Sunday, July 27, 2014

1499. If a Cat Could Talk

By David Wood, Aeon Magazine, July 24, 2013

‘Hold back the talons of your paws/Let me gaze into your beautiful eyes.’ Charles Baudelaire, ‘Le Chat’. Photo by Gallery Stock
Saturday was a small snake. Each morning for six days, Berzerker — half-Siamese, half-streetcat, with charcoal fur and a pure white undercoat — had deposited a new creature on the doormat. On this last day, the snake was as stiff as a twig; rigor mortis had already set in. I wondered if there was a mortuary under the porch, a cold slab on which the week’s offerings had been laid out. What were these ritualistic offerings all about? Gift, placation, or proof of lethal skill? Who knows. On the seventh day he rested.
When I look at any one of my three cats — when I stroke him, or talk to him, or push him off my yellow pad so I can write — I am dealing with a distinct individual: either Steely Dan Thoreau, or (Kat) Mandu, or Kali. Each cat is unique. All are ‘boys’, as it happens. All rescued from the streets, neutered and advertised as mousers, barn cats: ‘They will never let you touch them,’ I was told. Each cat is a singular being ­— a pulsing centre of the universe — with this colour eyes, this length and density of fur, this palate of preferences, habits and dispositions. Each with his own idiosyncrasies.
At first, they were truly untouchable, hissing and spitting. A few weeks later, after mutual outreaching, they were coiling around my neck, with heavy purring and nuzzling. They do indeed hang out in my barn — I live on a farm — and are always pleased to see me at their daily feed. Steely Dan, unlike the other two, will walk with me for miles. Just for the company, I suspect. Occasionally he will turn up at the house and demand to be let in. He is a favourite among my friends for his free dispensing of affection. But the rift between our worlds opens wide again when he shreds the faux leather sofa with his claws. When scolded, he is insouciant.
Since the Egyptians first let the wild Mau into their homes, cats and humans have co-evolved. We have, without doubt, been brutal — eliminating kittens of the wrong stripe, as well as couch-potato cats that gave the rats a pass, cats that could not be trained, and cats that refused our advances. My Steely Dan, steely eyed professional killer of birds and mice (and snakes, lizards, young rabbits, voles, and chipmunks), lap-lover, walking companion extraordinaire, is the product of trial by compatibility. This sounds like a recipe for compliance: domestication should have rooted out the otherness of the feline. But it did not.
The Egyptians domesticated Felis silvestris catus 10,000 years ago and valued its services in patrolling houses against snakes and rodents. But later they deified it, even mummifying cats for the journey into the afterlife. These days we don’t typically go that far — though cats and cat shelters are frequently the subjects of bequests. We remain fascinated both by our individual cats and cats as a species. They are a beloved topic for publishers, calendars and cartoons. Cats populate the internet: there are said to be 110,000 cat videos on YouTube. Lolcats tickle us at every turn. But isn’t there something profoundly unsettling about the whiskered cat lying on a laptop (or somesuch), speaking its bad English? Lolcats make us laugh, but the need to laugh intimates disquiet somewhere.
Perhaps because we selected cats for their internal contradictions — friendly to us, deadly to the snakes and rodents that threatened our homes — we shaped a creature that escapes our gaze, that doesn’t merely reflect some simple design goal. One way or another, we have licensed a being that displays its ‘otherness’ and flaunts its resistance to human interests. This is part of the common view of cats: we value their independence. From time to time they might want us, but they don’t need us. Dogs, by contrast, are said to be fawning and needy, always eager to please. Dogs confirm us; cats confound us. And in ways that delight us.
In welcoming one animal to police our domestic borders against other creatures that threatened our food or health, did we violate some boundary in our thinking? Such categories are ones we make and maintain without thinking about them as such. Even at this practical level, cats occupy a liminal space: we live with ‘pets’ that are really half-tamed predators.
From the human perspective, cats might literally patrol the home, but more profoundly they walk the line between the familiar and the strange. When we look at a cat, in some sense we do not know what we are looking at. The same can be said of many non-human creatures, but cats are exemplary. Unlike insects, fish, reptiles and birds, cats both keep their distance and actively engage with us. Books tell us that we domesticated the cat. But who is to say that cats did not colonise our rodent-infested dwellings on their own terms? One thinks of Ruduyard Kipling’s story ‘The Cat That Walked by Himself’ (1902), which explains how Man domesticated all the wild animals except for one: ‘the wildest of all the wild animals was the Cat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him.’
Michel de Montaigne, in An Apology for Raymond Sebond (1580), captured this uncertainty eloquently. ‘When I play with my cat,’ he mused, ‘how do I know that she is not playing with me rather than I with her?’ So often cats disturb us even as they enchant us. We stroke them, and they purr. We feel intimately connected to these creatures that seem to have abandoned themselves totally to the pleasures of the moment. Cats seem to have learnt enough of our ways to blend in. And yet, they never assimilate entirely. In a trice, in response to some invisible (to the human mind, at least) cue, they will leap off our lap and re-enter their own space, chasing a shadow. Lewis Carroll’s image of the smile on the face of the Cheshire cat, which remains even after the cat has vanished, nicely evokes such floating strangeness. Cats are beacons of the uncanny, shadows of something ‘other’ on the domestic scene.

Our relationship with cats is an eruption of the wild into the domestic: a reminder of the ‘far side’, by whose exclusion we define our own humanity. This is how Michel Foucault understood the construction of ‘madness’ in society — it’s no surprise then that he named his own cat Insanity. Cats, in this sense, are vehicles for our projections, misrecognition, and primitive recollection. They have always been the objects of superstition: through their associations with magic and witchcraft, feline encounters have been thought to forecast the future, including death. But cats are also talismans. They have been recognised as astral travellers, messengers from the gods. In Egypt, Burma and Thailand they have been worshipped. Druids have held some cats to be humans in a second life. They are trickster figures, like the fox, coyote and raven. The common meanings and associations that they carry in our culture permeate, albeit unconsciously, our everyday experience of them.
But if the glimpse of a cat can portend the uncanny, what should we make of the cat’s own glance at us? As Jacques Derrida wondered: ‘Say the animal responded?’ If his cat found him naked in the bathroom, staring at his private parts — as discussed in Derrida's 1997 lecture The Animal That Therefore I Am — who would be more naked: the unclothed human or the never clothed animal? To experience the animal looking back at us challenges the confidence of our own gaze — we lose our unquestioned privilege in the universe. Whatever we might think of our ability to subordinate the animal to our categories, all bets are off when we try to include the animal’s own perspective. That is not just another item to be included in our own world view. It is a distinctive point of view — a way of seeing that we have no reason to suppose we can seamlessly incorporate by some imaginative extension of our own perspective.
This goes further than Montaigne’s musings on who is playing with whom. Imaginative reversal — that is, if the cat is playing with us — would be an exercise in humility. But the dispossession of a cat ‘looking back’ is more disconcerting. It verges on the unthinkable. Perhaps when Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote (of a larger cat) in Philosophical Investigations (1953) that: ‘If a lion could talk we would not understand him,’ he meant something similar. If a lion really could possess language, he or she would have a relation to the world that would challenge our own, without there being any guarantee of translatability. Or if, as T S Eliot suggested in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939), cats named themselves as well as being given names by their owners (gazed on by words, if you like), then the order of things — the human order — would be truly shaken.
Yet the existence of the domestic cat rests on our trust in them to eliminate other creatures who threaten our food and safety. We have a great deal invested in them, if now only symbolically. Snakebites can kill, rats can carry plague: the threat of either brings terror. Cats were bred to be security guards, even as their larger cousins still set their eyes on us and salivate. We like to think we can trust cats. But if we scrutinise their behaviour, our grounds for doing so evaporate.
It is something of an accident that a cat’s lethal instincts align with our interests. They seem recklessly unwilling to manage their own boundaries. Driven as they are by an unbridled spirit of adventure (and killing), they do not themselves seem to have much appreciation of danger. Even if fortune smiles upon them — they are said to have nine lives, after all — in the end, ‘curiosity kills the cat’. Such protection as cats give us seems to be a precarious arrangement.
No story of a cat’s strangeness would be complete without touching on the tactile dimension. We stroke cats, and they lick us, coil around our legs, nuzzle up to us and pump our flesh. When aroused, they bite and plunge their claws innocently and ecstatically through our clothes into our skin. Charles Baudelaire expresses this contradictory impulse, somewhere between desire and fear, in his poem ‘Le Chat’ (1857): ‘Hold back the talons of your paws/Let me gaze into your beautiful eyes.’ A human lover would be hard put to improve on a normal cat’s response to being stroked. Unselfconscious self-abandonment, unmistakable sounds of appreciation, eyes closing in rapture, exposure of soft underbelly. Did the human hand ever find a higher calling? Baudelaire continues: ‘My hand tingles with the pleasure/Of feeling your electric body’. It feels like communion, a meeting of minds (or bodies), the ultimate in togetherness, perhaps on a par with human conjugal bliss (and simpler).
But the claws through the jeans give the game away. The cat is not exploring the limits of intimacy with a dash of pain, a touch of S&M. He is involuntarily extending his claws into my skin. This is not about ‘us’, it’s about him, and perhaps it always was — the purring, the licking, the pumping. Cats undermine any dream of perfect togetherness. Look into the eyes of a cat for a moment. Your gaze will flicker between recognising another being (without quite being able to situate it), and staring into a void. At this point, we would like to think — well, that’s because she or he is a cat. But cannot the same thing happen with our friend, or child, or lover? When we look in the mirror, are we sure we know who we are?
Witch’s cats were called familiars, an oddly suitable term for cats more generally — the strange at the heart of the familiar, disturbing our security even as they police it and bring us joy. They are part of our symbolic universe as well as being real physical creatures. And these aspects overlap. Most cats are unmistakably cut from the same cloth. But this only raises more intensely the question of this cat, its singular irreplaceability. I might well be able to replace Steely as a mouser, to find another sharp set of teeth. Steely II might equally like his tummy rubbed and press his claws into my flesh. And to my chagrin, Steely I and Steely II could each offer themselves in this way to my friends, as if I were replaceable. I was once offered a replacement kitten shortly after my ginger cat Tigger died. I was so sad that I toyed with the idea of giving the kitten the same name, and pretending that Tigger had simply been renewed. In the end, I could not. But the temptation was real.
To quote Eliot again:
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover —
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.

Cats, one at a time, as our intimates, our familiars, as strangers in our midst, as mirrors of our co-evolution, as objects of exemplary fascination, pose for us the question: what is it to be a cat? And what is it to be this cat? These questions are contagious. As I stroke Steely Dan, he purrs at my touch. And I begin to ask myself more questions: to whom does this appendage I call my hand belong? What is it to be human? And who, dear feline, do you think I am?
David Wood is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, Nashville. His books include Time After Time (2007). He is also an earth artist and runs Yellow Bird sculpture park.

1498. Native American Use of Fire to Shape California's Ecology Before Colonization

By Science Daily, July 26, 2014
Before the colonial era, 100,000s of people lived on the land now called California, and many of their cultures manipulated fire to control the availability of plants they used for food, fuel, tools, and ritual. Contemporary tribes continue to use fire to maintain desired habitat and natural resources.

Frank Lake, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Station, will lead a field trip to the Stone Lake National Wildlife Refuge during the Ecological Society of America's 99th Annual Meeting in Sacramento, Cal., this August. Visitors will learn about plant and animal species of cultural importance to local tribes. Don Hankins, a faculty associate at California State University at Chico and a member of the Miwok people, will co-lead the trip, which will end with a visit to California State Indian Museum.

Lake will also host a special session on a "sense of place," sponsored by the Traditional Ecological Knowledge section of the Ecological Society, that will bring representatives of local tribes into the Annual Meeting to share their cultural and professional experiences working on tribal natural resources issues.

"The fascinating thing about the Sacramento Valley and the Miwok lands where we are taking the field trip is that it was a fire and flood system," said Lake. "To maintain the blue and valley oak, you need an anthropogenic fire system.”

Lake, raised among the Yurok and Karuk tribes in the Klamath River area of northernmost California, began his career with an interest in fisheries, but soon realized he would need to understand fire to restore salmon. Fire exerts a powerful effect on ecosystems, including the quality and quantity of water available in watersheds, in part by reducing the density of vegetation.

"Those trees that have grown up since fire suppression are like straws sucking up the groundwater," Lake said.

The convergence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers was historically one of the largest salmon bearing runs on the West Coast, Lake said, and the Miwok, Patwin and Yokut tribal peoples who lived in the area saw and understood how fire was involved.
California native cultures burned patches of forest in deliberate sequence to diversify the resources available within their region. The first year after a fire brought sprouts for forage and basketry. In 3 to 5 years, shrubs produced a wealth of berries. Mature trees remained for the acorn harvest, but burning also made way for the next generation of trees, to ensure a consistent future crop. Opening the landscape improved game and travel, and created sacred spaces.

"They were aware of the succession, so they staggered burns by 5 to 10 years to create mosaics of forest in different stages, which added a lot of diversity for a short proximity area of the same forest type," Lake said. "Complex tribal knowledge of that pattern across the landscape gave them access to different seral stages of soil and vegetation when tribes made their seasonal rounds.”

In oak woodlands, burning killed mold and pests like the filbert weevil and filbert moth harbored by the duff and litter on the ground. People strategically burned in the fall, after the first rain, to hit a vulnerable time in the life cycle of the pests, and maximize the next acorn crop. Lake thinks that understanding tribal use of these forest environments has context for and relevance to contemporary management and restoration of endangered ecosystems and tribal cultures.

"Working closely with tribes, the government can meet its trust responsibility and have accountability to tribes, and also fulfill the public trust of protection of life, property, and resources," Lake said. "By aligning tribal values with public values you can get a win-win, reduce fire along wildlife-urban interfaces, and make landscapes more resilient."

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Ecological Society of America. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This PageEcological Society of America. "Fire ecology manipulation by California native cultures." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 July 2014. <>.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

1497. Global Warming 'Pause' Since 1998 Reflects Natural Fluctuation

By Science Daily, July 21, 2014

Statistical analysis of average global temperatures between 1998 and 2013 shows that the slowdown in global warming during this period is consistent with natural variations in temperature, according to research by McGill University physics professor Shaun Lovejoy.

In a paper published this month in Geophysical Research Letters, Lovejoy concludes that a natural cooling fluctuation during this period largely masked the warming effects of a continued increase in human-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The new study applies a statistical methodology developed by the McGill researcher in a previous paper, published in April in the journal Climate Dynamics. The earlier study -- which used pre-industrial temperature proxies to analyze historical climate patterns -- ruled out, with more than 99% certainty, the possibility that global warming in the industrial era is just a natural fluctuation in Earth's climate.

In his new paper, Lovejoy applies the same approach to the 15-year period after 1998, during which globally averaged temperatures remained high by historical standards, but were somewhat below most predictions generated by the complex computer models used by scientists to estimate the effects of greenhouse-gas emissions.
The deceleration in rising temperatures during this 15-year period is sometimes referred to as a "pause" or "hiatus" in global warming, and has raised questions about why the rate of surface warming on Earth has been markedly slower than in previous decades. Since levels of greenhouse gases have continued to rise throughout the period, some skeptics have argued that the recent pattern undercuts the theory that global warming in the industrial era has been caused largely by human-made emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

Lovejoy's new study concludes that there has been a natural cooling fluctuation of about 0.28 to 0.37 degrees Celsius since 1998 -- a pattern that is in line with variations that occur historically every 20 to 50 years, according to the analysis. "We find many examples of these variations in pre-industrial temperature reconstructions" based on proxies such as tree rings, ice cores, and lake sediment, Lovejoy says. "Being based on climate records, this approach avoids any biases that might affect the sophisticated computer models that are commonly used for understanding global warming."

What's more, the cooling effect observed between 1998 and 2013 "exactly follows a slightly larger pre-pause warming event, from 1992 to 1998," so that the natural cooling during the "pause" is no more than a return to the longer term natural variability, Lovejoy concludes. "The pause thus has a convincing statistical explanation."
The methodology developed in Lovejoy's two recent papers could also be used by researchers to help analyze precipitation trends and regional climate variability and to develop new stochastic methods of climate forecasting, he adds.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by McGill University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
1. S. Lovejoy. Return periods of global climate fluctuations and the pause. Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL060478

Cite This Page:

McGill University. "Global warming 'pause' since 1998 reflects natural fluctuation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 July 2014. <>.

1496. Global Temperature Reached Record High in June Following a Record High in May

By Science Daily, July 22, 2014
According to NOAA scientists, the globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for June 2014 was the highest for June since record keeping began in 1880. It also marked the 38th consecutive June and 352nd consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average global temperature for June was in 1976 and the last below-average global temperature for any month was February 1985.

Most of the world experienced warmer-than-average monthly temperatures, with record warmth across part of southeastern Greenland, parts of northern South America, areas in eastern and central Africa, and sections of southern and southeastern Asia. Similar to May, scattered sections across every major ocean basin were also record warm. Notably, large parts of the western equatorial and northeastern Pacific Ocean and most of the Indian Ocean were record warm or much warmer than average for the month. A few areas in North America, Far East Russia, and small parts of central and northeastern Europe were cooler or much cooler than average.

A monthly summary ( from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, the business sector, academia and the public to support informed decision making.

Selected significant climate anomalies and events: June 2014.
Global temperature highlights: June
The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for June 2014 was record high for the month at 61.20°F (16.22°C), or 1.30°F (0.72°C) above the 20th century average of 59.9°F (15.5°C). This surpasses the previous record, set in 2010, by (0.05°F) 0.03°C. Nine of the ten warmest Junes on record have all occurred during the 21st century, including each of the past five years. The margin of error associated with this temperature is +/- 0.16°F (0.09°C).
The June global land temperature was the seventh highest for June on record at 1.71°F (0.95°C) above the 20th century average of 55.9°F (13.3°C). The margin of error is +/- 0.25°F (0.14°C). The seven highest June global land surface temperatures have occurred in the past decade.
Thirty-one countries across every continent, with the exception of Antarctica, reported at least one station with a record warm June temperature. The period of record varies by station. Some national temperature highlights include:
New Zealand observed its warmest June since national records began in 1909. The warmth was notable for both its intensity and coverage, with above-average temperatures from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island.
France observed its fifth warmest June in the country's 115-year period of record at 2.3°F (1.3°C) above the 1981-2010 average. A week-long heat wave contributed to the overall warmth for the month.
Parts of Greenland were record warm during June. Kangerlussuaq in southwestern Greenland observed its record highest maximum June temperature of 23.2°C (73.8°F) on June 15, surpassing the previous record of 23.1°C (73.6°F) set in both 1988 and 2002. Records at this station date back to 1958.
For the ocean, the June global sea surface temperature was 1.15°F (0.64°C) above the 20th century average of 61.5°F (16.4°C), the highest for June on record. This surpasses the previous all-time record for any month by 0.09°F (0.05°C), set in June 1998 and tied in October 2003, July 2009, and just last month in May 2014. The margin of error is +/- 0.07°F (0.04°C).
Although neither El Niño nor La Niña conditions were present across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean during June 2014, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center estimates that there is about a 70 percent chance that El Niño conditions will develop during Northern Hemisphere summer 2014 and 80 percent chance it will develop during the fall and winter.
Polar ice highlights: June
The average Arctic sea ice extent for June was 4.4 million square miles, 220,000 square miles (4.9 percent) below the 1981-2010 average and the sixth smallest June extent since records began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The seasonal sea ice extent decline during June was faster than average, with rapid ice loss near the end of month.
On the opposite pole, the Antarctic sea ice extent for June was 5.9 million square miles, 510,000 square miles (9.6 percent) above the 1981-2010 average. This marked the largest June Antarctic sea ice extent since records began in 1979, surpassing the previous record large June Antarctic sea ice extent that occurred in 2010 by about 100,000 square miles. Seven of the past 12 months have had a record large Antarctic sea ice extent.
Combining the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, June global sea ice was 10.3 million square miles, 2.9 percent above the 1981-2010 average. This was the third largest global June sea ice extent on record and the largest since 1982.
Precipitation highlights: June
Extreme wetness was observed during June over regions including central North America and parts of eastern and northern Europe. Extreme dryness was scattered across different parts of the globe, including much of South Asia and Australia.
In India, the southwest monsoon onset over Kerala occurred on June 6, five days later than the normal date of June 1. For the period June 1-30, rainfall across the country was just 60 percent of the 1951-2000 average for the country as a whole. Every region experienced rainfall deficits during this period, ranging from 43 percent of average in Central India to 72 percent of average on the South Peninsula. The monsoon season lasts from early June through late September.
Australia received 68 percent of average rainfall during June. Western Australia received just 28 percent of their average rainfall for the month, the seventh lowest for June for the state.
Global temperature highlights: Year-to-date
The first half of 2014 (January-June) tied with 2002 as the third warmest such period on record, with a combined global land and ocean average surface temperature 1.21°F (0.67°C) above the 20th century average of 56.3°F (13.5°C). Only 2010 and 1998 were warmer. Thirteen of the past fourteen such periods have occurred during the 21st century. The margin of error is +/- 0.18°F (0.10°C).
The January-June worldwide land surface temperature was 1.87°F (1.04°C) above the 20th century average, tying with 1998 and 2005 as the fourth warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.41°F (0.23°C).
The global ocean surface temperature for the year to date was 0.95°F (0.53°C) above average, the third warmest such period on record behind 1998 and 2010. The margin of error is +/-0.09°F (0.05°C).
On the Web:
Global Climate Report for June 2014:
U.S. Climate Report for June 2014:
NOAA Climate Portal:

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by NOAA/National Climatic Data Center

NOAA/National Climatic Data Center. "Global temperature reaches record high in June following record warmth in May." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 July 2014. <>.

1495. Forging an Identity for Black Iraqis

By Saad Salloum, The New York Times, July 22, 2014

BAGHDAD — Jalal Dhiyab Thijeel was tall, funny and handsome, qualities that should have made him a popular man in Basra, Iraq, where he lived. But he was also black, one of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have been pushed to the margins of society based on their skin color.
In 2003, inspired by the opening of Iraqi society after the American invasion and, later, by the success of Barack Obama in overcoming his own country’s history of racism, Jalal began to push for anti-discrimination laws in Iraq. For his audacity, Jalal was assassinated last year in Basra.
Most estimates show there are about 400,000 Iraqis who trace their origins back to sub-Saharan Africa, most of them living in the south around Basra, though a few push the count as high as two million. There are few written accounts of their early history in the country, though what records do exist show that the first of them arrived in what is now Iraq as slaves as early as the seventh century.
Just as blacks did much later in the United States, blacks in Mesopotamia worked in wealthy homes and in backbreaking agricultural work, including clearing marshland. A series of slave uprisings rocked the region from 869 to 883, but were eventually quelled.
Trading in African slaves — brought from Zanzibar on the Indian Ocean and as far west as Ghana on the Atlantic — continued into the 1920s, when it was finally banned.
But as in America, abolition did not mean an end to discrimination. While a number of laws promise equality, anti-black racism in Iraq pervades everything from housing to jobs to cultural life. Blacks in Iraq are routinely called “abd,” meaning “slave.” They mostly hold menial or low-level jobs.
Still, a distinct black culture has survived. Basra Iraqis often turn to black healers to exorcise evil spirits, to cure them of physical and psychological illnesses — even though, in an attempt to escape discrimination, Iraqi blacks have assumed Sunni, Shiite or other identities.
Jalal’s crime was to believe that this could change. Inspired by both President Obama and his hero, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he founded the Supporters of Human Freedom in Basra, which advocates for civil rights and a distinct, recognized identity for Iraqi blacks — inspiring so many people to join him that blacks in Basra sometimes called him “Iraq’s Martin Luther King.”
In a country where ethnic divisions are built into the political structure, a strong, defined ethnic identity is critical. Indeed, blacks are almost alone in their lack of government-mandated quotas for elected positions; not a single black has ever achieved high political office.
To build racial unity, Jalal began teaching classes for blacks on their rich cultural heritage. He also helped encourage black Iraqi hip-hop, which erupted as a music scene in southern Iraq after the American invasion.
The music tapped into black musical traditions and expressed — as in the United States — a visceral reaction to discrimination. As the lyrics of one rap song put it: “We say that the past has been defeated, and we will forget it in a time when we bury our dead, everybody has a voice.”

The case has never been fully investigated, a fact that leads even sympathetic Iraqis to shrug: Iraq is a violent place. Many people are gunned down in sectarian violence, their murders unsolved.
Jalal’s assassination was not just racial, but without a doubt political. His photo of President Obama was like a red flag to Shiite political parties, backed by Iran. Jalal insisted that black representatives should stand in elections as blacks, taking votes from Sunni and Shiite parties alike.
In response to the latest Sunni insurgency, the United States is pressuring Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, to make his government more inclusive as a way to help halt its disintegration. World attention has focused on the big three ethnic groups: Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
Such inclusiveness is badly needed, but justice demands that the table be expanded. Iraqis need to recognize that theirs is a multiethnic country, and that respect for minority rights is what makes any country strong.
Since Jalal’s assassination, Iraq’s blacks have slunk back into the shadows. In Basra, blacks have resumed their identification as Shiites or Sunnis. Even Jalal’s family refuses to speak out about what happened to him. They mourn him in private, the tall, handsome husband and father who liked to make people laugh.
Jalal was my friend. The best ways to honor his memory would be a thorough investigation into his assassination, and for Iraq to enact its first-ever anti-discrimination law. Who knows, perhaps one day he will be honored as an Iraqi Martin Luther King — not just by blacks, but by all Iraqis.

Saad Salloum is the editor in chief of Masarat, a magazine that advocates for Iraqi minorities, and a co-founder of the Iraqi Council on Interfaith Dialogue.

1494. Microplastics Worse for Crabs and Other Marine Life Than Previously Thought: Enter Through Gills

By Science Daily, July 18, 2014
Ghost crab on beach

The tiny plastic particles polluting our seas are not only orally ingested by marine creatures, but also enter their systems through their gills, according to a new study led by the University of Exeter.

Scientists also discovered that when microplastics are drawn in through this method they take over six times longer to leave the body compared with standard digestion.
Lead author Dr Andrew Watts of Biosciences at the University of Exeter said: "Many studies on microplastics only consider ingestion as a route of uptake into animals. The results we have just published stress other routes such as ventilation. We have shown this for crabs, but the same could apply for other crustaceans, molluscs and fish -- simply any animal which draws water into a gill-like structure to carry out gas exchange.
"This is highly important from an ecological point of view, as if these plastics are retained longer within the animal there is more chance of them being passed up the food chain.”

The researchers used fluorescently labelled polystyrene microspheres to show how ingested microplastics were retained within the body tissues of the common shore crab, Carcinus maenas. Multiphoton imaging suggested that most microspheres were retained in the foregut after sticking to hair-like 'setae' structures within the crabs.
Plastic is part of our everyday lives and has grown in use substantially over the past seven decades -- from 1.7 million tonnes in 1950 to an estimated 288 million tonnes in 2013. Around 40 per cent of this is believed to come from packaging material, most of which is single use and therefore disposed of.

It has been suggested that 10 per cent of plastic which is thrown away ends up in the marine environment. At 2013 production levels this equates to 11 million tonnes of packaging ending up in the marine environment every year. This plastic is then degraded by wave action, heat or UV damage and is created into microplastic (particles smaller than 5mm).
Dr Watts added: "This is a human issue. We have put this plastic there, mostly accidently, but it is our problem to solve. The best way to do this is to reduce our dependency on plastic. It comes back to the old phrase: reduce, reuse and recycle."
The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, was funded by CleanSeas, a multidisciplinary and collaborative research project addressing marine litter from different perspectives.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by University of Exeter. 

Journal Reference:

1. Andrew J. R. Watts, Ceri Lewis, Rhys M. Goodhead, Stephen J. Beckett, Julian Moger, Charles R. Tyler, Tamara S. Galloway. Uptake and Retention of Microplastics by the Shore CrabCarcinus maenas. Environmental Science & Technology, 2014; 140710142610002 DOI: 10.1021/es501090e

1493. Darkness Falls on Gaza

By Mohammed Omer, The New York Times, July 22, 2014
RAMADAN, when night descends, is usually a joyous time. Friends and family gather to break their fast at the iftar meal. Not this year.
Nights are the worst. That is when the bombing escalates. Nowhere is safe. Not a mosque. Not a church. Not a school, or even a hospital. All are potential targets.
On Monday, the Israeli military fired artillery rounds at Al Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, claiming to target a cache of anti-tank missiles. Dr. Khalil Khattab, a surgeon, was operating on a patient when the first shell struck. He ran to the floors below to discover at least four dead and dozens of colleagues — doctors, nurses, orderlies and administrators — injured. The medical staff had become patients.
The Gaza Strip — a little less than half the size of New York City — is home to 1.8 million people, mainly Muslims, with a small Christian minority. Its population is cut off from the world, living under the blockade imposed by Egypt and Israel in 2007. For anyone over the age of 7, this is the third time they’ve lived through a sustained attack.
In two weeks of bombing and shelling, more than 600 Palestinians have been reported killed. Since the Israeli ground invasion began, 28 Israeli soldiers have died; the conflict has also claimed the lives of two Israeli civilians.
Here in Gaza City, the electricity was gone; it was dark everywhere. The water supply was foul, food was rancid, and fear permeated the summer night.
On Eighth Street, I visited the al-Baba family. For this family of 15, a corrugated tin roof was all that stood between them and the bombs. Hani al-Baba, 23, heard the hum of a drone. Some are for surveillance, some are weaponized. Which is which, one never knows. The sound was enough to send the children scurrying into corners, trembling and praying. Nervously, Hani scanned the night sky.
Israeli strikes have taken out entire families. In a town near Khan Younis on Sunday, more than 20 members of the Abu Jameh family died when their home was hit. For safety, Hani’s father split the family into different rooms — a scene played out in nearly every home in Gaza, a grim shell game of family members.
Suddenly, a bomb exploded in the field behind the al-Babas’ house: a boom followed by a flash of light. Everyone screamed. The ground shook, the air seemed to implode, sucking the breath from lungs.
Then it was dark again. Why this area was being bombed was unclear. There were no “terrorists,” no rockets. It was a neighborhood of families, scared and cowering in the dark.
The long siege has bled the Gaza Strip dry. There is no money for public services; the majority of the population lives in abject poverty. And now at least 120,000 Gazans have been displaced by the fighting, thousands taking temporary shelter in United Nations schools. Many will return to homes damaged or destroyed, with little or no means to rebuild. Cement is especially severely rationed because Israel suspects it is diverted by Hamas to build tunnels for fighters.
In Shifa Hospital, what struck me were the resilience and dignity of the families. Forced to evacuate under gunfire, they had become refugees in their own land. I watched a grandmother who’d fled the east of the city comforting her four grandchildren and two daughters. The family broke their fast with slices of bread, two yogurts, cucumber and tomatoes. This was their iftar.
A cease-fire agreement is possible, but all parties need to be at the table; Hamas was not consulted over the one proposed by Egypt last week. Even peace might be possible — if the international community has the courage to engage in dialogue with Hamas. The terms outlined by Hamas for a cease-fire are the same as those the United Nations has called for repeatedly: open the border crossings; let people work, study and build the economy. A population capable of taking care of its own would enhance Israel’s security. One that cannot leads to desperation.
In January 2008, barriers along the Gaza-Egypt border were knocked down. Thousands of Gazans poured into Egypt to acquire much needed supplies. I remember the relief within the Palestinian community. This transient glimpse of freedom was a treat.
A neighbor of mine was simply delighted to drink a Coca-Cola. The freedom to move, fresh food and clean water, and the simple pleasure of sipping a soda, this is what Gazans need: the normal life everyone else takes for granted. During the first days the border was open, Hamas suspended rocket attacks from Gaza. Israeli politicians should take note.
Whatever its official statements, Israel has no interest in destroying Hamas; it seeks merely to weaken and isolate it. Hamas gives Israel an out, a convenient villain, someone to blame. Yet the siege of Gaza serves no purpose other than to radicalize the next generation.
Families like the al-Babas shouldn’t have to move their children around the house in the hope that some may survive. Nor should families in Ashdod, over the border in Israel, have to hide in bomb shelters from the militants’ rockets.
Without a process that includes all parties at the negotiating table, though, I fear this cycle of violence, punitive and disproportionate as it is, can lead only to an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-type extremism among the Palestinians. Only the darkest cynic would wish for that.

Mohammed Omer is a reporter for The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and other publications.

Friday, July 25, 2014

1492. Stop the Israeli Invasion of Gaza!

By Jeff Mackler, Socialist Action, July 24, 2014
American-made Israeli war plane bombs residential targets in Gaza
The U.S.-backed racist, colonialist, apartheid Zionist entity known as Israel is once again saturation bombing the Palestinian people and destroying the infrastructure of the world’s largest open air prison—the Gaza Strip—a slip of land roughly 26 miles long by 5.5 miles wide.
Gaza’s 1.82 million Palestinian residents, many driven by force and violence from their land and homes throughout historic Palestine over the past 66 years, are compelled to live in one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Unemployment stands at 80 percent.
For the third time since Israel’s 2008-9 three-week air bombardment and ground occupation that slaughtered 1400 Palestinians (14 Israelis died), the beleaguered masses are being subjected to a murderous invasion of 50,000 Israeli “Defense” Force (IDF) troops, accompanied by tanks, and supported by massive air strikes, cross-border mortar and artillery bombardments, and unending offshore naval shelling from Israeli gunboats.
Israel employs one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful military apparatuses, replete with advanced fighter jets, helicopter gun ships, a naval armada and well-equipped land forces. And in turn, the Zionist state confronts a comparatively disarmed people. Even Israeli officials have mocked Gaza’s rocket-making capabilities as little more than the efforts of a cottage industry, which they contemptuously refer to as “high tech.” Most of the rockets used by Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, are homemade devices filled with fertilizer, ammonium compounds, and other explosive materials. Although some rockets, designed to emulate relatively sophisticated Syrian and Iranian models, have a range allowing them to reach most of Israel’s cities, they are notoriously inaccurate.
Casualties from the beginning of the Israeli aerial attacks on July 11 until the July 17 IDF invasion stood at 250 Palestinians dead, and thousands wounded and/or left homeless—in contrast to one Israeli killed. According to the UN, almost 80 percent of the deaths were civilians—including many children. Israel suffered not a single casualty via the 1500 Hamas rockets fired. The one Israeli dead was from a mortar fired across the border.
The first week of the land invasion saw the number of Palestinian deaths escalate to over 750—mainly civilians—with no end in sight for the carnage. Three hospitals and 15 other health facilities were hit by Israeli fire during the first week of the invasion, while nearly 500 houses were destroyed. Israeli tanks shelled the UN school in Beit Hanoun on July 24, killing at least 15 people. Many civilians were in the building at the time who had fled there for supposed safety after being driven from their homes by bombing.
Here’s an on-the-scene account from Dr. Mona El-Farra in Gaza City, written in the early hours of July 19: “The Israeli tanks and airforce are bombing continuously. They are targeting Al-Shajaiya neighborhood in the eastern part of Gaza City. The airforce is flying planes very low and they are shelling houses. They are shelling everywhere, hitting many houses. People are dying. The Israeli occupation dehumanizes us by killing us while we are sleeping.
“The ambulances are trying to reach the dead and injured and transfer them to hospitals but many ambulances couldn’t pass.
“Tens of wounded people, old and young, are stranded. The ambulances can’t reach them to help. Tens of bodies are in the street or buried in the rubble. My friend Hani is a father in Al-Shajaiya and his wife is pregnant. He called me and told me that it’s not possible for the ambulance to reach them. He is scared that they will die there before the ambulance reaches his family because there is bombing everywhere.
“The number of people killed is increasing every minute because medical teams can’t reach the area and people are bleeding. People are running, terrified in the streets. Many families, many children are leaving the Al-Shajaiya neighborhood coming to Gaza’s city center. Women, men, children are walking and running. I can see a woman carrying her baby and terrified children around her. They are running to escape the smell of death.
“The bombs and the shrapnel are falling like rain on us. They are made by your governments: England, USA, Australia, etc. It is better to use these funds for health and education.
“What kind of humanity is this? What kind of modern society is this? This is what the Israeli occupation is doing and all the while using propaganda to try to hide the truth. I call on everyone in this world; don’t say that you didn’t know. I am telling you right now and you can hear me. This occupation, this massacre, is protected by a silent world.
“Wake up. Don’t remain silent.”
What limited infrastructure existed in Gaza before this new Zionist war is today being systematically targeted, destroyed, or severed by Israel, including basic water supplies, sewage systems, and electricity generation. Even before the July 17 attack, 90 percent of Gaza’s water supply, heavily salinated and saturated with poisonous chemicals stemming from ground water seepage of fertilizers, was deemed by world experts as unfit for human consumption, if not for basic agriculture irrigation. Today, most Gazans are largely without any regular supply of water!
The people of Gaza have been subjected for decades to an Israeli embargo/blockade wherein even basic foodstuffs are frequently denied entry, as are essential medical supplies. More than half the population is dependent on UN relief agencies for elementary health care, education, and related social services. No other source of support is available or permitted by Israel.
Directly addressing the plight of Gaza’s people, Hamas spokesman Ismail Haniyeh listed 10 demands as conditions for a ceasefire. “We’ll never go back to the slow death,” Haniyeh said. “Our demands are fair and they are humane. Our people have decided.” The demands, all rejected by the Israeli government, are as follows:
• Withdrawal of Israeli tanks from the Gaza border.
• Freeing all the prisoners that were arrested after the killing of the three youths. (Some 800 were arrested by Israel police and IDF forces.)
• Lifting the siege and opening the border crossings to commerce and people.
• Establishing an international seaport and airport which would be under U.N. supervision.
• Increasing the permitted fishing zone to 10 kilometers.
• Internationalizing the Rafah Crossing and placing it under the supervision of the UN and some Arab nations.
• International forces on the borders.
• Easing conditions for permits to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque.
• Prohibition on Israeli interference in the reconciliation agreement.
• Reestablishing an industrial zone and improvements in further economic development in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials and media, pre-prepared with a canned rationale aimed at blaming the victims for the Zionist terror, insist that their main targets are tunnels—some from Gaza into Israeli territory and others into Gaza from Egypt, which are used to bring in the rockets being fired today. Yet, every report indicates that the real Israeli targets, in addition to Palestine’s vital infrastructure, are anyone that moves, including Palestinian children sitting on rooftops and children playing on beaches, not to mention residential communities.
According to the July 18 New York Times, General Moti Almoz, the chief Israeli military spokesman, stated, “I will now, uncharacteristically, ask the residents of Gaza to move away from the areas our forces are operating in—they are operating with extreme force” [Emphasis added]. The “generous” murderers sent robo-style phone calls to 100,000 Palestinian homes informing them that they had minutes to evacuate before mass bombings commenced.
Israeli officials insist that while they take precautions to avoid civilian casualties, this is difficult because the pea-shooter rockets are often fired from residential neighborhoods. This rational didn’t fly well with the relatively conservative British-based Human Rights Watch, whose representative, Peter Brouchaert, responded, “We don’t need statements of regret from Israel. We need investigation and an end to the killing.”
Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, speaking of a claimed tunnel from Gaza that supposedly led to an Israel border settlement, stated in a July 17 interview that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed great “restraint” and paid a high “political price” for not invading sooner. Oren added, “Essentially Hamas,” the elected governing party of the Palestine Authority in Gaza, “invaded Israel first.”(!)
The “political price” paid by the “civilized” Netanyahu meant that he had to endure the mad calls from fanatical right-wing Israeli groups that demanded blood, including slaughtering Palestinian women to stop them from reproducing more Palestinians. This kind of “dialogue” is not uncommon in Israel but largely excluded from the corporate media in the U.S. After all, Israel is a civilized nation!
Origins of the Israeli settler state
Israel did not exist before 1948, when the World War II imperialist victors, meeting at the United Nations, decreed that an Israeli state was to be carved out of historic Palestine, then a British “Mandate,” a polite imperialist word for colony. The Zionist colonizers were granted 56 percent of the country.
Great Britain originally “acquired” Palestine following the World War I conflagration and worldwide slaughter that resulted in the victors’ division of the vanquished Ottoman Empire. England and France, which in the 19thcentury had partaken in the colonial subjugation and division of Africa, set out to do the same in the Middle East. Pencils and pens in hand, a host of diplomats divided up the Ottoman Empire and assigned the sections outside Turkey itself to the French and British imperialists.
Previously, in 1917, the Zionist movement, promising to be Britain’s colonial overseers in Palestine, had reached an accord with the British Empire, via the Balfour Declaration. Signed by the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour and the British Zionist leader, Baron Walter Rothschild II, the agreement read in part: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
The latter portion of this declaration was included to portray the British Empire and its associated Zionist colonizer allies as merely living side by side with their Palestinian “neighbors.” However, 90 percent of the population of Palestine at that time was made up of Palestinian Arabs.
Perhaps the leading ideological forbearer of “Revisionist Zionism” was Vladimir Jabotinsky, who authored the benchmark essay for the entire Zionist movement, “The Iron Wall.” (The earlier form of Zionism, with pacifist and socialist tones, nevertheless contemplated establishing a Jewish homeland to be carved out of some conquered nation with the approval of its imperialist conqueror. South Africa and Uganda were among the nations that had been considered for this project.)
In 1923, Jabotinsky spelled out the Zionist credo without equivocation: “Whether through the Balfour Declaration or the [British] Mandate, external force is a necessity for establishing in the country [Palestine] conditions of rule and defense to which the local population, regardless of what it wishes, will be deprived of the possibility of impeding our colonization, administratively or physically. Force must play its role—with strength and without indulgence. In this, there are no meaningful differences between our militarists and our vegetarians. One prefers an Iron Wall of Jewish bayonets; the other an Iron Wall of English bayonets.”
Jabotinsky continued: “To the hackneyed reproach that this point of view is unethical, I answer, ‘absolutely untrue.’ This is our ethic. There is no other ethic. As long as there is the faintest spark of hope for the Arabs to impede us, they will not sell these hopes—not for any sweet words, not for any tasty morsel, because this is not a rabble but a people, a living people. And no people makes such enormous concessions on such fateful questions, except when there is no hope left, until we have removed every opening visible in the Iron Wall.” (For a comprehensive overview, see Socialist Action’s pamphlet, “The Hidden History of Zionism” by Ralph Schoenman.)
European Jewish immigration to Palestine increased dramatically following Hitler’s coming to power in 1933. Jewish land purchases and new Jewish settlements rapidly ensued. Palestinian resistance to British control and Zionist settlements climaxed with the massive Arab revolt of 1936-39, which Britain brutally suppressed with the help of Zionist militias.
Within days of the 1948 partition of Palestine, Zionism’s terrorist armies, this time with British weapons in hand, declared war on the Palestinian people, inside and outside of the new Zionist state, as well as on all surrounding Arab nations that rejected the UN’s imperialist partition. Three hundred eighty-five Palestinian villages were razed to the ground, renamed, and reconstituted as Israeli towns. In the course of this 1948-49 war and expansion of Israel, 726,000 Palestinians were driven from their land, with many moving to Gaza and the West Bank (of the Jordan River) or dispersed to refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere. With the destruction of their towns and villages, “vacated” Palestinian land was decreed Israeli state property under the 1950 “Absentee Property Law.”
Until 1947, Jewish land ownership in Palestine was 6 percent. The rest belonged to the Palestinian people. Today that figure is essentially reversed. Palestinian lands have been systematically stolen by force. By 1949 Israel occupied 78 percent of Palestine. Following the 1967 Six-Day War, the percentage was increased to 100—that is, Israel occupied all of historic Palestine.
The so-called Occupied Territories of 1967 were and remain subject to the systematic construction of Israeli settlements, despite the vague 1995 “Oslo agreement,” wherein Gaza and the West Bank would be under the jurisdiction of a Palestinian Authority, whose leaders were to be elected by Palestinians in that 22 percent of the original Palestine. But Israeli settlements in both “territories” continued without interruption, as they do to this day.
The three million Palestinian occupants of Gaza and the West Bank are essentially banned from leaving their new and now “legalized,” and re-occupied, territory. These economically and socially unviable Bantustans are daily subject to Israel military control, including a myriad of militarized checkpoints, walls, separate roads for Israelis, and other measures that render them little more than prisons regulated by Israeli troops, guards, and financial interests. With regard to Israeli’s relentless construction of settlements in these areas, UN resolutions and/or “international laws” that supposedly regulate relations between states and people and that prohibit such land seizures have been ignored with impunity—and always with total U.S. complicity.
 Zionist apartheid vs. South African apartheid
 Zionist colonization differs significantly from the classical European form, in which the conquered indigenous population is subjected to near slave-like conditions aimed at providing a near-free labor force for European industry and agriculture. In contrast, the Israeli variant was and remains based on the physical exclusion of all Palestinian labor and its replacement with Jewish workers and settlers from all over the world. The latter are granted immediate citizenship based on their Jewish heritage, as opposed to Palestinians, whose rights are largely restricted regardless of how many generations their forbears lived in Palestine. Israel is formally a “Jewish state.”
In this sense, South African apartheid also differed significantly from its Israeli variant. The South African colonists, less than 10 percent of the population, maintained the fiction that South Africa was “legally” for whites only. Blacks were relegated to non-citizen status and required pass cards to work in the “new” South Africa. Others were held in artificially created and isolated Bantustans (“Black homelands” or “Black states”), geographically separate and apart from South Africa, as with Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, and Ciskei.
No nation except the apartheid South African government recognized this “legal fiction.” No one denied that these “homelands” operated merely to provide a reserve labor supply for South Africa’s capitalist enterprises, especially its mining industries. South Africa’s colonial settlers, with their ingrained racist/colonialist mentality, deemed these poverty-stricken enclaves “independent nations.”
In Israel, Palestinian labor barely exists, with the Zionist regime’s needed labor force, not including Jews, largely consisting of immigrants from poor nations. Jabotinsky’s conception is fully operative. The Palestinian identity is to be eradicated. Palestinians are to be driven out! Israel is for Jews only!
This is not to detract from the horrors created by European colonization. In Africa’s Congo, for example, King Leopold II of Belgium murdered 12 million Congolese in the 19th century, the largest genocide in history. The French, British, Spanish, Italian, German, and Portuguese imperialists similarly murdered literally tens of millions while enslaving and exporting countless millions of others.
It is in this broad colonial context that the June 13 disappearance of three Israeli teenagers, which is still unexplained, must be evaluated. Without proof, the Zionist government immediately declared Hamas, the Islamic current that formally represents Palestinians in Gaza guilty—despite Hamas denials.
A “revenge” campaign was immediately launched in the West Bank. Entire towns were sealed off by Israeli government forces. Palestinian homes were systematically broken into. Some 800 people were instantly arrested and charged with being supporters of Hamas. (In fact, Israel is continuing to hunt down alleged Hamas supporters in the West Bank and in Israel itself.) And yet, Hamas, declared by the U.S. to be a terrorist organization, is held responsible for starting yet another war with the “peace-loving” and “democratic” Zionist and colonialist Israel.
This government-created hysteria resulted in three far-right Israelis, including two teenagers, taking action. They kidnapped, clubbed, doused with gasoline, and burned alive the innocent Palestinian youth, Mohammed Abu Khdeir. These murderers were soon captured by Israeli authorities and charged with “terrorism.” The same day, however, war was declared on the Gaza Strip, with death and destruction wrought on the innocent civilian population ever since.
One can only recall Hitler’s rounding up hundreds of civilians in Nazi-occupied cities, and ordering one person shot each minute until someone stepped forward to reveal the names of the resistance fighters who had courageously challenged and killed a handful of Nazis soldiers.
In a similar vein, any Palestinian who resists Israeli oppression, occupation, and confiscation of their land and property, and the slaughter of their people is deemed a terrorist. Nelson Mandela and Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta, resistance fighters who became presidents of their nations, were similarly declared terrorists.
George Washington, who resisted British colonial occupation and oppression in the 18th century, and who used force and violence to win America’s freedom, was also deemed a terrorist. Before Washington was able to form regular armies to resist British rule, he too employed guerrilla tactics and primitive weapons to challenge the British Empire’s occupying armies.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration, like all other U.S. administrations before it, swears allegiance to the Israeli state power, which it arms and finances to the tune of $3.1 billion yearly, the largest sum gifted to any nation on earth. The vast portion of this “foreign aid,” it is worth noting, is spent on the purchase of military equipment from the largely monopolized U.S. military-industrial complex. That is, funds spent on arming Israel to the teeth are returned to the U.S. to beef up the coffers of U.S. war profiteers.
Growing worldwide opposition to Zionist Israel
Since the formation of Israel in 1948, systematic war against the Palestinian people has been the rule, not the exception. In 1948, no Arab nation recognized the legitimacy of this colonial racist state, carved out of Palestinian land. Indeed, leading American philosophers and scientists opposed the formation of the Zionist state, including renowned scientist Albert Einstein, who rejected an Israeli offer to become Israel’s first president. Einstein expressed grave concerns that the victims of the Nazis holocaust not become the colonial persecutors and overseers of the Palestinian people.
Today, some 66 years later, perhaps the world’s most well-known living scientist, particle physicist Stephen Hawking, refused to participate at a scientific gathering in Israel. In recent days and months, Hawking has been joined by a constant flow of leading U.S. academic and professional associations that have added their voices to the growing BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement protesting Israeli’s policies. The 1.5 million-member Presbyterian Church voted in early July to condemn Israeli’s murderous policies toward the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, the world is ablaze with unprecedented protests, exceeding any others in history, condemning the Zionist state. Hundred of thousands have taken to the streets in England, France, and across Europe. In the U.S. almost daily mobilizations have been organized across the country, with several thousands participating in actions in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis, and other cities. In almost all instances, these actions have been initiated by U.S.-based Palestinian and associated Arab organizations and supported by a myriad of antiwar and social justice organizations. Indeed, the largest U.S. antiwar organization, the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), at its national conference two years ago of 800 activists from 30 states, nearly unanimously adopted the demand, “End all U.S. Aid to Israel—military, economic, and diplomatic.”
For a democratic, secular Palestine
I will conclude this admittedly angry essay by stating that Socialist Action has never recognized the legitimacy of the Zionist entity called Israel. Nor have we done so with regard to the overseers of any colonized nation on earth, whether in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, or anywhere else. We have always stood on the side of and in solidarity with the oppressed masses of the world who challenge their colonial or neo-colonial subjugators.
We likewise reject imperialism’s originally imposed division of the Middle East into separate states, dependent on and ruled by imperial occupiers or their agents. These divisions—these lines on maps drawn by conquerors—artificially divided or incorporated peoples with diverse origins, histories, languages, and cultures. Today’s tragic unfolding events in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon—and indeed, throughout the Middle East—are testimony to the deadly effects of imperialist divisions.
Zionist Israel is nothing less than an imperialist creation that is administrated, tragically, by Jewish people—whose forebears were subjected to the monstrous Hitlerian holocaust. Today, Palestinians constitute the largest refugee population in the world. At more than four million, expelled from their land and homes, tortured, murdered and denied basic human rights, they are a beleaguered people struggling for their freedom and dignity.
Socialists do not demand “negotiations” or a “ceasefire” or a “just solution” to the “Palestinian problem”—all code words or expressions that are premised on extending legitimacy to the Zionist state, including its expulsion of the Palestinian people.
Socialist Action supports the 1973 historic demand of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) for a “Democratic Secular Palestine” with the right of return to all dispossessed Palestinians should they choose to exercise it. Achieving this demand would entail the rejection of the Israeli settler state and the re-establishment of historic Palestine with democratic rights for all—Palestinians, Jews, and Christians.
“Free, Free Palestine!”—a demand increasingly shouted out by antiwar activists and supporters of Palestinian freedom around the world—likewise strongly implies the abolition of the Zionist and racist settler state of Israel.
At the same time, we understand that the Palestinians can never achieve true self-determination in the context of capitalism. We fight for a socialist Palestine, as we do for a socialist confederation of the Middle East. The revolutionary mobilization of the vast majority is a pre-requisite for this outcome. Anything less can only mean continued subjugation to the imperialist ruling rich and their appointed agents.
These are not revolutionary abstractions. They are based on our rejection of the colonialist and neo-colonial occupations and wars that are the rule today in that region. Revolutionary socialists support the right of all oppressed and colonized people to self-determination—free from colonial rule.
Today, the central imperial power in the Middle East is the United States. Free from U.S. intervention in its myriad forms, the people of the Middle East would have long ago ridden themselves of local would-be tyrants. These tyrants, as with the Nouri al-Maliki government in Iraq, exist only at the behest of the U.S., which finances, arms, and directs its brutal puppet dictators in order to facilitate the exploitation of each nation’s resources and peoples. “Regime change” is imperialism’s current code word for replacing one dictator with another, provided only that the new appointees protect U.S. interests.

In the United States, we demand, “End all aid to Israel!” We call on the world’s working masses everywhere to take to the streets to demand, “Stop the Israeli massacre in Gaza!” and “End the Israeli blockade!”