Gaydamak’s reaction to the familia’s blatant racism is the claim that he invited the Chechen players, not because of their soccer skills, but to “show this society (Israel) as it really is.”Read More
Review of The Brink
Steve Bannon may well be, as he is often called, the ‘architect of evil.’ But Alison Klayman’s mystifying documentary, The Brink, which sets out to “[use] Bannon’s own words and behaviors to reveal his hypocrisy and expose the danger he poses to liberal democracy” fails to show Bannon as hypocritical or dangerous.
The film’s opens begins with Bannon talking about a journey he made to World War II’s concentration camps. He notes that the Birkenau concentration camp was built using the finest of German engineering and wonders how ordinary Germans could get together and plan such a site. Perhaps Klayman felt that she couldn’t cut this otherwise disconnected scene because it showed Bannon to be an anti Semite, although he was simply musing about how a concentration camp came to be built. Is any question about any aspect of the Holocaust verboten? Apparently so, The Forward interprets Bannon’s remarks as: “rhapsodiz[ing] about the precise engineering of one of the most evil thing humans have ever created, the Birkenau extermination camp.”
Instead, of engaging with Bannon’s avowedly nationalist politics, much of the film is devoted to a fly-on-the-wall view of Bannon’s daily routine. Bannon eats and drinks (a combination of Red Bull and a disgusting mess of green ‘diet’ juice), speaks at rallies, poses for photos, meets with nationalist leaders in Europe, touts his propaganda movie, and texts and talks endlessly on the phone: so much film time is devoted to the quotidian aspects of Bannon’s life that the shrewd and divisive political operative is reduced to boring.
Klayman attempts to score a point by asking Bannon where he is, so that she can report that he is on an airfield for private planes. Is Bannon’s not particularly luxurious private plane, filled with his allies and journalists really relevant to the larger debate?
The film follows Bannon to Toronto where he appears for a formal debate with David From on the proposition that the “future of western politics is populist, not liberal.” This is finally the real debate. Is it ‘country first’ or do we have a responsibility to all without regard to borders? The debate can be found here (the first 10 minutes of chatter can be skipped): the exchange between two articulate men whose views are antithetical to each other is well worth the time. Tellingly, The Brink does not show the debate, instead we see the effects that Bannon’s presence evokes. The protests outside the debate are portrayed as huge and scary, inside Bannon gently confronts hecklers, whose poor behavior he comically attributes to an ‘ex-wife.’ That’s it. The Brink apparently feels no need to counter Bannon’s views or even better, simply show From’s effective dissent.
When the film does allow Bannon to articulate his thesis, it is in a brief scene in which Bannon is speaking to a rally. In it, Bannon states that the benefits of citizenship should be distributed only to citizens, without regard to race, religion or sexual preference. This is the core of the populist nationalist movement that helped elect Donald Trump and has scored victories in Britain, France, Belgium and Sweden. Bannon’s current project is to knit together like-minded counter globalists from Europe and the United States.
The Brink’s opposition to nationalist populism is left to Guardian reporter Paul Lewis who accuses Bannon of using “anti-Semitic tropes,” then interrupts Bannon’s denial. Bannon insists that there’s nothing nefarious about using the term “globalist” or criticizing George Soros for the NGOs he funds. Vogue claims Bannon uses the term globalist “with a wink and a nod…as a stand-in for Jews.” Bannon’s movement is opposed to globalism. Is there a non anti Semitic way to oppose globalism?
Just in case anyone failed to understand the intended message, the film ends with a stirring homage to the current crop of new representatives with the background picture of Washington, DC lit in rainbow hues. Apparently, a diverse group of new congressmen and women is a refutation of Bannon and what he stands for, too bad that The Brink fails to explain why that may be so.
By Eve Mykytyn
Naomi Klein’s piece “Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh and the Rule of Pampered Princelings,” is a thoughtful consideration of how the children of the moneyed classes propagate the ‘self made’ myth in which individual effort is lionized. In this fiction, government ‘interference’ is the enemy, and, as Klein points out, those with a lifetime of safety deride the frail safety net society allows to others. She notes that although these ‘princelings’ may include the less privileged in their rhetoric, they propagate social policies of low taxes and fewer regulations that primarily benefit the very rich.
Klein asks, “But what must it take to pour large parts of a fortune that came to you by accident of birth into a relentless campaign of further affirmative action for the rich?” Klein’s answer is that the rich attribute their riches to what Trump has called, ‘good genes,’ the corollary of which is that those without must have ‘bad genes’ and deserve their fate as ‘losers.’
To Klein, this is the basis of Trump’s bargain: native born whites, although they lack Trump’s wealth, are invited to celebrate “their own, albeit more modest, birthright entitlements as white, middle-class Americans,” and their entitlements as white citizens of a “Christian patriarchal nation.” This is where my disagreements with Klein begin.
Some of Trump’s supporters may well like to identify with (or would like to possess) Trump’s wealth. But whether or not the US is a ‘Christian patriarchal nation,’ I don’t see the evidence that Trump’s support comes from people who would like to see it as such.
First, it is unfair to put all of Trump’s supporters in one barrel. Trump won a majority of votes from all white Americans of every education level. Interestingly, while analysis of votes is broken down by race, education and income, there was no category that includes both race and income. Or to the point, we have little direct data on how whites who enjoy little of the vestiges of ‘white privilege’ voted. An analysis in Medium divides the US by region and finds Trump’s strongest support in the US’s poorest and perhaps whitest regions, Appalachia and southern Louisiana, which he won by 22% and 25% respectively. So the data we do have does not support Klein’s assertion that Trump’s voters support him to protect their white privilege; in fact, it seems that his strongest support comes from whites who have few, if any, privileges.
A glance at any Trump rally shows large numbers of women, does Ms Klein believe all these women want a patriarchy? And, according to Money magazine, women inherit 70% of the assets passed down in the United States and own more then 50% of investable assets. Not much of a patriarchy.
Further, the claim of Trump’s voters as holding on to a Christian nation seems purely speculative. While Jews voted overwhelmingly for Clinton, Orthodox Jews supported Trump by a margin of 29%. The Orthodox would seem to have little interest in preserving the United States as a Christian Nation.
If, as Klein claims, the United States has always been the province and protector of ‘propertied white men,’ wealth is no longer solely in the hands of men or of Christians.
The exclusive classes contain a large number of self-identified Jews. A Jewish newsletter counted 139 of the Forbes top 400 (richest) as Jewish. Despite the so called dog whistling (apparently heard primarily by Jews who found anti Semitic content in Trump lambasting the non Jewish Koch brothers) Trump as president has not been anti Semitic. Far from it. Trump has duly rewarded his Jewish benefactors, and has sicced his Zionist son in law on the Middle East. His appointments have contained so many of the mostly Jewish Goldman Sachs once and future anointed that Goldman’s chair, Lloyd Blankfein stated that having so many Goldman people in the Trump administration made him “a little apprehensive about it because for fear of how it might look.”
Klein’s complaint that Trump has posited himself falsely as a self made man is legitimate. His response that the New York Times’ report on the source of his wealth as being largely his family’s money was that the report was ‘boring.’ This is hardly a repudiation. But the wealth of Trump and other scions of the very wealthy will not enure to the non college educated whites who largely supported Trump.
If Klein’s goal is a change in the administration, her goal might be better served by finding a way to appeal to Trump’s voters rather than smearing them with condescending and unproven shibboleths.
‘Fire and Fury’ is an entertaining read. Wolff’s rendition of palace intrigue and various goings on has been widely parsed and many have weighed in on the likely accuracy of Wolff’s account. The problem with ‘Fire and Fury’ is that, like much of the media, the book fails to distinguish between insults, annoyances and short term pain and what will be the very real and harmful legacy of the Trump presidency.
One of the many ridiculed claims Trump has made is that he has accomplished more in his first year than any other president.The claim is, of course wrong if measured by legislation passed, but Trump has frequently bypassed the legislative branch and has governed by executive order. Unlike Wolff, who portrays Trump as a doddering fool, I find Trump’s claim credible.
Here are just a few of Trump’s achievements that will have a negative impact for years to come.
In the largest giveaway of federally protected land ever, Trump has opened up over 2 million acres of federal land to exploitation and possible ruin in Utah alone. His move was so unpopular in Utah that some speculate it is the reason Utah Senator Orrin Hatch has announced he will not be seeking reelection.
Trump has declared all coastline other than the North Aleutian Basin (protected by President Bush) open to oil and gas drilling. The potential harm of this has been compounded by Congress’ lifting of safety regulations put in place after the Deepwater Horizon Spill. Congress also voted, as part of the tax bill, to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. As an additional insult, Trump has rescinded the rule that added regulations for fracking on federal and tribal lands. Trump’s contempt for environmental concerns (he is nonbeliever in climate change) has completely altered the regulatory balance in the oil and gas industry.
It is worth remembering here that the much-vilified President Nixon enacted the environmental protection act.
In a tax act that is almost as deceptive as Trump himself, and which Fortune magazine called ‘the biggest wealth grab in modern history,” Trump and the Republican Congress lowered taxes dramatically for the upper echelons of the 1% whose income comes from investment. Although the overall tax rate saw a modest decrease, those in high tax states will be hurt by the corresponding end to deductions for state and local taxes. This change in deductibility does not apply to corporations or to those wealthy enough to hide their income in corporations. The tax cut will net about $900 for those earning between $49,000 and $86,000. The majority of taxpayers with incomes of less than $49,000 will save an average of $60. The new tax avoidance mechanisms are open only to the wealthiest.
Under the new tax bill, many pass through corporations (LLCs to mean here LLCs and similar pass through corporations) at the new low corporate rate. Until now, LLCs were formed for non tax reasons. Owners of LLCs were taxed on the income of the LLC as ordinary income. The new tax bill’s rate on ordinary income goes up to 39% for income over $500,000. The new corporate rate is 21%. LLCs whose income comes from the owner’s work such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, etc. will get a small and quite complicated deduction, but are basically taxed at the higher individual rate. But those whose income is from buying and selling investments can take advantage of the new corporate rate. That means on $100 of income, working people will pay between $25 and $39 in federal tax. Investors like President Trump who can best afford more, will pay only $ 21 on the same $100 of income. (As an aside, LLCs, whose owners work for a living are not permitted to declare bankruptcy in their corporations, as Trump has so often done.)
There are other benefits for those who reside in the upper reaches of the 1%, such as lowered dividend tax rates, an extremely high threshold ($11 million) before estate tax is imposed and favorable long term capital gains rates.
Also note that the IRS has sharply reduced audits due to budget cuts arranged by Trump. Taxpayers who make an error in matching their 1099s or W4s to their returns will still be audited since this is matched up by computer, but there has been a large reduction in the number of examiners able to examine a complicated tax return.
3. Federal Judges
Federal judges are granted lifetime tenure to shield them from political pressures and have had, as compared to the other branches of government, very few scandals. Leonard Lee, an officer of the Federalist Society, who has been deeply involved in Trump’s picks for judicial nominations boasted last year that he would make, “the courts unrecognizable.” In that, the little-known Mr. Lee has achieved remarkable success. Partly by chance and partly because the Republican Congress refused to act on any of Obama’s nominations in his last year in office, Trump will be filing more judgeships than any president has before him. Trump’s picks of conservative judges would be expected, but he has gone beyond conservatism and has primarily selected men who are ideologues, including Thomas Farr the go-to lawyer for challenging African American voters and Gregory Katsas who advocates expansive powers for the executive branch, has provided legal advice to Trump and who, as judge in the DC Court of Appeals, could hear cases involving Trump’s administration. Two of Trump’s worst nominees had never tried a case before a judge and even the triumphant tea party Republicans refused to approve them.
It is in his reporting on the Trump administration’s treatment of the Israel/ Palestine conflict that Wolff’s book is at its weakest. Wolff depicts Kushner as an unwilling dupe forced to deal with the peace process essentially because he is Jewish. I have no more idea of Kushner’s motivations than Wolff does, but Kushner and his partner in negotiations, Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, have each in the past supported the right wing settler movement in Israel. In addition, just before Kushner left for Israel to negotiate peace, Kushner’s family’s business received a $30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim, a prominent Israeli firm.
And the outcome of these negotiations? Well, Trump unnecessarily declared that he would move the US Embassy to the divided and disputed city of Jerusalem.
Trump’s declaration in itself may not have had any serious effect. No one really considered the US to be a neutral mediator of any peace process.The harm of Trump’s Jerusalem declaration is that it has widely and likely accurately been seen as support for the further expansion of Israel and the denigration of Palestinian rights.
So whether or not Trump’s declaration was a catalyst, Israel has had the support of the US as it moves with ever increasing harshness to take land from the Palestinians and the Beduins. Gone is any pretense that its rapidly expanding settlement movement does not have the full support of Israel’s government.
5 Racism and intolerance
‘Fire and Fury’ does not, except in passing, address the number of times Trump has attacked a black, a hispanic or a woman in a vicious and prejudiced way. His go to philosophy encourages racism and divisiveness. Suppose that Trump had refrained from calling players ‘sons of bitches’ and advocating that they be fired and instead had said something like, “We have a problem. The police seem to feel under threat and too often shoot especially black men for what may be insufficient cause. When you take a knee some see it as disrespecting our military. What can we do to address this problem?” Such a statement or one like it gives nothing away, but does not frame the issue as black disrespect vs white uncaring.
Why work to inflame already edgy racial divisions? Trump plays to his perceived base by portraying himself as a member of the working class, one who might have joined the military or the police force. In fact, Trump has never been anything but rich and often failed to pay the workers in his business ventures.
One can only hope that Trump is not an accurate reflection of the United States and that we can, as soon as possible, work to change the harms he has inflicted.
Monique Jaques’ new book, Gaza Girls, Growing up in the Gaza Strip, is a study of young women living and often thriving in the difficult conditions that are present day Gaza. Jaques is a news photographer based in Turkey, who has covered the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq and West Africa. Her work has appeared in many news outlets, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
In 2004, Jaques documented the eight day war between Hamas and Israel. While covering the war, she became curious about the everyday life of girls growing up in Gaza. As Jaques writes, “Gaza is a troubled land— a 45-square-mile district, isolated by towering concrete blast walls, reams of barbed wire and foreign soldiers who patrol its perimeters.
After years of blockades and travel restrictions, the territory is shut off from the rest of the world. At night the never-ending buzz of drones lull you into a light sleep under their watchful din. If you stand on the beach you can see lights coming from Israel — a land that you will never be able to touch. Boundaries and surveillance define your existence and growing up there isn't easy.”
But there is still the experience of growing up. “Like many peers around the world, these girls are figuring out who they are in a world built by grown-ups. Navigating girlhood is universal, even if the circumstances are not.”
Her experience as a war time photographer shows in her pictures. You can’t help but examine each picture carefully; Jaques has made each picture a story in itself. She shows moments of joy, and moments of girlhood; girls sitting on beds sharing secrets. We stare in wonder at the girls on surfboards, what are they doing out there?
There is a girl on horseback, and one singing in a music studio. Some of the older women portrayed are medical students and police officers (albeit in traditional covered dress), but there is a telling photo of a bride dressed in white, and totally covered from head to toe. We cannot see the woman that this bride is. A young girl stands next to her staring off in the distance. We are left to wonder if this is a modern society or a traditional one?
The book is not intended as a political statement. Still, any portrayal of Gaza raises political questions, at least in the mind of the viewer. Too many pictures portray children sitting in the dark because there is no electricity. We see girls in bomb shelters and girls attending weekly protests against the partition of Gaza and the West Bank. We fear a little for the girl in the boat. What will happen if she strays too far from shore? We are forced to wonder, what will happen to these beautiful young girls?
Thomas Surez’s “State of Terror” is a meticulously documented history of Zionism from its early stages in Israel until 1956. It is the story ofhow a number of secular Jews successfully installed a religious state located on the land of another nation.
The established myth is that after centuries of antisemitism culminating in the Holocaust, the Jews ‘deserved’ Israel, the ‘land without a people for people without a land.’ Historical accounts often deepen and are refined with time and study. Suarez’s book (along with a few others such as Alison Weir’s “Against Our Better Judgement”) convincingly refutes the generally accepted history entirely.
Suarez points out that in 1897 an early Zionist cabled the news to his coconspirators that Palestine was already densely populated. What followed was a terrorist conspiracy to take that land that is shocking in its scope and violence.
Starting around 1918, in what is now Israel, the Irgun, the Lehi (Stern Gang) the Hagana and the Jewish Agency operated at various times as competing and cooperating gangs of thugs. They raised money by robbery and extortion, extracting ‘tributes’ from local businesses, bombing those who failed to pay. The Zionist gangs assassinated Palestinians, police, the British, and Jews whose opinions diverged from theirs.
The war did not temper their violence. When the British consolidated three boats of refugees onto the ship Patria in Haifa with the intention of taking them to a displaced persons camp in Mauritus, the Hagana bombed the ship of refugees. Over 267 people died, among them 200 Jews. Zionists spun the story as a reenactment of the biblical story of Masada, claiming that the passengers of the Patria heroically committed mass suicide by bombing their own ship when they failed to reach Israel.
During and after World War II, the Zionists demanded with remarkable if not complete success that Jews be segregated from other soldiers and then segregated within displaced persons camps. Suarez cites pro-Zionist Churchill’s discomfort with such segregation, Churchill wrote that nearly every race in Europe had been shipped to concentration camps and “there appears to be very little difference in the amount of torture they endured.” (page 120). Jews who wanted to stay in their home lands or who successfully negotiated the resettlement of European Jews anywhere but Israel were denounced and thwarted.
How did the Zionists succeed in insisting that they spoke for all Jews when it is clear that they did not? What gave them the right, as murderers of Jewish refugees, to speak for displaced Jews after the war?
Zionists consistently claimed to speak for all Jews. No wonder the Zionists insisted on the use of Hebrew (a number of early German and Yiddish language newspapers were bombed). Suarez points out that the settlers spoke the language of the biblical era because they claimed to be its people (page 25). Ben Gurianclaimed that the “Bible is our mandate.”
Israeli’s official birth in 1948 purged a million Palestinians and destroyed 400 of their villages. The UN had established Israel’s borders, but Israel already stretched beyond the borders and claimed sovereignty over all the land it held. Both England and the United States knew that Israel would not give back any land. Reuven Shiloah, thefirst director of the Mossad, not only told them so but declared Israel’s right to take more land as necessary (page 277).
Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and assets was not simply a result of claiming land Israel was granted by the UN. Suarez makes the point that: “economic analysis… illustrates that the Israeli state owes its very existence to its wholesale theft of Palestinians’ worldly possessions… Despite the massive infusion of foreign capital into Israel and its claims of modern efficiency, it was the end of the Palestinians [assets] that saved the Israeli state from stillbirth” (page 288).
Israel’s treatment of its Palestinian benefactors after 1948 was atrocious. It is painful to read through Suarez’s partial listing of atrocities: rape, torture, murder and robbery. Arab villages, Christian and Muslim, friendly and not, were destroyed. In one instance, Arab villagers were murdered by being forced to stay in their homes as they were bombed. (page 309).
At the time, Israel itself was the site of “alarming proportions” of murder, rape and robbery within its own citizenship. One Israeli speculated that this arose from a “general and contemptuous disregard for law” (page 298). A British report stated: “intolerance explodes into violence with appalling ease in Israel.”
Israel reached into Iraq (with false flag operations against Iraqi Jews to prompt immigration) and into North Africa to obtain citizens for its new settler state. The Iraqi and North African Jews were kept in miserable conditions until they were deployed as place holders to live on newly acquired land.
In 1954 Israelis planted bombs in Egypt in a false flag operation intended to convey that Egypt was unstable. When the plan was exposed in 1955, the United States and the United Kingdom considered military action against Israel to stop its murderous seizure of land. In a cold war series of events detailed by Suarez, France and England ended up siding with Israel againstEgypt in the Suez Crisis, ending any chance that England and the United States wouldconduct any action against Israel.
So far in his book Suarez has delivered a careful, albeit painful, history.
And then Suarez delivers his indictment, “with the conclusion of Suez,… Israel had fully established its techniques of expansion and racial cleansing that continue to serve it today: its maintenance of an existential threat, both as a natural consequence of its aggression and of provocation for the purpose; its expropriation and squandering of the moral weight of historic anti-Semitism and the Holocaust; its dehumanization of the Palestinians; its presence as the prophet-state of the Jews; and its seduction of its Jewish population with the perks of blood privilege.”
Recollection- Aljafari’s mesmerizing film, is the dream of a cameraman, recapturing the city he loves. The dream veers from transcendental to nightmarish as the beautiful old buildings morph into concrete monstrosities.
Carts become wildly veering cars, and plows become bulldozers. But none of this happens sequentially; we see the city and its changes as a dreamer does, in flashes without obvious narrative and in an order that is sporadic rather than chronological. In his description of his film, Aljafari writes, “As in a dream, the search for answers cannot provide any.” http://kamalaljafari.com/films/ In making this film, Aljafari has perhaps not provided answers, but his art is deeply political in the felt but inarticulatable way that great art exists.
Many of us look at the cities of our childhood and note the changes with varying degrees of disapproval. Mr. Aljafari has been deprived of commenting on the gradual passage of time on place because he is from Jaffa and the Jaffa of his childhood is gone.
The 1945 the Palestinian population of Jaffa (excluding outlying areas) is generally thought to be about 80,000. After the city was crushed by the Zionist military, the Palestinian population was reduced to about 4,000. These former residents were initially detained in the area of Al-Ajami behind barbed wire fences.
When future Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (whom Aljafari cheerfully erased from one of the Israeli films) learned that Jaffa had fallen, he wrote in his diary: "Jaffa will be a Jewish city. War is war." Israelis then moved into the ‘abandoned’ homes on a first-come, first possess basis. Although I couldn’t find similar statistics on Jaffa: Palestinian bank accounts in Haifa containing 1.5 billion Palestinian pounds were seized by Israel. http://www.wrmea.org/1994-april-may/arab-jaffa-seized-before-israel-s-creation-in-1948.html
Recollection was made from over 60 Israeli films of the 1960s through 1990s. Mr. Aljafari went through a process of digitalizing the films and then carefully erasing the Israeli actors, in a sense doing to them what was done to the Palestinians in these films. The resulting thousands of digital photos were colored in or reshot from the edges to recreate the Jaffa that surrounded the films.
But Aljafari found that the Israelis were not wholly successful in their attempts to erase the Palestinians. Once he removed the Israeli actors, Aljafari found some Palestinians, including his uncle. In the credits he identifies a number of the vaguely seen Palestinians. The views of these blurred figures become the witnesses of the film.
Why did Israel make so many films in Jaffa and not in its more cosmopolitan neighbor Tel Aviv? Aljafari speculates that, “Film needed Jaffa to make the point that Israelis have a history there too. But they could only show it as they left it: ruined, neglected, abandoned, destroyed - and with not a word on how or why it came to be that way.” http://kamalaljafari.com/films/
Devastating, not only did Israel appropriate the country of its imagination, it portrayed the destruction of its former cultural center as a ruin of its own past.
Oriented is a documentary that allows its protagonists to speak for themselves. The film is an extended conversation focusing on three gay male Palestinians living in Tel Aviv.
Khadar is the scion of a prominent Palestinian family, Fadi is a Palestinian nationalist and Naim struggles with how to tell his family about his sexuality. Khadar and Fadi both have Jewish boyfriends, but all three struggle with the notion that the dominant Jewish Israeli society does not consider them fully citizens.
The three main characters and their friends joke about a Sephardic Jew who is a ‘second class’ citizen, and they acknowledge that Israel is to some extent a melting pot of citizens from all over the world yet there is a poignant awareness that to be Palestinian is different than to be Sephardic.
The film was made before last summer’s attack on Gaza, and the growing political tensions remind the men that in a time of war, they are considered the ‘enemy.’
Palestinian society does not make coming out easy. Although all three men are certain of their sexuality, they are not wholly comfortable as Palestinians. In a mythical future Palestinian State, they worry they will not be welcome.
Why can’t they wholeheartedly join the gay-tolerant culture of Tel Aviv? Well, they are not Jews and they are aware that they will never be fully accepted in Israel. They form a group called ‘Qambuta’ to fight gender and racial stereotypes.
Many of us look forward to a day when such identities are no longer necessary. Oriented was directed by Jake Witzenfeld. Many thanks to David Graver and Cool Hunting for hosting the film.