Category Archives: Viva!

The right’s plan to get rid of Israel’s High Court

The far right wants to defang Israel’s highest court to fulfill its annexationist dreams. Netanyahu wants to overpower it to ensure he remains on the throne. For Palestinians, annexation has long been a fact on the ground. 

By Meron Rapoport

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut (C) and Judges of the Supreme Court arrive for a court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, March 14, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut (C) and Judges of the Supreme Court arrive for a court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, March 14, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The attacks on Israel’s High Court by the right would not have gained traction without Prime Minister Netanyahu’s personal support. These include an attempt to pass a bill that would not only allow the Knesset to re-legislate laws struck down by the judiciary, but also prevent the High Court from intervening in administrative decisions by the government, the ministers, and the Knesset. Netanyahu is hoping to prevent judicial review over any number of laws that would seek to shield him from prosecution over the various corruption scandals in which he is embroiled.

[tmwinpost]

The right speaks openly about the need to broadly “govern,” as well as the need to dismantle the “dictatorship of the High Court” in order to “give power back to the people.” But nowhere is this so-called “governance” more relevant than the area over which Israel has been trying to hide its rule for 52 years: the occupied territories.

The great paradox

Two of the laws Netanyahu singled out as reasons for passing a “court override bill” are directly related to the occupied territories: a bill calling for the death penalty for convicted Palestinian killers of Israeli civilians and soldiers, and another bill that would allow Israel to deport the families of those Palestinians. It is clear why Bezalel Smotrich of the United Right party made the override bill a central condition of the current coalition negotiations with the prime minister. The Regularization Law, which retroactively legalizes West Bank outposts deemed illegal by Israeli law and will likely be struck down by the High Court, is a prime example of the kind of laws Smotrich wants to enshrine without the threat of judicial oversight.

Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din has recorded a few dozen “annexation laws” that are already on the docket for the upcoming Knesset, some of which legislate the annexation parts or the entirety of the West Bank, legalize the theft of Palestinian land, or simply blur the Green Line. The moment the threat of the High Court’s oversight disappears, the sky is the limit for Smotrich and the rest of the Israeli far right.

Nearly every single article in Smotrich’s so-called “Decisive Plan” — which includes annexing the West Bank without granting Palestinians equal civil rights, while incentivizing them to leave the country — would be struck down by the High Court. From his point of view, the override bill becomes a necessity without which the settler right sees no point in joining the government.

Bezalel Smotrich speaks to supporters of the United Right party, April 09, 2019. (Flash90)

Bezalel Smotrich speaks to supporters of the United Right party, April 09, 2019. (Flash90)

Herein lies the great paradox. The Israeli right needs the override bill in order to entrench annexation and blur the Green Line, and it wants to do so in order to break the status quo — to defeat the Palestinians once and for all. Interestingly, until now, Netanyahu has preferred to support the status quo and prevent annexation, and had previously opposed the override bill. Now, because of his need for immunity, he has changed positions. This is what binds Netanyahu to someone like Smotrich.

Annexation is a fact on the ground

Palestinians aren’t afraid of these annexation policies, particularly because annexation has already been happening. The settlements in Area C bifurcate the West Bank, and the High Court, which was supposed to protect the Palestinians as an occupied people according to international law, never did its job. Thus, annexation isn’t widely viewed as a threat. In the worst case, the Palestinians’ situation in the West Bank will remain as it is: residents of the territory living alongside growing settlements. In the best case scenario, it will bolster the PLO’s case against Israel and grant a few hundred thousand Palestinians citizenship.

But it goes even further: annexation may bring Palestinians closer to a single state between the river and the sea, which has always remained a dream for many of them. In other words, the annexation sword being dangled in front of the Palestinians is seen by many of them as double-edged, and will eventually undo the “Jewish state.”

Palestinians climb over the separation wall on the first Friday of Ramadan at Qalandiya checkpoint, West Bank, May 10, 2019. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinians climb over the separation wall on the first Friday of Ramadan at Qalandiya checkpoint, West Bank, May 10, 2019. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Still, the override bill and immunity for Netanyahu are viewed as an attack on democracy inside Israel. Aside from the usual suspects among civil society organizations — women and LGBTQ groups, civil rights organizations, Palestinian NGOs, and more — who view this as a direct attack, we are now witnessing an awakening by groups of the Israeli elite, which have been cautious about speaking out against Netanyahu.

Dozens of Israeli attorneys, including leading, non-leftist candidates vying to head the Israel Bar Association, organized a conference in which they warned that “the rule of law is on the precipice,” threatening to shut down the legal system. One-hundred and thirty law lecturers from across the country signed a petition according to which the government’s attempts to defang the judiciary will cause “irreparable damage to democracy.”

On Thursday, Israeli business newspaper Calcalist published that a group of 100 entrepreneurs, most of them from the tech sector, signed a similar petition. Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, which did its best not to step on anyone’s toes during the election cycle, is now threatening to “set fire to the country” in order to save democracy.

SUBSCRIBE TO +972 MAGAZINE’S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

SUBMIT

It is easy to become cynical in the face of these calls to “save Israeli democracy” — a democracy that hardly exists in the first place when it comes to Palestinians. Neither does Israeli democracy do much to protect human rights groups, which have come under constant attack in the past years. It is hard to question the sense of urgency that prevails among parts of the Israeli elite, and its importance should not be underestimated.

The elite is energized by the combination of two moves: immunity for Netanyahu, and a bolder override bill. Both are viewed as a violation of the rules of the game, and a concentration of power in the hands of politicians — especially one politician. The elite doesn’t like this kind of situation. It prefers certainty, provided by a strong judicial system. It is much harder to trust politicians, especially the kind that rule today.

That is how an attempt to defeat the Palestinians, or at the very least threaten them, comes to be seen by many in the Israeli elite as a threat to the democratic game. It is still too early to know what the result will be. Will the right-wing coalition be forced to forgo part of its revolution? Will the elite go to war against the government?

Either way, Netanyahu’s government has created a much bigger opposition than what it was previously used to: not only Palestinians in the occupied territories or inside Israel, not only the Jewish radical left, but also large segments of the elite. In the current darkness, this is, at the very least, a small ray of light.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

The post The right’s plan to get rid of Israel’s High Court appeared first on +972 Magazine.

Former North Carolina Death-Row Prisoner Charles Ray Finch Freed After 43 Years

A North Carolina man wrongly convicted and sentenced to death based upon false forensic testimony and an eyewitness identification manipulated by police misconduct has been freed from prison after 43 years. On May 23, 2019, federal district court judge Terrence Boyle ordered North Carolina to release former death-row prisoner Charles Ray Finch (pictured with his members of his legal team) from custody, five months after a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found Finch “actually innocent” of the murder. Finch, now 81 years old, was freed from Greene Correctional Institution in Maura, North Carolina, that afternoon. Finch’s daughter, Katherine Jones-Bailey, was two years old when he was convicted and sentenced to death. “I knew the miracle was going to happen,” she said about her father’s release. “I just didn’t know when.”

Following the appeals court ruling, Finch’s lawyers from the Duke Wrongful Convictions Clinic filed a motion in federal district court seeking his immediate release. The North Carolina Attorney General’s office joined in the motion. The district court formally overturned Finch’s conviction and gave Wilson County prosecutors 30 days to decide whether to retry him. With no credible evidence of guilt, a retrial is considered unlikely. If charges are not refiled, Finch will become the 166th former U.S. death-row prisoner to have been exonerated since 1973. He will be the second death-sentenced prisoner to have waited more than four decades to be exonerated. In March 2019, Clifford Williams, Jr. was exonerated in Florida 42 years after his wrongful conviction and death sentence. 

Finch was convicted in 1976 of murdering a grocery store clerk during an attempted robbery. He was sentenced to death under the mandatory death-sentencing statute then in effect in North Carolina. A state forensic witness testified at the trial that the victim had died from two shotgun wounds, and a shotgun shell was found in Finch’s car. A store employee who saw the killer flee the scene told police that the killer had been wearing a three-quarter length jacket. An eyewitness later identified Finch in three different lineups. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the sentencing statute and, in 1977, the North Carolina Supreme Court vacated Finch’s death sentence and resentenced him to life in prison.

In 2013, testimony by Dr. John Butts, then North Carolina’s Chief Medical Examiner, revealed that the victim had been killed by a pistol, not a shotgun and North Carolina State Crime Laboratory Special Agent Peter Ware, the forensic scientist manager for the lab’s firearm toolmark section, testified that the bullet found at the scene and the shell found in Finch’s car did not come from the same firearm. Finch also presented testimony that the eyewitness identification procedures had been unduly suggestive. In an interview, Finch told WNCN-TV, “[w]hen I was picked up, they didn’t question me or nothing. They put me there in a line-up. Straight in a line-up. And they put me in a line-up with a black leather coat on.” Chief Deputy Tony Owens claimed that he had put the jacket on another man in the lineup, but photos the defense had discovered showed that Finch was the only person in the three lineups wearing a coat. “That’s one of the highlights at the evidentiary hearing,” said Jim Coleman, Finch’s long-time lawyer and the director of the Duke Wrongful Convictions Clinic. “[W]e were able to expose that [Owens] had lied about the line-up and he had dressed Ray in a coat and he was the only one wearing a coat in the line-up.”

Coleman and the clinic have represented Finch for fifteen years, and Finch was the clinic’s first client. “We have students who work their hearts out on these cases,” Coleman said. “We feel an enormous sense of vindication.”

(Olivia Neeley, Judge orders Finch to be released, The Wilson Times, May 23, 2019; Ken Smith and Matthew Burns, Wrongfully convicted Wilson man freed after four decades in prison, WRAL.com, May 23, 2019; Russ Bowen, Charles Finch speaks with CBS 17 ahead of potential release from prison, WNCN, May 21, 2019. Photo by Zak Dahlheimer, WNCN; provided courtesy of Mr. Dahlheimer and WNCN.) See Innocence and Prosecutorial Misconduct.

  • 106 reads

The Hour of Lynching: vigilante violence against Muslims in India – video

Rakbar, a Muslim dairy farmer, was murdered by a Hindu mob who thought he was taking a cow to be slaughtered for meat. His wife, Asmeena, must undergo an intense iddat (mourning in purdah) and their daughter, Sahila, is forced to abandon school to take care of the household. While the family falls apart, the hate machinery of rightwing Hindu nationalists – politicians and lynch mobs – works overtime to legitimise the killing. Set in a remote village in India, The Hour of Lynching sheds light on a global problem: communities turning on ‘the other’ – sometimes with extreme violence

Continue reading…

More of this please

If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him, per Sun Tzu and Tony Soprano:

A day after President Trump had what she described as a “temper tantrum” in a White House meeting on infrastructure that lasted less than five minutes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday called on his aides to step in.

“I pray for him. I wish his family or his administration staff would have an intervention for the good of the country,” Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill. “Maybe he wants to take a leave of absence.”

Pelosi suggested Trump abruptly left the meeting because he was “ill prepared” to strike a deal with Democrats on infrastructure.

“He pulled a stunt,” Pelosi said. “He’s a master of distraction.”

The House speaker also suggested Trump was disappointed that she has resisted calls from some members of her caucus to pursue impeachment. Pelosi appeared to endorse the theory that Trump is trying to trap House Democrats by goading them into bringing impeachment charges, expecting to be acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate. This would allow him to claim vindication heading into his reelection.

“The House Democratic caucus is not on the path to impeachment,” Pelosi said. “That’s where he wants us to be.”

But Pelosi also made clear that Trump’s conduct could lead the House down that path, eventually.

“The president’s behavior in terms of his obstruction of justice, the things that he is doing, it’s very clear — it’s in plain sight,” she said. “It cannot be denied. Ignoring subpoenas. Obstruction of justice. Yes, these could be impeachable offenses.”

She added: “We can walk and chew gum at the same time. I hope he can too.”

Grab ’em by the ego.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

World’s oldest record store bans Morrissey’s music

Time and time again, Morrissey has proudly flaunted his support for the far-right, extremist political party For Britain. Now, he’s paying the price: The oldest record store in the world has banned all of the musician’s releases.

Spillers Records in Cardiff, Wales has officially vowed to no longer carry The Smiths singer’s music. Established way, way back in 1894, the shop serves as the city’s main location for buying concert tickets and has hosted numerous artist signings and in-store performances, including from Sleaford Mods and IDLES in recent months. It also is located just four hours south of Manchester, where Moz grew up.

(Buy Tickets to Morrissey’s Tour With Interpol)

“I’m saddened but ultimately not surprised that Spillers is unable to stock Morrissey’s releases any longer,” record store owner Ashli Todd told Wales Online. “I only wished I’d done it sooner.”

spillers records store bans morrissey Worlds oldest record store bans Morrisseys music

The store ban comes just a few days after For Britain founder and noted anti-Islam activist Anne Marie Waters praised and thanked Morrissey for his relentless support. “Thank you for giving us so much publicity,” she said in a YouTube video, referring to Morrissey’s recent performance on The Tonight Show, which he gave while donning a For Britain pin.

Previously, Moz also publicly mocked the accent of London’s Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan:

“London is debased. The Mayor of London tells us about ‘Neighborhood policin’ — what is ‘policin’? He tells us London is an ‘amazin’ city. What is ‘amazin?’ This is the Mayor of London! And he cannot talk properly! I saw an interview where he was discussing mental health, and he repeatedly said ‘men’el’… he could not say the words ‘mental health.’ The Mayor of London! Civilisation is over!”

Morrissey is due to release his new covers album, California Son, on Friday, May 24th, though we know where it won’t be sold. Despite the growing controversy surrounding the singer, his summer tour with Interpol is still on.

World’s oldest record store bans Morrissey’s music
Lake Schatz

Those who missed MMR vaccine should see GP, says Public Health England

3500.jpg?width=300&quality=85&auto=forma

‘Measles can kill,’ warn experts, who suggest getting the jab before going on holiday to Europe

Anyone who has not been vaccinated or who has a child who missed a dose of the MMR vaccine should see their GP about catching up in the light of widespread measles outbreaks in Europe, Public Health England is warning.

PHE is particularly concerned about families and students who are likely to travel to Europe as the summer approaches, which is when cases of measles rose in the UK last year. Experts warn that measles is not a trivial disease. It can kill those with weak immune systems, while complications can include meningitis, encephalitis and eye damage.

Continue reading…

Karl Rove and a Pitch for a Nationwide 5G Network Tailored to Trump’s 2020 Campaign

likely to give Russia a back door to every connection

Halpern-Rivada5G.jpg

Sue Halpern writes on an insurgent telecommunications company Rivada, chaired by Declan Ganley, with funding from Peter Thiel and Karl Rove, and its play to monetize the Defense Department’s unused radio spectrum, to bring 5G cellular services to rural America.