Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Age of Social Democracy. Norway and Sweden in the Twentieth Century

To write a general history of two neighbouring countries spanning 100 years is no easy task. Furthermore, in 1905 Norway became independent of Sweden, meaning that there was no natural linkage between the two, geography apart. Sejersted has overcome this hurdle by emphasizing the prevalence of social democracy in both nations in the 20th century, and this comparative work therefore has a clear angle of interest for readers across the globe. As a Norwegian economic historian with knowledge of Swedish history and comparative methods, the author had perhaps the best possible background to enable him to pull off this major feat. Another historian might have struggled with the economic and financial issues, which are among the most pivotal topics a work of this nature must address, but Sejersted treats them confidently throughout. The first chapter on industrialization is a curtain raiser for what follows. Since Swedish engineering and manufacturing and Norwegian oil production are some of the most distinctive features of their nations’ recent past, the author’s knowledge is not wasted here. The book is richer and more insightful for being comparative. One of the strengths of comparative history is its ability to supply context, and at its best it is also able to provide a clearer scheme of causality than a more straightforward historical approach might.

The author divides the volume into three parts, covering 1905–40, 1940–70 and 1970–2000 respectively. A concluding chapter, entitled ‘After social democracy’, utilizes the findings of the work to point towards the future, and even in earlier chapters there is treatment of events occurring after 2000. The division has the virtue of capturing the coming, zenith and decline of social democracy neatly. The second part is thus entitled ‘The golden age of social democracy’, surely an uncontested view. To the English-speaking reader, the first question arising might be whether Scandinavian social democracy equates to what is known as socialism in Britain and the United States. It is not a straightforward topic to debate, because avowedly socialist parties have seldom been in power for long enough to carry out their programmes of principles. Until 2004 British Labour had never been in power for more than six years consecutively, and it was scarcely a socialist party by then. A British Marxist like Perry Anderson has argued that social democracy is not socialism, because the Swedish Social Democrats had not nationalized the factors of production.(1) On the basis of this book, one imagines Sejersted would agree. He notes that social democracy ‘had roots in both the liberal and the socialist and reformist traditions’ (p. 122). The Swedish labour movement’s post-war programme of 1944 contained ‘no demand for socialization’ (p. 294). Sejersted sees social democracy as the practical ideas of the Swedish and Norwegian labour movements, aiming at inclusion in the national community and radical only when excluded from it. Upon taking leadership in Sweden in 1932 and Norway in 1935, they did not seek to supersede the norms of their respective societies but to take charge of the modernization project. However, the author challenges the myth that that the state does not own industry in Sweden and Norway. In 2005 the Norwegian state owned 40 per cent of the total value of assets on the stock exchange (p. 385), and while both the absolute value and the proportion is lower in Sweden, the state was still the largest owner of companies listed on the stock exchange as of 2007 (p. 386). Sejersted could also have mentioned that the manifesto of the Swedish Social Democrats in 1944, at the dawn of the post-war age, demanded socialization of the economy. In 1975 a committee of the Trade Union Confederation, led by the economist Rudolf Meidner, reported on the proposal for wage-earner funds that would buy up the stock of private companies and wield proprietary power (p. 373). So the issue of Swedish socialization never entirely went away. This points to the open-endedness of the social democratic project.

Sejersted considers the nature of the Norwegian Labour Party and the Swedish Social Democrats in chapter ten, which is entitled ‘Capitalism, socialism and democracy’. He outlines their trajectories from 1945 until 1970, discussing economic planning, corporatism and business reaction. The author’s framework for discussing the social democratic order works well. But if I had written the book, I would have focused on how the two parties faced a clear choice in 1944 and 1945 about whether they wanted to transform Sweden and Norway into socialist societies or not. In Sweden in 1944 (the nearest she came to a post-war election) the Communists advanced to 10 per cent of the votes, and sought to cooperate with the Social Democrats. Together they held the majority in Parliament. The Social Democrats rebuffed them, preferring to work with their traditional allies the Agrarians. In Norway in 1945, the Labour Party and the Communists held talks about merging. These talks led nowhere, despite goodwill on both sides. The Labour Party got its own majority later that year, and did not require Communist support. However, Labour and the Communists together totalled more than half the votes, and the two parties now held a mandate for the creation of a socialist society.  Labour held forth this goal in the manifesto, but like its Swedish counterpart it shied away in reality. The same choice was made in France, where the Communists and Socialists held a parliamentary majority in 1945. Thus the difference is not between ‘Scandinavian social democracy’ and ‘socialism’, but between those who genuinely want a socialist society and those who do not.

An issue which logically demands attention in this book, since it was a debate between these two and Denmark, is the question of NATO membership versus the proposed Scandinavian defence alliance in 1948–9. Sejersted treats this on pages 189–94. Given the importance of security-policy anchoring during the Cold War and afterwards, I feel this could have been expanded with profit. There is a lot more to be said about ideology, Scandinavianism and political conflict on this. Was Sweden able to pursue a more consistently social democratic foreign policy due to her neutrality? Sejersted notes the conflict over the stationing of nuclear arms in Norway in peacetime, where the government eventually decided to oppose the wishes of the United States (p. 193). To be fair to the author, the work was originally written for a Scandinavian readership, for whom this much-discussed issue required no fuller explanation.

The work has social democracy at its core, but it is not about how socialism ran its course in Sweden and Norway, but about how these countries changed over the course of a century. Sejersted deals with the relevant issues within both, and is able to say something about one country then the other. In terms of balance, the flow of the narrative, the logical way in which the book is structured and the author's mastery of the literature on very diverse topics, the book is a pleasure to read. Issues that had no importance in the other society, but which were highly controversial in either Sweden, such as nuclear power, or Norway, such as the conflict over language, are nevertheless fairly dealt with. Indeed, the book is an ideal introduction to the history of both countries.

Apart from social democracy itself, the Swedish/Scandinavian model of society is a matter which has excited outsiders. In an Anglo-Saxon context, its tenets of high taxes, active employment policy, generous welfare, centralized wage bargaining and the mixed economy seem a political impossibility. One of the editorial reviewers asks the question of whether it rests on unique geographical and historical factors, or whether it can be imitated. This is a different way of discussing the identity or otherwise of Scandinavia and social democracy. Do they imply each other? To the extent that the model is a desideratum, one imagines that it cannot be replicated elsewhere in the Western world. Social democracy completed its nation-building (or modernization project, as Sejersted says) in the 1945–70 period of stable economic growth. It was a symbiosis with the golden age of capitalism in the era when the system was amenable to correction. High taxes are resented less when one’s living standards are rising anyway, and the Social Democrats could point to the contrast with the mass unemployment of the 1930s. The author does not directly engage with this question, but from his contention that social democracy is declining in its most favourable region, one imagines that he would negate the idea that the Scandinavian model might be re-created in the rest of Europe or European-settler societies.

Sejersted brings out the antecedents of the Scandinavian model, to be found in the policy of industrial intervention (including compulsory arbitration) and social reforms pursued by the Liberals until 1920 in Norway (pp. 68–73, p. 153). No equivalent left-liberal project existed in Sweden, but the Social Democrats first cooperated with the Liberals in government in 1917, and formed the first pure party government in 1920 under Hjalmar Branting (p. 130). These developments may be part of the reason why the Norwegian Labour party was more radical than the Swedish Social Democrats in the 1920s. The other stepping stones to the Scandinavian model were the Main Agreement in Norway (1935) and Saltsjöbad Agreement in Sweden (1938) (p. 158). The author does not quite bring out how important these general business-trade union settlements were. According to the data of Douglas Hibbs Jr., in the period 1919–38 Norway topped the list (among liberal democracies) of the volume of strikes relative to population, with Sweden in second place.(2) While the development towards industrial harmony took place sometimes at odds with the Social Democrats, the agreements epitomized the coming of a new order in society, also represented by the Social Democratic takeovers. The takeovers in both countries rested on an agreement with farmers about economic policies. The Cow Agreement was concluded between the Social Democrats and Agrarians in Sweden in 1933, and the Norwegian Crisis Agreement, inspired by the Danish and Swedish precursors, in 1935. Of these two crisis settlements, the Swedish was the more elaborate as it led to the Agrarians entering government, while the Norwegian Agrarians were free to oppose the Labour government on matters not covered by the budget of 1935. On the other hand, the Norwegian Labour party only entered government as a result of this deal, whereas the Swedish Social Democrats had already formed a minority government when the deal was brokered.

What the two working-class parties got from the deals was viability for their governments, as their crisis policies were not as effective in dealing with the Depression as was previously thought (p. 170). Incidentally, the Norwegian crisis plan (not the same as the crisis agreement) drawn up by the Labourites Axel Sømme and Ole Colbjørnsen in 1933,  which in a shortened form was the mainstay of the party’s election campaign, was not inspired by the Nazi Gregor Strasser (p. 169). The research the author refers to was deliberately one-sided, because its originator felt that the German example, both of the trade unions and the Nazis, had been underemphasized. Colbjørnsen, who had lived in Britain and the Soviet Union, was inspired by Keynes’s ideas and Stalin’s under-consumptionist analysis and possibly also Strasser’s plan, but if so it was hardly the germ of his ideas. Since Ernst Wigforss, who became minister of finance in the 1932 Social Democratic government, had written a pamphlet arguing for expansionist policies a year before Colbjørnsen did the same in Norway, and one can imagine that the Swedish example played some part.

Sweden and Norway are not just known for social democracy. They are also case studies par excellenceof the affluent society after the 1950s, and for gender equality. Because of generous transfers, Sweden and Norway have largely avoided the two-thirds society, though this is not something the author emphasizes. His concern is instead that paternalistic governments wished to teach the population to be discerning, rational consumers. The labour movement was sceptical of consumerism, but required it for the health of the economy (p. 316). He also notes how great an influence John Kenneth Galbraith has had on Sweden (pp. 212–13). It is perhaps not appreciated outside Scandinavia the extent to which ‘private wealth, public poverty’ applies to those societies too (p. 319). This feature distinguishes Sweden and Norway from Socialist countries, and paradoxically are a possible line of argument as to why Social Democrats deserve continued support. Not that they will create a truly socialist society, but that there are still some faults in society which require mending. Sweden and Norway have been among the wealthiest countries in the world, going back to 1938 or earlier, when the former was selling metals, timber and manufactured goods, and today when Norway is selling oil and gas. In 1975 Sweden was the sixth wealthiest OECD country (per capita), and in 2006 Norway came third (p. 497). These facts add impetus to the moral argument that it is shameful poverty still exists, and that public services sometimes fail their users.

There is an overview of feminism in the book. The author sees the socialist feminism (or 'Marxist feminism' as he says) of the 1970s as contiguous with the youth rebellion. The mobilizing issue was the demand for abortion rights, achieved in Sweden in 1974 and Norway the following year (p. 460). The feminists also demanded day care and employment rights. The author concentrates on the Swedish ‘Group 8’ and the Norwegian ‘Women’s Front’, but alleges that it was liberal feminists who were instrumental in the passing of gender equality legislation in 1978 (Norway) and 1979 (Sweden). This contention cannot easily be proved one way or the other; one would have thought that socialist feminism, as the more visible of the two movements, would this have played a greater part in making women’s rights a more pressing issue. In any case, there should also have been coverage of liberal feminists if they were the ones who were advancing the agenda. It would also have been interesting if Sejersted had suggested reasons why women’s rights have had a greater impact in these two countries than elsewhere.

These two societies had traditionally been exporters of migrants, especially to America, and it was not until the 1960s that they attracted significant numbers of immigrants. Both had been marked by homogeneity of population. The author believes that the concept of the nation needed to be rethought in the wake of especially Third World immigration (p. 400). This shows how fundamental the changes brought by this new development had the potential to be. As early as 1967, Sweden had received half a million migrants, which was considerable for a nation then numbering eight million people. There were differences between Sweden and Norway in this regard, because the author notes that a mere six hundred Pakistanis, arriving in Norway in 1971, caused ‘near panic’ (p. 401). He sees Sweden as the more liberal in terms of attitudes to immigration, which is borne out by the figures. What is unique to Sweden and Norway is that they had no colonial past, and therefore the immigrants were in every sense ‘foreigners’. Stricter rules were enforced in Sweden in 1968 and Norway in 1970, though immigration continued and has never stopped, owing to family reunion and asylum. Sweden has had one of the most liberal immigration policies in the world, and contains a higher proportion of immigrants and their descendants, yet interestingly it is in Norway that the populist right has been able to mobilize around this issue. The author’s treatment is factual, but the tenor of it is to see immigration as a problem. Since he believes that ‘cultural classes’ are constructed, he could have viewed ethnicity in the same light, as something amenable to homogenization in the medium term.

On the issue of the European Union, coverage is concise, integrating analysis with statements of fact. He makes the interesting point that Sweden and Norway have exchanged roles on the European stage between 1972 and 1994 (when the referendums on membership were held). Sweden had been the wealthy nation refusing to engage with Europe and seeing itself as ‘different’, a role which passed to Norway after 1995 when Sweden entered the EU. Appropriately for a work of this nature, he mentions the Norwegian ‘union complex’, which does not always feature in other explanations for why Sweden is today a member and Norway is not (p. 475). In a separate section, Sejersted explains why Sweden changed its policy on Europe. The end of the Cold War and reduced confidence in the Swedish model, due to the preceding economic crisis of 1991–3, loom large. The idea of the EU as an economic lifeboat is a good formulation. But the author does not mention the referendum on the single currency held in Sweden in 2003. Referendums on European integration often go badly in the Scandinavian peninsula. There is a social democratic aspect to the European issue as well, because while those parties have at a leadership level generally been pro-Europe whenever the issue arose, many of their voters, and indeed supporters of other parties, fear the dissolution of the Scandinavian model if their countries engage too deeply with the EU. Thus one can speak of a social-democratic consciousness, which now resides more with the people than with its original carriers, the leaders of the labour movement. Scandinavian Euroscepticism, usually of the leftist kind, shows the populace preferring the policies which have been built up over the decades covered in this book, to the alternative provided by a benign bureaucracy. This in itself goes to demonstrate the relevance of the author’s angle.


  1. Perry Anderson, ‘Sweden: study in social democracy’, New Left Review 9 (1961), 34–45.Back to (1)
  2. Quoted in Gregory M. Luebbert, Liberalism, Fascism or Social Democracy. Social Classes and the Origins of Regimes in Interwar Europe (Oxford, 1991), p. 257.Back to (2)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Zahid, The Gangster & The Pirate Government

Poor Zahid Hamidi. The guy used to be a lion, where nobody can say nothing bad to him, he'll fight back, right there and then, roaring and crushing them, using his power as the chosen Malay warrior and also as a trusted big dog, in a big chair, in the current ruling administration.

But that doesn't seem to be the case with the latest scandal involving a letter written by Zahid himself regarding a millionaire, who is also a world-class poker player and a gangster, by the name of Tony Phua, who is currently under investigation by LVPD in Vegas, US of A.

For weeks the opposition was firing shots at the warrior Zahid trying to get him to explain as to the reason for such letter being sent to the CIA. A letter which was clearly, (for those who understand the English language)

  1. to be in the defence of Poker Phua
  2. a letter with false information regarding the 14K Triad, which was later conformed by PDRM
  3. a letter written without prior knowledge of the Foreign Ministry or the even the Attorney General.
More questions were being raised when the letter was withdrawn in the Nevada District Court in Las Vegas, after Putrajaya objected to it being used in Phua's defence. Now this is gettin serious, but which of the big dog in Putrajaya knew about this, have asked for that particular letter to be withdrawn?

So after a month of thinking, (honestly this is an act that is quite foreign to our man, Zahid) on how to answer to all this allegations directed towards him, the lion finally did a press conference and as expected didn't say much of anything except repeating the same shit, that Poker Phua is not a member of 14K Triad and that no such group was found to exist here in Malaysia. Shit! A whole month's worth of time and all he can come up with is the same lame ass bullshit that was written in that letter? Come on, what happen to Dr Spin, at least you can do is to spin something up, something short, maybe. But no. And at the same time, he kept refusing to give any explanation whatsoever regarding Tony Phua's involvement with the government on the nation's security, proclaiming that those are considered to be under the Official Secret Act. Isn't that just so typical? Pointing directly to the gold.

Now, to those who're still new to the Malaysian style of governing, this is a pretty common practice, used by our politicians in order to stop any line of inquiries that will point them as the guilty party, which is to sweep all informations available under the word "national security" and locked em up with a key called the Official Secret Act. This is an act that has nothing much to do with protecting our nation as much as it is used to basically just cover up all those hanky panky done by these pirate government of ours so that it'll never be known to the public.

Anyway, what was not answered, is this part of the letter, where our little Zahid wrote:

  1. Phua helped the Malaysian government in “projects affecting our national security”
  2. “We continue to call upon him to assist us from time to time as such, we are eager for him to  return to Malaysia”
  3. Phua’s release would impact on furthering “good international relations between our two   countries, especially in the exchange of information”.
Let's look at these words being used here really carefully. Does it sounded to you as if Poker Phua is a criminal, or a gambling kingpin or even a member of the brutal Hong Kong 14K Triad? No, I don't think so. It seems to me like Poker Phua is in fact quite an asset actually, a golden boy of some sort, in this pirate government of ours, since they are so "eager" in having him back home, and I'm sure for none other than to assist in those important matters of national security which he has shown to be one of the essential key player. And just imagine, the impact that could have happened between those two countries involved, if Phua is to be released by the American authority. Doesn't that sound a bit like pleading for Poker Phua's release? I don't know about you, but honestly I don't think that I'm far from the truth here, and I'm pretty damn sure of it.

Unfortunately, the cabinet, heads by Muhyiddin said that they were very suprised and unaware of the letter written by Zahid, which can only tells us how rarely these people actually read the news or care about any important issues of the day, or, they're just lying their asses off, both situation which are, quite honestly valid and pretty much damn believable.

Futhermore after being brief by the warrior Zahid, the cabinet decided that there's nothing that can be considered as wrongdoing, or something that is against the law as to what was being written in that letter. My God! What has happened to this cabinet of ours? I know that their command of English is rather questionable but I never thought that they're really sucks at it! I mean, how hard it is to understand just three fucking sentences. And to not see it as suspicious is just plain ridiculous, beyond any expectation of the level of intelligence that were expected to those chosen to be sitting in the so called country's cabinet. Or is it the matter of not having the balls to go against this Malay warrior, the chosen one, the lion who is himself a gangster, desperate for any helping hand, knowing that for him, it is a do or die situation.

Even then, what about that big secret where Poker Phua helped our government with the "national security" issues. Was that big secret being explained to the cabinets by Zahid? Or is it after a lengthy confession, and a cryout for help by the Malay warrior that the cabinet decided that it wasn't necessary anymore for him to explained it any further because they've decided, that a brother in need of help, no matter how fuck up it is, has to be given a chance. After all he's fighting on our side, he is one of our guy and he's fighting for the Malays. And so the story goes.. 


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

6 Reasons Why Religion May Do More Harm Than Good.

For most people especially Muslims in this country, it'll be a waste of time to be listening to an atheist, or anybody who do not believe in the existence of God, reasoning about why they find religion to be sort of a hindrance towards the making of a good society. But personally, I do think that it is an essential for those who have faith in God, to not ignore these types of debates, and to fully understand the reason why some people have different perpectives on religion. 

Especially nowadays when there are no countries implementing Sharia' that we can put forth as an example, where religion, as a foundation, will bring a lot of good for it's citizens. Here is an article that I have found interesting upon discussing such matters. Although I wouldn't recommend it for those non-open minded type Malaysian Muslims who would probably think that something like this is a liberal way of attacking Islam.

Religion... shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude... in relation to whatever they may consider the divine. 

Most British people think religion causes more harm than good according to a survey commissioned by the Huffington Post. Surprisingly, even among those who describe themselves as “very religious” 20 percent say that religion is harmful to society. For that we can probably thank the internet, which broadcasts everything from Isis beheadings, to stories about Catholic hospitals denying care to miscarrying women, to lists of wild and weird religious beliefs, to articles about psychological harms from Bible-believing Christianity.
In 2010, sociologist Phil Zuckerman published Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment. Zuckerman lined up evidence that the least religious societies also tend to be the most peaceful, prosperous and equitable, with public policies that help people to flourish while decreasing both desperation and economic gluttony.
We can debate whether prosperity and peace lead people to be less religious or vice versa. Indeed evidence supports the view that religion thrives on existential anxiety. But even if this is the case, there’s good reason to suspect that the connection between religion and malfunctioning societies goes both ways. Here are six ways religions make peaceful prosperity harder to achieve.
1.  Religion promotes tribalism. Infidel, heathen, heretic. Religion divides insiders from outsiders. Rather than assuming good intentions, adherents often are taught to treat outsiders with suspicion. “Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers,” says the Christian Bible. “They wish that you disbelieve ountroas they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them,” says the Koran (Sura 4:91).

At best, teachings like these discourage or even forbid the kinds of friendship and intermarriage that help clans and tribes become part of a larger whole. At worst, outsiders are seen as enemies of God and goodness, potential agents of Satan, lacking in morality and not to be trusted. Believers might huddle together, anticipating martyrdom. When simmering tensions erupt, societies fracture along sectarian fault lines.
2. Religion anchors believers to the Iron Age. Concubines, magical incantations, chosen people, stonings . . . The Iron Age was a time of rampant superstition, ignorance, inequality, racism, misogyny, and violence. Slavery had God’s sanction. Women and children were literally possessions of men. Warlords practiced scorched earth warfare. Desperate people sacrificed animals, agricultural products, and enemy soldiers as burnt offerings intended to appease dangerous gods.
Sacred texts including the Bible, Torah and Koran all preserve and protect fragments of Iron Age culture, putting a god’s name and endorsement on some of the very worst human impulses. Any believer looking to excuse his own temper, sense of superiority, warmongering, bigotry, or planetary destruction can find validation in writings that claim to be authored by God.
Today, humanity’s moral consciousness is evolving, grounded in an ever deeper and broader understanding of the Golden Rule. But many conservative believers can’t move forward. They are anchored to the Iron Age. This pits them against change in a never-ending battle that consumes public energy and slows creative problem solving.
3.  Religion makes a virtue out of faith. Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus. So sing children in Sunday schools across America. The Lord works in mysterious ways, pastors tell believers who have been shaken by horrors like brain cancer or a tsunami. Faith is a virtue.
As science eats away at territory once held by religion, traditional religious beliefs require greater and greater mental defenses against threatening information. To stay strong, religion trains believers to practice self-deception, shut out contradictory evidence, and trust authorities rather than their own capacity to think. This approach seeps into other parts of life. Government, in particular, becomes a fight between competing ideologies rather than a quest to figure out practical, evidence-based solutions that promote wellbeing.
4. Religion diverts generous impulses and good intentions. Feeling sad about Haiti? Give to our mega-church. Crass financial appeals during times of crisis thankfully are not the norm, but religion does routinely redirect generosity in order to perpetuate religion itself. Generous people are encouraged to give till it hurts to promote the church itself rather than the general welfare. Each year, thousands of missionaries throw themselves into the hard work of saving souls rather than saving lives or saving our planetary life support system. Their work, tax free, gobbles up financial and human capital.
Besides exploiting positive moral energy like kindness or generosity, religion often redirects moral disgust and indignation, attaching these emotions to arbitrary religious rules rather than questions of real harm. Orthodox Jews spend money on wigs for women and double dishwashers. Evangelical parents, forced to choose between righteousness and love, kick queer teens out onto the street. Catholic bishops impose righteous rules on operating rooms.
5.  Religion teaches helplessness. Que sera, sera—what will be will be. Let go and let God.We’ve all heard these phrases, but sometimes we don’t recognize the deep relationship between religiosity and resignation. In the most conservative sects of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, women are seen as more virtuous if they let God manage their family planning. Droughts, poverty and cancer get attributed to the will of God rather than bad decisions or bad systems; believers wait for God to solve problems they could solve themselves.
This attitude harms society at large as well as individuals. When today’s largest religions came into existence, ordinary people had little power to change social structures either through technological innovation or advocacy. Living well and doing good were largely personal matters. When this mentality persists, religion inspires personal piety without social responsibility. Structural problems can be ignored as long as the believer is kind to friends and family and generous to the tribal community of believers.
6. Religions seek power. Think corporate personhood. Religions are man-made institutions, just like for-profit corporations are. And like any corporation, to survive and grow a religion must find a way to build power and wealth and compete for market share. Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity—any large enduring religious institution is as expert at this as Coca-cola or Chevron. And just like for-profit behemoths, they are willing to wield their power and wealth in the service of self-perpetuation, even it harms society at large.
In fact, unbeknown to religious practitioners, harming society may actually be part of religion’s survival strategy. In the words of sociologist Phil Zuckerman and researcher Gregory Paul, “Not a single advanced democracy that enjoys benign, progressive socio-economic conditions retains a high level of popular religiosity.” When people feel prosperous and secure the hold of religion weakens.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Comments on Palestinian's UN Failure

Millions of Palestinians lack fundamental rights everyone deserves. Denied for decades. Subjugated by Israeli harshness. With no end whatever in sight.

Governed by longstanding Israeli collaborators. Serving repressively as its enforcer. Benefitting at the expense of their own people.

Submitting a pathetically weak statehood resolution for Security Council consideration. An embarrassment and then some. Falling way short of what Palestinians deserve. What international law mandates. Defeated by US pressure. Its veto power. Supporting virtually everything Israel wants. Two nations united against Palestinian liberation. Determined to prevent it.

Wanting Palestinians held hostage. Under permanent bondage. Controlling virtually all aspects of their lives.

Denying them fundamental rights. Collectively punishing them. Leaving them isolated on their own. Longstanding injustice continues.

Palestine declared independence years ago. Previous articles explained. Law Professor Francis Boyle drafted its 1988 Declaration of Independence.

Predicting a "instantaneous success." De jure UN membership. Saying Palestine meets all basic requirements for statehood. Then and now. Including:

A determinable (not necessarily fixed) territory. A state comprised of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Where Palestinians lived for millennia. Rightfully deserving universally recognized sovereignty.

With a fixed population. A legitimate state. A functioning government. Peace loving. Polar opposite its repressive occupier.

Accepting UN Charter provisions. In 1988, Arafat declared the PLO Palestine's Provisional Government.

Prepared for relations with other states. On December 15, 1988, The General Assembly recognized Palestine's legitimacy. Gave it observer status.

Palestine satisfies essential statehood criteria. All UN Charter states (including America and Israel) at the time provisionally recognized Palestinian independence.

In accordance with UN Charter article 80(1) and League Covenant article 22(4).

As the League of Nations' successor, the General Assembly has exclusive legal authority to designate the PLO as the Palestinian peoples' legitimate representative.

The Palestine National Council (PNC) is the PLO's legislative body. Empowered to proclaim the existence of Palestine.

According to the binding 1925 Palestine Citizenship Order in Council, Palestinians, their children and grandchildren automatically become citizens. So do diaspora Palestinians.

Others in Israel and Jordan are entitled to dual nationalities. Occupied Territory residents remain protected persons until final peace agreement terms are reached.

Boyle called Palestine's Declaration of Independence "determinative, definitive, and irreversible."

It recognized the UN's 1947 partition plan in good faith. Declared its commitment to UN Charter principles.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its sovereign right to defend Palestinian independence. Rejects force, violence or intimidation against its territorial integrity.

Respects other nations' political independence. Expressed willingness to accept interim UN supervision. Until Israel's occupation ends.

Called for an international peace conference. Based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338.

General Assembly members alone affirm new member states. By two-thirds majority vote. The Security Council only recommends admissions.

Palestinians can override Washington's veto by petitioning the General Assembly through the 1950 Uniting for Peace Resolution 377.

Doing so renders America's veto null and void. Why hasn't Abbas done it? Why haven't other key PLO officials pressured him to do so?

Why go to the wrong authority for recognition? Why not years earlier? Why sacrifice Palestinians' fundamental rights?

Petitioning Security Council members reflects unconditional surrender. Acceptance of status quo harshness. Subservience to US/Israeli authority. Betrayal of longstanding Palestinian hopes and dreams.

If proper procedures are followed, official statehood is easily attainable. Why not after all these years?

Why waste time with Security Council members? Why not General Assembly ones that matter?

With over two-thirds of its members officially recognizing Palestinian statehood, getting it is as simple as requesting it according to proper procedures.

Why let business as usual continue? After decades of Israeli repression, Palestinians remain on their own. Their inalienable rights denied.

Unattainable under corrupted PLO leadership. Beholden to Washington and Israel. Betraying its own people.

Denying them fundamental rights everyone deserves. Benefitting at their expense.

Putting a lie to its rhetorical support for Palestinian sovereignty. Letting Israel maintain permanent subjugation.

Mustafa Barghouti is a leading Palestinian human rights champion. "Those countries that voted against or abstained on the Palestinian resolution at the Security Council, regardless of how weak and compromised it was, are sending a strong message," he said.

"They oppose the two-state solution and cannot be considered peace brokers."

Diana Buttu is a former PLO legal advisor. "The resolution that was defeated tonight demonstrated the PLO leadership’s inability to recognize that the Oslo negotiations process is a complete failure," she said.

"Rather than pushing for sanctions to be imposed on Israel and attempting to charge Israeli officials with war crimes at the International Criminal Court, the resolution called for a return to the same two-decade old, fruitless negotiations process that has led to a tripling in the number of Israeli colonists living illegally on stolen Palestinian land and served as cover for the daily violence inflicted on Palestinians by Israel’s racist occupation regime."

“Despite being a flawed and weak resolution, the US and UK governments voted against it largely because it places a deadline on ending Israel’s military occupation, without even specifying what penalties Israel might face should the deadline not be met."

"It is clear from this that the US, UK and other members of the international community will continue to provide unqualified support to Israel even as it continues to systemically violate their national policies and international law, and that their professed desire to see Palestinians live in freedom and achieve their rights is nothing more than empty rhetoric."

Yousef Munayyer formerly served as Washington-based Jerusalem Fund and Palestine Center executive director. He'll soon assume new duties as head of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

"Another United Nations Security Council vote, another day under Israeli occupation," he said.

"Decade after decade the UN has considered, and even sometimes passed, resolutions calling for an end to Israel's occupation of Palestinian land, but it has done little to change the status quo."

“Today's vote is but another meaningless one for Palestinians living under the boot of the Israeli military."

"Each and every episode like this, where the international community underscores its failure to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian question, is another boon to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which provides an alternative to stagnation at the UN. Perhaps that is the silver lining of this moment."

Nadia Nijab is Al-Shabaka executive director. An Institute for Palestine Studies senior fellow.

"The Palestine Liberation Organization must have been trying for a win-win: a US abstention that would send a strong signal to Israel or a US veto that would leave Palestine free to join other UN organizations and the International Criminal Court," she said.

"The failure of the resolution to win the requisite nine votes will be seen as a big setback."

"But the PLO/Palestine never really needed this resolution to make international law work for Palestinian rights."

"It already has the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the illegality of Israel’s Wall and its associated regime, non-member observer state status at the UN, and membership of UNESCO."

"And yet the past few years have been, disastrously, marked by brief spurts of activism followed by inaction and backtracking."

"Will 2015 reveal a different PLO/Palestine - one with resolution, and not just empty resolutions?"

"The dire situation on the ground and unceasing attacks on Palestinian life, limb, and land throughout the occupied territories demand no less."

Ali Abunimah is Electronic Intifada co-founder/executive director. "I feel a great sense of relief that the UN resolution on Palestine was defeated in the Security Council," he said.

"While the draft put forward by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas purported to call for an end to Israeli occupation, it did the opposite."

"It attempted to insert the vague and deceptive language of the failed Oslo peace process into a UN resolution, giving it the force of international law."

"Earlier and still valid UN Security Council resolutions - such as 465 of 1980 - are much clearer and stronger in, for example, demanding that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land be dismantled."

“This resolution actually allowed for the settlements to remain - under the guise of 'land swaps' - a formula that was previously used by Abbas to concede most of occupied Jerusalem to Israel."

"Similarly, the resolution would have represented a significant retreat on other key Palestinian rights and interests, especially the rights of refugees."

"Several revisions to the draft - in an attempt to avoid the inevitable American veto - only further compromised Palestinian rights, which is why Abbas' initiative has been disavowed by every major Palestinian political faction and many figures within his own Fatah movement."

The Palestinian people do not need more - and weaker - UN resolutions. They need existing ones to be enforced."

Law Professor/human rights attorney Noura Eerakat said:

"Tonight’s UN Security Council vote was an unfortunate affirmation of the lack of political will amongst the strongest UN member states to resolve the Palestinian-Israel conflict."

"It is not a lack of understanding between peoples, nor age-old religious or ethnic discord, that impedes a resolution, but rather a failure of the international community to support the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination against Israel’s settler-colonial regime."

"The resolution reflected principles established among the UN General Assembly and Security Council over six decades of deliberation."

"That these appeared controversial is indicative of the inability and/or unwillingness of the US and other western states to achieve a just resolution, and more reason to support the global grassroots Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement aimed at applying pressure on Israel to cease its illegal and unjust practices."

"It is also more reason for the Palestinian leadership to place its eggs in other diplomatic baskets beyond the United States, and to launch a full-scale grassroots, media, legal, and popular campaign for Palestinian freedom and rights."

"The US’s vote is particularly telling. Combined with its 2011 veto of a resolution condemning Israel’s settlement enterprise, it makes clear that the US is still willing to shield Israel to continue its detrimental practices and to impede possible solutions to the conflict, thus demonstrating its centrality as a part of the problem."

"There is no irony in the fact that the two votes against the resolution, the US and Australia, are also settler-colonial regimes."

Long-suffering Palestinians deserve better than they've gotten. Or will under corrupted PLO leadership.

On their own to achieve long denied liberation. Maybe some day. Not now.

by Stephen Lendman