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Political upheaval over Tlaib and Omar's denial of entry to Israel demonstrates the power of BDS

Representative Rashida Tlaib (L) and Representative Ilhan Omar

Representative Rashida Tlaib (L) and Representative Ilhan Omar
We are in the middle of a political upheaval on Israel/Palestine in the United States, and Americans who are concerned with Palestinian human rights live for these moments. They are the moments of potential change: When more tarnish is added to Israel's image, and Americans get a clearer picture of what the Jewish state actually means for non-Jews under its sovereignty.

Since I've been covering the issue there have been several such moments. The Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008-09. The Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014. Netanyahu's showdowns with Obama over settlements, the Iran deal (2011, 2015). The move of the embassy last year with Israel's slaughter of some 60 nonviolent protesters at the Gaza fence.

Most of these moments have involved a lot of bloodshed. Palestine had to have a lot of martyrs for anyone over here to even start paying attention. 2200 Palestinians died five years ago over 500 of them children. Hundreds of brave Gazan protesters have died over the last year (with four NY Times columnists approving their killings).

This latest moment has been absolutely nonviolent. Two congresswomen tried to get into Palestine to meet with human rights groups and Palestinian leaders and see the occupation for themselves. They were barred by Israel because they support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, or BDS.

Comment: And traditionally "pro-Israel" sites like The Hill are seeing this blunder by Israel in quite a similar way:
The decision to deny Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) entry into Israel may be one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worst strategic mistakes in recent times.

Whatever points he scored with President Trump, whatever damage he believes would be prevented by barring the lawmakers' visit, it pales in comparison to the damage this decision causes to Israel's campaign against its delegitmization. The decision to reverse the ban on Tlaib on "humanitarian grounds" does little to undo the damage, especially since Tlaib rejected the offer. Tlaib cited Israel's "oppressive conditions" of travel as her reasoning, which became the headline of the day. Israel played right into her hands.

Since the early 2000s, Israel has faced a concerted campaign of delegitimization against it, led by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). As part of Israel's response to the BDS, it amended its entry law to allow the government to refuse entry to BDS supporters. This law was invoked to bar Tlaib and Omar's visit. The congresswomen have openly supported BDS and Tlaib announced her intention of leading a delegation to the West Bank to counter the narrative produced by pro-Israel groups such as AIPAC. But even AIPAC criticized the decision to deny Tlaib and Omar's entry.

This was an extraordinary move on the part of the Israeli government, but it is not the first time it has fumbled the response to BDS. Just last summer, it detained liberal Jewish-American journalist Peter Beinart when he attempted to enter the country on a personal visit. Soon after, it refused entry to American student Lara Alqasem, despite her receiving a visa to study in Israel, on the claim that she had been a leader in her university's chapter of Students For Justice in Palestine (SJP).

The Alqasem case received wide coverage in Western media. Even conservative supporters of Israel, questioned the decision. What was not reported as widely was that in her 16 days of detainment, Alqasem was afforded access to three levels of the judicial system, all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court, which reversed the order and granted her entry. Alqasem is now a student at Jerusalem University. That part of the narrative was lost in the kerfuffle of Israel's overreaction.

Delegitimization is and should be treated as a threat to Israel. It presents a serious challenge to Israel's ability to maintain its Jewish character, which is increasingly viewed as incompatible with the modern values of the international society. Though the BDS movement has had little success in hurting Israel's economy or diplomatic relations with political elites, it has made considerable strides at the grassroots level, with civil society, on campuses, labor unions and churches.

As a 2016 Pew Research survey indicates, American millennials, including Jews, are far less sympathetic towards Israel than their older counterparts. In certain progressive, and some liberal spaces, Israel is becoming a pariah state.

If Israel hopes to successfully defeat the delegitimization campaign, it must avoid at all cost illiberal, largely ceremonial actions that serve little to enhance its security. Barring American students and lawmakers, even those most critical of Israel, represents a short-sighted and misguided approach to addressing the challenge. In many ways, Israel is contributing to the very threat it seeks to thwart.

Instead, Israel should have opened its doors to them. Demonstrating that it has nothing to hide. Perhaps Tlaib and Omar would have refused to meet with Israelis while on their trip, perhaps they would have met with Israeli groups that are strong critics of the government — and this would have highlighted Israel's openness to criticism. Perhaps they would have also met with Israeli and Palestinian victims of political violence. We will never know.

All that is left is the image of Israel as an oppressive state, one that does Trump's bidding, thereby alienating the very liberal audiences that Israel must win over if it hopes to defeat the delegitimziation campaign against it. With this decision, Netanyahu has done more to undermine Israeli security than the visit by Tlaib and Omar could have.

Ronnie Olesker is an associate professor of government at St. Lawrence University. Her upcoming article, "Delegitmization as a National Security Threat: Israel and BDS" will be featured in the fall issue of Israel Studies Review Journal.
But, alas, Israel does have a lot to hide.


Trump wants Google sued as tech company 'manipulated up to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 election'

Trump Clinton
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election in which she was running as a Democratic candidate.

US President Donald Trump has stated that Google should be sued based on a report about the alleged manipulation of millions of votes in favour of Hillary Clinton in 2016. Trump did not cite the report to support his accusation but referred to the watchdog group Judicial Watch in his tweet.

Comment: Doing evil Google isn't stopping with the 2016 US Presidential election either:

Snakes in Suits

Bojo rejects Corbyn's call to end MPs' holiday early to deal with looming No Deal Brexit

© Downing Street/PA
The chances of No Deal Brexit have been ramping up after Boris Johnson said he would leave "do or die" on October 31
Boris Johnson has slapped down Labour's call to cut short MPs' summer holiday in "the next few days" to sort out Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn, and his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, backed more than 100 MPs' plea to recall Parliament after a leaked report showed the chaos of a No Deal Brexit .

The Operation Yellowhammer briefing said petrol and medical supplies could be disrupted and up to 85% of lorries using Channel ports may not be ready for French customs checks. It added 15,000 workers who cross daily from Spain to Gibraltar face delays of more than four hours "at least for a few months".

Comment: RT reports that while Tory remainers and those of the minority parties may be eager to avoid a no-deal Brexit, they're still not willing to back Labour's Corbyn as a temporary PM:
'Britain's Trump': Corbyn slams BoJo and 'reckless' govt, warns of 'disastrous' no-deal Brexit

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has attacked PM Boris Johnson for being a "phoney outsider" and cosying up to US President Donald Trump, in a speech that warned of a grim no-deal Brexit scenario.

Speaking at a children's centre in Corby, Northamptonshire on Monday, Corbyn reaffirmed his intention to table a vote of no-confidence in Johnson's government when MPs reconvene in parliament after the summer holiday period.

In what was ostensibly a pre-election pitch to voters, the socialist leader criticized Johnson's apparent cosying up to Trump ahead of a possible hard Brexit, accusing the Tory PM of siding with right-wing wealthy elites.

"Tories have lurched to the hard right under Boris Johnson, Britain's Trump, the fake populist and phoney outsider... committed to protecting vested interests of the richest and the elites, while posing as anti-establishment."

Corbyn also laid down the gauntlet to MPs in parliament who claim to want to avoid the UK leaving the EU without a deal on October 31. A number of pro-remain Tories, as well as Liberal Democrats led by Jo Swinson, have so far failed to back Corbyn as a temporary PM in order to prevent a no-deal exit.

"If MPs are serious about stopping a no-deal crash out, then they will vote down this reckless government," Corbyn told the audience, adding that, constitutionally, it falls on the biggest opposition party to form a minority administration in those circumstances.
See also: Coralling Trump and BoJo: US Senators threaten to block trade deal with Britain if Brexit imperils open Irish border

Light Sabers

Is Hong Kong's showdown with Beijing inevitable?

Hong Kong protest
© Treefong
Demonstration in Hong Kong against the extradition bill. (Hf9631, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)
This reckoning with Beijing's authority was baked into the cake 22 years ago when the Union Jack came down over Government House.

It is impossible not to admire the bravery and commitment pro-democracy demonstrators display daily as they clog Hong Kong streets, shut down its airport, and disrupt the territory's beating heart in Central, the commercial and financial district. But neither can one deny the tragic fate that appears near as Beijing stiffens its resolve and signals the threat of military intervention.

The futility of all action, the necessity of any: Maybe those protestors building barricades and hurling Molotov cocktails at tear-gassing riot police are reading Camus in their off-hours.

Comment: Reading Camus in their off-hours in no way endears them to us. All we see are British-flag waving, US anthem-singing deluded rich kids.

There is no question of Chinese President Xi Jinping compromising Beijing's authority to mollify those now in their third month of protests across Hong Kong. He is too firm a believer in the primacy of the Chinese Communist Party to entertain any such risk. But there is too much at stake for the Chinese president to order mainland troops or police units into the territory short of a decisive challenge to the local administration's ability to govern. This accounts for Beijing's restraint over the past 10 weeks.

Comment: Or... Beijing's giving them all the rope they need to hang themselves. Western pundits have really poor grasp of Chinese leadership.

The best outcome in prospect now — and the chances of this appear slim at the moment — is that Xi will authorize influential political allies in Hong Kong to frame a set of reforms sufficient to isolate demonstrators by eliminating the broad public support they have to date enjoyed. In any other resolution of this crisis, the democracy advocates in the streets stand to lose everything. Even as they number in the hundreds of thousands, they are simply no match against a government intent on centralized control over a nation of 1.4 billion.

Comment: So, if HK is to fully become part of China by 2047 anyway, what the heck is the point of all this posturing about establishing a separate state there??

Obviously, it's not coincidental that protest movements have erupted in Russia and China at the same time: the Empire is pulling out all the stops to thwart their efforts to create an alternative system of world government.

If this is not up and running by the time the Western Order collapses, there's going to be a crisis unlike any the world has ever seen.


All along the watchtower and the follies of history

Bayon Temple
© Bruno Morandi, Robert Harding Heritage/AFP
Bayon temple, Angkor World Heritage site in Siem Reap, northern Cambodia.
The ultimate American imperial dream is to engineer a Chinese vassal state

There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief
There's too much confusion
I can't get no relief

Business men, they drink my wine
Plowmen dig my earth
None were level on the mind
Nobody up at his word

-Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower (immortalized by Jimi Hendrix)

Nothing beats the beguiling, stony smiles at the Bayon temple near Angkor Wat in Cambodia's Siem Reap to plunge us back into history's vortex, re-imagining how empires, in their endless pursuit of power, rise and fall, usually because they eventually get the very war they had sought to avoid.

Comment: See also:


Trump privately floats the possibility of a naval blockade against Venezuela

© ABC7.com/marineartists.co.uk/KJN
US President Donald Trump • Battleships 1917
President Trump privately suggested stationing Navy ships around Venezuela to block goods from entering and exiting the country multiple times, Axios reported Sunday. Five current and former officials told the outlet they had either directly heard the president discuss the idea or been briefed on it.

Trump has reportedly raised the idea for at least a year and a half, and as recently as several weeks ago.

Earlier this month he answered "Yes, I am" when a reporter asked whether he was mulling a blockade, according to Reuters. However, he did not elaborate on the idea.

"He literally just said we should get the ships out there and do a naval embargo," one source who heard the president's comments in private told Axios. "Prevent anything going in." The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A blockade would be a significant escalation of the Trump administration's efforts to force Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro out of office.

Comment: See also:


Iran's Grace 1 (now the Adrian Darya) leaves Gibraltar

Grace 1
© AFP/Jorge Guerrero
Grace 1
Gibraltar authorities rejected a US request to extend the seizure of the Grace 1 tanker, citing differences in US and European sanctions against Iran. Gibraltar reportedly released the vessel after receiving assurances from Tehran that the ship would not deliver its cargo to Syria.

Iran's Ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, confirmed on Sunday that the Grace 1 oil tanker set course for international waters. Baeidinejad wrote in Twitter:
"At this juncture, we confirm that, finally, seven days after stopping in Gibraltar waters, the Iranian oil tanker began to move toward international waters. The overwhelming attention of global and regional politicians and public opinion reflects the important political, international and legal consequences of the actions taken in these few days."
Earlier, the GBC News broadcaster said that "the Adrian Darya, formerly the Grace 1, is leaving" the territorial waters of Gibraltar. A marine traffic monitoring site also showed that the Iranian supertanker was moving away from Gibraltar.

Star of David

Kiev: Netanyahu greeted with slogan of Jew-slaughtering Nazi collaborators

© Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu • Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy
Grandfathering a slogan of past-era nationalists who took part in ethnic massacres makes for awkward moments when you have to use the slogan to greet a foreign leader of said ethnicity during an official visit.

Take Benjamin Netanyahu's ongoing visit to Ukraine. The Israeli prime minister was greeted by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy with a lot of decorum. There were red carpets, flags, ceremonious signing of important documents, and a small military parade to treat the former Israeli commando.

And of course Zelenskiy used the official greeting, which Ukraine adopted last year, "Glory to Ukraine," to which his loyal troops gave the regulation response, "Glory to heroes." The exchange is new for the Ukrainian military, but relatively old in itself.

Comment: More about this contentious visit from RT 19/8/2019: Sara Netanyahu's row with pilot mars start of Israeli PM's visit Ukraine
The wife of the Israeli prime minister reportedly became enraged at a pilot who took her and her husband to Ukraine this weekend, and may have even taken her annoyance out on their hosts in Kiev.

Sara Netanyahu apparently tried to make her way to the cockpit of the plane, but her own security detail is said to have stopped her. Israel's Channel 12 claimed that she was offended after not hearing the captain of the El Al flight welcome her on board. While she was not allowed into the cockpit to express her anger, she seems to have got some satisfaction later, when the captain welcomed the VIP passengers again, this time referring to Mrs Netanyahu by name.

The prime minister's office described the report as "distorted," but wouldn't deny it in its entirety. "There was a misunderstanding which was immediately clarified and the flight went according to plan. The story about the security guards, as well, is a total lie," a statement from the office said. "It is another attempt to divert attention from the important international visit that the prime minister carried out."

The El Al airline simply said they "were pleased to host the prime minister and Mrs Netanyahu on our flight to Ukraine," without elaborating about what happened during the flight.

Upon arrival in Kiev, the Netanyahus were welcomed by the city mayor and his delegation, which included young women dressed in traditional Ukrainian folk dresses. They offered the guests bread and salt in a gesture of hospitality.

While the prime minister ate his piece of bread, his wife wouldn't take a bite, and seems to have dropped her piece on the ground, according to footage from the airport. Whether this apparent disdain for her Ukrainian hosts should be considered a sign of Sara Netanyahu's irritation at that moment is up for interpretation.

From Sputnik 18/8/2019: Netanyahu promises military operation in Gaza 'if necessary'
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Tel Aviv will undertake a massive military campaign in Gaza Strip, if forced to, The Times of Israel reported Sunday. "We will embark on a wide campaign, if necessary," he told reporters before departing for Ukraine. "My objective is to maintain security and quiet, and we are taking all the necessary actions to this end."

He said he is aware of an opinion that upcoming September election considerations hold him back from undertaking military attacks in Gaza, but claimed that this is not true.

"This is not correct," Netanyahu said, according to The Jerusalem Post. "Everyone who knows me knows that my considerations are to the point, genuine, and that I act in full coordination with the security forces with firmness and the necessary consideration."

He asserted that necessary measures will be taken regardless of the political climate. "If it is required, we will embark on a large campaign, with considerations to the elections — with elections or without elections," he said.

His comments come in the wake of a rocket attack originating from Gaza on Saturday night, with one missile landing in the town of Sderot, located near the border with the Gaza Strip. The missile caused damage, but no injuries, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Earlier on Sunday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz dismissed the option of a ground invasion, saying that "what happened yesterday in Sderot will not be left without a response. We are maintaining a policy of not initiating a wide-scale operation but keeping the deterrence."

The position was criticized by the Blue and White party leader and former IDF chief of staff, Benny Gantz, who claimed on Sunday that "the deterrence hasn't been eroded, it's been erased," The Jerusalem Post report says.


Duterte to visit China despite claims from Manila hawks he 'kowtows' to Beijing

© Getty Images/www.tibetanreview.net/KJN
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte • Chinese President Xi Jinping
Philippine President Duterte earlier admitted that Beijing controls most of the South China Sea, urging every state, including those outside the region, to avoid creating tensions with Beijing.

Prior to his visit to China this month, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stated that he would finally claim his country's rights in the South China Sea in accordance with a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

"The arbitral ruling, we will talk about [it] ... That's why I'm going to China", Duterte said during a speech this month at the Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Manila.

The statement was made after weeks of rising bilateral tensions between the two Asian nations as Filipino generals question Duterte's warming relations with its northern neighbour. Last month, Filipino Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana accused China of "bullying" smaller claimant states in the South China Sea. Furthermore, the country's navy has recently criticised the idea of leasing several northern islands to Chinese companies, citing security concerns.

Comment: See also:


US tests a cruise missile banned by the expired INF treaty

Missile test
© US Department of Defense/Scott Howe
Conventional ground-launched cruise missile test, San Nicolas Island, CA, August 18, 2019.
The US military has tested a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of over 500km, the Pentagon confirmed. Such weapons were banned under the INF arms control treaty, which the US exited this month.

The flight test of a "conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile" was conducted on August 18 at a range on San Nicolas Island, California, the US Department of Defense said Monday. After a successful launch, the missile struck its target more than 500km (310 miles) away.

Weapons with a range of between 500km and 5,000km were banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, a key arms control mechanism that helped de-escalate Cold War nuclear tensions when it was signed in 1987.