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12.14.2011

America Hijacked! Who loses when the country’s political reality, finances and foreign policy are dictated by lobbyists?



America Hijacked! 
Who loses when the country’s political reality, finances and foreign policy are dictated by lobbyists?
By Ashahed M. Muhammad

Minister Louis Farrakhan in a recent message to nearly 4,000 on the campus of Prairie View A&M told the naked truth about America’s corrupt political system.

“When you become a governor or a senator—somebody in political power, you don’t see the power behind the power,” the Minister said. “The real power is not what you see. The real power is the unseen reality that moves what you see.”

The unseen powers in America’s political system are the advisers and lobbyists operating in the shadowy corridors near decision-makers in Washington D.C.

In 2007, Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s groundbreaking work titled, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” opened many eyes to the powerful influence of the Israel lobby in America. Since then, more have come to the realization that like-minded groups of wealthy donors pour money into the political system with the goal of electing officials that will govern in the best interests of the moneyed few.

The rapacious greed and fraud committed by highly placed members of the global financial services industry within America’s economic hierarchy has been revealed and the Occupy Wall Street movement is a sign of the anger and dissatisfaction that is boiling just under the surface.

Recent polling data from Real Clear Politics shows that nearly 82 percent disapprove of the job being done by the U.S. Congress and over 73 percent believe the country is on the wrong track. Much of this dissatisfaction seems to arise from feelings that the American political system only benefits wealthy campaign donors and only responds to powerful lobbying groups.

One of the groups accused of hijacking the American political system is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Leading the Israel-first lobby, AIPAC with its 100,000 members uses political leverage to shape American foreign policy. According to its website, AIPAC believes: “These efforts are critical to Israel’s security and to American interests in the Middle East and around the world.”

AIPAC also relies heavily on its contacts with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella group composed of 52 national Jewish organizations working on Israel’s behalf.

To AIPAC, it doesn’t matter whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican, or which political party dominates the U.S. Congress. At AIPAC’s annual conference, both parties bow in deference to the powerful lobby and will kowtow to its demands. Republicans and Democrats have been engaged in political gridlock during President Barack Obama’s entire tenure in office, but when it comes to Israel, there is total agreement. To use the president’s words, the relationship between America and Israel is “sacrosanct.”

Some activists have called for shutting down powerful lobbying groups like AIPAC and its tax-exempt appendage, the American Israel Educational Foundation (AIEF) which sponsors annual trips to Israel. During this year’s summer recess—with congressional approval ratings in the teens—instead of going back to their districts to deal with the needs of their constituents, 81 members of Congress went on a trip to Israel.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) led the Democrats and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) led Republicans straight to Israel. Among those making the journey was Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Illinois) along with 47 freshman congressmen who were just voted into office in 2010. Some question whether the time and resources could be better used.

According to the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the total amount of military aid to Israel, for fiscal years 2009-2018 will reach $30 billion. The share of that financial burden for the state of Illinois is approximately $1.47 billion. In the state, that amount of money could provide 17,916 households per year with affordable housing grants, or 24,493 job seekers per year with green jobs training or, 43,627 children per year with early reading education or 1,194,940 people per year with primary health care.

In an article titled “Robbing Peter to Pay Israel,” Josh Ruebner, national advocacy director for the group took Rep. Jackson to task for the trip.

“Nearly 20 percent of the constituents of Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Illinois) live under the poverty line, and nearly 15 percent are unemployed. Jackson’s congressional district, covering parts of the south side of Chicago and its southern suburbs, has been hit harder than many others by the crises plaguing the economy. Many of his constituents are looking at even more cutbacks in social services, higher prices for food and fuel, and ever scarcer jobs,” wrote Mr. Ruebner. “Constituents should be irate that members of Congress accept fancy trips from AIPAC-affiliates and contributions from AIPAC-inspired political action committee (PACs) that result in the United States prioritizing weapons to Israel above our basic economic rights,” he continued.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in America hovers near 9 percent. Black unemployment stands at nearly 16 percent.

By contrast, according to Bloomberg, Israel’s unemployment rate has reached historically low levels declining to 5.5 percent in the second quarter.

America’s national debt is heading speedily towards $16 trillion. According to economists, each U.S. citizen’s share of the national debt is approximately $48,300. The total U.S. debt, which includes households, businesses, state and local governments, financial institutions and the federal government is close to $60 trillion—approximately $180,201 per citizen, $682,827 per family.

At a recent fundraiser in Manhattan, speaking before wealthy campaign donors at the residence of Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress, Pres. Obama defended his administration’s policy towards Israel, and pledged his commitment to Israel’s security.

“No ally is more important than the state of Israel,” Pres. Obama was quoted as saying in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “We don’t compromise when it comes to Israel’s security,” he added.

In 2008 Mr. Obama got over 80 percent of the Jewish vote and needs support on that level to win re-election in 2012. Despite winning the Nobel Peace Prize, critics describe Pres. Obama as being hawkish after ramping up drone attacks in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. All of the Republican obstructionism seems to have pulled the “change candidate” to the political right while the conservatives have become even more xenophobic and militaristic.

Alison Weir, president of the Washington D.C.-based Council for the National Interest, told The Final Call Pres. Obama’s extrajudicial assassinations, inability to obtain justice for the Palestinians, and Iran are perfect examples of how the Israel lobby—using its shadowy influence through political operatives—hinders conflict resolution and causes war.

“Obama was elected because people wanted a candidate of change. They wanted what he represented—an unbigoted nation where an intelligent African American could be and would be president without race preventing it. That’s what people voted for, but then we have that person who got that mandate then continuing policies or increasing policies that were unacceptable,” said Ms. Weir.

The same groups that pushed America towards war in Iraq have now set their sights on the Islamic Republic of Iran, she said.

“They are no threat to Israel, they don’t have any nuclear weapons and I think it’s unlikely they’re trying to develop them, (but) it’s plausible, there’s every motivation to develop them when you’ve got a neighbor (Israel) that has nuclear weapons and has a history of invading,” said Ms. Weir. “Think if you had a neighbor that had a hundred machine guns and had a habit of invading all his neighbors you’d think ‘I’d better get at least one machine gun.’”

It appears as if the efforts of the Israel-first lobby and the gay rights lobby have been successful, as many of their talking points have become central pillars of America’s foreign policy.

Pres. Obama recently issued a directive through his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordering U.S. agencies located internationally to use foreign aid on behalf of gay rights.

In a Dec. 6 speech by Sec. Clinton delivered at the European headquarters of the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, Switzerland , she also announced that $3 million would go to establish a Global Equity Fund that would be used along with the considerable diplomatic power of the U.S. to work on behalf of LGBT rights.

The Republican Jewish Coalition held a Dec. 7 forum at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. with six of the Republican presidential candidates all doing their best to prove they will be “Israel’s best friend” in the White House, maintaining America’s “unwavering and unshakeable” support.

Of the Republican candidates for president, only Rep. Ron Paul said he would cut all foreign aid, including aid to Israel.

“On foreign aid, that should be the easiest thing to cut,” said Rep. Paul in a televised debate two months ago. “To me, foreign aid is taking money from poor people in this country and giving it to rich people in poor countries.” As a form of retaliation, Rep. Paul was not invited to participate in the forum sponsored by the RJC.

All the other Republican presidential hopefuls are trying to outdo themselves in pledging fealty to Israel, described as America’s “special ally” and “only friend” in the Middle East.

During this time of American economic insecurity, skyrocketing debt and rising income inequality, hard questions are being asked regarding whether this “relationship” with Israel has now become a liability.

At a recent forum discussing the topic, Dr. Norton Mezvinsky, president of the Washington D.C.-based think-tank, the International Council for Middle East Studies, said the “exclusive and discriminatory” nature of Israel has a detrimental effect on America in terms of diplomacy and national security. This is especially clear when looking at the Palestinian conflict, he said.

“The Zionist character of the state of Israel is the central conflict of the Palestinian problem,” said Dr. Mezvinsky.

Many Muslim countries disagree with America’s one-sided policies designed to protect the interests of Israel, and others reject America’s global expansion and military actions. Some outspoken leaders such as Hezbollah’s popular leader Hassan Nasrallah refers to Israel as the “American project in the Middle East.”

An increasing number of foreign affairs analysts believe Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu wants the U.S. to conduct a strike on Iran’s nuclear development facilities, which they insist are being used to create nuclear weapons. Though he has taken a strong rhetorical stance against Iran, Pres. Obama’s reticence to act militarily—in this particular case—could be another reason for tense relations between the two leaders.

More than fearing attack from Iran, Dr. Mezvinsky said, Israelis should be concerned about the demographic shift taking place resulting from their low birth rates, and the high birth rates of the Palestinians.

Zionism is a political movement which began in the late 1800s with the goal of creating a Jewish homeland. In 1897, Theodor Herzl brought together the First Zionist World Congress in Basel, Switzerland and out of that came the group known as the World Zionist Organization. Through ardent advocacy, influence peddling, violence and dispossession of the indigenous people of the land, what is now known as modern Israel came into existence in 1948.

Dr. Mezvinsky says Herzlian political Zionism—“a secular brand of Jewish nationalism”—visibly manifests itself in the powerful political sway of evangelical Christian Zionists, and the lengths to which candidates will go to appease the Israel-first lobby. For example, borrowing rhetoric from intolerant Zionist settlers in Israel, surging Republican presidential hopeful Newt Ginrich referred to the Palestinians as an “invented” people in an interview with Steven Weiss of The Jewish Channel. Despite widespread international condemnation, when questioned at a Dec. 10 GOP presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Mr. Gingrich stood by his comments.

Experts like Dr. Mezvinsky are not surprised by anything that comes out of the mouths of American politicians concerning Israel.

“Especially in a presidential election year, candidates go as far as they think they can—there’s almost no limit to how far they will go—with praise and support for the State of Israel.”

[Link to entire article with graphics @ http://bit.ly/tSW5hw]

(Follow Ashahed on twitter @AshahedM & via his blog @ http://ashahed.blogs.finalcall.com )

12.08.2011

My Interview w/ Dr. Francis A. Boyle on Palestinian Statehood



While in Rosemont, Illinois recently at the American Muslims for Palestine conference, I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Francis A. Boyle, a scholar in the areas of international law and human rights. Dr. Boyle has written and lectured extensively in the United States and abroad on the relationship between international law and politics especially relating to the Palestinian struggle for statehood. Currently Professor Boyle lectures on international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. 
*****
Ashahed M. Muhammad: I enjoyed the forum as well as the panel discussion that followed. What is the most important thing you think the people should come away with leaving this conference after listening to your words relating to Palestinian statehood?

Dr. Francis Boyle: There are many issues that I could have talked about because it’s so complex, but the matter of fact is we need to let the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah know that we want them to go for full-fledged United Nations membership despite the enormous pressure that is being put on them by the Americans, the British, the Canadians, the so-called Quartet in the United Nations—that they have to do this. I think if all the supporters weigh in with Ramallah, with (Palestinian Authority) President (Mahmoud) Abbas with the PLO Executive Committee, hopefully they’ll do it. There are no legal obstacles to their membership. The votes are there in the UN General Assembly and President Abbas just needs to take the next step.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: So with the overwhelmingly supportive UNESCO vote recently with only a few abstentions and the number of nations who voted against only in the teens, you think that portends heavily in favor of official recognition.

Dr. Francis Boyle: Right. If this UNESCO vote was a test vote by the Palestinian leadership to see how many votes they’d get in the General Assembly and they need two-thirds to vote in the General Assembly not counting abstentions, no shows or ‘no’ votes. So if you look at the UNESCO vote they had two-thirds of those states voting either yes or no. So clearly the votes are there in the General Assembly. So it really—now—I’ve done all I can as a lawyer to set this thing up. Where we’re really now is (we need) people to say to President Abbas and the PLO Executive Committee—ignore the Americans, ignore the British, ignore their flunky Ban Ki-moon and go for that full UN membership and then we can launch and wage a legal intifada against Israel all over the world. That’s the most important message.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: Tell us a bit about the book ‘The Palestinian Right of Return Under International Law’ and why you wrote it?

Dr. Francis Boyle: I wrote it because when it was announced the peace negotiations were opening again—the new round—I knew at the heart of these negotiations would be the ‘Right of Return.’ I also knew that again, the usual culprits the British, the Americans, the UN, would put enormous pressure on the Palestinians to compromise on the ‘Right of Return.’ So I wanted to write a book that would provide counter pressure and counter information so that all Palestinians could understand the legal, political and diplomatic basis to the ‘Right of Return.’ So that’s why I wrote the book the way I did.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: Any final words or thoughts you’d like to add?

Dr. Francis Boyle: I just want to express my best personal regards to Minister Louis Farrakhan and all at the Nation of Islam. We’ll be having a convention—an organization that I work with in Chicago—I think in late April where I’ll be lecturing on African-American’s right of self-determination so, maybe Minister Farrakhan would be so kind as to come. It will be at East-West University in April.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: Thank you.

12.07.2011

NABJ Congratulates TJ Holmes on Move from CNN to BET

 NABJ Congratulates TJ Holmes on his Move to BET

College Park, MD (December 7, 2011)-Today the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) congratulates member T.J. Holmes on his decision to move to BET.

BET has announced a multi-platform deal with Holmes which includes a newly developed show hosted by the veteran journalist on BET, as well as content on BET.com in which Holmes will report on important and interesting stories for BET's growing audience.

Holmes currently anchors CNN Saturday & Sunday Morning, the weekend edition of CNN Newsroom. He joined the network in October of 2006.

"NABJ extends our sincere congratulations to T.J. on his move to BET and applaud the network for reemphasizing the importance of news as part of its programming," said NABJ President, Gregory Lee Jr. "At the same time this is a loss for CNN for whom T.J. has been at the forefront on a number of important stories. We hope that CNN is considering replacing him with a journalist who reflects the network's continued commitment to diversity."

Since joining CNN, Holmes has anchored numerous major breaking news stories, including the network's coverage of the tornadoes that destroyed Joplin, MO, the Gulf oil spill in 2010, terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India and the conflict between Russia and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia in 2008; the Virginia Tech shooting from location in Blacksburg, Virginia and the terrorist attacks at the Glasgow Airport in Scotland in 2007; and Saddam Hussein's execution in 2006.

 "T.J. is a dear friend and valued member of NABJ and he always answers when called upon to assist the association, said NABJ Vice President of Broadcast, Bob Butler. "We're proud that T.J. will now have a unique opportunity to engage BET's audience .This couldn't happen to a better person and we wish him much success."

12.03.2011

A Note To The Readers & Reflections on 2011



As-Salaam Alaikum!
(Peace Be Unto You)

In my unique position at The Final Call, I have the opportunity to witness the activities of God’s servant, and the world’s number one news maker, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. Minister Farrakhan is magnetic. He is bold and uncompromising as he represents truth and speaks for the voiceless challenging the corrupt powers of this world.

I have had the blessing and honor of traveling to many different cities covering him. I have watched the fulfillment of prophecies, history being made, and the future being brought into existence. When on location, I see myself as a servant with the duty of bringing you (the reader) into the atmosphere and to the location where events are transpiring.  After you finish reading, it is my hope is that you feel like you were right there with all of us.

It is a blessing to be able to write and report for an independent media entity that is not muzzled because of corporate control and I thank our publisher and founder, Minister Farrakhan, for his visionary leadership in emphasizing the importance of an independent Black press.

As I looked over the many things that happened over the past year, I realized that while traveling, fulfilling  deadlines, researching, reading and typing, things are happen very fast. Undoubtedly, you as readers of  The Final Call experience the very same thing, so I thought it would be a good idea for a review.

Over the few weeks as we head into 2012, I will be re-posting some of the articles I’ve written in 2011. Many of you have emailed me or told me what you think about the articles and I am grateful. Some of you who have not now have another opportunity to provide me with some feedback as together, we recap some of the year’s most notable news making events.

I am grateful to all of you who continue to support The Final Call newspaper and The Final Call Inc., and I am thankful for the experienced guidance of the Final Call’s General Manager Fontaine Muhammad and Editor-in-Chief Richard B. Muhammad, for opportunities to manifest my skills and talents for the benefit of Our Nation.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Production Staff of The Final Call responsible for designing the great covers and graphics, the great Photographers who lend their skills and talents to ensure that moments in time are captured, as well as the men of the FOI who tirelessly deliver the paper to the people. I thank the online staff, at Final Call.com and the emerging new media division that keeps our Twitter feed updated and Facebook presence fresh and the transcribers who diligently work to bring digital recordings into a text based reality, as well as the proofreaders who read thousands of words daily. 


Let's see what 2012 brings.

Sincerely, your brother and servant,

Ashahed M. Muhammad