News Releases

Bethlehem and “the Altar of Imperial Politics”

Share

Al-Jazeera reports in “Palestinian official: Pence is not welcome in Palestine” that “Pence is expected to visit Israel later this month, with a stop in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.”

Rev. MITRI RAHEB, mraheb at daralkalima.edu.ps, @RahebM
Raheb is pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem. His books include Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes, Bethlehem Besieged and I Am a Palestinian Christian.

His “theological reflection on Trump’s speech” on Jerusalem got over 1,700 shares on Facebook.

Raheb wrote: “The Christmas story starts with an imperial decree signed by Caesar Augustus. As I was watching President Trump’s address yesterday evening on our TV, I could not help but think of the so-called Balfour Declaration signed 100 years ago when the British empire promised Palestine to the European Jews as their national homeland. Trump’s address [Wednesday] was indeed another such imperial decree recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Again and again we, the Palestinian people, are sacrificed at the altar [of] imperial politics. …

“This is not only a disappointment to over one billion Muslim people for whom Jerusalem is Holy, but also a blow to an even larger Christian community who kept a vision for an inclusive Jerusalem shared by two peoples and three religions.

“The situation is very volatile … the whole West Bank and Gaza are on strike. Our Dar al-Kalima University College [which Raheb is president of] is on strike too and we had to cancel our conference planned for today. …

“Most Caesars brought only bloodshed, destruction, and animosity to Jerusalem because they were not able to realize ‘what makes for peace.’ No decree will deter us from working for a just peace in Jerusalem. We will continue to raise the next generation of creative leaders for Jerusalem and to grow hope all over Palestine.”

 

Is the Democratic Party Anti-Democratic?

Share

The Democratic National Committee’s Unity Reform Commission holds its final meeting in Washington, D.C. Friday and Saturday. C-Span is now carrying proceedings live.

KURT WALTERS, kurt at demandprogress.org
Walters is campaign director of Demand Progress / Rootstrikers, one of a dozen groups that sent a letter Thursday to the Democratic Party. The letter states: “As the Unity Reform Commission prepares to recommend reforms to the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination process, the undersigned organizations write to express our continued opposition to the undemocratic role of unpledged ‘superdelegates’ in the nomination process. On behalf of our more than 12 million members, we urge the Commission to recommend the full elimination of superdelegates’ power to overrule the will of Democratic primary voters in selecting the party’s presidential nominee.”

Among the groups signing the letter: Center for Popular Democracy Action, Courage Campaign, CREDO Action, Demand Progress Action, MoveOn.org, National Nurses United, NDN, Other98, Our Revolution, Presente Action, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Progressive Democrats of America, RootsAction.org and Social Security Works.

The chair of the Unity Reform Commission, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, was a co-founder of Precision Strategies. Huffington Post reported recently that “The DNC relied on multiple consulting firms during the election, but the two most prominent — and highest paid — were Precision Strategies and SKDKnickerbocker.”

While party officials have proposed reducing the number of superdelegates for the 2020 national convention, the new report “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis” warns that allowing any remaining superdelegates “would still represent a barrier to a democratic Democratic National Convention.” The report concludes: “The superdelegate system, by its very nature, undermines the vital precept of one person, one vote. The voting power of all superdelegates must end.”

PIA GALLEGOS, [in D.C.] pia at gallegoslaw.com
Gallegos, a civil rights attorney and Democratic Party ward chair based in Albuquerque, is the author of the Autopsy report’s “Democracy and the Party” section.

KAREN BERNAL, [in D.C.]  nekochan99 at hotmail.com, @karenbernal5
Bernal chairs the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. She wrote the section on social movements in the Autopsy report and co-wrote the section on the future of the Democratic Party.

While the Democratic National Committee recently claimed: “We pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all,” the Democratic Autopsy Task Force released a statement Friday: “The DNC gave less than 48 hours notice — waiting until late in the day on Dec. 6 — to publicly disclose the times when the final meeting of the Unity Reform Commission would take place. Even then, although the DNC had stated that ‘the meeting is open to the public’ and required an online ‘RSVP,’ members of the public (who signed up online after being told only the dates and the name of the hotel) had not received any response, so they remained in the dark as to the times when the meeting would be held. In effect, the DNC took steps to minimize public attendance.”

News Conference on Key Issues at Dec. 8-9 Final Meeting of Democratic Party’s “Unity Reform Commission”

Share

Key Issues at Dec. 8-9 Final Meeting of Democratic Party’s “Unity Reform Commission”

When:  Friday, Dec. 8 at 1 p.m.

Where:  Marriott Wardman Park Hotel — Room 8226, Park Tower

2660 Woodley Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20008

Speakers at this news conference — representing organizations with several million members nationwide — will address key issues to be voted on by the Democratic Party’s Unity Reform Commission at its final meeting Dec. 8-9, including the contentious matter of superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention.

The final meeting of the Commission will convene on Friday (Dec. 8) at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington.

During the hour prior to the news conference, speakers will be available for individual interviews beginning at Noon, also in Room 8226 in the hotel’s Park Tower section.

News conference speakers will include:

*  Kurt Walters, Campaign Director of Demand Progress

*  Norman Solomon, National Coordinator of RootsAction.org

*  Karen Bernal, Chair of the California Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus

*  Pia Gallegos, civil rights attorney and Democratic Party ward chair in New Mexico

Solomon, Bernal and Gallegos are co-authors of the new report “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis.” The report warns that allowing any remaining superdelegates “would still represent a barrier to a democratic Democratic National Convention.” The report concludes: “The superdelegate system, by its very nature, undermines the vital precept of one person, one vote. The voting power of all superdelegates must end.” Concerns are detailed in the Autopsy report’s “Democracy and the Party” section.

Will Democrats’ Unity Commission Abolish “Undemocratic” Superdelegates?

Share

The final meeting of the Democratic Party’s Unity Reform Commission is set to convene on Friday (Dec. 8) in Washington, where activists will push for the elimination of all superdelegates.

At the Democratic National Convention last year, the 712 superdelegates were 15 percent of the total voting delegates. Several hundred superdelegates publicly lined up behind Hillary Clinton before a single vote was cast in a primary or caucus.

While party officials have proposed reducing the number of superdelegates for the 2020 national convention, the new report “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis” warns that allowing any remaining superdelegates “would still represent a barrier to a democratic Democratic National Convention.” The report concludes: “The superdelegate system, by its very nature, undermines the vital precept of one person, one vote. The voting power of all superdelegates must end.”

PIA GALLEGOS, [in D.C.] pia at gallegoslaw.com
Gallegos, a civil rights attorney and Democratic Party ward chair based in Albuquerque, is the author of the Autopsy report’s “Democracy and the Party” section.

She said today: “Democrats want to see more democracy in the party. … The Democrats on the ground, those walking door to door, don’t want their vote for the Democratic presidential candidate diluted by the non-representative votes of entrenched Democratic Party leadership and political self-interest.

“Superdelegates are mainly present and former elected Democratic officials and DNC leaders who automatically become delegates to the national convention with the power to cast a nomination vote for whichever candidate they wish, regardless of the results of any primaries or caucuses.

“The only fully democratic outcome of the meeting of the Unity Reform Commission is for the Commission to recommend to go from 712 superdelegates to zero superdelegates.”

Gallegos added: “The system of superdelegates lends itself to manipulation of the nomination process. In the last primary presidential campaign, by mid-November 2015, fully 11 weeks before any state primary or caucus, Hillary Clinton had already gained a commitment of support from 50 percent of all superdelegates.”

KAREN BERNAL, nekochan99 at hotmail.com, @karenbernal5
Bernal chairs the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. She wrote the section on social movements in the Autopsy report and co-wrote the section on the future of the Democratic Party.

The final meeting of the Democratic Party’s Unity Reform Commission is set to convene on Friday (Dec. 8) in Washington, where activists will push for the elimination of all superdelegates.

At the Democratic National Convention last year, the 712 superdelegates were 15 percent of the total voting delegates. Several hundred superdelegates publicly lined up behind Hillary Clinton before a single vote was cast in a primary or caucus.

While party officials have proposed reducing the number of superdelegates for the 2020 national convention, the new report “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis” warns that allowing any remaining superdelegates “would still represent a barrier to a democratic Democratic National Convention.” The report concludes: “The superdelegate system, by its very nature, undermines the vital precept of one person, one vote. The voting power of all superdelegates must end.”

PIA GALLEGOS, [in D.C.] pia at gallegoslaw.com
Gallegos, a civil rights attorney and Democratic Party ward chair based in Albuquerque, is the author of the Autopsy report’s “Democracy and the Party” section.

She said today: “Democrats want to see more democracy in the party. … The Democrats on the ground, those walking door to door, don’t want their vote for the Democratic presidential candidate diluted by the non-representative votes of entrenched Democratic Party leadership and political self-interest.

“Superdelegates are mainly present and former elected Democratic officials and DNC leaders who automatically become delegates to the national convention with the power to cast a nomination vote for whichever candidate they wish, regardless of the results of any primaries or caucuses.

“The only fully democratic outcome of the meeting of the Unity Reform Commission is for the Commission to recommend to go from 712 superdelegates to zero superdelegates.”

Gallegos added: “The system of superdelegates lends itself to manipulation of the nomination process. In the last primary presidential campaign, by mid-November 2015, fully 11 weeks before any state primary or caucus, Hillary Clinton had already gained a commitment of support from 50 percent of all superdelegates.”

KAREN BERNAL, [in D.C.] nekochan99 at hotmail.com, @karenbernal5
Bernal chairs the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. She wrote the section on social movements in the Autopsy report and co-wrote the section on the future of the Democratic Party.

Leading Russia Analyst in D.C.

Share

A leading expert on Russia is currently in Washington, D.C. and will be speaking at the National Press Club on Thursday morning.


GILBERT DOCTOROW, gdoctorow at yahoo.com
Only in the U.S. until Thursday evening and available for a limited number of interviews, Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst who has spent extensive time in Russia.

His book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in 2015. His latest book — Does the United States Have a Future? — was published in September of this year.

His recent articles include “America’s Fragile Future,” “The NYT’s Grim Depiction of Russian Life” and “U.S. Risks Wider War by Downing Syrian Plane” for Consortium News.

He maintains that the “self-imposed blackout on news FROM Russia enables the proliferation in U.S. media of phony threats that serve domestic political games such as the allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections while the existential threat from the modernized and highly potent Russian military, both conventional and nuclear is largely ignored, as are the confrontations of U.S. and Russian forces in the field.”

Doctorow did his graduate research in Moscow as a Fulbright Scholar. He later worked in international business including eight years as Managing Director, Russia for multinationals beginning in 1994. Doctorow began writing on international affairs in 2008 and was a visiting scholar at Columbia in 2010-2011.

* Jerusalem * Can the Palestinians Launch a “Legal Intifadah”?

Share

JOHN QUIGLEY, quigley.2 at osu.edu
Professor emeritus of international law at Ohio State University, Quigley’s books include The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict and The International Diplomacy of Israel’s Founders: Deception at the United Nations in the Quest for Palestine (both Cambridge University Press).

He said today: “Under the Jerusalem Embassy Act, the president must move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem unless he affirms every six months that moving the embassy conflicts with the security interests of the United States. Last June Trump gave such a waiver, thus relieving himself of the obligation to move the embassy. He is expected to give a waiver again [this month]. But this time he is hinting that he will make a statement that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. This would be a break from the view of the international community since 1947 that the status of Jerusalem is not resolved. It would further erode the U.S. position as a negotiator for Israeli-Palestinian peace, since the status of Jerusalem is one of the issues to be decided in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, served as legal adviser to the PLO. His books include the Palestinian Right of Return under International Law.

He said today: “Trump’s move is a symbolic but still critical step in Israeli designs to control not just Jerusalem, but all of historic Palestine. The Palestinian leadership needs to deal with this threat by all available legal means, including what I call a legal intifadah. The U.S. has prevented full Palestinian membership at the United Nations. The PLO could remedy this by using the Uniting for Peace mechanism, which would mean a vote on the issue in the General Assembly and not the Security Council where the U.S. government has a veto.

“No member state of the United Nations organization has ever been destroyed or eliminated. Some of them have broken off into constituent units but they have never been extinguished. Israel would like all of Palestine, the West Bank, East Jerusalem — without the Palestinians. A legal strategy dealing with this threat is needed.”

See an interview with Boyle elaborating on legal strategies. Also see by Sam Husseini “Questioning Ashrawi on Palestinian U.N. Bid: Will You Go to the General Assembly? Is this a PA Ploy?

Why is Israelgate Being Downplayed?

Share

The Intercept reports: “Trump’s Transition Team Colluded With Israel. Why Isn’t That News?

On Dec. 23, 2016, Al Jazeera reported: “Trump convinced Sisi to withdraw U.N. resolution.”

AARON MATÉ, aaronmate at therealnews.com, @aaronjmate

Maté is a host/producer for The Real News. He just wrote the piece “The Trump Team Definitely Colluded with a Foreign Power — Just Not the One You Think“, for The Nation.

He writes: “Friday’s indictment of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has confirmed that Donald Trump’s inner circle colluded with a foreign power before entering the White House — just not the foreign power that has been the subject of our national fixation for the past year. To be sure, the jury is still out on Russia, though there are new grounds for questioning the case for a plot tying the Kremlin to Trump Tower. But with Flynn’s plea, we can now say for certain that the Trump team did collude — with Israel. …

“There are no editorials or opinion pieces denouncing Israel’s ‘Plot Against America,’ or ‘War on America,’ or warnings that ‘Odds Are, Israel Owns Trump,’ or explorations of ‘What Israel Did to Control the American Mind.’ … In fact it is more than likely that going forward, the media will give Israelgate the same treatment as cable’s top Russiagate sleuth, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, gave during her exhaustive Flynn coverage so far, which is to not even mention it.”

STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu, @szunes
Professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, Zunes just wrote the piece: “Why Democrats Don’t Want to Talk about Flynn’s First Meeting with the Russians,” for The Progressive, which states: “Democrats have been reluctant to call attention to another meeting held one week earlier, in which Flynn encouraged the Russians to postpone a scheduled vote at the United Nations until Trump came to office. Having a top advisor of a president-elect clandestinely meet with a representative of a foreign power to undermine the policies of a sitting administration is highly problematic, if not illegal. While this might have otherwise given the Democrats a welcome political opportunity to underscore the perfidy of the Trump team, they are hindered by the fact that the majority of Congressional Democrats opposed Obama and supported Trump’s position on the vote. …

“Less than two weeks later, in the first foreign policy vote of the newly convened 115th Congress, a majority of House Democrats joined virtually every Republican in voting for a resolution that criticized the U.S. refusal to veto. It declared U.N. opposition to Israel’s illegal colonization efforts as being ‘anti-Israel.’

“In the Senate, 30 out of 46 Democrats signed on as co-sponsors of a similar bill.

“The decision by the majority of Congressional Democrats to side with Trump over a sitting Democratic president is striking, particularly since moderate pro-Israel groups including J Street and Americans for Peace Now supported Obama’s decision not to use U.S. veto power.”

Is Flynn/Kushner Actually Israelgate?

Share

Al Jazeera reports Tuesday: “Trump tells Abbas he will move U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.”

Journalist Aaron Maté tweeted Tuesday: “Compare Russian policy victories under Trump to Israel: before inauguration, Trump tried to subvert a UNSC vote on Israel’s behalf; is using coercion to force Palestinians to accept Israel’s bantustan ‘peace’ plan; and is now reportedly moving U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. #Israelgate” See Maté’s recent segment on The Real News: “Flynn Plea Shows Collusion With … Israel?

ALI ABUNIMAH, director at electronicintifada.net, @AliAbunimah
Abunimah is co-founder of the Electronic Intifada website. His books include The Battle for Justice in Palestine.

He recently wrote the piece “Israel lobby billionaire praises Kushner for collusion with Netanyahu,” which states: “President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner received public praise on Sunday from a billionaire Israel lobby financier for his possibly illegal attempts to derail a UN Security Council vote condemning Israel’s settlements a year ago.

“This came as news broke that Kushner failed to disclose in government ethics filings his role as director of a family foundation that funded Israeli settlements.

“Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, is in charge of efforts to revive the so-called peace process.

“New details of Kushner’s Saudi-backed plan reported Sunday confirm that it would require nothing less than a complete capitulation by the Palestinians to Israel’s demands, leaving them with a state in name only.”

Abunimah also recently wrote the piece “Trump aide Flynn pleads guilty to lying about effort to help Israel.”

Also, see from the Guardian: “Were other Trump aides lobbying for Israel illicitly alongside Michael Flynn?

The New York Times recently reported: “Mr. Mueller’s investigators have learned through witnesses and documents that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel asked the Trump transition team to lobby other countries to help Israel, according to two people briefed on the inquiry. Investigators have learned that Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kushner took the lead in those efforts.”

There’s evidence the Trump team’s efforts on behalf of Israel appear to have paid off. On December 27, 2016, the Times of Israel wrote: “Russia: We had doubts about UN draft, tried to delay vote.” In April, the Times of Israel stated: “In an unexpected, unprecedented and curious move, Moscow on Thursday said it considers West Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, making Russia the first country in the world to extend such a recognition to any part of the city.”

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, richards1052 at comcast.net, @richards1052
Silverstein writes on security and other issues for a number of outlets and blogs at Tikun Olam. He recently wrote the piece “Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying About Trump Sabotage of Security Council Resolution Against Israel Settlements.”

Tax “Reform”: An Attack on Work

Share

RICHARD L. KAPLAN, rkaplan at illinois.edu
Kaplan holds a chair at the University of Illinois School of Law and is a leading expert on taxation. Kaplan’s books include Advanced Taxation and Elder Law.

He said today: “A leading principle of these tax ‘reform’ bills — both the House and Senate versions — is clearly to reward donors to the Republican party. It lessens taxes on businesses, especially capital intensive rather than labor intensive business.

“The corporate income tax cut from 35 to 20 percent is steep, but through a series of mechanisms — some call them loopholes — corporations are now paying about 19 percent. Those leakages are mostly staying in place, so the effective rate after this act will be much lower.

“Significantly — and this is too rarely discussed — this keeps in place the system of taxing capital gains at substantially lower rate than labor. Warren Buffett and Mitt Romney get taxed at a lower rate on their investments than people do for their actual work. This legislation is effectively doubling down on a war on work.

“The one major innovation is creating a new tax-favored category of income called ‘pass-through’ income received from partnerships and personal businesses. This change will set up very serious compliance challenges for the IRS to demarcate wage-like income from profits received as business-owners.

“The cuts to the estate and gift taxes are huge, as is the complete write-off for depreciation.

“In contrast, people who work for a living are not seeing much benefit, in some cases, they may see increases, especially because of the end of state and local taxes write-offs.

“Medicare and Medicaid could get cut down the line as a result of this proposed law because of the resulting federal deficits and might trigger existing provisions that require reductions of Medicare’s expenditures.

“Workers are also hurt by how medical expenses are treated in the House version and how educational assistance is handled. There’s been some attention to how graduate school assistants would have a dramatic rise in taxes, but it’s more widespread than that. The legislation effectively disincentivizes educating workers generally.”

Newsweek: Kushner Failed to Disclose Funding Illegal Israeli Settlements

Share

CHRIS RIOTTA, chrisriotta@gmail.com, @chrisriotta

A reporter at Newsweek covering the Trump administration and first family, Riotta just wrote the piece “Jared Kushner Failed to Disclose He Led a Foundation Funding Illegal Israeli Settlements Before U.N. Vote.”

The piece states: “Jared Kushner failed to disclose his role as a co-director of the Charles and Seryl Kushner Foundation from 2006 to 2015, a time when the group funded an Israeli settlement considered to be illegal under international law, on financial records he filed with the Office of Government Ethics earlier this year.

“The latest development follows reports on Friday indicating the White House senior adviser attempted to sway a United Nations Security Council vote against an anti-settlement resolution passed just before Donald Trump took office, which condemned the structure of West Bank settlements. The failure to disclose his role in the foundation — at a time when he was being tasked with serving as the president’s Middle East peace envoy — follows a pattern of egregious omissions that would bar any other official from continuing to serve in the West Wing, experts and officials told Newsweek. …

“Kushner demanded future National Security Adviser Mike Flynn ‘get on the phone to every member of the Security Council and tell them to delay the vote’ on the West Bank settlement resolution, Buzzfeed reported Friday. The move may have violated the over 200-years-old law called the Logan Act, which bars ‘unauthorized citizens’ from negotiating with ‘foreign governments having a dispute with the United States.'”

Riotta’s other recent pieces for Newsweek include: “Jared Kushner Can’t Pass His Security Clearance Probe,” “Visitor Logs Reveal Trump’s Swamp of Billionaires” and “Jared Kushner Delays Senate Deadline for Russia Contact.”

Next Page »