Archive | June, 2021

Whither Palestine? Whither Israel? After the Violence Spike, After the Abraham Accords, After Netanyahu

13 Jun

[Prefatory Note: This post covers the changing circumstances in Irael/Palestine over the course of the last six weeks. It takes the form of responses to questions posed by the political economist, journalist, and author, C.J. Polychronious, and was published in Truthout  on June 13, 2021, which happens to be the day that Israel ended its political impasse by formally empowering the Coalition for Change to take over the Israeli governing process. The coalition joins together a very diverse set of political parties, but its center of gravity leans sharply left. There are two questions now that will shape the Palestinian destiny to its next phase: Will the post-Netanyahu government push harder the political agenda of the right-wing settler movement? Will the aftermath of the IDF military operation, Guardian of the Walls, increase Palestinian resistance and global solidarity? The next two months will allow us to make better informed assessments for what is in store for both sides.]

Whither Palestine? Whither Israel? After the Violence Spike, After the Abraham Accords, After Netanyahu

Q1. Richard, the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, which caused massive destruction in the Gaza Strip, ended with a ceasefire after growing US and international pressure. In your view, what factors or parties reignited the dormant Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

This latest upsurge of violence in the relations between Israel and Palestine seems to arise from a combination of circumstances. In such situations where an explanation is not obvious, and even if given, may not be trustworthy, and should often be largely discounted as a self-justifying rationale. An assessment of the reasons behind this latest cycle of large-scale Israeli violence lead to a deeper understanding of what otherwise seems opaque. It is clear that Israel usual claim of a right to defend itself is far from the whole story, especially when its behavior seemed designed to provoke Hamas to act in response. In light of this we should investigate why Israel wanted to launch a major military operation against Gaza at this time mid-Mayu when the situation seemed comparatively quiet in the preceding months?

The easiest answer to the question—to save Bibi Netanyahu’s skin. It seems that the precarious political position and legal vulnerability of the long-term, increasingly controversial Israeli leader, is the best back story, but also far from a complete picture. It helps account for the seemingly reckless Israeli provocations that preceded the flurry of rockets from Hamas and affiliates. Netanyahu had failed four times to form a government after inconclusive elections, and was for the first time facing an opposition coalition that was effectively poised to displace him as leader. Now displaced as prime minister, Netanyahu will likely have to face substantial criminal charges for fraud, bribery, and breach of public trust in Israeli courts, which could result in a jail sentence.

Why would a wily leader and ardent nationalist play roulette with the wellbeing of Israel? The answer seems to involve the character of the man rather than an astute policy calculation. Netanyahu seems to possess a narcistic personality disorder that always leads him to view national interests through as optic that accords primacy to his personal needs and desires. To the extent that the Netanyahu approach was grounded in knowledge, it reflected the well-evidenced view that Israelis put aside differences and give their total allegiance to the head of state during a wartime interlude. Netanyahu had every reason to believe that in this situation as so often in the past experience that Israelis would rally around the flag, and be thankful for his style of strong leadership in a security crisis.

Israeli behavior preceding the rockets was plainly inflammatory that  it safe to assume that it was intended to be a highly provocative challenge to Palestinian public opinion, exerting pressures on the leadership in. Ramallah and Gaza City to do something in response. First came high profile evictions of six Palestinian families from their Sheik Jarrah homes in East Jerusalem on flimsy legal grounds, with a prospect of more evictions to follow. These Israeli court rulings enraged the Palestinians. It reinforced the sense of continuing victimization taking the form of acute insecurity as to Palestinian residence rights in Jerusalem, a dynamic perceived as a process of ethnic cleansing that goes back to 1948. As such, it reawakened the still agonizing memories of the 700,000 or more Palestinians who fled or were forced across the borders of what became Israel to Jordan, Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank (until 1967 under Jordanian administration) in the 1948 War, becoming refugees, and never thereafter allowed to return to their homes and homeland, which was and is their right under international law.

This process of coercive demographic rebalancing was integral to the essential racial and idealistic character of the Zionist Movement, which sought to establish not only a Jewish state but a democracy that could qualify for political legitimacy by Western criteria. To achieve this goal, however, depended on implementing policies ensuring and maintaining a secure Jewish majority population, which involved the denial of fundamental human rights to Palestinians. These controversial Sheikh Jarrar evictions were continuing this Judaizing of East Jerusalem after more than 70 years since Israel was founded. In other words, what Israeli Jews treated as a demographic imperative that was almost synonymous with maintaining a Jewish state for the Palestinians had the character of a continuous process of ethnic cleansing, which meant second-class citizenship and living with perpetual insecurity.

Days before the rockets were launched there were further provocations that took the form of unregulated marches by right-wing Jewish settlers through Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem carrying posters and shouting ‘Death to the Arabs’ coupled with random acts of violence against Palestinians and their property. Such events reinforced the impression that the Palestinians in Israel were acutely insecure and vulnerable to thuggish manifestations of settler racism and that would be abetted by the Israeli state, and its security forces. This pattern exhibited the jagged edges of Israel’s distinctive version of apartheid.

Likely, the most provocative of all these events preceding the cross-border violence with Gaza were the several intrusions at al-Aqsa compound and mosque by Israeli security forces in a manner that obstructed Muslim worship during the last days of Ramadan. As well, Muslims were prevented from coming to al-Aqsa from the West Bank during this period. These encroachments on freedom of religion again seemed designed to provoke Palestinian reactions of resistance by harshly discriminatory practices of Israeli interpretations of law and order.

Against this background, Palestinian protests mounted, and Hamas undoubtedly felt challenged to maintain its claim as the inspirational leader of Palestinian resistance. Because of the limited options available to Hamas, meaningful resistance took the characteristic form of firing hundreds of primitive rockets, many falling harmlessly or intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. The rockets were indiscriminate and inflicted some Israeli casualties, minor damage to towns in southern Israel, such a tactic violates international humanitarian law, and undoubtedly were very frightening to the Israeli civilian population.

It should be appreciated that Israel’s violations far outweighed the violations on the Palestinian in several crucial respects: the death and destruction caused by the two sides, the refusal of Israel to uphold its legal obligations as the Occupying Power toward the civilian Occupied Palestinian people who were already long subjugated by an unlawful blockade in place since 2007 held responsible for unemployment levels over 50% and dependence on humanitarian aid by over 80% of the Gazan population. Israel also ignored its specific duty outlined in Article 55 of the 4th Geneva Convention to protect the civilian population during a time of ‘contagious disease or epidemic,’ and instead subjected Palestinians to what has been described as ‘medical apartheid,’ which was most blatant on the West Bank where all Jewish settlers were vaccinated while almost no Palestinians received even a first dose.

Q2. The Arab world condemned the latest Israeli assault, but took no action. My question about this is twofold: first, to what extent did the Abraham Accords precipitate the renewal of violence between Israelis and Palestinians? And, second, what’s behind the cozy relationship between Israel and Arab Countries, particularly Gulf States?

With respect to the Abraham Accords, I am not aware of any concrete indications of a link, although some circumstantial evidence suggests its plausibility. On the Israeli side, the Accords seems to have given Israel greater confidence that they could make life even more miserable for the Palestinian people without having to fear adverse repercussions from their Arab neighbors. Without Trump in the White House the right-wing in Israel seemed to believe that their expansionist goals, including annexationist hopes for most of the West Bank would have to be achieved unilaterally, and with somewhat less diplomatic cover from the United States, and that meant intensifying their already bellicose reputation.

On the Palestinian side, opposite forces seemed at play. A sense that Netanyahu and the settlers were exerting increasing pressure to make the Palestinians believe that their struggle was futile, a lost cause, with the goal of making them agree to whatever ‘peace arrangement’ was put forward by Israel (what I call ‘the Daniel Pipes’ scenario, squeezing the Palestinians so hard that they give up, having failed to achieve such a result by way of the Oslo diplomacy). More assertively interpreted, the rockets expressed a resolve not to accept peacefully ethnically cleansing from their homes nor silenced and intimidated by the settlers nor by those who would interfere with their religious practices. The message of the rockets may have also been intended as a warning to the Palestinian Authority not to accept some arrangement that validated this coercive Israeli approach to ‘peace.’

These ugly direct encounters originating in Jerusalem were dealt with harshly by the Israeli government in the afterglow of the Abraham Accords, which was a further incitement for Hamas to act in militant solidarity. Hamas probably also sought to challenge the Palestinian Authority that so often confused its role as representative of the Palestinian people with a quasi-collaborationist approach to Israel.

Additionally, at play undoubtedly was the challenge posed by the Accords to Palestinian steadfastness or sumud. A Palestinian show of resistance, even with the full awareness that the rockets would bring a massive IDF military operation as in the past, and with it, death, trauma, displacement, and destruction in Gaza. It was the Palestinian way of expressing resolve that the struggle for basic rights will continue as long as necessary regardless of the costs. The Abraham Accords underscore the this symbolic abandonment of the Palestinian struggle by our Arab brothers and sisters, or at least their regimes, which in any event had long been evident on the level of behavior, and now more crassly. This abandonment had been previously expressed substantively by these Arab governments, especially the Gulf monarchies, which were never comfortable with Palestinian or Islamic movements from below in their region, especially in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution when political Islam showed its willingness and ability to challenge the control of the established order as confirmed by their counter-revolutionary support for the Sisi coup in 2013 against Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt.

As far as the motivations behind Arab elite willingness to ignore the pro-Palestinian sentiments of their own populations, and become parties to the Abrahamic Accords three factors are explanatory: first, the governments involved were given transactional rewards by the Trump diplomatic offensive in the form of weapons, economic inducements, delisting as a terrorist government, support for political claims; secondly, with respect especially to the Gulf monarchies, it seemed advantageous to seek a common front with Israel in opposing and destabilizing Iran, not only in relation to its nuclear program but with respect to its political solidarity relationships in the region, which included Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis in Yemen; and thirdly, by seeming to take political risks at home to support U.S. pro-Israeli objectives in the region these regime could expect to gain leverage in Washington as a dependable ally, and not face criticism for their autocratic manner of governance that included flagrant abuses of human rights, especially with respect to women.

 Q3. Israeli police have arrested thousands of people over the last couple of weeks in Israeli Arab communities as part of a “law and order” operation. What is Israel really hoping to achieve with such actions against Palestinian protesters who happen to be, incidentally, Israeli citizens?

Jewish supremacy is the core of the Zionist Project as it has played out in Israel, which has in turn generated racial policies and practices that are increasingly perceived as a form of apartheid. The government of Israel to retain internal legitimacy must continually prove to its Jewish citizenry that it able and willing to maintain the racial hierarchy in reaction to Palestinian resistance and external pressure. This means that any show of resistance by subjugated Palestinians must be disproportionately punished, with the hope of deterring future defiance by the downtrodden. This mentality, so subversive of respect for international humanitarian law, has been formalized by Israel, and incorporated into IDF’s mode of operations, and is known as the Dahiya Doctrine, first so articulated by the IDF Chief of Staff, General Gadi Eisenkot, after the 2006 Lebanon War. Dahiya is a neighborhood in south Beirut that was heavily bombed despite the absence of military targets so as to destroy the civilian infrastructure of Hezbollah, which provided operational guidance for future uses of military force by Israel, especially in Gaza.

In the past 20 years Gaza and its people had borne the brunt of this Israeli need to exhibit its commitment to Jewish supremacy by periodically displaying its ability to crush any challenge, however indirect, to the policies and practices of apartheid. This was the first time that serious communal violence in towns where Palestinians and Jews cohabited arose within Israel, significantly coinciding with an IDF military operation in Gaza. It was a new internal threat to the apartheid regime, but posed a different kind of challenge as Israel couldn’t respond by devastating towns within Israel, and needed to rely on different coercive tactics. The mass arrests of Palestinian protesters was the ad hoc method relied upon to reestablish the appearance of stable control of the asymmetric relations between Jews and Palestinians, and it remains to be seen if that will be sufficient to restore stable, if fragile, ethnic coexistence within 1967 Israel.

Q4. Palestinians have been facing a severe leadership crisis for many years now, but solidarity with the Palestinian people has shifted massively on  a global scale. Are there hopeful prospects for Palestinian unity, and is the BDS movement an effective way to challenge Israeli oppression without hurting the victims themselves?

As indicated earlier, deficiencies of Palestinian leadership have weakened the Palestinian movement for self-determination. In part, this reflects the ‘success’ of Israel’s overall approach to managing a hostile population. Israel has pursued for many years ‘a politics of fragmentation’ toward the Palestinian population under its control, including at leadership levels. Such fragmentation includes its occupation administration on the West Bank with more than 700 checkpoints making internal travel incredibly difficult for Palestinians, as well administering the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem in different ways that greatly complicate Palestinian interactions difficult and unity hard to maintain. Of course, the toxic split between Hamas, as intractable terrorist entity allegedly bent on Israel’s destruction and the Palestinian Authority which is alternatively useful as adversary and as potential peace partner and de facto collaborator is the deepest fissure of all. As well, Israeli denial to Palestinians of any right of return has kept the refugee status of millions of Palestinians static, untenable, and precarious. Refugee demands for return create tensions with Palestinians living under occupation many of whom believe the formula ‘land for peace’ is the best deal that they can hope for. Further they realize that Israel might agree to end the occupation but it would never assent to upholding the repatriation rights of the refugees, which is seen as a deal-breaker.

Only with a charismatic leader with support from all of these constituencies could provide the Palestinian people with authentic leadership capable of representing both Palestinians living under occupation and in refugee camps. Israel remains determined at this point not to let this happen, and feels strong and secure enough to refuse meaningful Palestinian statehood as well as to deny refugee rights, giving up all pretensions of any interest in a political compromise involving both land and people.

Despite these Israeli tactics, the Palestinians have discredited themselves to some extent by not putting aside their differences so as to establish a common front to achieve their overarching common goal of self-determination. The top echelons of the Palestinian Authority live a comfortable life, rumors of corruption abound, and one senses a willingness to lie low until they can make some sort of deal that hides their political defeat. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader who is internationally recognized as representing the Palestinian people, has not held promised elections since 2005, and recently cancelled elections scheduled for this year on the alleged grounds that Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem would not be allowed to vote. Critics insist that elections were cancelled because Hamas might emerge as the winner, and an anti-Abbas coalition seemed to pose a threat.

Hamas, although mischaracterized in the U.S. and Israel, has governed harshly in Gaza making many Palestinians fear its leadership. Yet as Sandy Tolan and other researchers have made clear, Hamas was induced by Washington to pursue its goals by political means and compete electorally, but it was not expected to win as it did in Gaza in 2006. When it won, it made diplomatic overtures to Washington and Tel Aviv offering a long-term ceasefire, up to 50 years, in exchange for Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 ‘green line’ borders, but these were rebuffed without even the pretense of a diplomatic response. Instead, Hamas was returned to its terrorist box, the people of Gaza were blamed for their victory in the elections, and this crowded, impoverished enclave was maintained as a test site for Israeli weapons and tactical innovations, and a combat zone enabling Israel to project a regional image of credible deterrence.

The Palestinians have never set forth their own vision of peace, probably because it would reveal sharp differences between those willing to settle for some version of partition and those who seek a unified Palestine with a secular constitution assuring equality of rights. As matters now stand a sustainable peace presupposes the prior dismantling of apartheid structures and the renunciation of Zionist foundational claims of Jewish supremacy. Without such steps, any agreed outcome would end up as a ‘ceasefire.’ It is instructive to study the fall of apartheid in South Africa, and its aftermath, that failed to fulfill all of the hopes of the Africans or result in economic and social retaliation that the whites feared. And yet both Africans and whites benefitted from the transition. South Africa’s pariah state difficulties were overcome, a bloody armed struggle was averted, and so was the feared vindictive sequel to apartheid.

The South African narrative is also important for illustrating its ‘impossible’ unfolding: internal resistance, strongly reinforced by a global civil society anti-apartheid campaign supported by the UN and highlighted by BDS pressures releasing Mandela from 27 years confinement in prison despite his life sentence so that he could negotiate the transition to constitutional multi-racial democracy and become the natural and unquestioned choice of the population to be the first president of the new South Africa. It all sounds plausible 25 years after the fact, but before these dramatic events, it seemed ‘impossible,’ a dream of accommodation and substantial reconciliation too good to come true.

Can something analogous happen in Israel/Palestine? Israeli realities are very different than were South African circumstances. For one thing, there are about the same number of Israelis and Palestinians inhabiting historic Palestine (adding Gaza), while in South Africa the black population outnumbered the white population by a 4:1 ration. This would seem to make Israeli Jews less vulnerable to abuse in a secular state, and besides they could undoubtedly insist on robust international peace force with a mandate to restore order and protect the equality of rights in the event of communal strife.

A final observation. The South African apartheid leadership did not awake one morning and become aware that their racist regime was immoral and illegal. It decided through backroom debate and reflection that it was better off taking the risks of constitutional democracy than go on living the problematic existence of a pariah state waiting for the day when the roof would collapse. In other words, the white leadership made a rational public policy decision, the contemplation of which was kept as a closely guarded state secret until a consensus reached, and the extraordinary events started happening to the great surprise of the world, and came as a shock to majority of South Africans, whether black or white.

Q5: What are your thoughts on Israel’s new government? What can one expect from it in general, and will it be able to skirt the Palestinian issue?

The coalition that has managed to prevail, and end for the moment, the political impasse in Israel. The coalition set to take over the Israel government is not united on policy or belief. Its only unifying principle is a deep hostility to Netanyahu’s personality and character. For that reason the diversity of its composition makes it fragile with respect to sharp departures from Likud consensus on Palestine that has prevailed for the last twelve years in Israel.

At the same time the dominant elements in the Bennett-Lapid coalition are correctly perceived on Palestinian issues as further to the right on such issues as accelerated ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem, expansion of West Bank settlements, annexation of all or most of the West Bank, opposition to any genuine form of Palestinian statehood, and greater severity with respect to the implementation of apartheid policies and practices. Further, it is expected that Naphtali Bennett, an exponent of the extreme right wing settler movement and maximal Zionist goals, will be Israel prime minister for the next two years during which he will undoubtedly be tempted to push Israeli policy even further to the right.

It is, of course, possible that Bennett will contain his anti-Palestinian fury so as to hold the coalition together, but it is just as likely that he will be prepared to pay the price of a collapsed coalition by being able to attract support for his program from the Likud members and other rightists outside the coalition who agree with his approach on Palestine and are no longer tied to Netanyahu or preoccupied with having a place in the leadership of the government. It is also possible that Bennett will move more cautiously to avoid weakening American support, which is already weaker than ever before in this century. Bennett is less abrasive in personal style than Netanyahu, which is hardly a difficult achievement, but is more of an extreme ideologue and less an opportunist. The unanswerable question at this point is whether the ideological push will prevail or give way to a pragmatic lowering of objectives in the hope of holding onto power.

Given this further turn to the right in Israel there is no realistic prospect of any kind of meaningful diplomacy for the foreseeable future. Although the coalition is presented as ‘center/right’ it is heavily weighted to the right. There are, in contrast, real possibilities of stronger global solidarity efforts through the UN and by way of civil society campaign such as BDS, and a stronger public support for Palestinian grievances, especially if Palestinian resistance remains strong and Israeli repression remains harsh. We should leave room for surprises, good and mostly bad. This is the Middle East where it is folly to predict the future, and a sure recipe for disappointment to expect the best.

IDF Operation ‘Guardian of the Walls’: Prelude, Aftermath, Prospects

7 Jun

[Prefatory Note: This post consists four journalistic pieces that were initially published in April and May leading up to the fourth in the sequence of massive military operations against Gaza in each instance falsely presented as ‘defensive.’ These operations resulted in large casualties and were further justified as ‘counter-terrorism’because the alleged target was Hamas, a terrorist organization. Somehow, this latest attack on Gaza was more fairly reported in the Western press, and let to the most convincing show of Palestinian unity in a period of crisis. It also was an event that weakened Netanyahu’s hold on power, not because of objections to his hardline policies, but due to distaste for his personality and character, and a coalition is poised to form a new government awaiting only confirmation by the Knesset on June 9th.]

IDF Operation ‘Guardian of the Walls’: Prelude, Aftermath, Prospects

  • Responses to Questions from Daniel Falcone (May 11, 2021)


1) Why is it that American politicians cannot say the words ‘Israeli apartheid

As an international crime, apartheid is a collective crime against a distinct race, that is one step down in severity from

genocide. There is a major distinction. As the South African antecedent experience illustrates, apartheid is reversible, although the material and psychological harms suffered by its victims is not. As death is the core of genocide, it is as a practical matter irreversible, and its legacy lingers as the instance of the Holocaust illustrate. In fact, Israeli apartheid may be partly understood as an unintended consequence of the Holocaust. Israel probably could not have been successfully established without widespread international support, which would not have been so forthcoming without the shame of liberal guilt of the West in doing so little to oppose the extreme antisemitism and racism of Nazi Germany, including closing their doors to Jewish refugees.

In any event, the Palestinian people were made to pay the price of Nazi wrongdoing in the form of the imposition of a non-Palestinian state in their homeland at the very time when European colonialism was unraveling elsewhere in the world. In such a setting it was to be expected that Palestinian society would resist, and that Israel’s security would depend on effective means of repression. Such an interaction was accentuated by the characteristics of the Zionist Project that sought a Jewish state that was governed in accordance with democratic principles. Given the premise of such ethnic politics, this induced an ethos of ethnic cleansing to ensure stable Jewish demographic control of the state in what had been Palestine. It also meant discriminatory treatment of immigration and residency, denying Palestinians basic rights while giving Jews many privileges based on identity alone. Such discrimination is crudely exposed in the grant to Jews worldwide of an unrestricted right of return and immediate access to Israeli citizenship could

American mainstream political arenas and media are frightened and intimidated by the prospect of being labeled as antisemitic. The widely relied upon IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Anniversary) definition of antisemitism would easily result in any allegation of apartheid being treated as proof positive of antisemitism. This is so, despite respected studies concluding that Israel’s practices and policies satisfy the definition of apartheid as set forth in the 1973 UN International Convention on Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. And despite the Rome Statute (2002), the treaty governing the operations of the International Criminal Court regarding in Article 7(h) apartheid as one type of crime against humanity.

This inhibition on describing apartheid as ‘apartheid’ has been eroded by two 2021 reports confirming the apartheid allegation. The first report is by B’Tselem, the leading Israeli human rights NGO, that characterizes Israeli apartheid as the imposition of Jewish dominance upon the Palestinian people in the territory governed by Israel, that is, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea that encompasses both Israel proper and the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. (This is Apartheid, 12 Jan. 2021) The second report by Human Rights Watch reaches the apartheid conclusion after an exhaustive examination of systematic Israeli racial discrimination and reliance on inhuman measures resulting in Palestinian victimization in furtherance of the Zionist Project of maintaining a Jewish state. (A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, 27 April 2021) Back in 2017 I co-authored a report with Virginian Tilley, under UN auspices (Economic and Social Commission for West Asia or ESCWA) that investigated the apartheid allegation and concluded that Israeli practices and policies were an instance of apartheid, which we felt was best understood in relation to the Palestinian people (including refugees and exiles) rather than confined to territory. (Israeli Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,

March 2017)

2) How, in your estimation, will Biden respond to the “Jerusalem crisis?”

On the basis of past behavior and the initial statements of  close advisors, it is most likely that Biden visors will call for calm, while making one-sided and unconditional criticisms of the rockets and artillery shells from Gaza fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad as ‘provocations’ and ‘escalations’ of the underlying conflict. The one-sidedness is almost certain to be underscored by refraining from any criticism of Israeli responses, which are almost certain to be disproportionate in terms of casualties, devastation, and firepower.  

The one-sidedness will be further highlighted by the absence of direct reference to Israeli provocations in Jerusalem such as right-wing settlers marching through East Jerusalem shouting ‘death to the Arabs’ or municipal plans to expel a series of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem on the basis of flimsy legal pretexts. The admitted goal is to prepare the way for further Jewish settlements, which is regarded by almost every Palestinian as a continuation of the ethnic cleansing that began in 1947, and has occurred periodically in 74 ensuing years. The Palestinian steadfastness (sumud) in Sheikh Jarrar is epitomized by their slogan ‘we will not be erased.”

Biden places a high priority on sustaining a bipartisan image in the conduct of foreign policy, especially with respect to Israeli policies. He has already indicated that the United States will accept Trump’s unlawful initiative of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, will not question the unlawful annexing of the Syrian Golan Heights, and applauding the normalization agreements between Israel and Arab countries so heralded as triumphant diplomatic achievements during the last stage of the Trump presidency.

Although there is some friction from a small group of Democrats in Congress resulting from such an imbalanced approach, it is strongly endorsed by both political parties and by the powerful lobbying influence of AIPAC. Leading Biden foreign policy representatives have made clear that the $3.8 billion military aid package will not be affected by negative findings in the annual country reports of the State Department, which signals a green light for Netanyahu’s aggressive approach to relations with the Palestinians.    

3) The media still repeats in the passive voice, “21 killed by Israel’s Retaliatory strikes”. Has any dimension of the press coverage improved however in your estimation?

There is a subtle change in the coverage of the liberal print media, as highlighted by the New York Times and Washington Post. Instead, of reporting only Palestinian violence as objectionable there is more of a tendency to place nominal blame for periodic crises on both parties. I regard this as conveying a distorting image of symmetrical responsibility shared equally by Palestine and Israel while overlooking the structural realities of gross inequality arising from Israeli oppression and expanding territorial claims. It is always deceptive to treat the oppressor and the oppressed as if equal. As here, the oppressor acts contrary to applicable international law and elementary morality while the oppressed is countering by exercising rights of resistance and suffering the deprivation of basic rights. Of course, the tactics of resistance should be scrutinized by reference to legal and moral constraints, but without losing sight of overwhelming structures of dominance and the far greater harm done by state violence than by the violence of resistance.   

4) Just hours ago, it was reported that “Israel launches airstrikes after rockets fired from Gaza in day of escalation.” This headline conveys that the situation is somehow symmetrical and the media’s interest in maintaining a false balance. Is this a correct observation?

As my last response suggests, one of the worst flaws in liberal journalism is to treat asymmetries as if symmetrical. Such a practice has been notorious in relation to the so-called ‘peace process’ or Oslo diplomacy where the Palestinians are made to share equal responsibility with the Israelis. This is so despite Israel making clear that its acceptance of ‘peace’ with the Palestinian people depends on Palestine giving up its inalienable right of self-determination as well as claims to having its capital in Jerusalem or challenges to extensive Israeli armed settlements unlawfully established.

5) I have a friend who recently wrote, “Israel, as an ethnostate is [on the verge of] committing suicide.” This in reaction to May 7th’s headline “Palestinians, Israel police clash at Al-Aqsa mosque; 53 hurt”. What kind of political consequences do you perceive the Israelis to suffer?

There is an ambiguity in your friend’s assertion of Israel being on the verge of committing suicide. Is this because Israel is encountering difficulty in the enforcement of its claims as an ethnocracy to occupy all of the ethno-religious space? Or is it because Israel has been compelled to challenge the red line of Islamic identity, by forcibly entering Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, attacking and injuring hundreds of Muslim worshipers, thereby threatening what it sought to achieve by the normalization agreements. Time will tell.

It remains to be seen what this latest flareup will produce by way of effects. One alternative is a Third Intifada that is sustained sufficiently to uphold claims to preserve the Palestinian identity of East Jerusalem. Another alternative is for Israel to mount a massive attack on Gaza in response to the 300 rockets that have allegedly targeted Jerusalem and southern Israel in the vicinity of Ashkelon and Ashdod in recent days of a similar or greater intensity to such prior attacks as in 2008-09, 2012, and 2014. With the West, especially the U.S. singling out the rockets from Gaza, despite the far greater human injury inflicted on the Palestinians in the Jerusalem incidents, the scene is set for Israeli violence in Gaza to be treated as ‘defensive’ or even as ‘self-defense.’

The unresolved Israeli domestic political turmoil is not to be discounted as an influence, tempted Israeli escalation. Netanyahu is thought to have better chances of surviving as Israel’s leader if the security agenda again becomes prominent.’

(2) Jerusalem: Bloody Polarization

The events of the past week revealed the deep fissures of the Israeli

Apartheid state. Right-wing Israeli extremists, referred to ‘Israeli nationalists’ by most

Zionist media, staged a demonstration some days ago that featured the slogan ‘death to the Arabs.’ Israeli security forces countered by attacking the Palestinian resisters, wounding hundreds, and reportedly using non-lethal weapons to inflict maximum injuries, with many head wounds reported, including eyes shot out.

In the background were fanatical efforts in April and early May by Israeli settlers to Judaize the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, evicting four Palestinian families. The Israeli High Court deferred ruling on these controversial moves for a month in light of the tensions in the city.

This riotous atmosphere was further inflamed when Israeli security personnel forced their entry to Al-Asqa Mosque compound where Muslim worshippers were present in large numbers on the last Friday of Ramadan. More injuries resulted as well as the defiling of the third holiest Islamic site in the world. Jordan called the Israeli behavior ‘barbaric’ and the UAE objected officially despite the recent normalization agreements. The magnitude of this interference with religious observance have led some to call the pre-Gaza encounter the ‘Ramadan Intifada.’

The latest episode is associated with the march route celebrating the unlawful annexation of East Jerusalem after the 1967 War, coupled with Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the expanded city limits of Jerusalem now that Israel controlled the entire city. The Knesset established May 12 as Jerusalem Day to acknowledge the unification of the city under its control, supposedly heeding the words of Psalm 122: “Built-up Jerusalem is like a city that was jointed together.” On the advice of Israeli security forces, backed by Benny Gantz, the Defense Minister, the proposed route of the march was revised to exclude passage through the Damascus Gate, which was regarded as a flashpoint, likely to provoke renewed Palestinian resistance and Israeli police violence. At the last moment, the Israeli authorities bowed to international pressure and redirected the settler demonstrations away from the Damascus Gate, which would assuredly have resulted in confrontations between unarmed Palestinian

Youth and violent settlers alone among West Bank residents permitted to carry arms.

This is in the spirit of Netanyahu’s response to the mayhem, which is to say that Jerusalem is our capital and we will do want we want in the city. This signals an acceptance of the legitimacy of the settler violent efforts to push for further the ethnic cleansing of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem through eviction notices and intimidation based on discriminatory Israeli laws and thuggery as to Palestinian residency and property rights.

Netanyahu, speaking on TV at an event celebrating Jerusalem Day, defiantly voiced support of settler claims and of Israeli security behavior in violently suppressing Palestinian oppositional activity and Ramadan worship. “We firmly reject the pressure not to build in Jerusalem. To my regret, this pressure has been increasing of late,”

“I say also to the best of our friends: Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and just as     every nation builds in its capital and builds up its capital, we also have the right to build in Jerusalem and to build up Jerusalem. That is what we have done and that is what we will continue to do.”

I also take note of the silence of the UN, which once again fails to uphold its responsibilities for Israeli compliance with International Humanitarian Law as embodied in the Fourth Geneva Convention governing Belligerent Occupation.

U.S. officials, including Jake Sullivan, Biden’s National Security Advisor, calls for calm of both sides, which a meaningless whisper in the face crisis conditions prevailing in Jerusalem.  

(3) Daniel Falcone Questions (June 3, 2021

  1. Can you comment on the US role in the ousting of Netanyahu?

The U.S. Government while vocal in denouncing leaders of rival countries, is discreet when it to friends, above all Israel. There are undoubtedly some private conversations

among influential persons in both countries, suggesting that sustaining friendly

relations would be easier without the belligerent discourse and political style of Netanyahu. Other Israelis are as resolutely right-wing but less confrontational, and one suspects that the Biden Administration would rather try its luck with a post-Neetanyahu leadership, no matter what its outlook on such questions as settlements, a state for Palestine, or a nuclear deal with Iran.



2) What is the game plan for the Israeli government moving forward?

It appears that if this so-called center/right coalition headed by Yair Lapid and Naphtali Bennett takes over the leadership of Israel for the next four years, it will not change its position on relations with Occupied Palestine or with the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. It will focus on the internal economic agenda, improving secular-religious relations, and promoting closer relations with Arab neighbors by implementing the ‘normalization agreements’ and seeking to additional such agreements within the Middle East. I feel that formal annexation of portions of the West Bank will also be deferred by Israel to avoid friction with the U.S. and Europe.

On the restoration of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Israel will likely offer less

opposition than Netanyahu, but seek to exert influence in similar directions, seeking to impose more restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and possibly conditioning the removal of sanctions on Iranian discontinuance of work on precision missile technology or support for Hamas and Hezbollah.  It should be appreciated that Bennett is scheduled to serve as prime minister of Israel for the next two years, and he has been an impassioned advocate of settlement expansion and an uncompromising opponent of establishing a Palestinian state. Bennett favors what he calls ‘autonomy on steroids’ to be exercised by Palestinians on 40% of the West Bank.




3) Does this leadership shift signal anything to the rest of the world about authoritarianism?

I think Israel is such a special case of a hybrid state, combining an apartheid regime subjugating the Palestinians with democratic constitutionalism for the Jewish citizenry of the country, that this prospective leadership shift doesn’t signal any wider trend of departure from international authoritarian leadership. This is especially true as the political shift is almost totally about the personality and character of Netanyahu, and not any fundamental shift in policy or in governance. The issue of Palestinian governance is not even part of the main coalition-building conversation. I suppose there could be surprises. Maybe the small Islamic Arab party that belatedly joined the anti-Netanyahu coalition hints at this possibility, but it seems more motivated by the desire to get rid of Netanyahu than anything more substantive.



4) How can we expect the media to cover the change in leadership? 

I would imagine that the mainstream media would share much of my assessment, perhaps giving more emphasis to a less stressful relationship with the U.S. and EU, and

possibly the UN. There will likely be a more hopeful tone about this transition demonstrating Israel’s democratic character. Also, more discussion of Netanyahu mixed record during his years in office as the longest serving prime minister, as well as his legacy and recent fall from grace.

As Bennett is known to be a more pleasant and diplomatic in style, hewill be presented to the public as more compatible with Biden. Possibly also, the media will give greater influence to the more secular and supposedly moderate outlook of Lapid, both as the leader of the coalition process and scheduled to succeed Bennett as prime minister in two years. Given the rightest consensus in the Knesset, estimated to be as 100 of its 120 members, it is not likely that there will be any expectation of changes of significance with respect to Palestine. There is an outside chance that more civil society pressure will cause some fracturing of this status quo consensus on Palestine, especially if global pressures grow from BDS, the UN, and governments and internal tensions in Israeli/Palestinian relations mount. .

(4) Is the Tide Finally Turning in Favor of the Palestinians

Repetition or Change?

The latest Israeli violence, at first glance, seemed just like the prior massive attacks on Gaza of 2008-09, 2012, and 2014. There were large number of primitive rockets fired by Hamas in Israel’s direction that fell harmlessly or were intercepted by the Iron Dome, causing minor damage. In its turn, Israel

Inflicted widespread death and destruction by bombs, artillery shells, missiles fired from land, sea, and air, which once again terrorized the totally vulnerable people of Gaza 24/7 for from May 10-21.

As in the earlier attacks, there were calls from almost everywhere for a ceasefire to halt the carnage, including at the UN Security Council. As before, these pleas were spurned by Israel and blocked by the United States. Denunciations of Israel’s attack without action came from Arab governments. As is its habit, the U.S. provided the shield that allowed Israel to continue with the attack against the weight of world public opinion, giving the familiar lame excuse: “Israel has the right to defend itself.” Further, anything goes, since Gaza is controlled by Hamas, ‘a terrorist organization’ by the Western moral compass, which amounts to signaling to Israel that anything goes, and international humanitarian law is not applicable to such an adversary.

When the smoke cleared in Gaza, 90,000 Gazans were displaced with their homes destroyed, over 1900 wounded, at least 243 dead, including 66 children. In contrast, Israel suffered 12 fatalities, including two children. Without minimizing the loss of life, the contrast reflects differences in military technology, tactics, and relative vulnerability of Israelis and Gazans, and Israel’s brazen indifference to the loss of Palestinian lives despite protestations to the contrary.  

Nothing seemed changed. Hamas was still in firm control of Gaza with its

Impoverished population of over two million living in a permanent lockdown, borders were armed on the Israeli side and almost all Palestinians unable ever to leave the tiny, blockaded enclave where over 50% are unemployed and 80% are dependent for life support on humanitarian assistance.

It would seem that there is nothing new to report. We are left to speculate as when to expect the next cycle of violence. Yet this time maybe these appearances of repetition are deceptive.

Beneath the Surface

In the past few months Palestine has won notable victories in the symbolic domains of political struggle, which contrary to conventional wisdom,

often determine the eventual winners more than combat zones.

The International Criminal Court in a Pre-Trial Chamber decided that its Prosecutor could launch a formal investigation is Israel’s international crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories of East Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza that occurred since 2014. It was evident that the Prosecutor had ample evidence of specific crimes associated with disproportionate violence in the 2014 attack on Gaza, the use of excessive violence in dealing with the 2018 Great March of Return at the Israeli border, and in relation to the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Even if not a single Israeli official is ever prosecuted by the ICC, this validation of Palestinian allegations of Israeli wrongdoing, and what is more Israel knows it. Why else would Netanyahu greet such a decision with the simplistic dismissal of ‘pure antisemitism’? Israel has long insisted that the UN was biased, but has never before smeared an international institution that had given it the benefit of the doubt while conducting a legal proceeding.

An even bigger Palestinian victory was recorded by mainstream reports finding that Israel was guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinians under their authority. Both the leading Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, and the most influential global human rights NGO, Human Rights Watch, issued reports documenting their central conclusion that Israeli policies and practices constituted apartheid.  The recommendations of the reports call for application of international criminal law and confer on all countries a legal responsibility to take steps to suppress and oppose apartheid.

These developments are of great victories in what I have called the Legitimacy War dimensions of conflict. Reviewing the record in anti-colonial wars since 1945 it becomes clear that the side that prevails in such a legitimacy war fought to gain command of the high ground of law, morality, and public approval, usually goes on to control the political outcome. The French lost the Indochina and Algerian wars despite having superior weaponry, and the U.S. totally dominated the battlefield in Vietnam and yet lost the war.

The most relevant legitimacy for Palestine involves the collapse of the South African apartheid regime despite its effective monopoly of security capabilities. It collapsed because of the combination of non-violent resistance and global solidarity efforts rooted in anti-racist civil society initiatives prompting the apartheid leadership to reevaluate their options. They decided it was better to dismantle apartheid and take their chances with constitutional democracy than

to go on living as an international pariah state.

Palestinian Symbolic Victories Impact on the Future

The just concluded Israeli military operation, code named Guardian of the Walls, exhibited some impacts of these Palestinian symbolic victories. The most salient can be. noted:

–signs of division within Israel that never before were visible during prior military operations;

–an opinion poll showing that 72% believe the ceasefire came too early, suggesting that the Israeli leadership bowed, after all, to international pressures,

including from Washington;

–increasing expressions of Palestinian Arab-Jewish communal violence in Israeli towns;

–more balanced treatment of the violence by Western media platforms, with unprecedented coverage of the daily misery of Palestinian lives under occupation;

–widespread condemnation of collective punishment inflicted on the blockaded civilian population of Gaza in the midst of the COVID pandemic and a badly degraded medical and health system;

–new signs of Palestinian unity in reaction to Israeli violence within Jerusalem, including intrusions on worship during Ramadan, right-wing settler violent provocations protected by Israeli police, and protests by massed Palestinian refugees on the borders with Lebanon and Jordan;

–weakening support for Israel and rising criticism of unconditional U.S. support of Israel;

–increasing support in many countries for BDS and other civil society initiatives, as well as solidarity moves by labor unions and religious groups seeking boycotts and sanctions to promote a just peace for Palestinians.

A Sharpeville Moment?

In retrospect, many felt that the Sharpeville Massacre was the turning point that led in the end to the demise of apartheid in South Africa. The incident arose from a protest at the provincial police facility in the township of Sharpeville by Africans against the pass laws used to enforce segregation and limit mobility. 69 unarmed protesters were killed by the police, many shot in the back while fleeing the scene. The incident exposed to the world what apartheid meant.

Of course, even if history proves that Guardian of the Walls was a turning point, it does not mean that Israeli apartheid is on the verge of collapse. The Sharpeville massacre occurred in 1960, yet it was not until the early 1990s that apartheid was dismantled. It often takes a long time for prophetic writing on the wall to be registered in historical happenings.

The Palestinian ordeal is certainly not over, but for the first time we can envision it ending!    

‘Rules-Based-International-Order’: A New Metaphor for U.S. Geopolitical Primacy

1 Jun

[Prefatory Note:  This post interrogates Biden’s Secretary of State’s frequent claims that the United States and its allies adhere to a ‘rules-based-international-order’ while our adversaries somehow do not. Yet Antony Blinken does not clarify what is the behavioral substance of this dual track behavior. Do Blinken’s rules validate impunity for close allies such as Israel or Saudi Arabia? Are U.S. ‘black sites’ for interrogating suspects overseas in ways prohibited by U.S. and international law? For destabilizing policies and coercive measures directed at Iran? For imposing sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, others, and refusing to suspend these sanctions during the COVID pandemic despite WHO appeals? And what about all those regime-changing interventions? and interferences in foreign elections? It raises two sets of issues: WHAT RULES? FOR WHOM? Others around the world have few doubts about how to answer these questions. Blinken’s rules are a way of force-feeding the insatiable American appetite for the food of innocence, however toxic, perhaps the new language of ‘American exceptionalism.’]

‘Rules-Based-International-Order’: A New Metaphor for U.S. Geopolitical Primacy

Is the U.S. Leading a Geopolitical Alliance or a Coalition of Governments Committed to Democracy and Human Rights?

Biden’s Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has made U.S. adherence to a ‘rules-based-international-order’ the core of American foreign policy. It is being used as a sword against China, Russia, and some other countries that have antagonized Washington for a variety of reasons. It seems to be as aspect of what Biden must has in mind when he speaks about ‘building back better.’ Of course, part of this new wave of American ‘liberal internationalism’ is to get out from under the dark legach of chauvinistic nationalism and transactional relations with foreign governments that Trump presidency left behind.

Biden wants in contrast to reaffirm U.S. claims to be a benevolent global leader almost as if he is living in the years after World War II. Trump was as confrontational toward China as Biden/Blinken but he validated his hostile and bombastic diplomacy by exclusive efforts to advance the U.S. policy agenda of self-serving national interests. Implicitly, he was telling American Cold War allies, including the European democracies, that they would have to pay their fair share if they wanted the American NATO alliance to continue providing for their security. The Biden approach seems willing to buy back global leadership by investing whatever it costs to maintain the American global security system of 800 based around the world, navies in all oceans, and an edge in the distinctive weaponry resulting from innovations in cyber technology, robotics, and AI.

There is some foreign policy overlap between two presidencies, Biden like Trump has conceded that regime-changing interventions and prolonged occupation of a hostile society in the global South has compiled a record of costly failures. Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in a few months, overriding Pentagon warnings, was a sign that there would be fewer ‘forever wars’ in the next few years. A second convergence with the Trumpism is to maintain an inflated military budget and to push foreign arms sales, thus ensuring retaining the dubious distinction of being by far the world’s leading annual spender on military preparedness and the dominant player in the lucrative global market place for weaponry.    

Where Biden/Blinken diverge most strikingly from Trump/Pompeo is with respect to ideological and normative claims, relating to solidarity with democracies and a robust commitment to human rights. Even before Biden moved into the White House he made clear that his primary motivation in foreign policy would be to lead the democratically oriented governments in an ideological against the autocrats of the world, a division that promised to be divisive and to risk the second coming of the Cold War division of the world into friends and enemies. Worse than the rivalry with the Soviets, this new conflict patterning risks hot wars and diverts resources and energies at a time when other urgent needs, above all, climate change, deserve to be the focus of security concerns. In this important sense, Biden is living dangerously in a long gone past.

Furthermore, when the signifiers of democracy and human rights are examined critically, it turns out that in practice they are more about hostile propaganda than expressive of coherent commitments to democratic forms of governance or respect for human rights. The distinguishing criterion of diplomatic affinity for Biden is the willingness to be a compliant alliance partner, nothing more, nothing less.

In light of this what are we to make of this diplomatic language that sounds so idealistic? If it is carefully considered even from a sympathetic perspective, it nothing more than a way of calling attention to normative bipolarity. It draws an imaginary line between democrats and autocrats, with the U.S. and its NATO allies leading the democracies and China and Russia leading the autocracies. In existential terms there are some full-fledged autocrats that are welcomed into the democratic tent despite their autocratic resume—for instance, Modi, Mohammed bin Salmon, Sisi, Bolsonaro, and for that matter Netanyahu.

When Israel flagrantly defied the rule of law in its recent military operation against Gaza the United States used its leverage to block calls for a ceasefire at the UN Security Council and blandly told the world that Israel ‘had the right to defend itself’ overlooking its provocative acts (evictions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrar neighborhood, right-wing settlers marches protect by Israeli police shouting ‘Death to the Arabs,’ and interference with al-Aqsa worshippers at the height of Ramadan), which seemed intended to incite Hamas to attack with its primitive rockets, which would provide Israel with just enough legal cover to launch a massive military operation that caused 20 times the number of civilian deaths in Gazaa than were Israelis killed by the Hamas rockets.. It has credibly conjectured that the domestically embattled Netanyahu sought the crisis with the Palestinians as a way to remain in power as the Israeli public has always backed the leadership if Israel was military engaged.

Living in a ‘Rule-Governed International Order’?

Against this background, one would have expected Biden and Blinken at least to couple their enthusiasm for alliance diplomacy with language that indicated respect for international law and support for a stronger United Nations. This is such an obvious oversight that it must be assumed to be deliberate. And it leads us to wonder further what sort of alternative ‘rules-governed international order’ was being put forward. One hypothesis is that Blinken was guilty of a repeated slip of the tongue, and what was intended all along was ‘a ruler governed world’ by ‘guess who?’Diplomatic practice in this early period of the Biden diplomacy makes this reformulation more than a semantic joke.

When it comes to China or Belarus their behavior justifies an opportunistic sounding the alarm due to their alleged failures to abide by the rules of international law. True, China declared an adverse judgment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration a few years with respect to its island resource disputes with the Philippines in the South China Seas. Rather than making China an outlier, such a show of contempt for the decision of an international tribunal makes it seem like it has learned to behave like other members of the geopolitical club.  The United States recently flaunted international institutions when it officially repudiated a decision by the International Criminal Court that claimed the legal authority to investigate well-evidenced allegations of U.S. international crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. The reason to emphasize inconsistency in the Blinken claim that they play is to show that the commitment to a rule-based international order is based on moral hypocrisy, and should be perceived for what it is, hostile propaganda.

This pattern of seeing with one eye is even more blatant when it comes to human rights—when the silences scream and the screams are contrived to mobilize hostility. Do we hear from Washington about Duterte’s gangster tactics of governance in the Philippines or the denial of rights to Muslims in India, especially Kashmir? In contrast, the far lesser grievances of the population of Hong Kong or Tibet becomes a major concern of Washington, and the treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang are inflammatorily portrayed as ‘genocide.’ The compliant Western mainstream media dutifully followed the unwritten guidelines as to erasures and trumpets, while Pentagon planners and think tank militarists urge Congress to increase arms expenditures, and seem to relish prospects of a confrontations in the waters surrounding the Chinese mainland, especially highlighting Chinese threats to the security of Taiwan and U.S. resolve to engage militarily in response. This war-mongering ethos is evident in the call for weapons rather than

a plea for avoiding incidents that could lead to uses of force by establishing joint crisis management schemes.

Concluding Remark

This emphasis on a ‘rules-governed’ world implicitly makes the polemical claim that the United States play by the rules whereas our adversaries do not. But what can this mean? The United States has projected more deadly force outside its borders than has any state in the course of the last 75 years. It has also intervened repeatedly over the years in disrupting democracies and using its geopolitical prerogatives to block and sanction democratic forms of governance if they refuse U.S. tutelage or display proclivities that can be castigated  as ‘socialist.’ The Snowden revelations suggest that the United States has invested more heavily than any government on the planet in developing intrusive surveillance capabilities. The U.S. record of manipulating foreign elections is notorious, and has long been a well-known part of the CIA’s portfolio.

Several conclusions emerge:

–Blinken’s stress on the virtues of a rules-governed world should not be confused with making a U.S. commitment to conduct its foreign policy in accord with international law:

–When this rule-governed language is used to criticize the behavior of others, the misleading claim is implied that the U.S. plays by rules applicable to others, but its adversaries don’t;

–Blinken should be pressed to clarify the concept and to explain why he refrains from references to international law and the UN Charter when describing U.S. foreign policy; I suspect that ‘American exceptionalism’ is in play when it comes to exploring Blinken’s normative consciousness. Why else would the US refrain from becoming a party to the International Criminal Court?

–It should be emphasized by foreign diplomats and international jurists that the only legitimate rules-governed international order is international law, even when critical account is taken of its hegemonic record and its selective enforcement. And more progressive civil society initiatives should use international law, where possible, as a counter-hegemonic tool on behalf of global justice.