Professor Henry Srebrnik

Professor Henry Srebrnik

Monday, September 16, 2019

South Africa Explodes in Anger

By Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer

Mobs rampage in major cities. The country is criticized by other African states. There is talk of boycotting its businesses abroad.

Are we talking about the white-governed apartheid South Africa of three decades ago? No, it’s today’s democratic nation, ruled since the 1994 election that ended minority rule and brought to power the African National Congress.

So what has happened? The current attacks on foreign-owned shops in the country began after South African truck drivers started a nationwide strike to protest against the employment of foreign drivers on Sept. 1. 

They blocked roads and torched foreign-driven vehicles, mainly in the coastal KwaZulu-Natal province. Drivers were subject to xenophobic attacks and harassment.

The violence coincided with attacks against foreigners in Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial hub, and Pretoria on Sept. 2-3.

It left at least 10 people dead, with dozens more arrested for the widespread looting and arson of foreign-owned shops and businesses.

This comes at a time of high unemployment, and some South Africans blame foreigners for taking their jobs. The unemployment rate in South Africa is nearly 28 per cent.

The government minister responsible for small business development, Lindiwe Zulu, said the rioters “feel there are other Africans coming into the country and they feel these Africans are taking our jobs.”

But the country's police minister, Bheki Cele, said “criminality rather than xenophobia” was to blame.

South Africa is a major destination for migrants in search of work from the southern Africa region and beyond. There are some four million migrants in South Africa, a nation of more than 50 million. 

While many have moved from neighbouring Lesotho, Mozambique, and especially Zimbabwe, whose citizens make up the biggest migrant population in South Africa, others come from as far as Somalia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

That’s because South Africa has had an almost open-borders policy since the end of apartheid.

Approved refugees enjoy most of the same fundamental rights as South African citizens, thanks to the nation’s liberal constitution.

That may change. Xenophobia has long been a problem in South Africa, though the first major outbreak of riots targeting outsiders in the country occurred in 2008, when 62 people were killed. The violence was brought under control only after the government deployed the military.

There were subsequent incidents, particularly in 2015, when unrest in the cities of Johannesburg and Durban claimed seven lives and led to large-scale looting.

This time, there was anger across Africa. The African Union Commission condemned the violence. Its chairman, Moussa Faki Mahamat, called on South Africa to restore law and order.

Officials in Zambia reacted with outrage after that country’s truck drivers were attacked. Information and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Chanda Kasolo called it “barbaric.”

Zambia’s soccer association cancelled an international game against South Africa scheduled to take place in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.

In the Congo, demonstrators outside of the South African Embassy in Kinshasa held signs that read “Don’t kill our brothers” and “No xenophobia.”

Zimbabwe government spokesperson Nick Mangwana stated that he expected the South African government to protect its immigrants. Tanzania suspended flights to Johannesburg.

Governmental delegations from Nigeria, Rwanda, Malawi and Congo pulled out of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting on Africa, which took place in Cape Town in early September.

Meant to be a showcase for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, it instead became an embarrassment.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Macron Attack Brazil's Leader

By Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer

Advocates of the postwar international economic and political system hate political leaders who care first and foremost about their own national sovereignty. 

Among their objects of distaste are Vladimir Putin of Russia, Victor Orban of Hungary, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Nahendra Modi of India, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the power behind the throne in Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) government.

Most of all, they despise U.S. President Donald Trump.

We can now add Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro to the list of this axis of nationalism. Since his election last year, he has been subjected to unrelenting criticism by the left-liberal media in North America and Europe, sometimes referred to as Brazil’s “Mini Trump.”

The global elites have been using climate change as a stick with which to beat nationalists. French president Emmanuel Macron’s attack on Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is the most recent example. 

At the recent G7 summit, held in in Biarritz, France, Macron tweeted that the devastating fires now burning in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest, often referred to as the “lungs of the world,” amounted to an international crisis and a threat to the word’s battle against global warming. 

The Amazon has seen more than 85,000 fires break out so far this year -- a 77 per cent rise from the same period in 2018.

Bolsonaro reacted by accusing Macron of having a “lamentable colonialist mentality” rooted in condescension. The idea of creating an international alliance to save the Amazon would be treating Brazil like “a colony or no man’s land.”

Bolsonaro further admonished Macron, warning him to stop “messing with us.” The diplomatic row between the leaders even got personal when Bolsonaro insulted the French president’s wife.

But Bolsonaro finally agreed that environmental challenges must be met -- while respecting “national sovereignty” -- and on Aug. 28 announced there would be a meeting of countries that share the Amazon to tackle the devastating fires.

The declaration followed Bolsonaro’s accusation that France and Germany had tried to “buy” Brazil’s sovereignty through their pledge of $20 million in aid at the G7. He had initially rejected their offer.

However, acceptance of the funds, he later clarified, would hinge on the Brazilian government being able to administer the aid. Meanwhile, Brazil has sent 44,000 troops to the region to fight the fires. Bolsonaro also issued a 60-day ban on burning in Brazil.

Canada is offering to send water bombers and $15 million to help the affected regions.

Bolsonaro’s government had found itself under increasing international pressure over its environmental policies even before the major fires broke out earlier in August.

Germany and Norway both suspended their contributions to Brazil’s Amazon Fund earlier in August. Over the past decade, Norway has donated $1.2 billion to the conservation fund, which is managed by the Brazilian Development Bank. Germany has contributed $68 million.

However, on Aug. 30 German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her readiness to assist Brazil in protecting the Amazon region.

Bolsonaro, though, received praise from Trump, who tweeted that he was doing a “great job.”

Bolsonaro said the tweet pleased him “a lot.”  Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo met Trump in Washington and said the two countries were “on the same page” over the fires.

Macron was probably gritting his teeth.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Israel Caught in U.S. China Trade War

By Henry Srebrnik, [Fredericton, NB] Daily Gleaner

In recent years, the United States has raised concerns over Chinese espionage and theft of intellectual property.

The trade war between the United States and China has also forced American allies, including Israel, to think carefully about their relationship with China. 

The United States and Israel are close allies on issues ranging from Iran to cyber security to the war on terror, but they have at times been at odds regarding trade with Beijing. 

In the late 1990s, Washington criticized Israel over selling sensitive weapons technologies to China. when Israel had agreed to supply China with an advanced airborne early warning and control system for one billion dollars. 

After the Clinton administration threatened to withhold multi-billion- dollar aid packages, Israel cancelled the deal. 

In 2005, Israel planned to upgrade China’s Harpy drone system. In response, the United States temporarily suspended Israel from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. 

China had purchased an undisclosed number of Harpy drones in 1994 and in 2003 contracted with Israel Aircraft Industries to upgrade the systems. Washington objected despite the fact that the Harpy did not include any U.S.-produced subsystems.

As a result, Israel passed its 2007 Export Control Law, increasing U.S. oversight over defence and dual-use technology bound for China and elsewhere.

This has not stopped China and Israel from doing business altogether. Tech giants such as Alibaba, Baidu, and Huawei are involved in investments in Israeli start-ups and enterprise firms, to bring them, their technology, and their products to serve a Chinese market hungry for Israeli solutions.

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, under fire for sharing data with the Chinese government, acquired two small Israeli start-ups, HexaTier Technologies and Toga Networks, in 2016. Their technology bolstered Huawei’s capability to monitor network traffic, a prime U.S. concern surrounding Huawei.

Israel has since taken steps to halt Huawei from building 5G network infrastructure in the country. Israel has vowed to follow the lead of the “Five Eyes” (the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) when it comes to the Chinese tech giant.

However. China’s state-run companies have won tenders for massive infrastructure deals in recent years. These companies are involved in port construction at Haifa (a port of call for the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet) and Ashdod; and construction and maintenance of the Tel Aviv light rail system, a project worth $4.14 billion. 

The construction of the three rail lines, which will serve as the main public transportation system of the Gush Dan region, which houses about 45 per cent of the country's total population, is the largest and most complex transportation project ever accomplished in Israel.

Beijing sees these infrastructure projects as part of its transcontinental Belt and Road Initiative.

The real concern for Israel might be China’s construction of the light rail system. If Israel doesn’t take precautions, then the Chinese government could gain unrestricted access to closed circuit surveillance feeds, Wi-Fi networks, radio signals and other communications networks.

Until recently, Israel lacked the bureaucracy to mitigate the risks associated with Chinese investment. What Israel does now will serve as a roadmap for other U.S. allies navigating the rising tensions between Beijing and Washington. 

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

German Right-Wing Party on the March

By Henry Srebrnik, [Moncton, NB] Times & Transcript 

It’s clear that the once-stable German political system is unravelling, propelled by the anti-migrant climate that has emerged since Chancellor Angela Merkel accepted more than one million Muslim asylum seekers since 2015.

On Sept. 1 the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party scored its strongest-ever showing in two state elections in the former Communist East Germany.

The AfD made gains in both states, winning 27.5 per cent of the vote in Saxony and 23.5 per cent in Brandenburg. These are massive leaps from their results in 2014, when the party was only a year old. The party made a gain of 18 percentage points in Saxony, with a 10-point rise in Brandenburg.

The AfD was also able to mobilize several hundred thousand people who had never voted before, initial analysis showed.

Turnout was significantly higher than at the last elections -- up 16 points to 65 per cent in Saxony and up 12 points to 60 per cent in Brandenburg. 

Within just a few years, the party has managed to rise from a small fringe group and its popularity is increasing elsewhere in the country as well.

Meanwhile on the left, the Green party, typically at its weakest in Germany’s east, gained 8.6 per cent in Saxony and 10.8 per cent of the vote in Brandenburg. The post-Communist Left party won 10.4 per cent in Saxony and 10.7 per cent in Brandenburg.

At the same time, Germany’s two established parties, Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), have now had their worst showings in those two states since reunification in 1990. 

While the CDU will remain the strongest party in Saxony, with just over 32 per cent of the vote, in Brandenburg they won just 15.6, far below the AfD total.

The Social Democrats will hold the top spot in Brandenburg with 26.2 per cent, but they received a meagre 7.7 per cent of the vote in Saxony, running fifth, behind both the AfD and the Greens.

Clearly, the centre of the political spectrum is shrinking as the country becomes more polarized. 

The old East Germany remains a relatively depressed region, as well. The AfD campaigned in Saxony and Brandenburg under the slogan “complete the transition.” They promised to address the inequalities between citizens of the former east and west.

Founded just before the 2013 federal election, Germans have now elected the AfD to every state legislature in regional elections. The party currently holds 92 of the 709 seats in the Bundestag and is currently the largest opposition party the federal parliament.

The party insists on the primacy of traditional German culture and rejects Islam as a part of German society.

The past is, of course, no necessary predictor of the future, and the issues facing the Germany of 2019 are very different from those of nine decades ago.

But the same political problem – strong parties on the extremes of left and right -- faced the ill-fated Weimar Republic in 1932, as Communists and Nazis fought for votes during the Great Depression. The result was Adolf Hitler.

The next German federal election is in 2021. Merkel will be leaving office before then – and none too soon.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

A Rift has Developed Between American Jews and Israel

By Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer

U.S. President Donald Trump remarked on Aug. 21 that Jewish Americans who vote for Democratic Party candidates are “very disloyal to Israel,” citing the views of Democratic Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. Both are fierce critics of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians.

All this has caused an uproar in the American Jewish community. Most American Jews are liberal Democrats, and vehemently oppose Trump, who, to their consternation, is favoured by most Israelis.

Relations between Israel and American Jews have seen their ups and downs over the years. The more complicated Israel becomes, the harder it is for U.S. Jews to understand it – and sometimes, to support it.

After Israel was established in 1948, a formula for relations with American Jewry was determined when David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister, struck a deal with Jacob Blaustein, head of the influential American Jewish Committee.

At an August 1950 meeting to discuss the Israeli position vis-à-vis American Jewry, Ben-Gurion laid out the following guidelines: Israel wanted U.S. Jewry to continue to exist safely and to flourish; did not see itself as allowed to interfere in its affairs; saw it as an equal partner in caring for persecuted Jews in the world, especially after the Holocaust; and did not consider it a Jewish population in distress.

Israel would also refrain from activity urging American Jews to emigrate to the new Jewish state.

American Jews, who then numbered five or six million people, were strong and wealthy compared to the Jewish state, which at the time was home to a little over a million and surrounded by hostile neighbours. American Jews were crucial in raising funds for the beleaguered new nation.

Weaned on stories of the early Zionist pioneers from Europe who built the country, American Jews today sometimes forget that Israel is in the Middle East. Half its people came from the Muslim world, and this accounts for much of its culture, from cuisine and music to behaviour and politics.

The Middle East is a cauldron of animosity -- religious, ethnic, and ideological. The latest manifestations are the conflicts that emerged in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

Israelis with roots in the Islamic world always knew this. In general, they were skeptical about the possibilities of rapprochement and peace with these neighbours.

Israel no longer conforms to its founders’ ideals of socialism and secularism, explained journalist David Horovitz in an interview with the Times of Israel in July. “It rests on a bedrock of Jewish identity that has a lot to do with people who came here from Baghdad, Aleppo and Casablanca.”

Ben-Gurion assumed the Jewish state would be the focal point for global Jewish unity. But equally importantly, Hebrew would serve to bind together Israeli and American Jews.

Yet today, one half of the Jewish world not only lives beyond Israel’s borders; it also mostly lives in English. Only 13 per cent of American Jews understand some Hebrew; half don’t even know the alphabet. This too impacts Israel-diaspora relations.

A majority of the world’s Jews now live in the Jewish state, while a comfortable American Jewish community is not leaving the diaspora. The cultural, intellectual, political and religious divide is bound to widen.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Greenland Purchase a Century too Late

By Henry Srebrnik, [Fredericton, NB] Daily Gleaner 

A component part of the Kingdom of Denmark, with a mostly Inuit population of 56,000, the island of Greenland doesn’t often make the news.

But “Kalaallit Nunaat,” its Inuit name in Kalaallisut or West Greenlandic, has suddenly captured the world’s attention, thanks to U.S. President Donald Trump, who earlier this month suggested that Washington buy the island from the Danes.

His idea was immediately ridiculed by the mainstream American media, always ready to mock Trump. They considered it outlandish, and some even thought he was trying to make it his personal property. 

It also angered Copenhagen. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called the notion “absurd.” Trump in turn canceled a trip to Denmark.

But was it really that foolish? This wasn’t just a personal whim on the part of Trump, nor was it as ridiculous as it appeared at first glance, because Greenland is of immense economic and geopolitical value.

Most of the world’s largest island is covered in ice, but as it continues to thaw due to global warming, its mineral and energy resources -- including iron ore, lead, copper, zinc, diamonds, gold, uranium and oil -- are becoming more accessible.

Rare earth elements such as terbium, dysprosium, neodymium and praseodymium are also found on Greenland. Many of these are an essential component of smartphones, computers and tablets, as well as many industrial, defence and energy applications, including wind turbines.

Since only a small fraction of this massive island has been properly explored, no one yet knows its full potential.

Greenland’s growing strategic value is linked to new North Atlantic shipping lanes, due to the melting polar ice cap. This is dramatically decreasing maritime travel times between North America and Eurasia, and the island lies astride these routes, which will become a new northwest passage.

The U.S. maintains its northernmost missile-warning, space surveillance and deepwater seaport at the Thule Air Base, which has operated since 1943 on the island.

To boot, other countries have also cast their eyes on Greenland. China proposed building airports and mining facilities there in 2018 but was rebuffed.

There are precedents for the United States acquiring territories from other countries. The 1803 Louisiana Purchase from France nearly doubled the size of the country.

In 1867 Alaska was purchased from tsarist Russia, and 50 years later the American Virgin Islands in the Caribbean were bought from the Danes.

Nor is Trump the first president to think of buying Greenland. Harry Truman offered $100 million for it in 1946. 

Nonetheless, this movement is destined to go nowhere. The days of buying territories and their populations are over.

Maybe Trump doesn’t realize it, but Greenland is virtually a sovereign entity. It was granted home rule in 1979, and today the Nuuk government is responsible for everything except foreign affairs and defence. (The island, unlike Denmark, is not in the EU.) 

Copenhagen couldn’t unilaterally sell the island to the United States even if it wanted to.

Indeed, the political establishment in Greenland has made natural resource extraction a central part of its plans to become economically self-sufficient, and ultimately politically independent, from Denmark.

Bottom line: it was a silly proposal mainly because, in an age of self-determination, it came a century too late.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Political Evolution in Mauritania

By Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer

The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is almost twice the size of France, its former colonial overlord, and straddles the North African Maghreb (it is part of the Arab Maghreb Union) and Sub-Saharan Africa. It is 95 per cent desert, hence its image in the West of endless sand dunes dotted with camels.

Mauritania gained independence from French rule in 1960, but unelected military governments largely ruled the country in the decades to follow.

There are fewer than four million people (two-thirds of them under 26) but, despite being small, this population is exceptionally fractured. It’s divided by language and skin colour.

“Mauritania’s completely racist,” according to one observer. “Everyone knows, but no one talks about it. That’s off limits!”

At the top are the Bidhan, lighter-skinned Arab Berbers, or “white Moors.” They own almost everything. Then come the West Africans. And at the bottom there are the Haratin. They are Moors, too, and speak the same language as the Bidhan, but they’re Black. They used to be the Bidhan’s slaves.

Black and white Moors all speak Hassaniya, a regional form of Arabic. The West Africans speak Wolof, Pulaar and Soninke, plus French.

The country is one of the poorest in the world and has been criticized in the past for a series of social issues, including the force-feeding of women being groomed for marriage as well as an active slave trade.

Despite slavery officially being outlawed in Mauritania in 1981, it exists under a caste system of servitude that forces those in the “slave” caste to work as cattle herders or domestic servants without pay.

Mauritania has tried to crack down on slavery and passed a law in 2015 that made slavery a crime against humanity. But campaigners say this has not been enough to eradicate the practice.

Mauritania’s ruling Union for the Republic party candidate Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, a former general and defence minister, won the country’s presidential election on June 22 with 52 per cent of the vote. It was the first time Mauritanians voted to elect a successor to a democratically elected president in the state.   

Ghazouani’s nearest rival, prominent anti-slavery activist Biram Dah Abeid, came in second with 18.58 per cent. Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar, backed by the country’s biggest Islamist party, came in third with 17.87 per cent.

Both losers claimed fraud. “This seems like a coup d’etat,” declared Abeid. “We are united and will lead the contestation” of the outcome.

“We reject the results of the election and we consider that they in no way express the will of the Mauritanian people,” Boubacar added.

Economic issues dominated the election campaign, with outgoing president Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz largely credited with stabilizing the country after seizing power in a 2008 coup. He was later elected as president in 2009 and 2014 in votes boycotted by the main opposition parties.

Ghazouani once headed the country’s domestic security service and was chief of staff to Abdel Aziz from 2008 to 2018. Not surprisingly, the latter backed Ghazouani. Both are from the ruling Bidhan group.

Mauritania has had its share of extremist violence, but intelligence work and the rehabilitation of imprisoned jihadis has led to a decline in Islamist attacks.

Friday, August 23, 2019

El Salvador Has Become a Basket Case

By Henry Srebrnik, [Fredericton, NB] Daily Gleaner

Many of the migrants streaming across the American border with Mexico come from El Salvador. This small poverty-stricken and violence-plagued Central American country has seen more than its fair share of misfortune.

A terrible civil war that lasted from 1979 to 1992 took the lives of approximately 80,000 soldiers and civilians. The military and its allied death squads were responsible for an overwhelming majority of the killings during the war. The archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, was among those murdered.

Nearly half of the country’s population fled, and children were recruited as soldiers by both the military-run government and the left-wing guerrilla group Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN).

El Salvador remains one of the most violent nations in the world, with 69.2 murders per 100,000 residents. (The U.S. rate is 4.6) 

Gangs continue to wreak havoc, two of the most notorious being M-18, known as 18th Street, and M-13 or Mara Salvatrucha.

As a result, there are nearly 1.4 million Salvadorans living in the United States.

Can a new president change all that? The 38-year-old Nayib Bukele, a former mayor of San Salvador, the country’s capital, has promised to bring “a new era” to the country after he won election in early February.

Although he began his political career with the FMNL, Bukele ran as the candidate of the centre-right Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA).

The FMLN, which agreed to lay down its arms in the peace accords, and the conservative National Republican Alliance (ARENA) had alternated in power since the end of the war.

Bukele, who is of Palestinian ancestry and the son of a Muslim father and a Christian mother, wants to tackle El Salvador’s gang violence and corruption

He has called for social programmes to prevent youths from being recruited in the first place, and for social reinsertion programmes to prevent re-offending.

Bukele has acknowledged that the two main forces driving so many to take their chances on a perilous migration north in search of a better life were insecurity and economic duress. He vowed to address the poverty and lack of employment opportunities that so many migrants cite as their reason for fleeing.

Bukele admitted that his country was to blame for driving tens of thousands of its citizens to emigrate every year.

“People don’t flee their homes because they want to,” he said on June 30 at a news conference in San Salvador. “They flee their homes because they feel they have to.

“They fled our country, they fled El Salvador,” he continued. “It is our fault.

They feel safer crossing a desert and three frontiers because they feel that’s more secure than living in the country, he added.

“If people have an opportunity for a decent job, a decent education, a decent health care system and security, I know that forceful migration will be reduced to zero.”

Bukele also wishes to break with the left-wing foreign policy alliances forged by his predecessor in office, Salvador Sanchez Cerén. 

Cerén had maintained close alliances with the rulers of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba. Instead the new leader will strengthen ties with the United States.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Kamala Harris is Already on First Base

By Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer

With 23 major candidates having entered the race, the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential field is one of the largest, most competitive, and most unpredictable in modern history.

But most of them will soon be history. Of the ones left standing, California’s junior Democratic Senator Kamala Devi Harris, is the most formidable.

The organ of the American political elite, the New York Times, in August ran an op-ed stating that the African American (really, Indian/Jamaican) woman is the one to beat Donald Trump. Many other media outlets have been playing her up as well.

They are behind her because, after all, who is better placed to keep Black radicals and white “deplorables” (Hillary Clinton’s term) in their place than her? She can even co-opt some of the troublemakers in the “squad,” the party’s high-profile four radicals in the House of Representatives, and shut the others up.

They can’t criticize Harris as a racist, misogynist, and the various other labels they hurl at Trump. Harris is a perfect candidate for what sociologist C. Wright Mills decades ago called “the power elite” (still the best book ever written about the American ruling classes).

All the energy, drive, and passion in the party today are on the left. This may be the most aggressively left-wing cycle for Democrats since Senator George McGovern was nominated in 1972.

There will also be an enormous advantage for female candidates, in particular those from minorities in general, and African-Americans in particular.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders – too old, too male, too white – have no chance. Elizabeth Warren, a radical woman, comes closer to emerging as a serious contender. But she is strident and comes across like a hectoring schoolmarm, turning many voters off. She’s also, despite fraudulent claims of native American heritage, white. And – too old.

But 54-year-old Harris checks off all the identity boxes. And as the icing on the cake, she is a very passionate, articulate, and compelling public speaker, and quite fierce in debates.

She has many flaws and some controversial history as a prosecutor, San Francisco district attorney, and California attorney general.

Her record has led some critics to describe her not as a progressive reformer but as a relic of a “tough on crime” era going back to the 1990s and 2000s.

However, since her Senate campaign in 2016, Harris has tried to avoid the faulty parts of her record, and instead emphasized the reforms she’s supported and implemented over the years. She has adopted sweeping rhetoric about the criminal justice system, arguing that it needs to be systemically changed.

Trump might exploit some of her negatives, But Harris is not blinded by hubris the way Clinton was. She won’t take victory for granted.

Harris also enjoys the greatest support among other Democratic Party presidential candidates’ supporters, meaning she could consolidate a lot of support when her rivals drop out. Indeed, she is said to be the Democrat whom Trump fears the most and she will be hard to beat.

The first primaries are still five months away, the general election more than a year, but I’m betting on Harris to clinch the Democratic Party nomination and give Trump a real challenge. The forces arrayed against him could very likely make him a one-term president.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

India, Israel Grow Closer

By Henry Srebrnik, [Fredericton, NB] Daily Gleaner

Indian prime minister Nahendra Modi won a resounding victory in national elections held this past spring, with his coalition gaining a majority of the seats in India’s lower house.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, faces the voters this coming Sept. 17, following an inconclusive election last April, when he failed to form a governing coalition.

The two have much in common ideologically. Both men are nationalists and therefore political allies, as the ties between their two countries grow.

Israel governs the overwhelmingly Muslim Palestinian West Bank, while India has just abolished the special status of Jammu and Kashmir state, its only Muslim-majority entity. The disputed territory has sparked wars between India and Pakistan.

Less than 30 years ago, the very thought of a prominent Indian openly admiring Israel would have been unthinkable. 

India recognized Israel in 1950, but kept its diplomatic relations restricted to a single consular office in Mumbai. In 1975, India became the first non-Arab country to recognize the Palestinian Liberation Organization, with a PLO office set up in Delhi.

All of this was due to the ruling Congress Party’s left-wing secularism, which viewed Zionism as a form of ethnic nationalism.

But things are different now, with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in power.

Since Modi became India’s leader five years ago, Delhi’s diplomatic policies have shifted dramatically in Israel’s favor. 

Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel. In July 2017 he and Netanyahu signed cooperative deals on water, space technology, and agriculture. 

But the biggest and most significant deals have centered on defence. Israel’s specialization in high-tech weaponry, from drones to guided missiles, have transformed the Jewish state into a desirable international partner. 

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, from 2014 to 2018 India accounted for 46 per cent of all Israeli weapons sales, not including small arms. In 2018, Reuters reported that India buys around one billion dollars in weapons from Israel every year.

And it’s not just a question of weaponry: police and soldiers from around India have trained in Israel or have been trained by Israeli soldiers in Delhi.

Ideological affinities fuel this partnership. India’s Hindu nationalist right wing takes inspiration from Netanyahu’s hardline Zionism. Both Modi and Netanyahu have campaigned domestically with great success as opponents of “Muslim extremism,” in the one case in Kashmir, in the other in the Palestinian territories.

The BJP is the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological and cultural crucible of Hindu nationalism.

Their defining text is Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s 1923 book, Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?, which defines the Indian nation as necessarily belonging to a “Hindu race.”

Savarkar saw a parallel in the Jewish story, and expressed his support for Zionism, writing that “if the Zionists’ dreams are ever realized” it would “gladden us almost as much as our Jewish friends.” 

When Netanyahu greeted Modi in 2017, he proclaimed that the relationship between India and Israel is “so natural that we could ask what took so long for to blossom.”

Given the perceived threat both face from their immediate neighbours, that is bound to grow.