Israel to colour-code “good” and “bad” Palestinians

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

Launched this month, as much of the world was on holiday, Avigdor Lieberman’s plan for the Palestinians – retooling Israel’s occupation – received less attention than it should.

Defence minister since May, Lieberman has been itching to accelerate Israel’s annexation by stealth of the West Bank.

Quislings and propaganda

His “carrot and stick” plan has three components. First, he intends to sideline the Palestinian Authority (PA) in favour of a new local leadership of “notables” hand-picked by Israel.

Preferring to “cut out the middle man”, in his words, he will open a dialogue with supposedly more responsible Palestinians – business people, academics and mayors.

Next, he has established a new communications unit that will speak in Arabic over the heads of the PA in the West Bank and its Hamas rivals in Gaza directly to ordinary Palestinians.

An online campaign – budgeted at USD 2.6 million – will seek to convince them of Israel’s good intentions. The Palestinians’ problems, according to Lieberman, derive from corrupt and inciteful national leaderships, not the occupation.

And finally, his Defence Ministry will produce a map of the West Bank marking in green and red the areas where, respectively, “good” and “bad” Palestinians live.

Sticks and carrots

Collective punishment will be stepped up in towns and villages in red areas, from which Palestinian attacks have been launched. Presumably night raids and house demolitions will increase, while closures will further curtail freedom of movement.

Palestinians in green areas will reap economic rewards for their good behaviour. They will be given work permits in Israel and the settlements, and benefit from development projects, including the creation of Israeli-controlled industrial zones.

…the new arrangements assumed Palestinians were “stupid and lacking self-respect” and could be “bought with economic perks”. (Ahmed Majdalani, adviser to Mahmoud Abbas)

This week the Haaretz daily reported that Lieberman is convinced that all the Palestinians can be attributed to Abbas’s “reign of corruption”. In briefings he has stated that the Palestinian leader “doesn’t want to deal with problems of economics and employment. The entire system of management there has failed.”

It sounds like the musings of a 19th century colonial official on how best to prevent the natives turning restless. Ahmed Majdalani, an adviser to Mahmoud Abbas, told the Israeli media the new arrangements assumed Palestinians were “stupid and lacking self-respect” and could be “bought with economic perks”.

Lieberman’s longer-term goal is to persuade Palestinians – and the international community – that their aspirations for self-determination are unattainable and counter-productive

Failed old policy

Israel has tried that approach before, as Palestinian officials pointed out. Decades ago, Israel sought to manage the occupation by imposing on the local population Palestinian collaborators, termed “Village Leagues”. Armed by the Israeli military, they were supposed to stamp out political activism and support for the PLO.

By the early 1980s the experiment had to be abandoned, as Palestinians refused to accept the leagues’ corrupt and self-serving rule. An uprising, the first intifada, followed a short time later.

Israel’s agreement to the PA’s creation under the Oslo accords in the mid-1990s was, in part, an acceptance that the occupied territories needed a more credible security contractor, this time in the form of the Palestinian national leadership.

Disorganised resistance

Whatever Lieberman and others claim, the Palestinian leaderships in the West Bank and Gaza are the last parties to blame for the recent wave of Palestinian unrest. The attacks have been mostly carried out spontaneously by “lone wolves”, not organised groups. Many occur in Jerusalem, from which all political activity is barred.

Abbas has described the “security coordination” with Israel as “sacred”, aware that his PA will not survive long if it does not demonstrate its usefulness to Israel. His security services have subdued Palestinian resistance more effectively than the Israeli army.

Bereft of regional allies and a credible strategy, even Hamas has chosen quiet since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, its lethal wrecking spree in Gaza in 2014. It has kept the tiny coastal enclave locked down. Rocket fire – one of the few remaining, if largely symbolic, ways to confront Israel – all but ceased long ago.

The silence from Gaza was briefly disturbed a week ago by a rocket fired by a small group linked to the self-styled Islamic State. Despite Hamas’s disavowal of the attack, Lieberman demonstrated his new big stick by bombarding government sites in Gaza in a show of force unseen over the past two years.

Grassroots rage

The futility of this approach – blaming the official leaderships for the roiling frustration and resentment of those they formally lead – should be self-evident.

Ordinary Palestinians, not officials, endure the endless expansion of settlements and the resulting takeover of their agricultural lands. Ordinary Palestinians, not their leaders, face daily abuses at checkpoints and in military raids. Reports at the weekend suggested soldiers were deliberately kneecapping youths at protests to permanently disable them.

Round-ups, torture, military courts that always find the accused guilty – these are the rites of passage for Palestinians in the West Bank. For Palestinians in Gaza, it is slow starvation, homelessness and a random missile rain of death.

An Israeli strategy that failed decades ago – before the PA even existed – is not going to succeed now. Social media campaigns and paltry handouts will not persuade Palestinians they are nothing more than a humanitarian problem.

They are not about to shelve their dreams of liberation just because Lieberman colour-codes them in red and green.

A version of this article first appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi. The version here is published by permission of Jonathan Cook.

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Drugs and Privilege: Big Business, Congress and the EpiPen

Cash and carry has become nothing more than standard operating procedure in politics and government, and it’s wrecking the republic. The whole system is rotten to the core, corrupted by big business and special interests from the seventh son to the seventh son.

Or daughter, as we learned these past few days when the news introduced us to Heather Bresch, CEO of a drug company called Mylan and daughter of Democratic US Sen. Joe Manchin III, who’s also the former governor of West Virginia.

Mylan manufactures and sells EpiPen, the emergency delivery system for an allergy drug, epinephrine, that can make the difference between life and sudden death. The cost for a two-pack of the devices has soared nearly 550 percent to $608.61. That’s a price far beyond the means of most families with kids threatened by possibly fatal allergic reactions.

At the same time, Bresch has seen her own compensation increase a whopping 671 percent, from $2,453,456 in 2007 (the year that Mylan bought EpiPen) to $18,931,068 in 2015.

She should resign for price gouging rather than get a raise, but like so many of her fellow executives Bresch sails serenely on as her fellow Americans drown in health care debt. Her career and the success of her company epitomize everything that so enrages every voter who believes that the fix is in and that the system is weighted in favor of those with big money and serious connections.

According to reports, Bresch got her first job at Mylan working in the factory basement, when her well-connected dad asked the company’s then-CEO, Milan Puskar, for a favor. Later, a scandal erupted when it was discovered that West Virginia University, which had received a $20 million donation from Puskar and whose president was a Manchin and Bresch family friend, had awarded her an MBA although she had not completed the required coursework.

The school president and other administrators were forced to resign, but Bresch survived the controversy and has done very well indeed in the pharmaceutical business, rising through the ranks and at the same time learning how to adroitly manipulate government and its regulations — lessons for which life in a successful political family with its network of friends and colleagues prepared her well.

For a time, she was Mylan’s chief lobbyist (working to help pass the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, among other legislation) and Anna Edney at Bloomberg Politics writes that “Mylan spent about $4 million in 2012 and 2013 on lobbying for access to EpiPens generally and for legislation, including the 2013 School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, according to lobbying disclosure forms filed with the Office of the Clerk for the House of Representatives. Mylan also was the top corporate sponsor of a group called Food Allergy Research & Education that was the key lobbyist pushing for the bill encouraging schools to stock epinephrine auto-injectors, of which EpiPen is by far the leading product.”

The company also took advantage of what President Obama has called an “unpatriotic tax loophole,” making a deal in 2014 with Abbott Laboratories to incorporate in the Netherlands — one of those infamous “inversions” that allow companies to pay a much lower tax rate abroad than here at home — even as they rake in profits from US taxpayer-subsidized programs like Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits. Political expedience and maybe embarrassment saw Joe Manchin denouncing his daughter’s inversion deal. But no one stopped it.

Like so many businesses eager to purchase politicians all their own, Mylan has made significant cash contributions to both sides of the aisle. Emmarie Huetteman at The New York Times reports, “Mylan’s political action committee has given at least $71,000 to congressional candidates from both parties this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, with about 72 percent of those contributions going to Republicans.”

Dad got a taste, too: “It has been one of the biggest donors to Mr. Manchin since he joined the Senate in 2010, giving more than $60,000 in total.”

Mylan also has brushed up against both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The company has contributed up to $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation and one of its leading stockholders — with 22 million shares — is the hedge fund owned and managed by billionaire John Paulson, a big Trump bankroller.

Hillary Clinton decried the EpiPen price hike as “outrageous, and just the latest example of a company taking advantage of its consumers.” Several of Manchin’s Senate colleagues have called for hearings and an investigation into Mylan. Manchin himself has said he is “aware” of the soaring prices of prescription drugs and looks forward to reviewing Mylan’s response. He did not mention his daughter’s name.

Meanwhile, in response to the current furor, Mylan announced plans to widen a patient assistance plan, provide $300 savings cards and on Monday said they would begin producing a generic alternative to the EpiPen that would cost half as much (there’s a certain rounding of the circle, even irony here, as Mylan began business as a manufacturer of cheap generics).

But of the expanded assistance plan, Mike Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times says, “at heart it’s a cynical move that actually protects the company’s profits and harms the health care system… In fact, they’re illegal when applied to Medicare or Medicaid patients, because they may violate federal anti-kickback laws, which bar payments made to induce patients to choose particular services. Insurers and government programs will have to cover everything beyond the co-pay or deductible…”

And even at half-price, the cost of an EpiPen remains an outrage. In fact, some estimate that the dose of epinephrine used in the injector may really cost as little as a dollar.

In other words, this is one more, big old scam — yet another case of big business trying to pull the wool over the citizens’ eyes and pick our pockets while the government and our politicians mostly look the other way.

The Mylan mess is the cozy relationship between regulators and the regulated in a nutshell. Throughout government, politics and business, cash contributions are made, connections are used, strings are pulled and favors are requested and returned. So the system wins again, corrupt as hell.

But take notice. Realize that the rest of us are more and more aware of how we’re being had — and that we truly must be heard and heeded. Unless the tiny-hearted, gold-digging CEOs of America’s corporations and our leaders get the dollar signs out of their eyes and come to their senses, they are writing a prescription for an angry public response that not even their bought-and-paid-for Congress can hold at bay.

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Taking Back Our Finance System

Instead of griping about the greedheads of Wall Street and the rip-off financial system they’ve hung around our necks, why don’t we Take On Wall Street?

That’s both the name and the feisty attitude of a nationwide campaign that a coalition of grassroots groups has launched to do just that. The coalition, spearheaded by the Communication Workers of America, points out that there’s nothing natural or sacred about today’s money-grubbing financial complex.

Far from sacrosanct, the system of finance that now rules over us has been designed by and for Wall Street speculators, money managers, and big bank flim flammers. So — big surprise — rather than serving our common good, the corrupt system is routinely serving their uncommon greed at everyone else’s expense.


(Photo: Shaun Jeffers /

The Take On Wall Street campaign has the guts and gumption to say: Enough!

Instead of you and I continuing to accept Wall Street’s plutocratic perversion of our democracy, we the people can rewrite their rules and reorder their structures so the system serves us.

For starters, the campaign has laid out a five-point people’s reform agenda that they’re taking to the countryside to rally the voices, anger, and grassroots power of workers, consumers, communities of color, the poor, people of faith, and the rest of the 99 percent.

The coalition is holding information and training sessions to spread the word, forge local coalitions, and teach people how they can get right in the face of power to create a fair finance system that works for all.

There’s an old truism about negotiating that says: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” The Take On Wall Street campaign intends to put you and me at the table for a change.

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#VeteransForKaepernick Stand Up For His Right To Sit Down

In the days since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem as a way to protest the oppression of people of color in the United States, journalists, fans, and NFL players both past and present have expressed their outrage.

Most of their criticism focuses in on the disrespect that Kaepernick was supposedly showing the flag and the U.S. military members who have fought and died for our freedom.

Well, on Tuesday, veterans from all over the country took to social media, not to attack Kaepernick for his actions, but rather to show their support. The #VeteransForKaepernick hashtag took off and ended up trending worldwide.

Many used the hashtag to point out that a big reason they fought in the military was to defend Kaepernick’s right to peacefully protest in any way he saw fit.

Others echoed a solitary with his hope to end police brutality and start holding officers who murder black people at a disproportionately high rate accountable for their crimes.

Still others used #VeteransForKaepernick as a chance to share stories of the racism that black soldiers have faced, both past and present. African Americans have served in the U.S. military since the Revolutionary War, but were not immune from their country’s racist laws and actions.

And others pointed out that black veterans are not immune from being shot by police once they return to civilian life. Just last September, India Kager, a 28-year-old navy veteran, was shot and killed by police in her parked car while her four-month-old son was in the backseat.

While there are certainly some veterans who are offended by Kaepernick’s (in)action, this hashtag gave other veterans an opportunity to have their voice heard as well.

As we previously noted, there is more than one way to be a patriot. Veterans for Kaepernick proved that on Tuesday.

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Apple Ordered to Pay $14 Billion in Europe for Dodging Taxes

Apple is facing a huge tax bill in Ireland. The multi-billion dollar company was ordered this week to pay a record-breaking €13bn in back taxes to Ireland.

The European Commission made the ruling after a three-year investigation that found Apple had only paid $55 in taxes for ever $1.12 million it made in European profits. That essentially made its tax rate 0.0005 percent for the year 2014. The usual rate for corporation tax in Ireland is 12.5%. The €13bn owed equates to roughly $14.5 billion USD.

According to the commission, Apple and Irish tax authorities entered into an illegal tax deal that was allowing Apple to pay a minimum tax rate of just 1%. The deal violated rules on state aid.

The complex agreement had Apple shifting their profits on products sold in other countries, where the tax rate is 12.5 percent. Then from Ireland profits were shifted to a “head office” not based in any country, that did not have employees or own premises, and had no economic activity, so that Apple could pay an even lower tax rate. The “remaining vast majority of profits were allocated to the “head office”, where they remained untaxed.”

European Union commissioner Margarethe Vestager stated, ““Member States cannot give tax benefits to selected companies – this is illegal under EU state aid rules. This is not a penalty, it is an unpaid tax.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook was not happy about the news, stating that it has “serious, wide-reaching implications” for other companies:

“Beyond the obvious targeting of Apple, the most profound and harmful effect of this ruling will be on investment and job creation in Europe. Using the commission’s theory, every company in Ireland and across Europe is suddenly at risk of being subjected to taxes under laws that never existed.”

The US Treasury says the ruling could damage “the important spirit of economic partnership between the US and the EU.” Both Apple and the Irish government have vowed to appeal the decision.

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Pay For Play? The Scandal Is Judicial Watch Misleading Gullible Media

Listening to the national media over the past few weeks, many Americans may now believe that the Clinton Foundation was set up as a “pay to play” scheme for Hillary Clinton to squeeze millions of dollars from wealthy foreigners and rich Americans. According to this theory, popularized by a lavishly funded right-wing organization called Judicial Watch, the former secretary of state would only deal with people and governments that had donated big money to her husband’s foundation.

But that story is itself a fraudulent scam, perpetrated by Judicial Watch with misleading information fed to gullible, lazy Washington journalists.

Consider the tale of Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the crown prince of Bahrain, one of America’s primary allies in the Persian Gulf. While rummaging through thousands of Clinton’s emails, Judicial Watch discovered that the prince had requested a meeting with the secretary of state in 2010, via Clinton Foundation executive Doug Band to Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin.

In a hysterical press release, Judicial Watch denounced this request as an outrageous example of unethical and possibly illegal behavior, saying, “By 2010, (the crown prince) had contributed $32 million to CGI,” or the Clinton Global Initiative.

That damning narrative, usually condensed into “Bahraini prince gave $32 million to Clinton Foundation,” appeared in news outlets across the country.

By leaving out the most important facts, which show there was no unethical conduct, Judicial Watch could confidently assume that gullible (or malicious) journalists would omit that crucial information as well. And of course, they did.

The simple fact is that not one cent of that $32 million ever went into the bank accounts of the Clinton Global Initiative, The Clinton Foundation or any member of the Clinton family. Every cent went instead toward the college education of Bahraini students, which was the purpose of the crown prince’s “commitment.” But as Judicial Watch itself has acknowledged, his commitment was announced at the very first Clinton Global Initiative meeting in Sept. 2005 — more than three years before President Obama asked Clinton to serve as secretary of state. Unless the crown prince was clairvoyant, he had no way of knowing that his 2005 CGI commitment would induce the nation’s top diplomat to meet with him five years later.

So, the money didn’t go to the foundation, and it was committed long before Clinton went to work in the State Department. That doesn’t fit any sane definition of “pay to play.” But it does reveal the deception behind those screaming press releases from Judicial Watch, an outfit whose claims deserve to be treated like anthrax by any journalist with integrity.

Unfortunately, many Washington reporters seem eager to repeat any accusation brandished against the Clintons, even from a dubious source, without rudimentary checking. Upon receipt of that dishonest press release from Judicial Watch, any reporter could have called the Clinton Foundation to learn the truth. Indeed, any reporter could have discovered the same facts by entering a few data points into a search engine like Google.

From the context of the emails quoted by Judicial Watch, it is obvious that Clinton was initially reluctant to meet with the crown prince on a particular day on short notice. Any reporter who believes that the secretary of state would simply refuse to see the head of state of one of America’s principal allies in the Persian Gulf, whether he made a CGI commitment or not, is too stupid to write about foreign affairs.

Similar stories have emanated not only from Judicial Watch but also from the Associated Press and other outlets in recent days. And so far, all are similarly flawed, relying on the omission of essential facts and the emphasis of false narratives.

It is important to recall that when Obama asked Clinton to serve in his cabinet, she first resisted. When she agreed, her advisers and Obama’s transition team negotiated a set of rules to govern her husband’s philanthropic and business activities. With very few and minor exceptions, they adhered to those rules — and have continued to disclose all of the Clinton Foundation’s donors long after she left government.

Unlike the Clinton Foundation, however, Judicial Watch doesn’t disclose the names of the donors who provided almost $30 million in 2014 to finance its ongoing harassment of the Clintons and their aides, which has continued for decades. Unlike the Clinton Foundation, which has saved millions of lives, Judicial Watch exploits its nonprofit status to advance the partisan objectives of its unnamed donors. And unlike the Clinton Foundation, which enjoys a four-star rating from the watchdog Charity Navigator, the “charitable” nonprofit Judicial Watch only gets two stars because its operations are inscrutable and it spends an excessive percentage of its revenues on salaries and fundraising.

Perhaps it is time for someone in the media to investigate its conduct.

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