe life with a dry spigot and waiting for the tractor that will bring water in a container. Or because Abu Rokon first learned from his mother how to say in Arabic that he wants to drink.

      Water towers used by villages due to lack of running water in their homes. Eliyahu Hershkovitz

      But that longer itching is irrational, at least based on the test of reality. The Civil Administration and COGAT are filled with Druze soldiers and officers whose mother tongue is Arabic. They carry out the orders to implement Israel’s settler colonial policy, to expel Palestinians and to take over as much land as possible for Jews, with the same unhesitant efficiency as their colleagues whose mother tongue is Hebrew, Russian or Spanish.

      Of all the Israeli methods of removing Palestinians from their land in order to allocate it to Jews from Israel and the Diaspora, the policy of water deprivation is the cruelest. And these are the main points of this policy: Israel does not recognize the right of all the human beings living under its control to equal access to water and to quantities of water. On the contrary. It believes in the right of the Jews as lords and masters to far greater quantities of water than the Palestinians. It controls the water sources everywhere in the country, including in the West Bank. It carries out drilling in the West Bank and draws water in the occupied territory, and transfers most of it to Israel and the settlements.

      The Palestinians have wells from the Jordanian period, some of which have already dried up, and several new ones from the past 20 years, not as deep as the Israeli ones, and together they don’t yield sufficient quantities of water. The Palestinians are therefore forced to buy from Israel water that Israel is stealing from them.

      Because Israel has full administrative control over 60 percent of the area of the West Bank (among other things it decides on the master plans and approves construction permits), it also forbids the Palestinians who live there to link up to the water infrastructure. The reason for the prohibition: They have no master plan. Or that’s a firing zone. And of course firing zones were declared on Mount Sinai, and an absence of a master plan for the Palestinian is not a deliberate human omission but the act of God.

    • Pendant six mois, ces villages palestiniens ont eu de l’eau courante. Israël y a mis fin
      25 février | Amira Hass pour Haaretz |Traduction SF pour l’AURDIP
      https://www.aurdip.org/pendant-six-mois-ces-villages.html

      Pendant six mois, des villageois palestiniens vivant en Cisjordanie sur une terre qu’Israël considère comme une zone de feu fermée, ont vu leur rêve d’eau courante devenir réalité. Puis l’administration civile y a mis fin.

  • The Knesset candidate who says Zionism encourages anti-Semitism and calls Netanyahu ’arch-murderer’ - Israel Election 2019 - Haaretz.com
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/elections/.premium.MAGAZINE-knesset-candidate-netanyahu-is-an-arch-murderer-zionism-e

    Few Israelis have heard of Dr. Ofer Cassif, the Jewish representative on the far-leftist Hadash party’s Knesset slate. On April 9, that will change
    By Ravit Hecht Feb 16, 2019

    Ofer Cassif is fire and brimstone. Not even the flu he’s suffering from today can contain his bursting energy. His words are blazing, and he bounds through his modest apartment, searching frenetically for books by Karl Marx and Primo Levi in order to find quotations to back up his ideas. Only occasional sips from a cup of maté bring his impassioned delivery to a momentary halt. The South American drink is meant to help fight his illness, he explains.

    Cassif is third on the slate of Knesset candidates in Hadash (the Hebrew acronym for the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality), the successor to Israel’s Communist Party. He holds the party’s “Jewish slot,” replacing MK Dov Khenin. Cassif is likely to draw fire from opponents and be a conspicuous figure in the next Knesset, following the April 9 election.

    Indeed, the assault on him began as soon as he was selected by the party’s convention. The media pursued him; a columnist in the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Ben-Dror Yemini, called for him to be disqualified from running for the Knesset. It would be naive to say that this was unexpected. Cassif, who was one of the first Israeli soldiers to refuse to serve in the territories, in 1987, gained fame thanks to a number of provocative statements. The best known is his branding of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked as “neo-Nazi scum.” On another occasion, he characterized Jews who visit the Temple Mount as “cancer with metastases that have to be eradicated.”

    On his alternate Facebook page, launched after repeated blockages of his original account by a blitz of posts from right-wing activists, he asserted that Culture Minister Miri Regev is “repulsive gutter contamination,” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an “arch-murderer” and that the new Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, is a “war criminal.”

    Do you regret making those remarks?

    Cassif: “‘Regret’ is a word of emotion. Those statements were made against a background of particular events: the fence in Gaza, horrible legislation, and the wild antics of Im Tirtzu [an ultranationalist organization] on campus. That’s what I had to say at the time. I didn’t count on being in the Knesset. That wasn’t part of my plan. But it’s clear to me that as a public personality, I would not have made those comments.”

    Is Netanyahu an arch-murderer?

    “Yes. I wrote it in the specific context of a particular day in the Gaza Strip. A massacre of innocent people was perpetrated there, and no one’s going to persuade me that those people were endangering anyone. It’s a concentration camp. Not a ‘concentration camp’ in the sense of Bergen-Belsen; I am absolutely not comparing the Holocaust to what’s happening.”

    You term what Israel is doing to the Palestinians “genocide.”

    “I call it ‘creeping genocide.’ Genocide is not only a matter of taking people to gas chambers. When Yeshayahu Leibowitz used the term ‘Judeo-Nazis,’ people asked him, ‘How can you say that? Are we about to build gas chambers?’ To that, he had two things to say. First, if the whole difference between us and the Nazis boils down to the fact that we’re not building gas chambers, we’re already in trouble. And second, maybe we won’t use gas chambers, but the mentality that exists today in Israel – and he said this 40 years ago – would allow it. I’m afraid that today, after four years of such an extreme government, it possesses even greater legitimacy.

    “But you know what, put aside ‘genocide’ – ethnic cleansing is taking place there. And that ethnic cleansing is also being carried out by means of killing, although mainly by way of humiliation and of making life intolerable. The trampling of human dignity. It reminds me of Primo Levi’s ‘If This Is a Man.’”

    You say you’re not comparing, but you repeatedly come back to Holocaust references. On Facebook, you also uploaded the scene from “Schindler’s List” in which the SS commander Amon Goeth picks off Jews with his rifle from the balcony of his quarters in the camp. You compared that to what was taking place along the border fence in the Gaza Strip.

    “Today, I would find different comparisons. In the past I wrote an article titled, ‘On Holocaust and on Other Crimes.’ It’s online [in Hebrew]. I wrote there that anyone who compares Israel to the Holocaust is cheapening the Holocaust. My comparison between here and what happened in the early 1930s [in Germany] is a very different matter.”

    Clarity vs. crudity

    Given Cassif’s style, not everyone in Hadash was happy with his election, particularly when it comes to the Jewish members of the predominantly Arab party. Dov Khenin, for example, declined to be interviewed and say what he thinks of his parliamentary successor. According to a veteran party figure, “From the conversations I had, it turns out that almost none of the Jewish delegates – who make up about 100 of the party’s 940 delegates – supported his candidacy.

    “He is perceived, and rightly so,” the party veteran continues, “as someone who closes doors to Hadash activity within Israeli society. Each of the other Jewish candidates presented a record of action and of struggles they spearheaded. What does he do? Curses right-wing politicians on Facebook. Why did the party leadership throw the full force of its weight behind him? In a continuation of the [trend exemplified by] its becoming part of the Joint List, Ofer’s election reflects insularity and an ongoing retreat from the historical goal of implementing change in Israeli society.”

    At the same time, as his selection by a 60 percent majority shows, many in the party believe that it’s time to change course. “Israeli society is moving rightward, and what’s perceived as Dov’s [Khenin] more gentle style didn’t generate any great breakthrough on the Jewish street,” a senior source in Hadash notes.

    “It’s not a question of the tension between extremism and moderation, but of how to signpost an alternative that will develop over time. Clarity, which is sometimes called crudity, never interfered with cooperation between Arabs and Jews. On the contrary. Ofer says things that we all agreed with but didn’t so much say, and of course that’s going to rile the right wing. And a good thing, too.”

    Hadash chairman MK Ayman Odeh also says he’s pleased with the choice, though sources in the party claim that Odeh is apprehensive about Cassif’s style and that he actually supported a different candidate. “Dov went for the widest possible alliances in order to wield influence,” says Odeh. “Ofer will go for very sharp positions at the expense of the breadth of the alliance. But his sharp statements could have a large impact.”

    Khenin was deeply esteemed by everyone. When he ran for mayor of Tel Aviv in 2008, some 35 percent of the electorate voted for him, because he was able to touch people who weren’t only from his political milieu.

    Odeh: “No one has a higher regard for Dov than I do. But just to remind you, we are not a regular opposition, we are beyond the pale. And there are all kinds of styles. Influence can be wielded through comments that are vexatious the first time but which people get used to the second time. When an Arab speaks about the Nakba and about the massacre in Kafr Kassem [an Israeli Arab village, in 1956], it will be taken in a particular way, but when uttered by a Jew it takes on special importance.”

    He will be the cause of many attacks on the party.

    “Ahlan wa sahlan – welcome.”

    Cassif will be the first to tell you that, with all due respect for the approach pursued by Khenin and by his predecessor in the Jewish slot, Tamar Gozansky, he will be something completely different. “I totally admire what Tamar and Dov did – nothing less than that,” he says, while adding, “But my agenda will be different. The three immediate dangers to Israeli society are the occupation, racism and the diminishment of the democratic space to the point of liquidation. That’s the agenda that has to be the hub of the struggle, as long as Israel rules over millions of people who have no rights, enters [people’s houses] in the middle of the night, arrests minors on a daily basis and shoots people in the back.

    "Israel commits murder on a daily basis. When you murder one Palestinian, you’re called Elor Azaria [the IDF soldier convicted and jailed for killing an incapacitated Palestinian assailant]; when you murder and oppress thousands of Palestinians, you’re called the State of Israel.”

    So you plan to be the provocateur in the next Knesset?

    “It’s not my intention to be a provocateur, to stand there and scream and revile people. Even on Facebook I was compelled to stop that. But I definitely intend to challenge the dialogue in terms of the content, and mainly with a type of sarcasm.”

    ’Bags of blood’

    Cassif, 54, who holds a doctorate in political philosophy from the London School of Economics, teaches political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Sapir Academic College in Sderot and at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo. He lives in Rehovot, is married and is the father of a 19-year-old son. He’s been active in Hadash for three decades and has held a number of posts in the party.

    As a lecturer, he stands out for his boldness and fierce rhetoric, which draws students of all stripes. He even hangs out with some of his Haredi students, one of whom wrote a post on the eve of the Hadash primary urging the delegates to choose him. After his election, a student from a settlement in the territories wrote to him, “You are a determined and industrious person, and for that I hold you in high regard. Hoping we will meet on the field of action and growth for the success of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state (I felt obliged to add a small touch of irony in conclusion).”

    Cassif grew up in a home that supported Mapai, forerunner of Labor, in Rishon Letzion. He was an only child; his father was an accountant, his mother held a variety of jobs. He was a news hound from an early age, and at 12 ran for the student council in school. He veered sharply to the left in his teens, becoming a keen follower of Marx and socialism.

    Following military service in the IDF’s Nahal brigade and a period in the airborne Nahal, Cassif entered the Hebrew University. There his political career moved one step forward, and there he also forsook the Zionist left permanently. His first position was as a parliamentary aide to the secretary general of the Communist Party, Meir Wilner.

    “At first I was closer to Mapam [the United Workers Party, which was Zionist], and then I refused to serve in the territories. I was the first refusenik in the first intifada to be jailed. I didn’t get support from Mapam, I got support from the people of Hadash, and I drew close to them. I was later jailed three more times for refusing to serve in the territories.”

    His rivals in the student organizations at the Hebrew University remember him as the epitome of the extreme left.

    “Even in the Arab-Jewish student association, Cassif was considered off-the-wall,” says Motti Ohana, who was chairman of Likud’s student association and active in the Student Union at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. “One time I got into a brawl with him. It was during the first intifada, when he brought two bags of blood, emptied them out in the university’s corridors and declared, ‘There is no difference between Jewish and Arab blood,’ likening Israeli soldiers to terrorists. The custom on campus was that we would quarrel, left-right, Arabs-Jews, and after that we would sit together, have a coffee and talk. But not Cassif.”

    According to Ohana, today a member of the Likud central committee, the right-wing activists knew that, “You could count on Ofer to fall into every trap. There was one event at the Hebrew University that was a kind of political Hyde Park. The right wanted to boot the left out of there, so we hung up the flag. It was obvious that Ofer would react, and in fact he tore the flag, and in the wake of the ruckus that developed, political activity was stopped for good.”

    Replacing the anthem

    Cassif voices clearly and cogently positions that challenge the public discourse in Israel, and does so with ardor and charisma. Four candidates vied for Hadash’s Jewish slot, and they all delivered speeches at the convention. The three candidates who lost to him – Efraim Davidi, Yaela Raanan and the head of the party’s Tel Aviv branch, Noa Levy – described their activity and their guiding principles. When they spoke, there was the regular buzz of an audience that’s waiting for lunch. But when Cassif took the stage, the effect was magnetic.

    “Peace will not be established without a correction of the crimes of the Nakba and [recognition of] the right of return,” he shouted, and the crowd cheered him. As one senior party figure put it, “Efraim talked about workers’ rights, Yaela about the Negev, Noa about activity in Tel Aviv – and Ofer was Ofer.”

    What do you mean by “right of return”?

    Cassif: “The first thing is the actual recognition of the Nakba and of the wrong done by Israel. Compare it to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa, if you like, or with the commissions in Chile after Pinochet. Israel must recognize the wrong it committed. Now, recognition of the wrong also includes recognition of the right of return. The question is how it’s implemented. It has to be done by agreement. I can’t say that tomorrow Tel Aviv University has to be dismantled and that Sheikh Munis [the Arab village on whose ruins the university stands] has to be rebuilt there. The possibility can be examined of giving compensation in place of return, for example.”

    But what is the just solution, in your opinion?

    “For the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.”

    That means there will be Jews who will have to leave their home.

    “In some places, unequivocally, yes. People will have to be told: ‘You must evacuate your places.’ The classic example is Ikrit and Biram [Christian-Arab villages in Galilee whose residents were promised – untruly – by the Israeli authorities in 1948 that they would be able to return, and whose lands were turned over to Jewish communities]. But there are places where there is certainly greater difficulty. You don’t right one wrong with another.”

    What about the public space in Israel? What should it look like?

    “The public space has to change, to belong to all the state’s residents. I dispute the conception of ‘Jewish publicness.’”

    How should that be realized?

    “For example, by changing the national symbols, changing the national anthem. [Former Hadash MK] Mohammed Barakeh once suggested ‘I Believe’ [‘Sahki, Sahki’] by [Shaul] Tchernichovsky – a poem that is not exactly an expression of Palestinian nationalism. He chose it because of the line, ‘For in mankind I’ll believe.’ What does it mean to believe in mankind? It’s not a Jew, or a Palestinian, or a Frenchman, or I don’t know what.”

    What’s the difference between you and the [Arab] Balad party? Both parties overall want two states – a state “of all its citizens” and a Palestinian state.

    “In the big picture, yes. But Balad puts identity first on the agenda. We are not nationalists. We do not espouse nationalism as a supreme value. For us, self-determination is a means. We are engaged in class politics. By the way, Balad [the National Democratic Assembly] and Ta’al [MK Ahmad Tibi’s Arab Movement for Renewal] took the idea of a state of all its citizens from us, from Hadash. We’ve been talking about it for ages.”

    If you were a Palestinian, what would you do today?

    “In Israel, what my Palestinian friends are doing, and I with them – [wage] a parliamentary and extra-parliamentary struggle.”

    And what about the Palestinians in the territories?

    “We have always been against harming innocent civilians. Always. In all our demonstrations, one of our leading slogans was: ‘In Gaza and in Sderot, children want to live.’ With all my criticism of the settlers, to enter a house and slaughter children, as in the case of the Fogel family [who were murdered in their beds in the settlement of Itamar in 2011], is intolerable. You have to be a human being and reject that.”

    And attacks on soldiers?

    “An attack on soldiers is not terrorism. Even Netanyahu, in his book about terrorism, explicitly categorizes attacks on soldiers or on the security forces as guerrilla warfare. It’s perfectly legitimate, according to every moral criterion – and, by the way, in international law. At the same time, I am not saying it’s something wonderful, joyful or desirable. The party’s Haifa office is on Ben-Gurion Street, and suddenly, after years, I noticed a memorial plaque there for a fighter in Lehi [pre-state underground militia, also known as the Stern Gang] who assassinated a British officer. Wherever there has been a struggle for liberation from oppression, there are national heroes, who in 90 percent of the cases carried out some operations that were unlawful. Nelson Mandela is today considered a hero, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but according to the conventional definition, he was a terrorist. Most of the victims of the ANC [African National Congress] were civilians.”

    In other words, today’s Hamas commanders who are carrying out attacks on soldiers will be heroes of the future Palestinian state?

    “Of course.”

    Anti-Zionist identity

    Cassif terms himself an explicit anti-Zionist. “There are three reasons for that,” he says. “To begin with, Zionism is a colonialist movement, and as a socialist, I am against colonialism. Second, as far as I am concerned, Zionism is racist in ideology and in practice. I am not referring to the definition of race theory – even though there are also some who impute that to the Zionist movement – but to what I call Jewish supremacy. No socialist can accept that. My supreme value is equality, and I can’t abide any supremacy – Jewish or Arab. The third thing is that Zionism, like other ethno-nationalistic movements, splits the working class and all weakened groups. Instead of uniting them in a struggle for social justice, for equality, for democracy, it divides the exploited classes and the enfeebled groups, and by that means strengthens the rule of capital.”

    He continues, “Zionism also sustains anti-Semitism. I don’t say it does so deliberately – even though I have no doubt that there are some who do it deliberately, like Netanyahu, who is connected to people like the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, and the leader of the far right in Austria, Hans Christian Strache.”

    Did Mapai-style Zionism also encourage anti-Semitism?

    “The phenomenon was very striking in Mapai. Think about it for a minute, not only historically, but logically. If the goal of political and practical Zionism is really the establishment of a Jewish state containing a Jewish majority, and for Diaspora Jewry to settle there, nothing serves them better than anti-Semitism.”

    What in their actions encouraged anti-Semitism?

    “The very appeal to Jews throughout the world – the very fact of treating them as belonging to the same nation, when they were living among other nations. The whole old ‘dual loyalty’ story – Zionism actually encouraged that. Therefore, I maintain that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not the same thing, but are precisely opposites. That doesn’t mean, of course, that there are no anti-Zionists who are also anti-Semites. Most of the BDS people are of course anti-Zionists, but they are in no way anti-Semites. But there are anti-Semites there, too.”

    Do you support BDS?

    “It’s too complex a subject for a yes or no answer; there are aspects I don’t support.”

    Do you think that the Jews deserve a national home in the Land of Israel?

    “I don’t know what you mean by ‘national home.’ It’s very amorphous. We in Hadash say explicitly that Israel has a right to exist as a sovereign state. Our struggle is not against the state’s existence, but over its character.”

    But that state is the product of the actions of the Zionist movement, which you say has been colonialist and criminal from day one.

    “That’s true, but the circumstances have changed. That’s the reason that the majority of the members of the Communist Party accepted the [1947] partition agreement at the time. They recognized that the circumstances had changed. I think that one of the traits that sets communist thought apart, and makes it more apt, is the understanding and the attempt to strike the proper balance between what should be, and reality. So it’s true that Zionism started as colonialism, but what do you do with the people who were already born here? What do you tell them? Because your grandparents committed a crime, you have to leave? The question is how you transform the situation that’s been created into one that’s just, democratic and equal.”

    So, a person who survived a death camp and came here is a criminal?

    “The individual person, of course not. I’m in favor of taking in refugees in distress, no matter who or what they are. I am against Zionism’s cynical use of Jews in distress, including the refugees from the Holocaust. I have a problem with the fact that the natives whose homeland this is cannot return, while people for whom it’s not their homeland, can, because they supposedly have some sort of blood tie and an ‘imaginary friend’ promised them the land.”

    I understand that you are in favor of the annulment of the Law of Return?

    “Yes. Definitely.”

    But you are in favor of the Palestinian right of return.

    “There’s no comparison. There’s no symmetry here at all. Jerry Seinfeld was by chance born to a Jewish family. What’s his connection to this place? Why should he have preference over a refugee from Sabra or Chatila, or Edward Said, who did well in the United States? They are the true refugees. This is their homeland. Not Seinfeld’s.”

    Are you critical of the Arabs, too?

    “Certainly. One criticism is of their cooperation with imperialism – take the case of today’s Saudi Arabia, Qatar and so on. Another, from the past, relates to the reactionary forces that did not accept that the Jews have a right to live here.”

    Hadash refrained from criticizing the Assad regime even as it was massacring civilians in Syria. The party even torpedoed a condemnation of Assad after the chemical attack. Do you identify with that approach?

    “Hadash was critical of the Assad regime – father and son – for years, so we can’t be accused in any way of supporting Assad or Hezbollah. We are not Ba’ath, we are not Islamists. We are communists. But as I said earlier, the struggle, unfortunately, is generally not between the ideal and what exists in practice, but many times between two evils. And then you have to ask yourself which is the lesser evil. The Syrian constellation is extremely complicated. On the one hand, there is the United States, which is intervening, and despite all the pretense of being against ISIS, supported ISIS and made it possible for ISIS to sprout.

    "I remind you that ISIS started from the occupation of Iraq. And ideologically and practically, ISIS is definitely a thousand times worse than the Assad regime, which is at base also a secular regime. Our position was and is against the countries that pose the greatest danger to regional peace, which above all are Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and the United States, which supports them. That doesn’t mean that we support Assad.”

    Wrong language

    Cassif’s economic views are almost as far from the consensus as his political ideas. He lives modestly in an apartment that’s furnished like a young couple’s first home. You won’t find an espresso maker or unnecessary products of convenience in his place. To his credit, it can be said that he extracts the maximum from Elite instant coffee.

    What is your utopian vision – to nationalize Israel’s conglomerates, such as Cellcom, the telecommunications company, or Osem, the food manufacturer and distributor?

    “The bottom line is yes. How exactly will it be done? That’s an excellent question, which I can’t answer. Perhaps by transferring ownership to the state or to the workers, with democratic tools. And there are other alternatives. But certainly, I would like it if a large part of the resources were not in private hands, as was the case before the big privatizations. It’s true that it won’t be socialism, because, again, there can be no such thing as Zionist socialism, but there won’t be privatization like we have today. What is the result of capitalism in Israel? The collapse of the health system, the absence of a social-welfare system, a high cost of living and of housing, the elderly and the disabled in a terrible situation.”

    Does any private sector have the right to exist?

    “Look, the question is what you mean by ‘private sector.’ If we’re talking about huge concerns that the owners of capital control completely through their wealth, then no.”

    What growth was there in the communist countries? How can anyone support communism, in light of the grim experience wherever it was tried?

    “It’s true, we know that in the absolute majority of societies where an attempt was made to implement socialism, there was no growth or prosperity, and we need to ask ourselves why, and how to avoid that. When I talk about communism, I’m not talking about Stalin and all the crimes that were committed in the name of the communist idea. Communism is not North Korea and it is not Pol Pot in Cambodia. Heaven forbid.”

    And what about Venezuela?

    “Venezuela is not communism. In fact, they didn’t go far enough in the direction of socialism.”

    Chavez was not enough of a socialist?

    “Chavez, but in particular Maduro. The Communist Party is critical of the regime. They support it because the main enemy is truly American imperialism and its handmaidens. Let’s look at what the U.S. did over the years. At how many times it invaded and employed bullying, fascist forces. Not only in Latin America, its backyard, but everywhere.”

    Venezuela is falling apart, people there don’t have anything to eat, there’s no medicine, everyone who can flees – and it’s the fault of the United States?

    “You can’t deny that the regime has made mistakes. It’s not ideal. But basically, it is the result of American imperialism and its lackeys. After all, the masses voted for Chavez and for Maduro not because things were good for them. But because American corporations stole the country’s resources and filled their own pockets. I wouldn’t make Chavez into an icon, but he did some excellent things.”

    Then how do you generate individual wealth within the method you’re proposing? I understand that I am now talking to you capitalistically, but the reality is that people see the accumulation of assets as an expression of progress in life.

    “Your question is indeed framed in capitalist language, which simply departs from what I believe in. Because you are actually asking me how the distribution of resources is supposed to occur within the capitalist framework. And I say no, I am not talking about resource distribution within a capitalist framework.”

    Gantz vs. Netanyahu

    Cassif was chosen as the polls showed Meretz and Labor, the representatives of the Zionist left, barely scraping through into the next Knesset and in fact facing a serious possibility of electoral extinction. The critique of both parties from the radical left is sometimes more acerbic than from the right.

    Would you like to see the Labor Party disappear?

    “No. I think that what’s happening at the moment with Labor and with Meretz is extremely dangerous. I speak about them as collectives, because they contain individuals with whom I see no possibility of engaging in a dialogue. But I think that they absolutely must be in the Knesset.”

    Is a left-winger who defines himself as a Zionist your partner in any way?

    “Yes. We need partners. We can’t be picky. Certainly we will cooperate with liberals and Zionists on such issues as combating violence against women or the battle to rescue the health system. Maybe even in putting an end to the occupation.”

    I’ll put a scenario to you: Benny Gantz does really well in the election and somehow overcomes Netanyahu. Do you support the person who led Operation Protective Edge in Gaza when he was chief of staff?

    “Heaven forbid. But we don’t reject people, we reject policy. I remind you that it was [then-defense minister] Yitzhak Rabin who led the most violent tendency in the first intifada, with his ‘Break their bones.’ But when he came to the Oslo Accords, it was Hadash and the Arab parties that gave him, from outside the coalition, an insurmountable bloc. I can’t speak for the party, but if there is ever a government whose policy is one that we agree with – eliminating the occupation, combating racism, abolishing the nation-state law – I believe we will give our support in one way or another.”

    And if Gantz doesn’t declare his intention to eliminate the occupation, he isn’t preferable to Netanyahu in any case?

    “If so, why should we recommend him [to the president to form the next government]? After the clips he posted boasting about how many people he killed and how he hurled Gaza back into the Stone Age, I’m far from certain that he’s better.”

    #Hadash

    • traduction d’un extrait [ d’actualité ]

      Le candidat à la Knesset dit que le sionisme encourage l’antisémitisme et qualifie Netanyahu de « meurtrier »
      Peu d’Israéliens ont entendu parler de M. Ofer Cassif, représentant juif de la liste de la Knesset du parti d’extrême gauche Hadash. Le 9 avril, cela changera.
      Par Ravit Hecht 16 février 2019 – Haaretz

      (…) Identité antisioniste
      Cassif se dit un antisioniste explicite. « Il y a trois raisons à cela », dit-il. « Pour commencer, le sionisme est un mouvement colonialiste et, en tant que socialiste, je suis contre le colonialisme. Deuxièmement, en ce qui me concerne, le sionisme est raciste d’idéologie et de pratique. Je ne fais pas référence à la définition de la théorie de la race - même si certains l’imputent également au mouvement sioniste - mais à ce que j’appelle la suprématie juive. Aucun socialiste ne peut accepter cela. Ma valeur suprême est l’égalité et je ne peux supporter aucune suprématie - juive ou arabe. La troisième chose est que le sionisme, comme d’autres mouvements ethno-nationalistes, divise la classe ouvrière et tous les groupes sont affaiblis. Au lieu de les unir dans une lutte pour la justice sociale, l’égalité, la démocratie, il divise les classes exploitées et affaiblit les groupes, renforçant ainsi le pouvoir du capital. "
      Il poursuit : « Le sionisme soutient également l’antisémitisme. Je ne dis pas qu’il le fait délibérément - même si je ne doute pas qu’il y en a qui le font délibérément, comme Netanyahu, qui est connecté à des gens comme le Premier ministre de la Hongrie, Viktor Orban, et le chef de l’extrême droite. en Autriche, Hans Christian Strache. ”

      Le sionisme type-Mapaï a-t-il également encouragé l’antisémitisme ?
      « Le phénomène était très frappant au Mapai. Pensez-y une minute, non seulement historiquement, mais logiquement. Si l’objectif du sionisme politique et pratique est en réalité de créer un État juif contenant une majorité juive et de permettre à la communauté juive de la diaspora de s’y installer, rien ne leur sert mieux que l’antisémitisme. "

      Qu’est-ce qui, dans leurs actions, a encouragé l’antisémitisme ?
      « L’appel même aux Juifs du monde entier - le fait même de les traiter comme appartenant à la même nation, alors qu’ils vivaient parmi d’autres nations. Toute la vieille histoire de « double loyauté » - le sionisme a en fait encouragé cela. Par conséquent, j’affirme que l’antisémitisme et l’antisionisme ne sont pas la même chose, mais sont précisément des contraires. Bien entendu, cela ne signifie pas qu’il n’y ait pas d’antisionistes qui soient aussi antisémites. La plupart des membres du BDS sont bien sûr antisionistes, mais ils ne sont en aucun cas antisémites. Mais il y a aussi des antisémites.

  • The Nazis and your privacy / Boing Boing
    https://boingboing.net/2019/01/21/census-and-genocide.html

    Roderick Miller is a US-born historian living in Berlin and the chairman of the nonprofit organization Tracing the Past, whose online project Mapping the Lives ties personal biographies of those persecuted by the Nazi regime with interactive street maps.

    The Nazi German government conducted a census on 17 May 1939 in which a special “supplementary card” was included, where every person had to list if each of their four grandparents was Jewish or not. In the 1980s, a census was conducted in West Germany that led to a lot of resistance from the left, including massive street demonstrations. Several academic works about the planned 1980s census were published at the time, in which the thesis was put forth that the Nazis misused the 1939 census data to create the deportation lists to send the Jews to concentration camps and their subsequent deaths. The resistance to the 1980s census led to its being delayed from the original date of 1981 until they finally managed, in 1987, to meet the criteria put forth by a decision of a 1983 German Supreme Court which severely limited the extent to which the private data of individuals could be used.

    Later research, however, proved that although the Nazis did, in the end, misuse the 1939 census data, in that they sent the “supplementary cards” of people with Jewish grandparents to the local police (ie Gestapo) registration offices throughout Germany, this only happened in late 1941 and 1942. Not only were the deportations already in full operation by this point, but by this time the data on the “supplementary cards” was largely no longer valid — many Jews had already been deported, and most of those who remained had been forced in the interim to move into smaller, crowded apartments, so-called “Jew houses.”

    The 1939 census data was not needed to create deportation lists by 1941/1942 anyway, since the Jewish communities had been forced by the Gestapo to make card indexes of all known Jewish people. These card indexes — it was a typical Nazi tactic to force the people they were persecuting to directly assist in their own persecution — were usually the basis of the deportation lists. In some cases, the Jewish community was itself forced to write the deportation lists and decide who could remain and who got on the train.

    Today we don’t need the Gestapo to force us to give up our personal data, we offer it up voluntarily to social media like Facebook or major US government contractors for the military and intelligence communities like Google. Many people offer their data up to maintain their social presence on the internet or merely for convenience. The standard reply to this is often “I don’t have anything to hide,” but that’s based upon the assumption of a government that respects personal privacy and doesn’t arrest people based on their political opinions, sexual preferences, or lifestyle choices.

    If the Nazis had had access to personal data the same way that these corporate conglomerates do today, there would likely have been very few survivors of the persecution of people for their race, political stance, sexual preference or for the fact that they were somehow seen as physically or mentally handicapped.

    https://www.tracingthepast.org

    https://www.mappingthelives.org

    #cartographie #nazis #vie_privée #Volkszählungsurteil

  • #vietnam #fintech in a Flash — Part II : #digital Payment
    https://hackernoon.com/vietnam-fintech-in-a-flash-part-ii-digital-payment-1a49bd155add?source=r

    Vietnam Fintech in a Flash — Part II: Digital PaymentNOTE: If you haven’t read Part I, please read it up here: Part I: Grasping Vietnam’s Financial Technology Landscape.Currently, the level of fintech penetration in daily use remains low. A survey by World Bank reviewed that the number of non-cash transactions over population was merely 4.9%, comparing to 59.7% in Thailand and 89% in Malaysia. Dao Minh Tuan, vice chairman of Vietcombank and Chairman of the Vietnam Bankcard Association, stated that roughly 90% of Vietnamese daily spendings are cash-based. Consequently, the payment landscape in Vietnam attracts a lot of fintechs, with 47% of local fintechs serving this segment, per the EY’s ASEAN Fintech Census 2018.Payment FinTechs density in ASEAN countries as of December 2017. Source: (...)

    #vietnam-fintech #payments

  • Trump lifts sanctions on firms linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska | World news | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/27/us-lifts-sanctions-oleg-deripaska-russia

    Trump lifts sanctions on firms linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska
    • Democrats in Congress opposed move to lift restrictions
    • Deripaska is ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin


    The Trump administration has lifted sanctions on three companies, including the aluminum giant Rusal, linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Democrats had led a push in Congress to continue the restrictions.

    Earlier this month, Senate Republicans blocked an effort to keep the sanctions on Rusal, En+ Group and JSC EuroSibEnergo.

    Some lawmakers from both parties have said it is inappropriate to ease sanctions on companies tied to Deripaska, an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, while special counsel Robert Mueller investigates whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Moscow.

    Deripaska had ties with Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. Manafort pleaded guilty in September 2018 to attempted witness tampering and conspiring against the United States.

    Trump administration officials and many Republicans who opposed the effort to keep the sanctions in place said they worried about the impact on the global aluminum industry.

    They also said Deripaska had lowered his stakes in the companies so he no longer controlled them, a sign the sanctions were working.
    […]
    After the Treasury announcement, Rusal said Jean-Pierre Thomas had resigned as chairman and director of the company as part of the deal to lift the sanctions. Shares in Rusal jumped more than 5% in early trading in Hong Kong on Monday.

  • China’s Old Oil Guard Dabble in Wind Power as ’We Know’ Offshore - Bloomberg
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-24/china-s-old-oil-guard-dabble-in-wind-power-as-we-know-offshore


    _Photographer: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg

    China’s offshore oil and gas experts are dipping their toes in wind power, bringing their experience working on the ocean floor and adding a new twist to their portfolios.

    Cnooc Ltd., the country’s top offshore oil explorer, said it wants to use its expertise in marine geology to replicate its success in the offshore wind sector. The company entered its first offshore wind project in Jiangsu province this month. China Oilfield Services Ltd. echoed that view, saying its experience operating in deep waters offers a competitive advantage as the company looks for more contracts in offshore wind services.

    When we see opportunities in building offshore wind farms, we know immediately it would be an easy task for us,” Qi Meisheng, chairman of China Oilfield, told reporters on Thursday. “We know offshore geology, we know how to drill and we know how to make the process go as smoothly as it can be.

    China is turning to renewable power to aid its fight against the pollution that blights the world’s most populous nation. Wind is the country’s third-largest source of energy behind coal and hydro.

    Consultancy Wood Mackenzie Ltd. predicts an almost 10-fold surge in China’s offshore wind capacity to 33 gigawatts by 2027. Government targets will drive development, but the lack of technical expertise will present a hurdle, said Robert Liew, a senior analyst at Woodmac.

  • Germany pulls out of Mediterranean migrant mission Sophia

    Germany is suspending participation in Operation Sophia, the EU naval mission targeting human trafficking in the Mediterranean. The decision reportedly relates to Italy’s reluctance to allow rescued people to disembark.
    Germany will not be sending any more ships to take part in the anti-people smuggling operation Sophia in the Mediterranean Sea, according to a senior military officer.

    The decision means frigate Augsburg, currently stationed off the coast of Libya, will not be replaced early next month, Bundeswehr Inspector General Eberhard Zorn told members of the defense and foreign affairs committees in the German parliament.

    The 10 German soldiers currently working at the operation’s headquarters will, however, remain until at least the end of March.

    The European Union launched Operation Sophia in 2015 to capture smugglers and shut down human trafficking operations across the Mediterranean, as well as enforce a weapons embargo on Libya. Sophia currently deploys three ships, three airplanes, and two helicopters, which are permitted to use lethal force if necessary, though its mandate also includes training the North African country’s coast guard. The EU formally extended Operation Sophia by three months at the end of December.

    The Bundeswehr reported that, since its start, the naval operation had led to the arrest of more than 140 suspected human traffickers and destroyed more than 400 smuggling boats.

    But Operation Sophia’s efforts have largely focused on rescuing thousands of refugees from unseaworthy vessels attempting to get to Europe. According to the Bundeswehr, Operation Sophia has rescued some 49,000 people from the sea, while German soldiers had been involved in the rescue of 22,534 people.

    European impasse

    The operation has caused some friction within the EU, particularly with Italy, where the headquarters are located, and whose Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has threatened to close ports to the mission.

    Salvini, chairman of the far-right Lega Nord party, demanded on Wednesday that the mission had to change, arguing that the only reason it existed was that all the rescued refugees were brought to Italy. “If someone wants to withdraw from it, then that’s certainly no problem for us,” he told the Rai1 radio station, but in future he said the mission should only be extended if those rescued were distributed fairly across Europe. This is opposed by other EU member states, particularly Poland and Hungary.

    Italy’s position drew a prickly response from German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who accused Sophia’s Italian commanders of sabotaging the mission by sending the German ship to distant corners of the Mediterranean where there were “no smuggling routes whatsoever” and “no refugee routes.”

    “For us it’s important that it be politically clarified in Brussels what the mission’s task is,” von der Leyen told reporters at the Davos forum in Switzerland.

    Fritz Felgentreu, ombudsman for the Bundestag defense committee, told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that Italy’s refusal to let migrants rescued from the sea disembark at its ports meant the operation could no longer fulfill its original mandate.

    The EU played down Germany’s decision. A spokeswoman for the bloc’s diplomatic service, the EEAS, told the DPA news agency that Germany had not ruled out making other ships available for the Sophia Operation in future, a position confirmed by a German Defense Ministry spokesman.

    Decision a ’tragedy’

    The decision sparked instant criticism from various quarters in Germany. Stefan Liebich, foreign affairs spokesman for Germany’s socialist Left party, called the government’s decision to suspend its involvement a “tragedy.”

    “As long as Sophia is not replaced by a civilian operation, even more people will drown,” he told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

    The Green party, for its part, had a more mixed reaction. “We in the Green party have always spoken out against the military operation in the Mediterranean and have consistently rejected the training of the Libyan coast guard,” said the party’s defense spokeswoman, Agnieszka Brugger. But she added that Wednesday’s announcement had happened “for the wrong reasons.”

    Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, defense policy spokeswoman for the Free Democratic Party (FDP), called the decision a sign of the EU’s failure to find a common refugee policy.

    Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), meanwhile, defended the decision. “The core mission, to fight trafficking crimes, cannot currently be effectively carried out,” the party’s defense policy spokesman, Henning Otte, said in a statement. “If the EU were to agree to common procedure with refugees, this mission could be taken up again.”

    Otte also suggested a “three-stage model” as a “permanent solution for the Mediterranean.” This would include a coast guard from Frontex, the European border patrol agency; military patrols in the Mediterranean; and special facilities on the North African mainland to take in refugees and check asylum applications.

    https://www.dw.com/en/germany-pulls-out-of-mediterranean-migrant-mission-sophia/a-47189097
    #Allemagne #résistance #Operation_Sophia #asile #migrations #réfugiés #retrait #espoir (petit mais quand même)

    • EU: Italy’s choice to end or continue Operation Sophia

      The European Commission says it is up to Italy to decide whether or not to suspend the EU’s naval operation Sophia.

      “If Italy decides, it is the country in command of operation Sophia, to stop it - it is up to Italy to make this decision,” Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner for migration, told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (23 January).

      The Italian-led naval operation was launched in 2015 and is tasked with cracking down on migrant smugglers and traffickers off the Libyan coast.

      It has also saved some 50,000 people since 2015 but appears to have massively scaled back sea rescues, according to statements from Germany’s defence minster.

      German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen was cited by Reuters on Wednesday saying that the Italian command had been sending the Germany navy “to the most remote areas of the Mediterranean where there are no smuggling routes and no migrant flows so that the navy has not had any sensible role for months.”

      Germany had also announced it would not replace its naval asset for the operation, whose mandate is set to expire at the end of March.

      But the commission says that Germany will continue to participate in the operation.

      “There is no indication that it will not make another asset available in the future,” said Avramopoulos.

      A German spokesperson was also cited as confirming Germany wants the mission to continue beyond March.

      The commission statements follow threats from Italy’s far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini to scrap the naval mission over an on-going dispute on where to disembark rescued migrants.

      Salvini was cited in Italian media complaining that people rescued are only offloaded in Italy.

      The complaint is part of a long-outstanding dispute by Salvini, who last year insisted that people should be disembarked in other EU states.

      The same issue was part of a broader debate in the lead up to a renewal of Sophia’s mandate in late December.

      https://euobserver.com/migration/143997

    • #Operazione_Sophia

      In riferimento alle odierne dichiarazioni relative all’operazione Sophia dell’UE, il Ministro degli Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale Enzo Moavero Milanesi ricorda che «L’Italia non ha mai chiesto la chiusura di Sophia. Ha chiesto che siano cambiate, in rigorosa e doverosa coerenza con le conclusioni del Consiglio Europeo di giugno 2018, le regole relative agli sbarchi delle persone salvate in mare». Infatti, gli accordi dell’aprile 2015 prevedono che siano sbarcate sempre in Italia, mentre il Consiglio Europeo del giugno scorso ha esortato gli Stati UE alla piena condivisione di tutti gli oneri relativi ai migranti.

      https://www.esteri.it/mae/it/sala_stampa/archivionotizie/comunicati/operazione-sophia.html

  • How Libertarian theology and Trump are destroying the Internet — and America – Alternet.org
    https://www.alternet.org/2019/01/how-libertarian-theology-and-trump-are-destroying-the-internet-and-america

    With speeds up to 100 times faster than current 4G cellular data, 5G will make possible everything from driverless cars to cell-connected long-distance drones to precision remote surgery. The amount of data flowing through our cellular systems will explode, along with places it can be used and the uses to which it can be applied.

    Remote applications that are currently too difficult to wire for high-speed internet or won’t work well at 4G speeds will easily become remotely controlled, spreading the internet revolution to every device in the home, office, and even remote workplaces.

    Along with all this data will, inevitably, come hackers, both criminal and state-sponsored. The amount of data that it now takes a third of a year to harvest with 4G can be scooped up in a single day using 5G.

    Given that the U.S. government invented the internet (yes, Al Gore did co-author the legislation) and has a huge stake in its security, doesn’t it make sense that our government should provide, at least in framework and standards, for its security?

    But, no. Trump and Pence want to do to the FCC what they’ve done to the EPA, the Department of the Interior, the FDA, and to oversight of our banking systems.

    According to Trump and his billionaire libertarian owners, the safety and security of America is not the proper role of government. Not our air, our water, our public lands, or even our internet.

    “Just turn it all over to the billionaires,” they say. “What could possibly go wrong?”

    FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the former Verizon lawyer, even went so far as to say that “the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and leadership” with regard to internet security.

    Meanwhile, the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee—after looking at how 5G will blow open data operations across the country—wrote just three months ago that “the cybersecurity threat now poses an existential threat to the future of the nation.”

    #Cybersécurité #Libertariens #Idéologie_californienne #5G #Normalisation

  • #Netflix Reports Paid Customers Rise on Strength Overseas
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/netflix-reports-paid-customers-rise-on-strength-overseas-11547759799

    Companies including AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia and Walt Disney Co. are preparing their own content-streaming services to launch later this year. They will be competing with Netflix to sign up consumers and stock their services with content.

    Their entry could drive up Netflix’s programming costs even further, including for popular reruns.

    “We want to win,” [On n’avait pas remarqué] said Netflix Chairman and Chief Executive Reed Hastings when asked about all the new competition. On the company’s earnings call, Mr. Hastings said the goal is still to provide a better environment with incredible content and “no advertising.”

    Netflix said Thursday it was “ready to pay top-of-market prices for second run content.” At the same time, it is making more of its own content in-house as it aims to be less reliant on outside suppliers for original shows and movies.

    Dans son dernier rapport trimestriel — toujours très suivi, ça me fait penser aux Keynote d’Apple —, on apprend notamment :

    – que la firme, qui ne cesse de professer la #transparence, notamment en interne, mais l’est très peu quand il s’agit de communiquer des #chiffres de visionnages de tel ou tel contenu, va commencer à le faire, mais on s’en doute de manière très ciblée.
    – qu’évidemment elle n’a rien contre les salles de cinéma en soi, à condition de ne pas être contrainte par des obligations de financement de la création et les règlementations type "chronologie des médias" en France ; elle communique donc sur le nombre de cinéma qui ont diffusé Roma : 900 en tout. « People love films… at home AND in theaters. »
    – que la techno utilisée pour l’épisode interactif de Black Mirror, dont on a pas mal parlé ici a été baptisée « Branch Manager ».

    Source : https://s22.q4cdn.com/959853165/files/doc_financials/quarterly_reports/2018/q4/01/FINAL-Q4-18-Shareholder-Letter.pdf

    #SVOD #industrie_culturelle