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  • Les #gilets_jaunes vus de New York...

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    Driving was already expensive in France when in January 2018 the government of President Emmanuel Macron imposed a tax that raised the price of diesel fuel by 7.6 centimes per liter and of gasoline by 3.8 centimes (about 9 and 4 cents, respectively); further increases were planned for January 2019. The taxes were an attempt to cut carbon emissions and honor the president’s lofty promise to “Make Our Planet Great Again.”

    Priscillia Ludosky, then a thirty-two-year-old bank employee from the Seine-et-Marne department outside Paris, had no choice but to drive into the city for work every day, and the cost of her commute was mounting. “When you pay regularly for something, it really adds up fast, and the increase was enormous,” she told me recently. “There are lots of things I don’t like. But on that I pushed.” In late May 2018, she created a petition on Change.org entitled Pour une Baisse des Prix du Carburant à la Pompe! (For a reduction of fuel prices at the pump!)

    Over the summer Ludosky’s petition—which acknowledged the “entirely honorable” aim of reducing pollution while offering six alternative policy suggestions, including subsidizing electric cars and encouraging employers to allow remote work—got little attention. In the fall she tried again, convincing a radio host in Seine-et-Marne to interview her if the petition garnered 1,500 signatures. She posted that challenge on her Facebook page, and the signatures arrived in less than twenty-four hours. A local news site then shared the petition on its own Facebook page, and it went viral, eventually being signed by over 1.2 million people.

    Éric Drouet, a thirty-three-year-old truck driver and anti-Macron militant also from Seine-et-Marne, created a Facebook event for a nationwide blockade of roads on November 17 to protest the high fuel prices. Around the same time, a fifty-one-year-old self-employed hypnotherapist named Jacline Mouraud recorded herself addressing Macron for four minutes and thirty-eight seconds and posted the video on Facebook. “You have persecuted drivers since the day you took office,” she said. “This will continue for how long?” Mouraud’s invective was viewed over six million times, and the gilets jaunes—the yellow vests, named for the high-visibility vests that French drivers are required to keep in their cars and to wear in case of emergency—were born.

    Even in a country where protest is a cherished ritual of public life, the violence and vitriol of the gilets jaunes movement have stunned the government. Almost immediately it outgrew the issue of the carbon taxes and the financial burden on car-reliant French people outside major cities. In a series of Saturday demonstrations that began in mid-November and have continued for three months, a previously dormant anger has erupted. Demonstrators have beaten police officers, thrown acid in the faces of journalists, and threatened the lives of government officials. There has been violence on both sides, and the European Parliament has condemned French authorities for using “flash-ball guns” against protesters, maiming and even blinding more than a few in the crowds. But the gilets jaunes have a flair for cinematic destruction. In late November they damaged parts of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris; in early January they commandeered a forklift and rammed through the heavy doors of the ministry of state—the only time in the history of the Fifth Republic that a sitting minister had to be evacuated from a government building.

    The gilets jaunes are more than a protest. This is a modern-day jacquerie, an emotional wildfire stoked in the provinces and directed against Paris and, most of all, the elite. French history since 1789 can be seen as a sequence of anti-elite movements, yet the gilets jaunes have no real precedent. Unlike the Paris Commune of 1871, this is a proletarian struggle devoid of utopian aspirations. Unlike the Poujadist movement of the mid-1950s—a confederation of shopkeepers likewise opposed to the “Americanization” of a “thieving and inhuman” state and similarly attracted to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories—the gilets jaunes include shopkeepers seemingly content to destroy shop windows. There is an aspect of carnival here: a delight in the subversion of norms, a deliberate embrace of the grotesque.

    Many have said that the gilets jaunes are merely another “populist movement,” although the term is now so broad that it is nearly meaningless. Comparisons have been made to the Britain of Brexit, the United States of Donald Trump, and especially the Italy of Cinque Stelle. But the crucial difference is that the gilets jaunes are apolitical, and militantly so. They have no official platform, no leadership hierarchy, and no reliable communications. Everyone can speak for the movement, and yet no one can. When a small faction within it fielded a list of candidates for the upcoming European parliamentary elections in May, their sharpest opposition came from within: to many gilets jaunes, the ten who had put their names forward—among them a nurse, a truck driver, and an accountant—were traitors to the cause, having dared to replicate the elite that the rest of the movement disdains.

    Concessions from the government have had little effect. Under mounting pressure, Macron was forced to abandon the carbon tax planned for 2019 in a solemn televised address in mid-December. He also launched the so-called grand débat, a three-month tour of rural France designed to give him a better grasp of the concerns of ordinary people. In some of these sessions, Macron has endured more than six hours of bitter criticisms from angry provincial mayors. But these gestures have quelled neither the protests nor the anger of those who remain in the movement. Performance is the point. During the early “acts,” as the weekly demonstrations are known, members refused to meet with French prime minister Édouard Philippe, on the grounds that he would not allow the encounter to be televised, and that sentiment has persisted. Perhaps the most telling thing about the gilets jaunes is the vest they wear: a symbol of car ownership, but more fundamentally a material demand to be seen.

    Inequality in France is less extreme than in the United States and Britain, but it is increasing. Among wealthy Western countries, the postwar French state—l’État-providence—is something of a marvel. France’s health and education systems remain almost entirely free while ranking among the best in the world. In 2017 the country’s ratio of tax revenue to gross domestic product was 46.2 percent, according to statistics from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)—the highest redistribution level of any OECD country and a ratio that allows the state to fight poverty through a generous social protection system. Of that 46.2 percent, the French government allocated approximately 28 percent for social services.

    “The French social model is so integrated that it almost seems a natural, preexisting condition,” Alexis Spire, a sociologist of inequality at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, told me recently. A number of the gilets jaunes I met said that despite the taxes they pay, they do not feel they benefit from any social services, since they live far from urban centers. But anyone who has ever received housing assistance, a free prescription, or sixteen weeks of paid maternity leave has benefited from the social protection system. The effect of redistribution is often invisible.

    And yet the rich in France have gotten much richer. Between 1983 and 2015, the vast majority of incomes in France rose by less than one percent per year, while the richest one percent of the population saw their incomes rise by 100 percent after taxes. According to World Bank statistics, the richest 20 percent now earns nearly five times as much as the bottom 20 percent. This represents a stark shift from the Trente Glorieuses, France’s thirty-year economic boom after World War II. As the economist Thomas Piketty has pointed out, between 1950 and 1983, most French incomes rose steadily by approximately 4 percent per year; the nation’s top incomes rose by only one percent.

    What has become painfully visible, however, is the extent of the country’s geographical fractures. Paris has always been the undisputed center of politics, culture, and commerce, but France was once also a country that cherished and protected its vibrant provincial life. This was la France profonde, a clichéd but genuinely existing France of tranquil stone villages and local boulangeries with lines around the block on Sundays. “Douce France, cher pays de mon enfance,” goes the beloved song by the crooner Charles Trenet. “Mon village, au clocher aux maisons sages.” These days, the maisons sages are vacant, and the country boulangeries are closed.

    The story is familiar: the arrival of large multinational megastores on the outskirts of provincial French towns and cities has threatened, and in many cases asphyxiated, local businesses.1 In the once-bustling centers of towns like Avignon, Agen, Calais, and Périgueux, there is now an eerie quiet: windows are often boarded up, and fewer and fewer people are to be found. This is the world evoked with a melancholy beauty in Nicolas Mathieu’s novel Leurs enfants après eux, which won the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary prize, in 2018.

    The expansion since the 1980s of France’s high-speed rail network has meant that the country’s major cities are all well connected to Paris. But there are many small towns where the future never arrived, where abandoned nineteenth-century train stations are now merely places for teenagers to make out, monuments of the way things used to be. In these towns, cars are the only way people can get to work. I met a fifty-five-year-old truck and taxi driver named Marco Pavan in the Franche-Comté in late November. What he told me then—about how carbon taxes can seem like sneers from the Parisian elite—has stayed with me. “Ask a Parisian—for him none of this is an issue, because he doesn’t need a car,” Pavan said. “There’s no bus or train to take us anywhere. We have to have a car.” I cited that remark in a Washington Post story I filed from Besançon; in the online comments section, many attacked the movement for what they saw as a backward anti-environmentalism—missing his point.

    Few have written as extensively as the French geographer Christophe Guilluy on la France périphérique, a term he popularized that refers both to the people and the regions left behind by an increasingly globalized economy. Since 2010, when he published Fractures françaises, Guilluy has been investigating the myths and realities of what he calls “the trompe l’oeil of a peaceful, moderate, and consensual society.” He is one of a number of left-wing French intellectuals—among them the novelist Michel Houellebecq, the historian Georges Bensoussan, and the essayist Michel Onfray—who in recent years have argued that their beloved patrie has drifted into inexorable decline, a classic critique of the French right since 1789. But Guilluy’s decline narrative is different: he is not as concerned as the others with Islamist extremism or “decadence” broadly conceived. For him, France’s decline is structural, the result of having become a place where “the social question disappears.”

    Guilluy, born in Montreuil in 1964, is something of a rarity among well-known French intellectuals: he is a product of the Paris suburbs, not of France’s storied grandes écoles. And it is clear that much of his critique is personal. As a child, Guilluy, whose family then lived in the working-class Paris neighborhood of Belleville, was forcibly relocated for a brief period to the heavily immigrant suburb of La Courneuve when their building was slated to be demolished in the midst of Paris’s urban transformation. “I saw gentrification firsthand,” he told Le Figaro in 2017. “For the natives—the natives being just as much the white worker as the young immigrant—what provoked the most problems was not the arrival of Magrebis, but that of the bobos.”

    This has long been Guilluy’s battle cry, and he has focused his intellectual energy on attacking what he sees as the hypocrisy of the bobos, or bourgeois bohemians. His public debut was a short 2001 column in Libération applying that term, coined by the columnist David Brooks, to French social life. What was happening in major urban centers across the country, he wrote then, was a “ghettoization by the top of society” that excluded people like his own family.

    Guilluy crystallized that argument in a 2014 book that won him the ear of the Élysée Palace and regular appearances on French radio. This was La France périphérique: comment on a sacrifié les classes populaires, in which he contended that since the mid-1980s, France’s working classes have been pushed out of the major cities to rural communities—a situation that was a ticking time bomb—partly as a result of rising prices. He advanced that view further in 2016 with La Crépuscule de la France d’en haut—now translated into English as Twilight of the Elites: Prosperity, the Periphery, and the Future of France—a pithy screed against France’s bobo elite and what he sees as its shameless embrace of a “neoliberal,” “Americanized society” and a hollow, feel-good creed of multicultural tolerance. In 2018, one month before the rise of the gilets jaunes, he published No Society, whose title comes from Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 comment that “there is no such thing as society.”

    In Guilluy’s view, an immigrant working class has taken the place of the “native” working class in the banlieues on the outskirts of major cities. This native class, he argues, has been scattered throughout the country and become an “unnoticed presence” that France’s elite has “made to disappear from public consciousness” in order to consolidate its grip on power. Cities are now the exclusive preserve of the elites and their servants, and what Guilluy means by “no society” is that the visible signs of class conflict in urban daily life have vanished. This is his trompe l’oeil: rich, insulated Parisians have convinced themselves that everything is fine, while those who might say otherwise are nowhere near. “The simmering discontent of rural France has never really been taken seriously,” he writes in Twilight of the Elites.

    Since November, much of the French press has declared that Guilluy essentially predicted the rise of the gilets jaunes. They seem, after all, a fulfillment of his prophecy about “the betrayal of the people” by the elites, even if he is always elusive about who exactly “the people” are. While critiques from the movement have remained a confused cloud of social media invective, Guilluy has served as its de facto interpreter.

    No Society puts into words what many in the gilets jaunes have either struggled or refused to articulate. This is the hazy middle ground between warning and threat: “The populist wave coursing through the western world is only the visible part of a soft power emanating from the working classes that will force the elites to rejoin the real movement of society or else to disappear.”

    For now, however, there is just one member of the elite whom the gilets jaunes wish would disappear, and calls for his violent overthrow continue even as the movement’s momentum subsides.

    An intense and deeply personal hatred of Macron is the only unifying cry among the gilets jaunes. Eighteen months before the uprising began, this was the man who captured the world’s imagination and who, after populist victories in Britain and the United States, had promised a French “Third Way.” Yet the Macronian romance is already over, both at home and abroad.

    To some extent, the French always turn against their presidents, but the anger Macron elicits is unique. This is less because of any particular policy than because of his demeanor and, most of all, his language. “Mr. Macron always refused to respond to us,” Muriel Gautherin, fifty-three, a podiatrist who lives in the Paris suburbs, told me at a December march on the Champs-Élysées. “It’s he who insults us, and he who should respond.” When I asked her what she found most distasteful about the French president, her answer was simple: “His words.”

    She has a point. Among Macron’s earliest actions as president was to shave five euros off the monthly stipends of France’s Aide personalisée au logement (APL), the country’s housing assistance program. Around the same time, he slashed France’s wealth tax on those with a net worth of at least €1.3 million—a holdover from the Mitterand era.

    Macron came to office with a record of unrelentingly insulting the poor. In 2014, when he was France’s economic minister, he responded to the firing of nine hundred employees (most of them women) from a Breton slaughterhouse by noting that some were “mostly illiterate.” In 2016 he was caught on camera in a heated dispute with a labor activist in the Hérault. When the activist gestured to Macron’s €1,600 suit as a symbol of his privilege, the minister said, “The best way to afford a suit is to work.” In 2018 he told a young, unemployed gardener that he could find a new job if he merely “crossed the street.”

    Yet nothing quite compares to the statement Macron made in inaugurating Station F, a startup incubator in the thirteenth arrondissement of Paris, housed in a converted rail depot. It is a cavernous consulate for Silicon Valley, a soaring glass campus open to all those with “big ideas” who can also pay €195 a month for a desk and can fill out an application in fluent English. (“We won’t consider any other language,” the organization’s website says.) Google, Amazon, and Microsoft all have offices in it, and in a city of terrible coffee, the espresso is predictably fabulous. In June 2017 Macron delivered a speech there. “A train station,” he said, referring to the structure’s origins, “it’s a place where we encounter those who are succeeding and those who are nothing.”

    This was the moment when a large percentage of the French public learned that in the eyes of their president, they had no value. “Ceux qui ne sont rien” is a phrase that has lingered and festered. To don the yellow vest is thus to declare not only that one has value but also that one exists.

    On the whole, the gilets jaunes are not the poorest members of French society, which is not surprising. As Tocqueville remarked, revolutions are fueled not by those who suffer the most, but by those whose economic status has been improving and who then experience a sudden and unexpected fall. So it seems with the gilets jaunes: most live above the poverty line but come from the precarious ranks of the lower middle class, a group that aspires to middle-class stability and seeks to secure it through palliative consumption: certain clothing brands, the latest iPhone, the newest television.

    In mid-December Le Monde profiled a young couple in the movement from Sens in north-central France, identified only as Arnaud and Jessica. Both twenty-six, they and their four children live in a housing project on the €2,700 per month that Arnaud earns as a truck driver, including more than €1,000 in government assistance. According to statistics from France’s Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (Insée), this income places them right at the poverty line for a family of this size, and possibly even slightly below it. But the expenses Arnaud and Jessica told Le Monde they struggled to pay included karate lessons for their oldest son and pet supplies for their dog. Jessica, who does not work, told Le Monde, “Children are so mean to each other if they wear lesser brands. I don’t want their friends to make fun of them.” She said she had traveled to Paris for gilet jaune protests on three separate weekends—journeys that presumably cost her money.

    Readers of Le Monde—many of them educated, affluent, and pro-Macron—were quick to attack Arnaud and Jessica. But the sniping missed their point, which was that they felt a seemingly inescapable sense of humiliation, fearing ridicule everywhere from the Élysée Palace to their children’s school. They were explaining something profound about the gilets jaunes: the degree to which the movement is fueled by unfulfilled expectations. For many demonstrators, life is simply not as they believed it would be, or as they feel they deserve. There is an aspect of entitlement to the gilets jaunes, who are also protesting what the French call déclassement, the increasing elusiveness of the middle-class dream in a society in which economic growth has not kept pace with population increase. This entitlement appears to have alienated the gilets jaunes from immigrants and people of color, who are largely absent from their ranks and whose condition is often materially worse.2 “It’s not people who don’t have hope anymore, who don’t have a place to live, or who don’t have a job,” Rokhaya Diallo, a French activist for racial equality, told me recently, describing the movement. “It’s just that status they’re trying to preserve.”

    The gilets jaunes have no substantive ideas: resentment does not an ideology make. They remain a combustible vacuum, and extremist agitators on the far right and the far left have sought to capitalize on their anger. Both Marine Le Pen of the recently renamed Rassemblement National and Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the left-wing La France Insoumise have tried hard to channel the movement’s grassroots energy into their own political parties, but the gilets jaunes have so far resisted these entreaties. The gilets jaunes also found themselves at the center of a diplomatic spat: in early February Italy’s deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, met with two of their members on the outskirts of Paris in a jab at Macron. Two days later, France withdrew its ambassador to Rome for the first time since 1940, but the gilets jaunes have not attempted to exploit this attention for their own political gain. Instead there was infighting—a Twitter war over who had the right to represent the cause abroad and who did not.

    The intellectual void at the heart of an amorphous movement can easily fill with the hatred of an “other.” That may already be happening to the gilets jaunes. Although a careful analysis by Le Monde concluded that race and immigration were not major concerns in the two hundred most frequently shared messages on gilet jaune Facebook pages between the beginning of the movement and January 22, a number of gilets jaunes have been recorded on camera making anti-Semitic gestures, insulting a Holocaust survivor on the Paris metro, and saying that journalists “work for the Jews.” Importantly, the gilets jaunes have never collectively denounced any of these anti-Semitic incidents—a silence perhaps inevitable for a movement that eschews organization of any kind. Likewise, a thorough study conducted by the Paris-based Fondation Jean Jaurès has shown the extent to which conspiracy theories are popular in the movement: 59 percent of those surveyed who had participated in a gilet jaune demonstration said they believed that France’s political elites were encouraging immigration in order to replace them, and 50 percent said they believed in a global “Zionist” conspiracy.

    Members of the movement are often quick to point out that the gilets jaunes are not motivated by identity politics, and yet anyone who has visited one of their demonstrations is confronted with an undeniable reality. Far too much attention has been paid to the symbolism of the yellow vests and far too little to the fact that the vast majority of those who wear them are lower-middle-class whites. In what is perhaps the most ethnically diverse society in Western Europe, can the gilets jaunes truly be said to represent “the people,” as the members of the movement often claim? Priscillia Ludosky, arguably the first gilet jaune, is a black woman. “It’s complicated, that question,” she told me. “I have no response.”

    The gilets jaunes are also distinctly a minority of the French population: in a country of 67 million, as many as 282,000 have demonstrated on a single day, and that figure has consistently fallen with each passing week, down to 41,500 during “Act 14” of the protest on February 16. On two different weekends in November and December, other marches in Paris—one for women’s rights, the other against climate change—drew far bigger crowds than the gilets jaunes did. But the concerns of this minority are treated as universal by politicians, the press, and even the movement’s sharpest critics. Especially after Trump and Brexit, lower-middle-class and working-class whites command public attention even when they have no clear message.

    French citizens of color have been protesting social inequality for years without receiving any such respect. In 2005 the killing of two minority youths by French police in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois ignited a string of violent uprisings against police brutality, but the government declared an official state of emergency instead of launching a grand débat. In 2009, the overseas departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique saw a huge strike against the high cost of living—a forty-four-day uprising that also targeted fuel prices and demanded an increase to the minimum wage. In 2017 an almost identical protest occurred in French Guiana, another French overseas department, where residents demonstrated against household goods that were as much as 12 percent more expensive than they were in mainland France, despite a lower minimum wage. The French government was slow to respond in both of these instances, while the concerns of the gilets jaunes have resulted in a personal apology from the president and a slew of concessions.

    Guilluy, whose analysis of la France périphérique ultimately fails to grapple significantly with France’s decidedly peripheral overseas territories, does not shy away from the question of identity. He sees a racial element to the frustrations of la France périphérique, but he does not see this as a problem. Some of the most frustrating moments in his work come when he acknowledges but refuses to interrogate white working-class behavior that seems to be racially motivated. “Public housing in outlying communities is now a last resort for workers hoping to be able to go on living near the major cities,” he writes in Twilight of the Elites, describing the recent astronomic rise in France’s urban real estate prices. “These projects, mostly occupied by immigrant renters, are avoided by white French-born workers. Barring some utterly unforeseeable turn of events, their expulsion from the largest urban centers will be irreversible.” It would not diminish Guilluy’s broader point about la France périphérique if he acknowledged that victims of structural changes can also be intolerant.

    Guilluy also regularly recycles anxieties over immigration, often from controversial theorists such as Michèle Tribalat, who is associated with the idea of le grand remplacement, the alleged “great replacement” of France’s white population by immigrants from North and Sub-Saharan Africa. In making his case about “the demographic revolution in process,” Guilluy has been accused of inflating his statistics. France, he wrote in Fractures françaises, “welcomes a little less than 200,000 legal foreigners every year.” But these claims were attacked by Patrick Weil, a leading French historian of immigration, who noted in his book Le sens de la République (2015) that Guilluy failed to consider that a large number of those 200,000 are temporary workers, students who come and go, and others of “irregular” status. Guilluy has not responded to these criticisms, and in any case his rhetoric has since grown more radical. In No Society he writes, “Multiculturalism is, intrinsically, a feeble ideology that divides and weakens.”

    Whether the gilets jaunes will eventually come to agree with him is a crucial question. Like Guilluy, they are responding to real social conditions. But if, following Guilluy’s lead, they ultimately resort to the language of race and ethnicity to explain their suffering, they will have chosen to become a different movement altogether, one in which addressing inequality was never quite the point. In some ways, they have already crossed that line.

    On the afternoon of Saturday, February 16, the prominent French intellectual Alain Finkielkraut got out of a taxi on the Boulevard Montparnasse. A crowd of gilets jaunes noticed him and began hurling anti-Semitic insults. The scene, recorded on video, was chilling: in the center of Paris, under a cloudless sky, a mob of visibly angry men surrounded a man they knew to be Jewish, called him a “dirty Zionist,” and told him, “go back to Tel Aviv.”

    Finkielkraut’s parents were Polish refugees from the Holocaust. He was born in Paris in 1949 and has become a fixture in French cultural life, a prolific author, a host of a popular weekly broadcast on France Culture, and a member of the Académie Française, the country’s most elite literary institution. In the words of Macron, who immediately responded to the attack, he “is not only an eminent man of letters but the symbol of what the Republic affords us all.” The irony is that Finkielkraut—another former leftist who believes that France has plunged into inexorable decline and ignored the dangers of multiculturalism—was one of the only Parisian intellectuals who had supported the gilets jaunes from the beginning.

    I spoke to Finkielkraut after the attack, and he explained that the gilets jaunes had seemed to him the evidence of something authentic. “I saw an invisible France, neglected and forgotten,” he said. “Wearing fluorescent yellow vests in order to be visible—of being a ‘somewhere’ as opposed to an ‘anywhere,’ as Goodhart has said—seemed to me an absolutely legitimate critique.” The British journalist David Goodhart, popular these days in French right-wing circles, is the author of The Road to Somewhere (2017), which sees populist anger as the inevitable response to the widening gulf between those “rooted” in a particular place and cosmopolitans at home anywhere. “France is not a ‘start-up nation,’” Finkielkraut told me. “It can’t be reduced to that.”

    Finkielkraut said that the attack was a sign that the reasonable critiques orginally made by the gilets jaunes had vanished, and that they had no real future. “I think the movement is in the process of degradation. It’s no longer a social movement but a sect that has closed in on itself, whose discourse is no longer rational.”

    Although the Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation into his attackers, Finkielkraut has not pressed charges. He told me that the episode, as violent as it was, did not necessarily suggest that all those who had worn yellow vests in recent months were anti-Semites or extremists. “Those who insulted me were not the nurses, the shopkeepers, or the small business owners,” he said, noting that he doubted he would have experienced the same prejudice at the roundabouts, the traffic circles across the country where gilets jaunes protesters gathered every Saturday. In a sense, these were the essence of the movement, which was an inchoate mobilization against many things, but perhaps none so much as loneliness. The roundabouts quickly became impromptu piazzas and a means, however small, of reclaiming a spirit of community that disappeared long ago in so many French towns and villages.

    In Paris, where the remaining gilets jaunes have now focused most of their energy, the weekly protests have become little more than a despicable theater filled with scenes like the attack on Finkielkraut. There is no convincing evidence that those still wearing yellow vests are troubled by the presence of bigotry in their ranks. What is more, many gilets jaunes now seem to believe that pointing out such prejudice is somehow to become part of a government-backed conspiracy to turn public opinion against them.

    Consider, for instance, a February 19 communiqué released in response to the attack on Finkielkraut from La France en Colère, one of the movement’s main online bulletins. “For many days, the government and its friends in the national media seem to have found a new technique for destabilizing public opinion and discrediting the Gilets Jaunes movement,” it begins. “We denounce the accusations and the manipulations put in place by this government adept at fake news.” But this is all the communiqué denounces; it does not address the anti-Semitic violence to which Finkielkraut was subjected, nor does it apologize to a national figure who had defended the movement when few others of his prominence dared to do the same.

    A month after our last conversation, I called Priscillia Ludosky back, to see if she had any reaction to the recent turn of events in the movement her petition had launched. She was only interested in discussing what she called the French government’s “systematic abuse to manipulate public opinion.” She also believes that a government-media conspiracy will stop at nothing to smear the cause. “If there was one person who ever said something homophobic, it was on the front page of every newspaper,” she told me.

    In the days after the attack, Finkielkraut lamented not so much the grim details of what had happened but the squandered potential of a moment that has increasingly descended into paranoid feverishness. As he told me: “This was a beautiful opportunity to reflect on who we are that’s been completely ruined.”

    https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2019/03/21/low-visibility-france-gilet-jaunes

  • ‘Terrorism’ and antisemitism
    https://africasacountry.com/2019/03/terrorism-and-antisemitism

    After all, would any elected official, in Washington or anywhere else, accept the notion that the Palestinians (or Lebanon or Syria) had the right to use force against the “terrorist threat” posed by Israel’s FLLF? Or the right to target Eitan, Ben-Gal, Dagan or Sharon for assassination (targeted killing) because of their direct role in this “terrorist” campaign? Or the right to target the kibuztim where, according to Bergman, many of the FLLF bombs were manufactured? Can one imagine a columnist in a major US newspaper claiming that civilians accidentally killed in the process should be considered mere “collateral damage,” or insisting that such uses of force should be celebrated as courageous, determined actions in the moral fight against the scourge of “terrorism” around the world?

    On what basis then can Israel, the United States, or any other country claim the right to target terrorist leaders, bomb terrorist bomb making facilities or use deadly force against demonstrators because of an alleged connection to a terrorist organization?

    Acknowledging that Palestinians have been the perpetrators of “terrorism” against Israel but also the victims of Israeli “terrorism” thus threatens to upend the entirety of the hegemonic discourse on “terrorism.”

    #terrorisme #antisémitisme #Etats-unis #israel

    • Over the past few weeks, pundits like Bari Weiss and #Bret_Stephens have repeatedly condemned Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar’s allegedly anti-Semitic remarks while proclaiming their readiness to accept “legitimate criticism” of Israel that is based not on slander but on a “ foundation in truth .” Yet, they have not written a single word about the extraordinary revelations contained in Rise and Kill First, a book written by their own Times colleague and based on accounts from Israeli sources who were involved in the operation or knew of it at the time.

      On August 8, 1983, Thomas Friedman described on the front page of the New York Times how a Peugeot car packed with 200 pounds of TNT “detonated around noon, when the surrounding stores and vendor’s stalls were jammed with shoppers.” The bombing killed 33 and wounded 125 and, he added, “appeared to have had no other immediate objective than to kill as many civilians as possible.”

      Bergman’s book finally answered a question the Times reporter (and countless other journalists) repeatedly asked at the time: who was behind this extraordinarily violent campaign of terrorism against Palestinians and their leftist Lebanese allies? And yet, over the past 13 months, Friedman has not written a single word about the topic. He has, however, found the time to condemn Representative Omar’s “anti-Semitic” tweets.

  • The New Zealand shooting put the media’s Islamophobia problem on display yet again
    https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-saeed-new-zealand-shooting-islamophobia-media-20190315-story.html

    Take, for example, language that is used to describe Muslims.

    In the immediate aftermath of the Christchurch massacre, there were descriptions of the mosque and its worshipers as “peaceful” — by the media as well as by well-intentioned, horrified onlookers around the world.

    The use of the term “peaceful” seems, at face value, benign, but it is a term that insinuates that Muslims and mosques, by near default, are violent unless we categorize and prove them to be otherwise. Muslims, themselves, have adopted the language of “Islam means peace” as a means of protection against violence and accusations of dual loyalty. The choice that is given to Muslims is one that defaults violence: We are either violent or we are against violence.

    The 11 worshipers killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018 were not called “peaceful worshipers.” The Sutherland Springs Church, which saw 26 of its congregants killed in 2017, wasn’t called a “peaceful church.”
    But the acceptability and normalization of Islamophobia goes beyond that: It’s when a black, visibly Muslim woman in Congress has her own party partake in an Islamophobic campaign against her, a campaign that hinged on the assumption that Muslims, by default, are anti-Semitic.

    It’s when those who have spent a large part or the entirety of their careers fear-mongering about Muslims are rewarded by prestigious institutions with Ivy League fellowships or columns in the New York Times.

    It’s when a former U.S. President gets up in front of tens of thousands of fellow party members and demands a loyalty test from Muslim Americans whose vote he is trying to collect for his candidate wife.

    It’s when an editor of one of the most respected journalistic institutions in this country casually tweets about “halting and repatriating Middle Eastern mass migration to Europe to keep it safe.” And then does something similar four years later in a piece about how maybe the fascists have a point about “enforcing the borders.”

    There is “good” Islamophobia — it’s not all Fox News, Ben Shapiro and right-wing chatrooms.

    There is Islamophobia we accept, as though it is simply a known truth, because we accept the foundational premise of Muslims having a propensity toward violence, toward not being loyal to “our values” — that there is something, a now New York Times columnist once called, “the tantrum of Islam.”

  • Debate over Ilhan Omar Highlights New Willingness in U.S. to Question Power of Pro-Israeli Lobby
    Democracy Now! - March 08, 2019
    https://www.democracynow.org/2019/3/8/debate_over_ilhan_omar_highlights_new

    Following a week of debate surrounding Democratic Congressmember Ilhan Omar’s comments about U.S. foreign policy in Israel, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution Thursday condemning anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim discrimination, white supremacy and other forms of hate. We host a discussion with Gideon Levy, Haaretz columnist and member of the newspaper’s editorial board; Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who serves on the national board of Jewish Voice for Peace; and Remi Kanazi, a Palestinian-American poet, writer and organizer based in New York City. (...)

  • Opinion | Jared and the Saudi Crown Prince Go Nuclear? - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/02/opinion/sunday/saudi-arabia-jared-kushner-nuclear.html

    Why on earth would America put Prince Mohammed on a path to acquiring nuclear weapons? He is already arguably the most destabilizing leader in an unstable region, for he has invaded Yemen, kidnapped Lebanon’s prime minister, started a feud with Qatar, and, according to American intelligence officials, ordered the murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

    ##armes#nucléaire #arabie_saoudite #etats-unis

  • 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.

  • Des universitaires et des artistes israéliens mettent en garde contre une mise en équation de l’antisionisme et de l’antisémitisme
    22 novembre | Ofer Aderet pour Haaretz |Traduction J.Ch. pour l’AURDIP
    https://www.aurdip.org/des-universitaires-et-des-artistes.html

    Une lettre ouverte de 34 éminents Israéliens, dont des chercheurs en histoire juive et des lauréats du Prix Israël, a été publiée mardi dans les média autrichiens appelant à faire une différence entre critique légitime d’Israël, « aussi dure puisse-t-elle être », et antisémitisme.

    Cette lettre a été émise avant un rassemblement international à Vienne sur antisémitisme et antisionisme en Europe.

    L’ événement de cette semaine, « L’Europe par delà l’antisémitisme et l’antisionisme », se tient sous les auspices du Chancelier autrichien Sebastian Kurz. Son homologue israélien, Benjamin Netanyahu, devait y prendre part, mais est resté en Israël pour s’occuper de la crise dans sa coalition gouvernementale.

    « Nous adoptons et soutenons totalement le combat intransigeant [de l’Union Européenne] contre l’antisémitisme. La montée de l’antisémitisme nous inquiète. Comme nous l’a enseigné l’histoire, elle a souvent été l’annonce de désastres ultérieurs pour toute l’humanité », déclare la lettre.

    « Cependant, l’UE défend les droits de l’Homme et doit les protéger avec autant de force qu’elle combat l’antisémitisme. Il ne faudrait pas instrumentaliser ce combat contre l’antisémitisme pour réprimer la critique légitime de l’occupation par Israël et ses graves violations des droits fondamentaux des Palestiniens. » (...)

    #antisionisme #antisémitisme

    • La liste des signataires:
      Moshe Zimmerman, an emeritus professor at Hebrew University and a former director of the university’s Koebner Center for German History; Moshe Zukermann, emeritus professor of history and philosophy of science at Tel Aviv University; Zeev Sternhell, a Hebrew University emeritus professor in political science and a current Haaretz columnist; Israel Prize laureate, sculptor Dani Karavan; Israel Prize laureate, photographer Alex Levac; Israel Prize laureate, artist Michal Naaman; Gadi Algazi, a history professor at Tel Aviv University; Eva Illouz, a professor of Sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and former President of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design; Gideon Freudenthal, a professor in the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University; Rachel Elior, an Israeli professor of Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Anat Matar, philosophy professor at Tel Aviv University; Yael Barda, a professor of Sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem; Miki Kratsman, a former chairman of the photography department at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design; Jose Brunner, an emeritus professor at Tel Aviv University and a former director of the Minerva Institute for German History; Alon Confino, a professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Israel Prize laureate, graphic designer David Tartakover; Arie M. Dubnov, Chair of Israel Studies at George Washington University; David Enoch, history, philosophy and Judaic Studies professor at Israel’s Open University; Amos Goldberg, Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Israel Prize laureate and vice-president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities David Harel; Hannan Hever, comparative literature and Judaic Studies professor at Yale University; Hannah Kasher, professor emerita in Jewish Thought at Bar-Ilan University; Michael Keren, emeritus professor of economics at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Israel Prize laureate, Yehoshua Kolodny, professor emeritus in the Institute of Earth Sciences at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Nitzan Lebovic, professor of Holocaust studies at Lehigh University; Idith Zertal, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Dmitry Shumsky, professor of Jewish History at Hebrew University; Israel Prize laureate David Shulman, professor emeritus of Asian studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Ishay Rosen-Zvi, Jewish philosophy professor at Tel Aviv University; Dalia Ofer, professor emerita in Jewry and Holocaust Studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Paul Mendes-Flohr, professor emeritus for Jewish thoughts at the Hebrew University; Jacob Metzer, former president of Israel’s Open University; and Israel Prize laureate Yehuda Judd Ne’eman, professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University arts faculty

      #Palestine

  • Israeli academics and artists warn against equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism
    Their open letter ahead of a conference in Vienna advises against giving Israel immunity for ‘grave and widespread violations of human rights and international law’

    Ofer Aderet
    Nov 20, 2018

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israeli-professors-warn-against-equating-anti-zionism-with-anti-se

    An open letter from 35 prominent Israelis, including Jewish-history scholars and Israel Prize laureates, was published Tuesday in the Austrian media calling for a distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel, “harsh as it may be,” and anti-Semitism.
    To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz
    The letter was released before an international gathering in Vienna on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in Europe.
    The event this week, “Europe beyond anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism: Securing Jewish life in Europe,” is being held under the auspices of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. His Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, had been due to take part but stayed in Israel to deal with the crisis in his coalition government. 
    “We fully embrace and support the [European Union’s] uncompromising fight against anti-Semitism. The rise of anti-Semitism worries us. As we know from history, it has often signaled future disasters to all mankind,” the letter states. 
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    “However, the EU also stands for human rights and has to protect them as forcefully as it fights anti-Semitism. This fight against anti-Semitism should not be instrumentalized to suppress legitimate criticism of Israel’s occupation and severe violations of Palestinian human rights.” 

    The signatories accuse Netanyahu of suggesting an equivalence between anti-Israel criticism and anti-Semitism. The official declaration by the conference also notes that anti-Semitism is often expressed through disproportionate criticism of Israel, but the letter warns that such an approach could “afford Israel immunity against criticism for grave and widespread violations of human rights and international law.”
    The signatories object to the declaration’s alleged “identifying” of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. “Zionism, like all other modern Jewish movements in the 20th century, was harshly opposed by many Jews, as well as by non-Jews who were not anti-Semitic,” they write. “Many victims of the Holocaust opposed Zionism. On the other hand, many anti-Semites supported Zionism. It is nonsensical and inappropriate to identify anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.”
    Among the signatories are Moshe Zimmerman, an emeritus professor at Hebrew University and a former director of the university’s Koebner Center for German History; Zeev Sternhell, a Hebrew University emeritus professor in political science and a current Haaretz columnist; sculptor Dani Karavan; Miki Kratsman, a former chairman of the photography department at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design; Jose Brunner, an emeritus professor at Tel Aviv University and a former director of the Minerva Institute for German History; Alon Confino, a professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; and graphic designer David Tartakover.

    Ofer Aderet
    Haaretz Correspondent

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    • La liste des signataires:
      Moshe Zimmerman, an emeritus professor at Hebrew University and a former director of the university’s Koebner Center for German History; Moshe Zukermann, emeritus professor of history and philosophy of science at Tel Aviv University; Zeev Sternhell, a Hebrew University emeritus professor in political science and a current Haaretz columnist; Israel Prize laureate, sculptor Dani Karavan; Israel Prize laureate, photographer Alex Levac; Israel Prize laureate, artist Michal Naaman; Gadi Algazi, a history professor at Tel Aviv University; Eva Illouz, a professor of Sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and former President of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design; Gideon Freudenthal, a professor in the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University; Rachel Elior, an Israeli professor of Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Anat Matar, philosophy professor at Tel Aviv University; Yael Barda, a professor of Sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem; Miki Kratsman, a former chairman of the photography department at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design; Jose Brunner, an emeritus professor at Tel Aviv University and a former director of the Minerva Institute for German History; Alon Confino, a professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Israel Prize laureate, graphic designer David Tartakover; Arie M. Dubnov, Chair of Israel Studies at George Washington University; David Enoch, history, philosophy and Judaic Studies professor at Israel’s Open University; Amos Goldberg, Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Israel Prize laureate and vice-president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities David Harel; Hannan Hever, comparative literature and Judaic Studies professor at Yale University; Hannah Kasher, professor emerita in Jewish Thought at Bar-Ilan University; Michael Keren, emeritus professor of economics at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Israel Prize laureate, Yehoshua Kolodny, professor emeritus in the Institute of Earth Sciences at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Nitzan Lebovic, professor of Holocaust studies at Lehigh University; Idith Zertal, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Dmitry Shumsky, professor of Jewish History at Hebrew University; Israel Prize laureate David Shulman, professor emeritus of Asian studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Ishay Rosen-Zvi, Jewish philosophy professor at Tel Aviv University; Dalia Ofer, professor emerita in Jewry and Holocaust Studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Paul Mendes-Flohr, professor emeritus for Jewish thoughts at the Hebrew University; Jacob Metzer, former president of Israel’s Open University; and Israel Prize laureate Yehuda Judd Ne’eman, professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University arts faculty

  • ‘Tell Your Boss’: Recording Is Seen to Link Saudi Crown Prince More Strongly to Khashoggi Killing - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/12/world/middleeast/jamal-khashoggi-killing-saudi-arabia.html

    The recording, shared last month with the C.I.A. director, Gina Haspel, is seen by intelligence officials as some of the strongest evidence linking Prince Mohammed to the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, a Virginia resident and Washington Post columnist whose death prompted an international outcry.

    While the prince was not mentioned by name, American intelligence officials believe “your boss” was a reference to Prince Mohammed. Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, one of 15 Saudis dispatched to Istanbul to confront Mr. Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate there, made the phone call and spoke in Arabic, the people said.

    Turkish intelligence officers have told American officials they believe that Mr. Mutreb, a security officer who frequently traveled with Prince Mohammed, was speaking to one of the prince’s aides. While translations of the Arabic may differ, the people briefed on the call said Mr. Mutreb also said to the aide words to the effect of “the deed was done.”

    “A phone call like that is about as close to a smoking gun as you are going to get,” said Bruce O. Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer now at the Brookings Institution. “It is pretty incriminating evidence.”

    #mbs #khashoggi

  • Saudis used Israeli spyware to track Khashoggi: Snowden - World News

    http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/saudis-used-israeli-spyware-to-track-khashoggi-snowden-138669

    Software made by an Israeli cyber security firm was used to track murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a former U.S. National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower claimed Nov. 7.

    Addressing a conference in Tel Aviv, Israel via a video call from Russia, Edward Snowden said Pegasus spyware sold to governments by NSO Group Technologies was used to track opponents.

    “The Saudis, of course, knew that Khashoggi was going to go to the consulate, as he got an appointment. But how did they know his intention and plans?”

    Khashoggi, a Saudi national and columnist for The Washington Post, was killed on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

  • The Real Reasons Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Wanted Khashoggi ‘Dead or Alive’
    https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-real-reasons-saudi-crown-prince-mohammed-bin-salman-wanted-khasho

    Christopher Dickey 10.21.18
    His death is key to understanding the political forces that helped turn the Middle East from a region of hope seven years ago to one of brutal repression and slaughter today.

    The mind plays strange tricks sometimes, especially after a tragedy. When I sat down to write this story about the Saudi regime’s homicidal obsession with the Muslim Brotherhood, the first person I thought I’d call was Jamal Khashoggi. For more than 20 years I phoned him or met with him, even smoked the occasional water pipe with him, as I looked for a better understanding of his country, its people, its leaders, and the Middle East. We often disagreed, but he almost always gave me fresh insights into the major figures of the region, starting with Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, and the political trends, especially the explosion of hope that was called the Arab Spring in 2011. He would be just the man to talk to about the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood, because he knew both sides of that bitter relationship so well.

    And then, of course, I realized that Jamal is dead, murdered precisely because he knew too much.

    Although the stories keep changing, there is now no doubt that 33-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the power in front of his decrepit father’s throne, had put out word to his minions that he wanted Khashoggi silenced, and the hit-team allegedly understood that as “wanted dead or alive.” But the [petro]buck stops with MBS, as bin Salman’s called. He’s responsible for a gruesome murder just as Henry II was responsible for the murder of Thomas Becket when he said, “Who will rid me of that meddlesome priest?” In this case, a meddlesome journalist.

    We now know that a few minor players will pay. Some of them might even be executed by Saudi headsmen (one already was reported killed in a car crash). But experience also tells us the spotlight of world attention will shift. Arms sales will go ahead. And the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi risks becoming just one more entry in the annals of intensifying, murderous repression of journalists who are branded the “enemy of the people” by Donald Trump and various two-bit tyrants around the world.

    There is more to Khashoggi’s murder than the question of press freedom, however. His death holds the key to understanding the political forces that have helped turn the Middle East from a region of hope seven years ago to one of brutal repression and ongoing slaughter today. Which brings us back to the question of the Saudis’ fear and hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood, the regional rivalries of those who support it and those who oppose it, and the game of thrones in the House of Saud itself. Khashoggi was not central to any of those conflicts, but his career implicated him, fatally, in all of them.

    The Muslim Brotherhood is not a benign political organization, but neither is it Terror Incorporated. It was created in the 1920s and developed in the 1930s and ‘40s as an Islamic alternative to the secular fascist and communist ideologies that dominated revolutionary anti-colonial movements at the time. From those other political organizations the Brotherhood learned the values of a tight structure, party discipline, and secrecy, with a public face devoted to conventional political activity—when possible—and a clandestine branch that resorted to violence if that appeared useful.

    In the novel Sugar Street, Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz sketched a vivid portrait of a Brotherhood activist spouting the group’s political credo in Egypt during World War II. “Islam is a creed, a way of worship, a nation and a nationality, a religion, a state, a form of spirituality, a Holy Book, and a sword,” says the Brotherhood preacher. “Let us prepare for a prolonged struggle. Our mission is not to Egypt alone but to all Muslims worldwide. It will not be successful until Egypt and all other Islamic nations have accepted these Quranic principles in common. We shall not put our weapons away until the Quran has become a constitution for all Believers.”

    For several decades after World War II, the Brotherhood’s movement was eclipsed by Arab nationalism, which became the dominant political current in the region, and secular dictators moved to crush the organization. But the movement found support among the increasingly embattled monarchies of the Gulf, including and especially Saudi Arabia, where the rule of the king is based on his custodianship of Mecca and Medina, the two holiest sites in Islam. At the height of the Cold War, monarchies saw the Brotherhood as a helpful antidote to the threat of communist-led or Soviet-allied movements and ideologies.

    By the 1980s, several of the region’s rulers were using the Brotherhood as a tool to weaken or destroy secular opposition. Egypt’s Anwar Sadat courted them, then moved against them, and paid with his life in 1981, murdered by members of a group originally tied to the Brotherhood. Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, then spent three decades in power manipulating the Brotherhood as an opposition force, outlawing the party as such, but allowing its known members to run for office in the toothless legislature, where they formed a significant bloc and did a lot of talking.

    Jordan’s King Hussein played a similar game, but went further, giving clandestine support to members of the Brotherhood waging a covert war against Syrian tyrant Hafez al-Assad—a rebellion largely destroyed in 1982 when Assad’s brother killed tens of thousands of people in the Brotherhood stronghold of Hama.

    Even Israel got in on the action, initially giving Hamas, the Brotherhood branch among the Palestinians, tacit support as opposition to the left-leaning Palestine Liberation Organization (although PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat once identified with the Brotherhood himself).

    The Saudi royals, too, thought the Brotherhood could be bought off and manipulated for their own ends. “Over the years the relationship between the Saudis and the Brotherhood ebbed and flowed,” says Lorenzo Vidino, an expert on extremism at George Washington University and one of the foremost scholars in the U.S. studying the Brotherhood’s history and activities.

    Over the decades factions of the Brotherhood, like communists and fascists before them, “adapted to individual environments,” says Vidino. In different countries it took on different characteristics. Thus Hamas, or its military wing, is easily labeled as terrorist by most definitions, while Ennahda in Tunisia, which used to be called terrorist by the ousted Ben Ali regime, has behaved as a responsible political party in a complex democratic environment. To the extent that Jamal Khashoggi identified with the Brotherhood, that was the current he espoused. But democracy, precisely, is what Mohammed bin Salman fears.

    Vidino traces the Saudis’ intense hostility toward the Brotherhood to the uprisings that swept through much of the Arab world in 2011. “The Saudis together with the Emiratis saw it as a threat to their own power,” says Vidino.

    Other regimes in the region thought they could use the Brotherhood to extend their influence. First among these was the powerful government in Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has such longstanding ties to the Islamist movement that some scholars refer to his elected government as “Brotherhood 2.0.” Also hoping to ride the Brotherhood wave was tiny, ultra-rich Qatar, whose leaders had used their vast natural gas wealth and their popular satellite television channel, Al Jazeera, to project themselves on the world stage and, they hoped, buy some protection from their aggressive Saudi neighbors. As one senior Qatari official told me back in 2013, “The future of Qatar is soft power.” After 2011, Jazeera’s Arabic channel frequently appeared to propagandize in the Brotherhood’s favor as much as, say, Fox News does in Trump’s.

    Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world, and the birthplace of the Brotherhood, became a test case. Although Jamal Khashoggi often identified the organization with the idealistic hopes of the peaceful popular uprising that brought down the Mubarak dynasty, in fact the Egyptian Brotherhood had not taken part. Its leaders had a modus vivendi they understood with Mubarak, and it was unclear what the idealists in Tahrir Square, or the military tolerating them, might do.

    After the dictator fell and elections were called, however, the Brotherhood made its move, using its party organization and discipline, as well as its perennial slogan, “Islam is the solution,” to put its man Mohamed Morsi in the presidential palace and its people in complete control of the government. Or so it thought.

    In Syria, meanwhile, the Brotherhood believed it could and should lead the popular uprising against the Assad dynasty. That had been its role 30 years earlier, and it had paid mightily.

    For more than a year, it looked like the Brotherhood’s various branches might sweep to power across the unsettled Arab world, and the Obama administration, for want of serious alternatives, was inclined to go with the flow.

    But then the Saudis struck back.

    In the summer of 2013, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the commander of the Egyptian armed forces, led a military coup with substantial popular support against the conspicuously inept Brotherhood government, which had proved quickly that Islam was not really the “solution” for much of anything.

    Al-Sissi had once been the Egyptian military attaché in Riyadh, where he had many connections, and the Saudis quickly poured money into Egypt to shore up his new regime. At the same time, he declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, and launched a campaign of ruthless repression. Within weeks of the coup, the Egyptian military attacked two camps of Brotherhood protesters and slaughtered hundreds.

    In Syria, the efforts to organize a credible political opposition to President Bashar al-Assad proved virtually impossible as the Qataris and Turks backed the Brotherhood while the Saudis continued their vehement opposition. But that does not mean that Riyadh supported moderate secular forces. Far from it. The Saudis still wanted to play a major role bringing down the Syrian regime allied to another arch enemy, the government of Iran. So the Saudis put their weight behind ultra-conservative Salafis, thinking they might be easier to control than the Muslim Brothers.

    Riyadh is “okay with quietist Salafism,” says Vidino. But the Salafis’ religious extremism quickly shaded over into the thinking of groups like the al Qaeda spinoff called the Nusra Front. Amid all the infighting, little progress was made against Assad, and there to exploit the chaos was the so-called Islamic State (which Assad partially supported in its early days).

    Then, in January 2015, at the height of all this regional turmoil, the aged and infirm Salman bin Abdelaziz ascended to the throne of Saudi Arabia. His son, Mohammed bin Salman, began taking into his own hands virtually all the reins of power, making bold decisions about reforming the Saudi economy, taking small measures to give the impression he might liberalize society—and moving to intimidate or otherwise neutralize anyone who might challenge his power.

    Saudi Arabia is a country named after one family, the al Saud, and while there is nothing remotely democratic about the government, within the family itself with its thousands of princes there traditionally has been an effort to find consensus. Every king up to now has been a son of the nation’s founder, Abdelaziz ibn Saud, and thus a brother or half brother of the other kings.

    When Salman took over, he finally named successors from the next generation. His nephew Mohammed bin Nayef, then 57 and well known for his role fighting terrorism, became crown prince. His son, Mohammed bin Salman, became deputy crown prince. But bin Nayef’s position between the king and his favorite son clearly was untenable. As one Saudi close to the royals put it: “Between the onion and the skin there is only the stink.”

    Bin Nayef was pushed out in 2017. The New York Times reported that during an end-of-Ramadan gathering at the palace he “was told he was going to meet the king and was led into another room, where royal court officials took away his phones and pressured him to give up his posts as crown prince and interior minister. … At first, he refused. But as the night wore on, the prince, a diabetic who suffers from the effects of a 2009 assassination attempt by a suicide bomber, grew tired.” Royal court officials meanwhile called around to other princes saying bin Nayef had a drug problem and was unfit to be king.

    Similar pressure was brought to bear on many of the richest and most powerful princes in the kingdom, locked up in the Ritz Carlton hotel in 2017, ostensibly as part of an extra-legal fight against corruption. They were forced to give allegiance to MBS at the same time they were giving up a lot of their money.

    That pattern of coerced allegiance is what the Saudis now admit they wanted from Jamal Khashoggi. He was no prince, but he had been closely associated in the past with the sons of the late King Faisal, particularly Turki al-Faisal, who was for many years the head of the Saudi intelligence apparatus and subsequently served as ambassador to the United Kingdom, then the United States.

    Although Turki always denied he had ambitions to be king, his name often was mentioned in the past as a contender. Thus far he seems to have weathered the rule of MBS, but given the record of the crown prince anyone close to the Al Faisal branch of the family, like Khashoggi, would be in a potentially perilous position.

    Barbara Bodine is a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, which has suffered mightily since MBS launched a brutal proxy war there against Iran. Both MBS and Trump have declared the regime in Tehran enemy number one in the region. But MBS botched the Yemen operation from the start. It was dubbed “Decisive Storm” when it began in 2015, and was supposed to last only a few weeks, but the war continues to this day. Starvation and disease have spread through Yemen, creating one of the world’s greatest humanitarian disasters. And for the moment, in one of those developments that makes the Middle East so rich in ironies, in Yemen the Saudis are allied with a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    “What drives MBS is a ruthless effort toward total control domestically and regionally; he is Putin of the Desert,” says Bodine. “He has basically broken the back of the princelings, the religious establishment and the business elite, brought all ministries and agencies of power under his sole control (’I alone can fix it’), and jailed, killed or put under house arrest activists and any and all potential as well as real opposition (including his mother).”

    In 2017, MBS and his backers in the Emirates accused Qatar of supporting “terrorism,” issuing a set of demands that included shutting down Al Jazeera. The Saudis closed off the border and looked for other ways, including military options, to put pressure on the poor little rich country that plays so many angles it has managed to be supportive of the Brotherhood and cozy with Iran while hosting an enormous U.S. military base.

    “It was Qatar’s independent streak—not just who they supported but that they had a foreign policy divorced from the dictates of Riyadh,” says Bodine. “The basic problem is that both the Brotherhood and Iran offer competing Islam-based governing structures that challenge the Saudi model.”

    “Jamal’s basic sin,” says Bodine,“was he was a credible insider, not a fire-breathing radical. He wrote and spoke in English for an American audience via credible mainstream media and was well regarded and highly visible within the Washington chattering classes. He was accessible, moderate and operated within the West. He challenged not the core structure of the Kingdom but the legitimacy of the current rulers, especially MBS.”

    “I do think the game plan was to make him disappear and I suspect the end game was always to make him dead,” said Bodine in a long and thoughtful email. “If he was simply jailed within Saudi there would have been a drumbeat of pressure for his release. Dead—there is certainly a short term cost, whether more than anticipated or longer than anticipated we don’t know yet, but the world will move on. Jamal will become a footnote, a talking point perhaps, but not a crusade. The dismembered body? No funeral. Taking out Jamal also sends a powerful signal to any dissident that there is no place safe.”

    #Arabie_Saoudite #Turquie #politique #terrorisme #putsch

  • Khashoggi and the Jewish question - Middle East - Jerusalem Post
    https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Khashoggi-and-the-Jewish-question-569256

    Khashoggi and the Jewish question
    “It is certainly not in our interests to see the status of the Saudi government diminished in Washington.”
    By Herb Keinon
    October 12, 2018 04:24

    The disappearance of Saudi government critic and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey – and the very real possibility that the Saudis either kidnapped him, killed him, or both – is no exception.

    On the surface, this story seems distant from Jerusalem. Israel was not involved in any way, and even Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who never misses an opportunity to blast Israel, is not saying that Jerusalem had anything to do with it.

    (...)
    As a New York Times headline read on Thursday, “Khashoggi’s disappearance puts Kushner’s bet on Saudi crown prince at risk.”

    US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has invested much in building a relationship with MBS, and Jerusalem – for its own interests – hopes that this particular bet does not turn sour.

    (...) As Dore Gold, the head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former Foreign Ministry director-general, said: “This problem could be used by the Iranians to drive a wedge between the West and Saudi Arabia.”

    That is bad for Israel, he added, because “anything that strengthens Iran’s posturing in the Middle East is bad for Israel,” and in the Mideast balance of power, a weakened Saudi Arabia means a strengthened Iran.

    It also means a strengthened Turkey, which could explain why Ankara is going the full monty on this issue, releasing surveillance tape and leaking information about the investigation.

    “Turkey is part of an axis with Qatar,” Gold said, “and that puts Saudi Arabia at odds with the Turkish government.

  • The U.S. Can’t Afford to Demonize China – Foreign Policy
    https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/06/29/the-u-s-cant-afford-to-demonize-china

    The relationship between Beijing and Washington is collapsing fast, to everyone’s detriment.

    The United States and China’s lengthy track record of constructive engagement is disintegrating at an alarming rate, requiring a major correction by both sides. Despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s occasional talk of his “truly great” connection with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Xi’s constant references to “win-win” outcomes all round, recent policies and actions — especially on the U.S. side — have created an enormously destructive dynamic in the relationship.

    In the case of the United States, this dynamic is most clearly driven by excessively critical, often hostile, authoritative U.S. strategy documents such as the recently issued National Security and National Defense Strategies, similar statements by senior U.S. officials, and U.S. economic policy shifts — including grossly ill-conceived tariffs — that all envision Beijing as a “revisionist” power that threatens all Americans hold dear.

    American journalists reinforce this dim view of U.S.-Chinese relations. Almost daily, pundits unveil new aspects of China’s perfidy, ranging from Chinese attempts to undermine intellectual freedom at U.S. universities to China’s sinister debt traps designed to ensnare and control developing countries.

    This steady drumbeat of criticism assumes that every Chinese gain comes at American expense, and that past U.S. policymakers and experts have long overlooked the hostility of the Chinese regime. These critics conclude that any cooperation with China must take a back seat to the imperative of pushing back against the growing threat through all means possible. This hyperbole often reaches stratospheric heights, as Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin wrote last December:

    Washington is waking up to the huge scope and scale of Chinese Communist Party influence operations inside the United States, which permeate American institutions of all kinds. China’s overriding goal is, at the least, to defend its authoritarian system from attack and at most to export it to the world at America’s expense.

  • In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/28/world/europe/uk-austerity-poverty.html


    #austérité #pauvreté

    Britain’s Big Squeeze
    In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything

    After eight years of budget cutting, Britain is looking less like the rest of Europe and more like the United States, with a shrinking welfare state and spreading poverty.

    Raised in the Liverpool neighborhood of Croxteth, Emma Wilde has lost the welfare benefits she depended on to support herself and her two children.CreditAndrea Bruce for The New York Times

    By Peter S. Goodman

    May 28, 2018

    PRESCOT, England — A walk through this modest town in the northwest of England amounts to a tour of the casualties of Britain’s age of austerity.

    The old library building has been sold and refashioned into a glass-fronted luxury home. The leisure center has been razed, eliminating the public swimming pool. The local museum has receded into town history. The police station has been shuttered.

    Now, as the local government desperately seeks to turn assets into cash, Browns Field, a lush park in the center of town, may be doomed, too. At a meeting in November, the council included it on a list of 17 parks to sell to developers.

    “Everybody uses this park,” says Jackie Lewis, who raised two children in a red brick house a block away. “This is probably our last piece of community space. It’s been one after the other. You just end up despondent.”

    In the eight years since London began sharply curtailing support for local governments, the borough of Knowsley, a bedroom community of Liverpool, has seen its budget cut roughly in half. Liverpool itself has suffered a nearly two-thirds cut in funding from the national government — its largest source of discretionary revenue. Communities in much of Britain have seen similar losses.

    For a nation with a storied history of public largess, the protracted campaign of budget cutting, started in 2010 by a government led by the Conservative Party, has delivered a monumental shift in British life. A wave of austerity has yielded a country that has grown accustomed to living with less, even as many measures of social well-being — crime rates, opioid addiction, infant mortality, childhood poverty and homelessness — point to a deteriorating quality of life.

    When Ms. Lewis and her husband bought their home a quarter-century ago, Prescot had a comforting village feel. Now, core government relief programs are being cut and public facilities eliminated, adding pressure to public services like police and fire departments, just as they, too, grapple with diminished funding.

    By 2020, reductions already set in motion will produce cuts to British social welfare programs exceeding $36 billion a year compared with a decade earlier, or more than $900 annually for every working-age person in the country, according to a report from the Center for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University. In Liverpool, the losses will reach $1,200 a year per working-age person, the study says.

    “The government has created destitution,” says Barry Kushner, a Labour Party councilman in Liverpool and the cabinet member for children’s services. “Austerity has had nothing to do with economics. It was about getting out from under welfare. It’s about politics abandoning vulnerable people.”

    Conservative Party leaders say that austerity has been driven by nothing more grandiose than arithmetic.

    “It’s the ideology of two plus two equals four,” says Daniel Finkelstein, a Conservative member of the upper chamber of Parliament, the House of Lords, and a columnist for The Times of London. “It wasn’t driven by a desire to reduce spending on public services. It was driven by the fact that we had a vast deficit problem, and the debt was going to keep growing.”

    Whatever the operative thinking, austerity’s manifestations are palpable and omnipresent. It has refashioned British society, making it less like the rest of Western Europe, with its generous social safety nets and egalitarian ethos, and more like the United States, where millions lack health care and job loss can set off a precipitous plunge in fortunes.

    Much as the United States took the Great Depression of the 1930s as impetus to construct a national pension system while eventually delivering health care for the elderly and the poor, Britain reacted to the trauma of World War II by forging its own welfare state. The United States has steadily reduced benefits since the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s. Britain rolled back its programs in the same era, under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher. Still, its safety net remained robust by world standards.

    Then came the global financial panic of 2008 — the most crippling economic downturn since the Great Depression. Britain’s turn from its welfare state in the face of yawning budget deficits is a conspicuous indicator that the world has been refashioned by the crisis.

    As the global economy now negotiates a wrenching transition — with itinerant jobs replacing full-time positions and robots substituting for human labor — Britain’s experience provokes doubts about the durability of the traditional welfare model. As Western-style capitalism confronts profound questions about economic justice, vulnerable people appear to be growing more so.

    Conservative Party leaders initially sold budget cuts as a virtue, ushering in what they called the Big Society. Diminish the role of a bloated government bureaucracy, they contended, and grass-roots organizations, charities and private companies would step to the fore, reviving communities and delivering public services more efficiently.

    To a degree, a spirit of voluntarism materialized. At public libraries, volunteers now outnumber paid staff. In struggling communities, residents have formed food banks while distributing hand-me-down school uniforms. But to many in Britain, this is akin to setting your house on fire and then reveling in the community spirit as neighbors come running to help extinguish the blaze.

    Most view the Big Society as another piece of political sloganeering — long since ditched by the Conservatives — that served as justification for an austerity program that has advanced the refashioning unleashed in the 1980s by Mrs. Thatcher.

    “We are making cuts that I think Margaret Thatcher, back in the 1980s, could only have dreamt of,” Greg Barker said in a speech in 2011, when he was a Conservative member of Parliament.

    A backlash ensued, with public recognition that budget cuts came with tax relief for corporations, and that the extensive ranks of the wealthy were little disturbed.

    Britain hasn’t endured austerity to the same degree as Greece, where cutbacks were swift and draconian. Instead, British austerity has been a slow bleed, though the cumulative toll has been substantial.

    Local governments have suffered a roughly one-fifth plunge in revenue since 2010, after adding taxes they collect, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London.

    Nationally, spending on police forces has dropped 17 percent since 2010, while the number of police officers has dropped 14 percent, according to an analysis by the Institute for Government. Spending on road maintenance has shrunk more than one-fourth, while support for libraries has fallen nearly a third.

    The national court system has eliminated nearly a third of its staff. Spending on prisons has plunged more than a fifth, with violent assaults on prison guards more than doubling. The number of elderly people receiving government-furnished care that enables them to remain in their homes has fallen by roughly a quarter.

    In an alternate reality, this nasty stretch of history might now be ending. Austerity measures were imposed in the name of eliminating budget deficits, and last year Britain finally produced a modest budget surplus.

    But the reality at hand is dominated by worries that Britain’s pending departure from the European Union — Brexit, as it is known — will depress growth for years to come. Though every major economy on earth has been expanding lately, Britain’s barely grew during the first three months of 2018. The unemployment rate sits just above 4 percent — its lowest level since 1975 — yet most wages remain lower than a decade ago, after accounting for rising prices.

    In the blue-collar reaches of northern England, in places like Liverpool, modern history tends to be told in the cadence of lamentation, as the story of one indignity after another. In these communities, Mrs. Thatcher’s name is an epithet, and austerity is the latest villain: London bankers concocted a financial crisis, multiplying their wealth through reckless gambling; then London politicians used budget deficits as an excuse to cut spending on the poor while handing tax cuts to corporations. Robin Hood, reversed.

    “It’s clearly an attack on our class,” says Dave Kelly, a retired bricklayer in the town of Kirkby, on the outskirts of Liverpool, where many factories sit empty, broken monuments to another age. “It’s an attack on who we are. The whole fabric of society is breaking down.”

    As much as any city, Liverpool has seen sweeping changes in its economic fortunes.

    In the 17th century, the city enriched itself on human misery. Local shipping companies sent vessels to West Africa, transporting slaves to the American colonies and returning bearing the fruits of bondage — cotton and tobacco, principally.

    The cotton fed the mills of Manchester nearby, yielding textiles destined for multiple continents. By the late 19th century, Liverpool’s port had become the gateway to the British Empire, its status underscored by the shipping company headquarters lining the River Mersey.

    By the next century — through the Great Depression and the German bombardment of World War II — Liverpool had descended into seemingly terminal decline. Its hard luck, blue-collar station was central to the identity of its most famous export, the Beatles, whose star power seemed enhanced by the fact such talent could emerge from such a place.

    Today, more than a quarter of Liverpool’s roughly 460,000 residents are officially poor, making austerity traumatic: Public institutions charged with aiding vulnerable people are themselves straining from cutbacks.

    Over the past eight years, the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, which serves greater Liverpool, has closed five fire stations while cutting the force to 620 firefighters from about 1,000.

    “I’ve had to preside over the systematic dismantling of the system,” says the fire chief, Dan Stephens.

    His department recently analyzed the 83 deaths that occurred in accidental house fires from 2007 to 2017. The majority of the victims — 51 people — lived alone and were alone at the time of the deadly fire. Nineteen of those 51 were in need of some form of home care.

    The loss of home care — a casualty of austerity — has meant that more older people are being left alone unattended.

    Virtually every public agency now struggles to do more with less while attending to additional problems once handled by some other outfit whose budget is also in tatters.

    Chief Stephens said people losing cash benefits are falling behind on their electric bills and losing service, resorting to candles for light — a major fire risk.

    The city has cut mental health services, so fewer staff members are visiting people prone to hoarding newspapers, for instance, leaving veritable bonfires piling up behind doors, unseen.

    “There are knock-on effects all the way through the system,” says Chief Stephens, who recently announced plans to resign and move to Australia.

    The National Health Service has supposedly been spared from budget cuts. But spending has been frozen in many areas, resulting in cuts per patient. At public hospitals, people have grown resigned to waiting for hours for emergency care, and weeks for referrals to specialists.

    “I think the government wants to run it down so the whole thing crumbles and they don’t have to worry about it anymore,” says Kenneth Buckle, a retired postal worker who has been waiting three months for a referral for a double knee replacement. “Everything takes forever now.”

    At Fulwood Green Medical Center in Liverpool, Dr. Simon Bowers, a general practitioner, points to austerity as an aggravating factor in the flow of stress-related maladies he encounters — high blood pressure, heart problems, sleeplessness, anxiety.

    He argues that the cuts, and the deterioration of the National Health Service, represent a renouncement of Britain’s historical debts. He rattles off the lowlights — the slave trave, colonial barbarity.

    “We as a country said, ‘We have been cruel. Let’s be nice now and look after everyone,’” Dr. Bowers says. “The N.H.S. has everyone’s back. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are. It’s written into the psyche of this country.”

    “Austerity isn’t a necessity,” he continued. “It’s a political choice, to move Britain in a different way. I can’t see a rationale beyond further enriching the rich while making the lives of the poor more miserable.”

    Wealthy Britons remain among the world’s most comfortable people, enjoying lavish homes, private medical care, top-notch schools and restaurants run by chefs from Paris and Tokyo. The poor, the elderly, the disabled and the jobless are increasingly prone to Kafka-esque tangles with the bureaucracy to keep public support.

    For Emma Wilde, a 31-year-old single mother, the misadventure began with an inscrutable piece of correspondence.

    Raised in the Liverpool neighborhood of Croxteth, Ms. Wilde has depended on welfare benefits to support herself and her two children. Her father, a retired window washer, is disabled. She has been taking care of him full time, relying on a so-called caregiver’s allowance, which amounts to about $85 a week, and income support reaching about $145 a month.

    The letter put this money in jeopardy.

    Sent by a private firm contracted to manage part of the government’s welfare programs, it informed Ms. Wilde that she was being investigated for fraud, accused of living with a partner — a development she is obliged to have reported.

    Ms. Wilde lives only with her children, she insists. But while the investigation proceeds, her benefits are suspended.

    Eight weeks after the money ceased, Ms. Wilde’s electricity was shut off for nonpayment. During the late winter, she and her children went to bed before 7 p.m. to save on heat. She has swallowed her pride and visited a food bank at a local church, bringing home bread and hamburger patties.

    “I felt a bit ashamed, like I had done something wrong, ” Ms. Wilde says. “But then you’ve got to feed the kids.”

    She has been corresponding with the Department for Work and Pensions, mailing bank statements to try to prove her limited income and to restore her funds.

    The experience has given her a perverse sense of community. At the local center where she brings her children for free meals, she has met people who lost their unemployment benefits after their bus was late and they missed an appointment with a caseworker. She and her friends exchange tips on where to secure hand-me-down clothes.

    “Everyone is in the same situation now,” Ms. Wilde says. “You just don’t have enough to live on.”

    From its inception, austerity carried a whiff of moral righteousness, as if those who delivered it were sober-minded grown-ups. Belt tightening was sold as a shared undertaking, an unpleasant yet unavoidable reckoning with dangerous budget deficits.

    “The truth is that the country was living beyond its means,” the then-chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, declared in outlining his budget to Parliament in 2010. “Today, we have paid the debts of a failed past, and laid the foundations for a more prosperous future.”

    “Prosperity for all,” he added.

    Eight years later, housing subsidies have been restricted, along with tax credits for poor families. The government has frozen unemployment and disability benefits even as costs of food and other necessities have climbed. Over the last five years, the government has begun transitioning to so-called Universal Credit, giving those who receive benefits lump sum payments in place of funds from individual programs. Many have lost support for weeks or months while their cases have shifted to the new system.

    All of which is unfortunate yet inescapable, assert Conservative lawmakers. The government was borrowing roughly one-fourth of what it was spending. To put off cuts was to risk turning Britain into the next Greece.

    “The hard left has never been very clear about what their alternative to the program was,” says Neil O’Brien, a Conservative lawmaker who was previously a Treasury adviser to Mr. Osborne. “Presumably, it would be some enormous increase in taxation, but they are a bit shy about what that would mean.”

    He rejects the notion that austerity is a means of class warfare, noting that wealthy people have been hit with higher taxes on investment and expanded fees when buying luxury properties.

    Britain spends roughly the same portion of its national income on public spending today as it did a decade ago, said Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

    But those dependent on state support express a sense that the system has been rigged to discard them.

    Glendys Perry, 61, was born with cerebral palsy, making it difficult for her to walk. For three decades, she answered the phones at an auto parts company. After she lost that job in 2010, she lived on a disability check.

    Last summer, a letter came, summoning her to “an assessment.” The first question dispatched any notion that this was a sincere exploration.

    “How long have you had cerebral palsy?” (From birth.) “Will it get better?” (No.)

    In fact, her bones were weakening, and she fell often. Her hands were not quick enough to catch her body, resulting in bruises to her face.

    The man handling the assessment seemed uninterested.

    “Can you walk from here to there?” he asked her.

    He dropped a pen on the floor and commanded her to pick it up — a test of her dexterity.

    “How did you come here?” he asked her.

    “By bus,” she replied.

    Can you make a cup of tea? Can you get dressed?

    “I thought, ‘I’m physically disabled,’” she says. “‘Not mentally.’”

    When the letter came informing her that she was no longer entitled to her disability payment — that she had been deemed fit for work — she was not surprised.

    “They want you to be off of benefits,” she says. “I think they were just ticking boxes.”

    The political architecture of Britain insulates those imposing austerity from the wrath of those on the receiving end. London makes the aggregate cuts, while leaving to local politicians the messy work of allocating the pain.

    Spend a morning with the aggrieved residents of Prescot and one hears scant mention of London, or even austerity. People train their fury on the Knowsley Council, and especially on the man who was until recently its leader, Andy Moorhead. They accuse him of hastily concocting plans to sell Browns Field without community consultation.

    Mr. Moorhead, 62, seems an unlikely figure for the role of austerity villain. A career member of the Labour Party, he has the everyday bearing of a genial denizen of the corner pub.

    “I didn’t become a politician to take things off of people,” he says. “But you’ve got the reality to deal with.”

    The reality is that London is phasing out grants to local governments, forcing councils to live on housing and business taxes.

    “Austerity is here to stay,” says Jonathan Davies, director of the Center for Urban Research on Austerity at De Montfort University in Leicester, England. “What we might now see over the next two years is a wave of bankruptcies, like Detroit.”

    Indeed, the council of Northamptonshire, in the center of England, recently became the first local government in nearly two decades to meet that fate.

    Knowsley expects to spend $192 million in the next budget year, Mr. Moorhead says, with 60 percent of that absorbed by care for the elderly and services for children with health and developmental needs. An additional 18 percent will be spent on services the council must provide by law, such as garbage collection and highway maintenance.

    To Mr. Moorhead, the equation ends with the imperative to sell valuable land, yielding an endowment to protect remaining parks and services.

    “We’ve got to pursue development,” Mr. Moorhead says. “Locally, I’m the bad guy.”

    The real malefactors are the same as ever, he says.

    He points at a picture of Mrs. Thatcher on the wall behind him. He vents about London bankers, who left his people to clean up their mess.

    “No one should be doing this,” he says. “Not in the fifth-wealthiest country in the whole world. Sacking people, making people redundant, reducing our services for the vulnerable in our society. It’s the worst job in the world.”

    Now, it is someone else’s job. In early May, the local Labour Party ousted Mr. Moorhead as council leader amid mounting anger over the planned sale of parks.

  • CppCast Episode 147: C++ Patterns with Kevlin Henney
    http://isocpp.org/feeder/?FeederAction=clicked&feed=All+Posts&seed=http%3A%2F%2Fisocpp.org%2Fblog%2F2

    Episode 147 of CppCast the only podcast for C++ developers by C++ developers. In this episode Rob and Jason are joined by Kevlin Henney to discuss C++ Patterns and things every programmer should know.

    CppCast Episode 147: C++ Patterns with Kevlin Henney by Rob Irving and Jason Turner

    About the interviewee:

    Kevlin Henney is an independent consultant, speaker, writer and trainer. His development interests are in patterns, programming, practice and process. He has been a columnist for a number of magazines and sites, including C++ Report and C/C++ Users Journal, and has been on far too many committees (it has been said that “a committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled”), including the the BSI C++ panel and the ISO C++ standards (...)

    #News,Video&_On-Demand,

  • Israel-Gaza
    Natalie Portman says, Enough !

    Natalie Portman says, Enough !
    http://mondoweiss.net/2018/04/natalie-portman-enough

    The Gaza killings have hurt Israel’s image in the world, and tonight the damage got even bigger. In an astonishing move, the Israeli-American film star Natalie Portman, 36, informed an Israeli foundation she would not show up at the awards ceremony for Israel’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, because, as the JTA reports:

    The [Genesis] foundation said that Portman’s representative notified it that “[r]ecent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” and that “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.”

    The statement is surely a reference to Israel’s killing of nearly 40 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, which have shocked Jews around the world.

    The $1 million prize was announced last November. Tonight Hasbara Central is burning midnight oil to try and counter this stunning blow from a woman who was born in Israel, and has in the past spoken out in support of the Jewish state. In the highly-competitive world of media and film, we can only guess what kind of courage this move has taken, not to mention the potential family tensions with Israeli relatives.

    Portman has long resisted calls to boycott the state. She has been highly critical of Benjamin Netanyahu, decrying his racism, but insisted:

     “I feel like there’s some people who become prominent, and then it’s out in the foreign press. You know, shit on Israel,” Portman said. “I do not. I don’t want to do that.”

    She directed a film based on liberal Zionist hero Amos Oz’s Jerusalem memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness.

    And recently Portman has been outspoken about sexual harassment in Hollywood.

    This is a shock for all Israel supporters. Daniella Greenbaum, columnist at Business Insider:

    The Genesis Prize ceremony has just been cancelled because Natalie Portman, who was awarded the prize, has decided that recent events in Israel make her “uncomfortable participating in any public events in Israel.”

    this is ridiculous and a shanda and sad and someone with more of a following than me like @jpodhoretz or @bariweiss or @Yair_Rosenberg should tell the world

    Portman won an Oscar in 2011 for her role as a ballerina in Black Swan, and she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Jackie, a 2016 biopic about Jacqueline Kennedy. Her acting talent is unquestionable. We can only hope that she continues to get excellent roles, following this courageous act.

    Lately one of us wrote that Israel had lost American Jews with the killings of unarmed protesters. This is a sign that assertion is true.

    • Natalie Portman boycotte une cérémonie en son honneur
      Jeanne Poma.
      20/04/18 - 08h47 Source : Hollywood Reporter
      http://www.7sur7.be/7s7/fr/1527/People/article/detail/3413524/2018/04/20/Natalie-Portman-boycotte-une-ceremonie-en-son-honneur.dhtml ?

      L’actrice Natalie Portman était censée recevoir un prix par une fondation en Israël en novembre, pour saluer sa carrière. Elle a décidé d’annuler son voyage pour des raisons politiques.

      Le prix Genesis honore des personnalités remarquables « qui inspirent les autres par leur dévouement à la communauté juive et aux valeurs juives » mais la cérémonie a été annulée suite à l’annonce de l’actrice.

      « Mme. Portman est une actrice accomplie, une activiste engagée et un être humain merveilleux. Le personnel de la Fondation a aimé apprendre à la connaître au cours des six derniers mois, nous respectons son droit de désapprouver publiquement la politique du gouvernement d’Israël ».

      La Fondation a ajouté : « Nous sommes très attristés qu’elle ait décidé de ne pas assister à la Cérémonie du Prix Genesis à Jérusalem pour des raisons politiques et nous craignons que la décision de Mme Portman ne politise notre initiative philanthropique. »

      #BDS

    • L’actrice Natalie Portman boycotte une cérémonie en Israël
      Par RFI Publié le 20-04-2018
      Avec notre correspondant à Jérusalem, Guilhem Delteil
      http://www.rfi.fr/moyen-orient/20180420-natalie-portman-boycotte-israel-prix-genesis

      (...) Natalie Portman ne précise pas les événements qui la touchent ainsi, mais Israël est depuis trois semaines critiqué pour sa réponse à la « Grande marche du retour » organisée dans la bande de Gaza. Les tirs à balles réelles de l’armée ont fait plus de 35 morts.

      Natalie Portman avait déjà critiqué le Premier ministre israélien Benyamin Netanyahu, mais elle avait combattu des appels à boycotter son pays natal. La Fondation du Prix Genesis a fait part de son regret, mais assuré que l’actrice conservera sa récompense financière : deux millions de dollars qui devraient être redistribués, selon le souhait de Natalie Portman, à des associations militants pour le droit des femmes.

    • natalieportman
      https://www.instagram.com/p/BhzyyPWhnVf

      Instagram

      My decision not to attend the Genesis Prize ceremony has been mischaracterized by others. Let me speak for myself. I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony. By the same token, I am not part of the BDS movement and do not endorse it. Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation. I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance. Israel was created exactly 70 years ago as a haven for refugees from the Holocaust. But the mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power.
      Please do not take any words that do not come directly from me as my own.
      This experience has inspired me to support a number of charities in Israel. I will be announcing them soon, and I hope others will join me in supporting the great work they are doing.

  • Revealed: Israel ’struck advanced Iranian air-defense system’ in Syria - Israel News - Haaretz.com
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/israel-targeted-advanced-iranian-air-defense-system-in-syria-strike-1.60118

    The Israeli military targeted an advanced Iranian air-defense system at the T4 base in Syria last week and not just attack drone deployment, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
    The report noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the strike after conferring with U.S. President Donald Trump, in hopes of preventing Iran from using the anti-aircraft battery against Israeli jets carrying out strikes in Syria.

    Haaretz previously reported that the strike apparently targeted armaments aside from the drones, which could have reduce the Israel Air Force’s freedom of operation in Syrian airspace.
    Earlier this week, a senior Israeli military official admitted to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that Israel targeted T4, adding that “it was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets - both facilities and people.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, Iran began bolstering air defenses following an escalation triggered by Iran sending an armed drone into Israeli airspace that resulted in retaliatory Israeli strikes in Syria. An Israeli F-16 war plane that carried out airstrikes on the Syrian base was shot down during retaliatory strikes.

    The Israeli official told the New York Times that the incident “opened a new period,” adding that “this is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel - not by proxy.

  • The Left’s Embrace of Empire | The Nation
    https://www.thenation.com/article/the-lefts-embrace-of-empire

    Bret Stephens, arguably the most hawkish voice at The Wall Street Journal throughout the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies, now occupies an even more prominent perch at The New York Times. Bari Weiss, also formerly of the Journal, has also moved to the Times, despite a history of smearing Muslim and Arab professors. And Max Boot, yet another Journal veteran, has been rewarded with columnist status at The Washington Post for his intrepid defense of America’s wars. A similar pattern can be discerned across network television and public radio, where proponents of American hegemony—ranging from former Bush speechwriter David Frum to founder of The Weekly Standard Bill Kristol to editor in chief of The Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg to former US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and a daunting litany of national-security-state officials—are presented as wise sages.

    Since Trump was elected, both parties have backed massive increases to the military budget; the extension of Bush-era surveillance powers; sanctions on Russia, North Korea, and Iran; US strikes against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria; and provocations on Russia’s periphery, specifically in Ukraine, where weapons and other forms of military assistance continue to flow to a coalition government riddled with fascist sympathizers. Some of these policies, like sanctions on Russia and North Korea, are debatable. But debate has been absent, even in most marquee left outlets. The presumptions of empire are conceded at the outset. Either by unashamed affirmation or complicit silence, the mainstream American left has endorsed the latest restoration of the empire and the

  • The War on Yemen and the Credulous Western Embrace of Mohammed bin Salman | The American Conservative

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/the-war-on-yemen-and-the-credulous-western-embrace-of-moham

    David Ignatius ably writes down whatever Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) tells him in a new column. This is the only mention that the war on Yemen receives:

    He described ambitious plans to mobilize Yemeni tribes against the Houthis and their Iranian backers in Yemen, a war that has dragged on longer than the Saudis hoped.

    Whenever MbS is interviewed by Western reporters and pundits, the subject of Yemen comes up rarely and the countless crimes committed by the Saudis and their allies are never mentioned. It is bad enough that one of the architects of a disastrous war supported by our government is never forced to answer for the war crimes committed by his military and other coalition forces, but it is even worse when the interviewer makes no attempt to put the crown prince’s statements in context. Readers should know that MbS is responsible for a war that has plunged another country into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and they should be aware that the Saudi-led coalition has committed numerous war crimes by bombing civilian targets and inflicts cruel collective punishment on millions of people through its blockade. Given the paltry coverage that Yemen usually receives in the U.S., most of Ignatius’ readers probably don’t know this. If MbS’ interlocutors aren’t willing to challenge him about this directly, they ought to be bringing it up in whatever they end up writing about the conversation. The war on Yemen hasn’t just “dragged on longer than the Saudis hoped.” It has been a complete failure in achieving any of its stated goals, and that failure reflects very poorly on the unqualified, reckless defense minister (i.e., MbS) who has overseen the debacle.

    It is possible that there could be some news value in uncritically restating the things that a foreign leader says to you, but there doesn’t seem to be any of that here. MbS spins his power grabs and reckless foreign policy decisions to Ignatius, and the columnist gamely relays that spin to us. On the “anti-corruption putsch,” Ignatius tells us that MbS told him that “shock therapy” was required. The fact that MbS’s arbitrary shakedown has frightened foreign investors and undermined his own economic agenda goes unmentioned. We are later informed that the “crown prince said he had been unfairly criticized for pressuring Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign,” but of course he would say that.

    Treating Saudi royals with kid gloves is nothing new in American media, but I have been struck by how positive the coverage of Mohammed bin Salman has been when his record has been almost entirely destructive and destabilizing. Were he not the Saudi heir and already de facto ruler of a U.S. client state, he could not hope to buy the friendly coverage that he is freely given in a number of American publications. That would be embarrassing enough at any time, but when the authoritarian ruler in question is also presiding over one of the great crimes of the century it is inexcusable.

  • How De-Escalation Zones in Syria Became a War Management Strategy.
    https://www.newsdeeply.com/syria/articles/2018/02/06/how-de-escalation-zones-in-syria-became-a-war-management-strategy

    BEIRUT – Hundreds of civilians have been killed in attacks on so-called de-escalation zones in Syria in January, undermining a Russian-led agreement that world powers have touted as a step toward a comprehensive cease-fire in the country.

    While the de-escalation zones may have failed to reduce violence and protect civilians, analysts and experts argue that these were not the agreement’s main impetus. Recent developments have shown that the deal was instead designed as a war management strategy aimed at weakening the opposition, they say.

    “In the beginning, there was an illusion that this initiative to introduce de-escalation zones would help establish a comprehensive cease-fire,” said Anton Mardasov, a nonresident expert at the Russian International Affairs Council and columnist for Al-Monitor. “But after a few months it has become clear – this is all just a ploy to intensify military operations in [other parts] of Syria and imitate the desire for a political settlement.”

    The agreement, signed by Turkey, Russia and Iran in the Kazakh capital of Astana in May, was supposedly meant to reduce violence, protect civilians and ensure humanitarian access to besieged communities. Under the terms of the deal, the guarantors would refrain from carrying out attacks in protected areas, unless they were targeting the so-called Islamic State or the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which is dominated by al-Qaida’s former affiliate in Syria.

    The exact borders of the de-escalation zones remain unclear. However, they cover parts of Idlib, northern Hama, Eastern Ghouta and southern Syria. Those include some of the last remaining opposition enclaves, which led to skepticism early on that the deal was designed to help President Bashar al-Assad widen his control over the country.

    Despite early criticism, the four de-escalation areas witnessed a relative reduction in fighting in the months after the deal was signed, contributing to a narrative that the conflict was now winding down ahead of a political settlement.

  • What happened when a Jewish settler slapped an Israeli soldier - Opinion - Israel News | Haaretz.com

    https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.832939

    This slap didn’t lead the nightly news. This slap, which landed on the cheek of a Nahal soldier in Hebron, did not lead to an indictment. The assailant, who slapped a soldier who was trying to stop her from throwing stones, was taken in for questioning but released on bail the same day and allowed to return home.

    Prior to this incident, she had been convicted five times — for throwing rocks, for assaulting a police officer and for disorderly conduct, but was not jailed even once.

    In one instance, she was sentenced to probation, and in the rest to a month of community service and practically a token fine, as compensation to the injured parties. The accused systematically failed to heed summonses for questioning or for legal proceedings, but soldiers did not come to drag her out of bed in the middle of the night, nor were any of her relatives arrested. Aside from a brief report by Chaim Levinson about the incident, on July 2, 2010, there were hardly any repercussions to the slap and scratches inflicted by Yifat Alkobi on the face of a soldier who caught her hurling rocks a Palestinians.

    #israël #palestine #occupation #colonisation

    • The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit said at the time that the army “takes a grave view of any incidence of violence toward security forces,” and yet the assailant goes on living peacefully at home. The education minister didn’t demand that she sit in prison, social media have not exploded with calls for her to be raped or murdered, and columnist Ben Caspit didn’t recommend that she punished to the full extent of the law “in a dark place, without cameras.”

      Like Ahed Tamimi, Alkobi has been known for years to the military and police forces that surround her place of residence, and both are considered a nuisance and even a danger. The main difference between them is that Tamimi assaulted a soldier who was sent by a hostile government that does not recognize her existence, steals her land and kills and wounds her relatives, while Alkobi, a serial criminal, assaulted a soldier from her own people and her religion, who was sent by her nation to protect her, a nation in which she is a citizen with special privileges.

      Jewish violence against soldiers in the territories has been a matter of routine for years. But even when it seems like there’s no point asking that soldiers in the territories protect Palestinians from physical harassment and vandalism of their property by settlers, it’s hard to understand why the authorities continue to turn a blind eye, to cover up and close cases or not even open them, when the violators are Jews. There is plenty of evidence, some of it recorded on camera. And yet the offenders still sleep at home in their beds, emboldened by divine command and amply funded by organizations that receive state support.

      In the winter it’s nice to get warm and cozy under these double standards, but there’s one question that every Israeli should be asking himself: Tamimi and Alkobi committed the same offense. The punishment (or lack thereof) should be the same. If the choice is between freeing Tamimi or jailing Alkobi, which would you choose? Tamimi is to remain in custody for the duration of the proceedings — trial in a hostile military court — and is expected to receive a prison sentence. Alkobi, who was not prosecuted for this offense, and was tried in a civilian court for much more serious offenses, lived at home for the duration of the proceedings. She was represented by a lawyer who did not have to wait at a checkpoint in order to serve his client and her only punishment was community service.

      The Likud and Habayit Hayehudi cabinet ministers have no reason to rush to pass a law that would apply Israeli law in the territories. Even without it, the only thing that matters is if you were born Jewish. Everything else is irrelevant.

  • 5 Questions on Data & Justice with Cathy O’Neil – Catherine D’Ignazio – Medium

    https://medium.com/@kanarinka/5-questions-on-data-justice-with-cathy-oneil-87f42355ce55

    Cathy O’Neil is a data scientist, blogger, contributing columnist at Bloomberg, and author of the recent book Weapons of Math Destruction. She is an eloquent and urgent voice on the inequality present in algorithms, particularly those that use big data to sort people into categories (like “Good teacher/Bad teacher”, “Consider for hiring/Don’t consider for hiring”, “High risk for reoffending/Low risk for reoffending”). These kinds of decisions have real, material consequences for people’s lives. And while the automated systems that drive them may have the appearance of neutrality, they are often using inputs like zip code or last name that are proxies for race and ethnicity. The risk, for individuals and society more broadly, is that computational decision-making risks re-encoding structural inequalities around race, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. “Garbage in, Garbage out,” as they say in programming. Or, put more bluntly, “Racism in, Racism out.”

    #justice _sociale #réseaux