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Who is Archbishop Atallah Hanna, and why does Israel hate him?

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020


Archbishop Atallah Hanna (center) at an anti-Israeli occupation protest in the Palestinian city of Al-Khalil (Hebron), in 2015. PHOTO/via MEMO)

They will run and not grow weary,” is a quote from the Bible (Isaiah, 40:41) that adorns the homepage of Kairos Palestine. This important document, which parallels a similar initiative emanating from South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle years, has come to represent the unified voice of the Palestinian Christian community everywhere. One of the main advocates of Kairos Palestine is Archbishop Atallah Hanna.

Hanna has served as the Head of the Sebastia Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem since 2005. Since then, he has used his leadership position to advocate for Palestinian unity in all of its manifestations. Expectedly, Hanna has been on Israel’s radar for many years, as this kind of leadership is problematic from the viewpoint of a hegemonic political and military power that requires utter and absolute submission.

So when Archbishop Hanna was hospitalized on December 18 as a result of what was reported to be Israeli “poisoning”, Palestinians were very concerned. A few days later, Hanna was found to be at a Jordanian hospital receiving urgent medical treatment for what was described, by Hanna himself, as “poisoning by chemical substance”. Whatever that substance may have been, it was reportedly discharged from an Israeli army gas canister, lobbed at Hanna’s Church in Jerusalem.

“The Christians of Palestine are one family of Jordanians and Palestinians,” he told journalists from his hospital bed, where he also said that “Israeli occupation may have attempted to assassinate him or keep him sick all his life, indicating that the substance has very serious effects, especially on the nervous system”.

Those familiar with Hanna’s discourse would know precisely what the rebellious Christian leader was aiming at when he spoke about the oneness of Palestinian Christians in Jordan and Palestine: unity which, sadly, has eluded Palestinians for a long time. Indeed, wherever the man may be, standing tall at a rally in Jerusalem in defense of Palestinian rights or from a hospital bed, he advocates unity among Palestinians and for the sake of Palestine.

The Kairos document is itself an act of unity among Palestinian Christian churches and organizations. “This means for us, here and now, in this land in particular, that God created us not so that we might engage in strife and conflict but rather that we might come and know and love one another, and together build up the land in love and mutual respect,” the document, championed by Hanna and many others, states.

Even before claiming his current leadership position, Hanna was a target of Israel. During the Second Intifada, the uprising of 2005, Hanna emerged on the scene as an advocate, not of Palestinian Christian rights but the rights of all Palestinians. He actively pursued the World Council of Churches to use its credibility and outreach to speak out against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and for an independent Palestinian state.

In August 2002, Hanna was detained by the Israeli police in front of his home in Jerusalem’s Old City. On the orders of the Israeli Attorney General, he was charged with ‘suspicion of relations with terrorist organizations’, a concocted charge that allowed the Israeli government to confiscate the Palestinian leader’s Israeli and Vatican passports.

Despite the fact that Palestinian Christians undergo the same experience of military occupation, oppression, and ethnic cleansing as their Muslim brethren, Israel has labored to propagate an erroneous narrative that presents the “conflict” as one between Israel and Muslim fundamentalists. Hanna is particularly troubling for Israel because his political language demolishes Israeli hasbara at its very foundations.

“We intend to conduct special prayers inside the Church of the Nativity for the sake of our martyrs,” he declared on October 10, 2001, when he joined Christian and Muslim leaders in their march from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, to challenge Israel’s targeting of Palestinian religious sites.

In an interview with ‘Russia Today’ on January 30, 2015, Hanna refused to even concede the language battle to those who ignorantly – or purposely – ascribe Muslim terminology to terrorism. “Allahu Akbar” – God is great in Arabic – is as much Christian as it is a Muslim phrase, he argued.

Palestine Chronicle for more

Media stupidity is uniting left and right

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020


CNN’s Democratic debate stage PHOTO/Charlie Neibergall/AP/Shutterstock

After CNN’s debate ambush and MSNBC’s body-language analysis, loathing of media is becoming a crossover phenomenon

Just a few elections ago, the national press policed the boundaries of both Democrat and Republican politics. You couldn’t sniff either party’s nomination without media assent.

After more high-profile crackups, including a few over the weekend, the press might be months from being pushed all the way to the outside of a general election campaign. Having declared war on Donald Trump and his voters years ago, news outlets are committing to a similar pile-on of Bernie Sanders.

Maybe this will end as an inspirational unity story, like Independence Day, when an invasion of gross aliens brought America together. At present, it just seems short-sighted.

The low point came Saturday, when Joy Reid on MSNBC’s AM Joy show had on a “body language expert” named Janine Driver to declare Sanders a liar, because his posture reminds her of a turtle. There’s not much to say about this except it’s the same combo of junk forensics and yellow journalism that Bill O’Reilly made infamous.

Times columnist David Brooks, meanwhile, blew up the Internet last Friday comparing Sanders to Trump. The onetime author of a book about the superior taste of America’s urban rich took aim against the politics of class resentment, ostensibly as practiced by both:

This is a golden age for “Theyism.” This is the belief that there is some malevolent, elite “they” out there and “they” are destroying life for the rest of us.

Brooks self-identifies as “they.” In Bobos in Paradise, he wrote that the term “establishment” too often comes across as sinister. “I’m a member of this class… we’re not so bad,” he said, adding: “All societies have elites, and our educated elite is a lot more enlightened than some of the older ones.”

The Times has been trafficking in the Trump-Sanders comparison for a while, most explicitly in a bizarre interview with Sanders on January 13th.

Rolling Stones for more

‘Decolonise and re-indigenise’: The Ojibwe language warrior

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020


Anton works with colleagues on the Ojibwe language programming for the Milles Lac Ojibwe tribe of Minnesota PHOTO/Mary Pember/Al Jazeera

Anton Treuer is part of a movement of indigenous Americans reclaiming the power and authority of their people.

There is a grassroots movement in the US of indigenous communities taking back their power and authority as sovereign nations. This surge in independence is driven partly by language warriors who are pointing the way. The following is the story of one such warrior.

Anton Treuer grew up in the Deep North.

Just as the Deep South is associated with racial antipathy, so too is the great regional swath of land spanning Northern Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota for native Americans.

Treuer is a descendant of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe tribe, whose lands border the small city of Bemidji, Minnesota, in the heart of the Deep North.

Surrounded by three Ojibwe reservations – Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth – Bemidji is a border town (predominantly white and known for racial hostility towards native people) if ever there was one.

“When I went to Bemidji public schools in the 1980s, there were no native teachers, no native police officers, no native people in charge,” he recalls from a vacant classroom overlooking a manicured campus in the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University.

The 50 year old is now in his 20th year as a professor of Ojibwe language at the university, but he is still among just a handful of indigenous language professors teaching in US universities. 

The resource centre is the hub of native life for students and the community. It houses collections of the intricate floral beadwork for which Ojibwe are known and large black and white portraits of notable Ojibwe leaders hang in the great room, which functions as a classroom as well as a community space for ceremonies and meetings.

It is a showpiece for both the city and the university; a celebration of native peoples. But things were not always this way in Bemidji.

A bucket of whiteness

Anton Treuer is now Dr Treuer. Dressed in a crisp shirt and with his long hair, flecked with grey, pulled back into a sleek bun, he looks every bit the professor.

He is a native man in leadership, living proof that native people can flourish in spaces previously dominated by white people.

Al-Jazeera for more

Cosmopolitanism and global citizenship

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

How can the cosmopolitan ideal be updated to include essential shortcomings such as material aid, mass migrations, and the concern we owe to animals and the environment? Martha Nussbaum’s new book, The Cosmopolitanism Tradition: A Noble but Flawed Ideal, explores the idea of a ‘citizen of the world.’

Iran has been changed forever by admitting its great mistake

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020


Personal belongings and debris are pictured scattered on the ground after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran. PHOTO/ Post

“In wartime,” Churchill famously told Stalin, “truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” He said this on 30 November 1943 – by chance his 69th birthday – in an effort to impress upon the Soviet leader the importance of deception in the planning of D-Day. In fact, the Allies did deceive the Germans, whose Wehrmacht commanders thought the landings would be made in northern France rather than on the beaches of Normandy.

But the meaning of truth and lies – even the very word “wartime” – have so changed their meaning and usefulness in recent Middle East history that it’s almost impossible to apply Churchill’s quotation today. After its anti-aircraft missile destroyed Ukrainian Airways flight 752 this month, Iran’s initial lie – that its loss was due to engine problems – was uttered not to “attend” the truth but to protect the Iranian regime from being blamed in case its people discovered the truth.

Which, of course, they quickly did.

There was a time when you could get away with this sort of giant fib. In a pre-technology age, almost any catastrophe could be glossed – we still talk about a disaster “shrouded in mystery” – but phone cameras, missile-tracking, long-range radar and satellites quickly expose a lie. The loss of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 almost six years ago is the only exception I can think of.

True, Mubarak actually surrounded Cairo’s television headquarters with tanks in 2011 in an antediluvian attempt to stop a revolution powered by mobile phone messages. But the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian military are so computer-savvy that they could hardly have misunderstood what they had done to the Ukrainian aircraft. The idea, still touted by the regime, that there were “communications” problems (for more than three days, for heavens’ sake) is preposterous.

What really happened, I suspect, is that both President Hassan Rouhani and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei both knew within an hour what had happened, but were so appalled that a nation whose very name bears the title of “Islamic”, and whose supposedly revered if corrupted Revolutionary Guards had been promoted as both God-fearing and flawless, that they simply did not know how to respond. They were faced with The Truth. So they told a lie. Thus the very image of spotless theology which was supposed to sustain Iran’s image was shattered by error – and then by dishonesty.

No wonder Iranians returned to the streets.

Iran made a mistake, but to compound a tragic mistake with a blatant – and then admitted — falsehood was close to Original Sin. The people are not about to overthrow the regime, as Trump’s acolytes and the usual US “experts” suggest. But Iran has been changed forever.

Z Communications for more

Donald Trump fears only one Democrat: Warren Sanders

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020


Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren hug the second Democratic debate in Detroit. PHOTO/Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The two senators, working for everyday Americans, are streets ahead of any establishment candidate

There aren’t 20 Senate Republicans with enough integrity to remove the most corrupt president in American history, so we’re going to have to get rid of Trump the old-fashioned way – by electing a Democrat next 3 November.

That Democrat will be Warren Sanders.

Although there are differences between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, I’m putting them together for the purpose of making a simple point.

These two have most of the grassroots energy in the 2020 campaign, most of the enthusiasm and most of the ideas critical for America’s future.

Together, they lead Joe Biden and every other so-called moderate Democrat by a wide margin in all polls.

That’s because the real political divide in America today is establishment versus anti-establishment – the comparatively few at the top who have siphoned off much of the wealth of the nation versus everyone else whose wages and prospects have gone nowhere.

Warren and Sanders know the system is rigged and that economic and political power must be reallocated from a corporate-Wall Street elite to the vast majority.

This is why both Warren and Sanders are hated by the Democratic establishment.

It’s also why much of the corporate press is ignoring the enthusiasm they’re generating. And why it’s picking apart their proposals, like a wealth tax and Medicare for All, as if they were specific pieces of legislation.

And why corporate and Wall Street Democrats are mounting a campaign to make Americans believe Warren and Sanders are “too far to the left” to beat Trump, and therefore “unelectable”.

This is total rubbish. Either of them has a better chance of beating Trump than does any other Democratic candidate.

Presidential elections are determined by turnout. More than a third of eligible voters in America don’t vote. They go to the polls only if they’re motivated. And what motivates people most is a candidate who stands for average people and against power and privilege.

Average Americans know they’re getting the scraps while corporate profits are at record highs and CEOs and Wall Street executives are pocketing unprecedented pay and bonuses.

They know big money has been flooding Washington and state capitals to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy; roll back health, safety, environment and labor protections; and allow big business to monopolize the economy, using its market power to keep prices high and wages low.

Most Americans want to elect someone who’s on their side.

In 2016 some voted for Trump because he conned them into believing he was that person.

But he’s given big corporations and Wall Street everything they’ve wanted: rollbacks of health, safety, and environmental protections, plus a giant $2tn tax cut that’s boosted stock prices and executive pay while nothing trickled down.

The Guardian for more

Racism in Portugal: A blind spot for the media?

Monday, January 27th, 2020

In Portugal’s election last October, Romualda Fernandes, Beatriz Gomes Dias, and Joacine Katar Moreira made history by becoming the first women of African descent elected to Parliament.

Dias, Gomes and Moreira all represent different political parties – the Socialist Party, Left Bloc and Livre, respectively – but their critiques of racism in Portuguese society have been credited with catalysing a debate that many see as long overdue.

A 2016 report by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, while noting that Portugal had grown more tolerant and inclusive over the previous two decades, criticised the persistence of “Afrophobia” and “institutional racism” in the country.

In the years since, Portugal – like much of Europe – has witnessed a spike in far-right sentiment, with the 2019 election also marking the first time a far-right party won a seat in Parliament since the fall of the Salazar dictatorship in 1974.

However, observing the way the debate played out in Portugal’s mainstream media, one could get a rather different impression. A slew of opinion-makers – most, if not all, white – responded to concerns from anti-racist politicians and campaigners with a mixture of disbelief and denial: “Are the Portuguese racist?” asked the newspaper Sol. Columnists at the right-wing news website Observador were more definitive: “Portugal wasn’t and isn’t racist,” wrote one; another, meanwhile, derided the “myth” of a racist Portugal.

“I think we’re all racist,” explains Observador’s editor, Jose Manuel Fernandes, speaking to The Listening Post’s Daniel Turi. “That’s a battle that never ends. However, when it comes to institutional racism – I don’t think that exists in Portugal.”

For Moreira, member of parliament for Livre, reactions such as these came as no surprise: “This is very specific of Portuguese racism – the absolute denial that there is racism in Portugal.”

In trying to explain this discourse of denial, some point to the lack of diversity in Portugal’s media industry. Portuguese journalists of colour are few and far between – something that Fernandes, too, acknowledges can skew the reporting of race.

However, Portugal is not the only country with a diversity problem in its newsrooms. For many, a stronger explanation lies in an ideology of Portuguese exceptionalism – one with deep roots in the country’s colonial past.

Portugal was the world’s first global empire, with outposts across Africa, Asia and South America. From its beginnings in the 15th century all the way up to the handover of Macau to China in 1999, it was also the longest lasting.

Despite the many horrors of that history, including Portugal’s leading role in the transatlantic slave trade, a sense of nostalgia for that era runs deep in the here and now. The media are no exception and appeals to a rose-tinted view of Portuguese colonialism are a common feature of the recent denials of racism in present-day Portugal.

“We travelled across Africa and Asia with native populations, had children with them and in many cases we assimilated them,” notes the writer of the Sol article referenced above.

“Having this discourse about the past is then transferred to the present,” says Joana Gorjao Henriques, author of Racism in Portugal. “As a result, the media are incapable of noticing the inequalities that exist in Portuguese society.”

YouTube for more

A letter to intellectuals who deride revolutions in the name of purity

Monday, January 27th, 2020


Revolutions do not happen suddenly, nor do they immediately transform a society. A revolution is a process, which moves at different speeds whose tempo can change rapidly if the motor of history is accelerated by intensified class conflict. But, most of the time, the building of the revolutionary momentum is glacial, and the attempt to transform a state and society can be even more slow.

Leon Trotsky, sitting in his Turkish exile in 1930, wrote the most remarkable study of the Russian Revolution. Thirteen years had elapsed since the Tsarist empire had been overthrown. But the revolution was already being derided, even by people on the Left. ‘Capitalism’, Trotsky wrote in the conclusion to that book, ‘required a hundred years to elevate science and technique to the heights and plunge humanity into the hell of war and crisis. To socialism its enemies allow only fifteen years to create and furnish a terrestrial paradise. We took no such obligation upon ourselves. We never set these dates. The process of vast transformation must be measured by an adequate scale’.

When Hugo Chavez won an election in Venezuela (December 1998) and when Evo Morales Ayma won an election in Bolivia (December 2005), their critics on the left in North America and in Europe gave their governments no time to breathe. Some professors with a leftist orientation immediately began to criticise these governments for their limitations, and even their failures. This attitude was limited politically—there was no solidarity given to these experiments; it was also limited intellectually — there was no sense of the deep difficulties for a socialist experiment in Third World countries calcified in social hierarchies and depleted of financial resources.

Pace of Revolution

Two years into the Russian Revolution, Lenin wrote that the newly created USSR is not a ‘miracle-working talisman’, nor does it ‘pave the way to socialism. It gives those who were formerly oppressed the chance to straighten their backs and to an ever-increasing degree to take the whole government of the country, the whole administration of the economy, the whole management of production, into their own hands’.

But even that—that whole this, and whole that—was not going to be easy. It is, Lenin wrote, ‘a long, difficult, and stubborn class struggle, which, after the overthrow of capitalist rule, after the destruction of the bourgeois state…. does not disappear…. but merely changes its forms and in many respects becomes fiercer’. This was Lenin’s judgment after the Tsarist state had been taken over, and after the socialist government had begun to consolidate power. Alexandra Kollantai wrote (such as in Love in the Time of Worker Bees) about the struggles to build socialism, the conflicts within socialism to attain its objectives. Nothing is automatic; everything is a struggle.

Lenin and Kollantai argued that the class struggle is not suspended when a revolutionary government takes over the state; it is in fact, ‘fiercer’, the opposition to it intense because the stakes are high, and the moment dangerous because the opposition—namely the bourgeoisie and the old aristocracy—had imperialism on its side. Winston Churchill said, ‘Bolshevism must be strangled in its cradle’, and so the Western armies joined the White Army in an almost fatal military attack on the Soviet Republic. This attack went from the last days of 1917 to 1923—a full six years of sustained military assault.

Neither in Venezuela nor in Bolivia, nor in any of the countries that turned to the Left over the past twenty years, has the bourgeois state been totally transcended nor has capitalist rule been overthrown.

Monthly Review Online for more

NPR: Days after Modi says NRC word hasn’t been uttered, Cabinet clears Rs 3,900 crore for first step

Monday, January 27th, 2020


Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP President Amit Shah during a press briefing at the party headquarter in New Delhi on May 17. PHOTO/PTI

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a rally in Delhi that the National Register of Citizens hasn’t even been brought up once since he came to power, which was as an outright lie, considering how often Home Minister Amit Shah has promised one. On Tuesday, the Union Cabinet approved Rs 3,900 crore for the updating of the National Population Register – which the Census of India website describes as “the first step towards the creation of a National Register of Citizens”.

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar announced the step in a press briefing after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Javadekar insisted that the National Population Register was an initiative of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, and claimed that the government has no plans at the moment to carry out the NRC.

“NPR was started under the UPA in 2010, in 2015 it was updated,” he said. “In 2020 it will be done again. No proof or document is required, only information is needed. We trust the public.” Javadekar also claimed that no list of doubtful citizens would be created under the NPR and lumped the process in along with the Census, which is carried out every decade.

Yet Javadekar’s comments are unlikely to reassure anyone worried by the Citizenship Act-NRC-NPR combination that has sparked protests around the country over the last two weeks, in the belief that they will be used to harass Indian Muslims. There is no sign of the demonstrations slowing down.

There are two reasons for this:


The government and BJP have constantly resorted to muddled messaging and misiniformation on the matter. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has contradicted Home Minister Amit Shah. The BJP has differed with both of them. Official government releases seem to have no actual value.

There is a general belief that these mixed messages are deliberate, in the hopes of blunting the protests that have gone nationwide. Yet this also means that no single statement of the government can be trusted, when the laws on paper allow for something else completely.

As Shoaib Daniyal explained in this investigation by, the National Population Register is the first step for the National Register of Citizens. The entire aim of the population register is to create a list of Indian residents, and then use that to create a list of Indian citizens as well as a separate of those considered “doubtful”. It is not the same as the Census, even though the government has repeatedly tried to tie the two together.

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Weekend Edition

Friday, January 24th, 2020