Juan Cole

This Supreme Court is the new King George III

The Declaration of Independence begins with the famous words, crafted by Thomas Jefferson:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .”

Stephen Greenblatt argued in Swerve: How the World became Modern that Jefferson’s conception of the “pursuit of happiness” can be directly traced to Epicurean philosopher Lucretius’s De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things), a manuscript of which had been unearthed in the sixteenth century in a German monastery. Lucretius’ work begins with a paean to the goddess of beauty and love, Venus, who, he says inspires the very fecundity of spring itself.

The Trump Supreme Court self-evidently does not believe in these principles of liberty and pursuit of happiness, on which the United States was founded. The justices hold that we have no right to personal autonomy or bodily privacy and liberty, and that an alliance of Evangelicals and Catholics in state houses can legislate the most intimate details of our lives.

The justices draw on a scam called “originalism” to argue that the constitution now means what it meant to the framers in the 18th Century, which ought to make these originalists turn to professional, academic historians. They do not, and the naive historiography to which we have been treated by Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas in recent weeks would earn any of my undergraduates an “F.”

Since they’re so hung up on the eighteenth century, it is worth considering what the first generation of Americans thought about abortion.

Eighteenth-century Americans believed that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness included freedom from unwanted pregnancies during the first 16-18 weeks, and had their own equivalents of mifepristone and misoprostol, the abortion pill, which taken together will end a pregnancy.

In one of his books, Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers and a framer of the constitution, included a text that provided instructions for using herbs to “restore the courses,” that is, to start menstruation back up, i.e. they were abortifacients

The University of Mary Washington blog pointed out that Thomas Jefferson noted the use of abortifacients by American Indians, and was not in the least censorious about it, writing in Notes on the State of Virginia:

They [Native Americans] raise fewer children than we do. The causes of this are to be found, not in a difference of nature, but of circumstance. The women very frequently attending the men in their parties of war and of hunting, child-bearing becomes extremely inconvenient to them. It is said, therefore, that they have learnt the practice of procuring abortion by the use of some vegetable; and that it even extends to prevent conception for a considerable time after.

In the eighteenth century, women were not considered pregnant until the quickening, when they felt the fetus moving within them, typically around 18 weeks. Before month five, it was common for women to have abortions. These were performed by instrument or by herbs. The instruments were applied to “remove a blockage” that was “interfering in menstruation.” Herbs were used to restore menses (emmenagogues) or as abortifacients (often in practical terms these were the same thing). Abortifacients were discussed in classical medical texts like Hippocrates and Galen and by the Muslim physicians who were widely read in the medieval and Renaissance era, such as Avicenna and his Canon (Qanun Ibn Sina). It is true that abortions after the quickening were considered homicide, but typically not before.

It is likely that some early colonists learned of the abortifacients used by American Indians. In addition, the practical knowledge of enslaved West African midwives, some of them from Muslim societies, was also deployed on American plantations by the slaveholders, with older enslaved females in the household used as abortionists.

In addition, enslaved persons sometimes used cotton root in an attempt to abort their own pregnancies, aware that the child would be born to a life of drudgery and might well be sold off from its parents down the river. Slaveholders, aware of this practice, would force their enslaved workers to drink an antidote daily to prevent the abortifacient from working. So there was a war of herbal remedies, like something out of the science fiction novels (often set in slave societies) of Olivia Butler.

I’m just speculating here, but just as Evangelical biblical literalism has roots in an early American attempt to justify slavery, you have to wonder if the strain that views abortions so negatively goes back to these slaveholder attitudes about children being the wealth and private property of the patriarch.

Cheryl Lans, Lisa Taylor-Swanson and Rachel Westfall note in Science Direct:

Household slaves served as informal medical practitioners in some homes (Tannenbaum, 2012). Granny midwives attended childbirths on some slave plantations as a cost-saving measure for the owners, but sometimes acted as abortionists (Vaughan, 1997). Vaughan (1997) records the plants or plant-based products used by slaves to abort, and several are discussed in this paper: tansy, catnip, thyme, horse mint, rue, pennyroyal, cedar berries, Origanum vulgare, Thuja occidentalis, oil of savin, leaves of Juniperus virginiana, fruit of Juniperus communis, Cimcifuga racemosa, Caullophyllum thalictroides, Actea rubra, Helleborus viridis, Leonotis leonurus, Trillium undulatum, Trillium sessile, Trillium erectum and Cunila origanoides.

So if we are going back to the eighteenth century now, abortion should be legal everywhere until the 16th week at least, in accordance with the Founding Fathers’ notion of the quickening, and abortifacients like the abortion pill should be available for legal use until the 16th week, as well.

But we are not actually going back to the eighteenth century, since “originalism” is a scam. We are being delivered into the hands of high-tech, 21st-century authoritarians who have invented the personhood of the blastocyte and are using it for the purposes of neo-patriarchy. In that regard, this Evangelical dictatorship has some firm resemblances to the Taliban in Afghanistan, who are not “medieval” either, but very much a movement of contemporary counter-modernity. Ironically, Muslims in general have, and all along had, much more liberal views on abortion than the American Religious Right.

How the FBI ignored white radicals while spying 24/7 on Muslim Americans

Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson excused one of the leaders of the extremist Oath Keepers organization implicated in the January 6th insurrection by describing him as “a devout Christian.” It’s safe to surmise that he wouldn’t have offered a similar defense for a Muslim American. Since September 11th, and even before that ominous date, they have suffered bitterly from discrimination and hate crimes in this country, while their religion has been demonized. During the first year of the Trump administration, about half of Muslim Americans polled said that they had personally experienced some type of discrimination.

This article originally appeared on TomDispatch.

No matter that this group resides comfortably in the American mainstream, it remains under intensive, often unconstitutional, surveillance. In contrast, during the past two decades, the Department of Justice for the most part gave a pass to violent white supremacists. No matter that they generated more terrorist attacks on U.S. soil than any other group. The benign insouciance of the white American elite toward such dangerous fanatics also allowed them to organize freely for the January 6th assault on the Capitol and the potential violent overthrow of the government.

Donell Harvin was the chief of homeland security and intelligence for the government of the District of Columbia in the period leading up to January 6th. He assured NBC News’s Ken Dilanian that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security seemed completely oblivious about the plans of white supremacist hate groups to violently halt the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory, despite plentiful evidence on social media that they were preparing to bring weaponry to the Capitol.

Consider now the treatment that the very same agencies offered distinctly inoffensive Muslim Americans. Rutgers law professor Sahar Aziz has argued that many white Americans see Muslims not merely as a religious group but as a racial one and have placed them on the nethermost rung of this country’s ethnic hierarchy. Muslim Americans are regularly, for instance, profiled at airports and subjected to long interrogations. Over many years, the New York City Police Department gathered intelligence on more than 250 mosques and student groups. The FBI even put field officers in mosques not only to spy on, but also to entrap worshipers who, alarmed by their wild talk, sometimes reported them to… the FBI.

Aziz notes that Donald Trump campaigned in 2016 to register all Muslim Americans in a database, institute widespread surveillance of mosques, and possibly exclude Muslims from the country. Even non-governmental far-right groups like discredited ex-journalist Steve Emerson’s “Investigative Project on Terrorism” have spied on Muslim Americans. As with everything else in the contemporary U.S., a partisan divide has emerged regarding them, with 72% of Republicans holding the self-evidently false belief that Muslims are more likely to commit violence than adherents of other faiths, while only 32% of Democrats say this.

Apparently, though, our concern over the potential commission of violence in this country should actually focus on Republicans. A recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that 34% of Americans now believe that violence against the government is sometimes justified, a statistic that rises to an alarming 40% among Republicans. In other words, this country’s worries about violence should be focused most on the right-wing extremist fringe, exemplified by groups like the Oath Keepers, 11 of whose leaders were arrested by the FBI in mid-January for “seditious conspiracy” in their paramilitary invasion of the Capitol in 2021. More people have perished in political killings in the past 20 years here at the hands of far-right radicals than those of any other group, including extremists of Muslim heritage. Still, this country’s security agencies continue their laser focus on monitoring Muslim Americans, even as they grossly underestimate the threat from white supremacists.

Collectively Punishing Muslim Americans

What most characterizes the American Muslim community, which at nearly four million strong makes up more than 1% of the population, is diversity. It includes white and Hispanic converts, African Americans, Arab Americans, and South-Asian Americans whose families hailed from the Indian subcontinent. Three American Muslims are serving in Congress and even President Trump appointed a Moroccan-born American immunologist, Moncef Slaoui, to head Operation Warp Speed that produced the Moderna vaccine for Covid-19. Last summer saw the confirmation of the first Muslim-American federal judge and President Biden has just nominated the first Muslim-American woman to the federal bench. There are also striking numbers of Muslim-American peace activists, either with their own organizations or involved at interfaith centers, as well as many environmentalists and community organizers, but the media and academics seldom focus on this dimension of the religion.

In my new book, Peace Movements in Islam, my colleagues and I did something remarkably rare in these years: we explored this peaceful dimension of the faith of a fifth of humankind. We focused, for instance, on the Muslims active alongside Mahatma Gandhi in nonviolent noncooperation to end British colonial domination of India. Closer to home, contributor Grace Yukich explores the Muslim-American reaction to the rise of the virulently Islamophobic Trump administration and finds that many responded by promoting the progressive dimensions of their faith, while working against racism and for the rights of immigrants and the poor.

Polling supports her findings, with 69% of Muslim-American respondents saying that working for justice forms an essential part of their identity, nearly the same as the 72% who say that loving the Prophet Muhammad is essential to being a Muslim. In addition, 62% see protecting the natural environment as a key to Muslim identity. The majority of them, in other words, are religiously open-minded. Some 56% of Muslim Americans, for instance, believe that other religions can be a path to salvation. In contrast, only a third of evangelical Christians take a similar position when it comes to religions outside the Judeo-Christian tradition.

And here’s a seldom-recognized reality in this country: Muslims form a longstanding and important thread in the American tapestry, having been in North America for centuries. Rabbinical Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all arose on the fringes of the Roman Empire between the first and seventh centuries of the common era. All believe in the one God of Abraham, as well as in the biblical patriarchs and prophets. All forbid murder, robbery, and other violent crimes. There are no objective grounds for a United States that recognizes the first two to deny legitimacy to the third.

Muslim-American numbers have increased dramatically since, in 1965, Congress changed formerly racist immigration laws to abolish country quotas that favored northern Europeans. Some 75% of the Muslim Americans here are now citizens. The 9/11 attacks, however, turbocharged hatred of this group, unfairly associating them in the minds of many Americans with violence and terrorism, even though all the hijackers were foreigners and differed starkly in their political and ethnic backgrounds from those of most Muslim Americans. Unlike whites, who suffer no reputational damage from being of the same race as violent white supremacists, Muslim Americans have been collectively punished for bad behavior by any of them or even by foreign coreligionists. While a small number of Muslim Americans have succumbed to the blandishments of radical Muslim ideologies, it has been vigorously rejected by all but a few.

The same cannot be said of white nationalists for whom radicalism stands at the core of their identity, while a disturbing strain of poisonous racism runs through their activities. The 11 leaders of the Oath Keepers arrested in mid-January for seditious conspiracy had stockpiled heavy weapons and coordinated with rapid-response teams pre-positioned outside Washington, D.C., whom they hoped to call on, apparently after they invaded the halls of Congress. According to the indictment, the leader of that 5,000-strong organization, Elmer “Stewart” Rhodes, wrote on its website on December 23, 2020, “Tens of thousands of patriot Americans, both veterans and non-veterans, will already be in Washington, D.C., and many of us will have our mission-critical gear stowed nearby, just outside D.C.”

Rhodes, who spent thousands of dollars on weaponry in December and January, said in an open letter that he and others may have to “take to arms in defense of our God given liberty.” Oath Keeper chapters around the country conducted military training exercises with rifles. Indicted Alabaman Oath Keeper Joshua James, 33, texted on the Signal messaging app, “We have a shitload of QRF [Quick Reaction Forces] on standby with an arsenal.” They were concerned, though, that during the planned civil disturbance, authorities could close the bridges from Virginia (where they had holed up in motels with their assault rifles) into D.C. A QRF team leader from North Carolina wrote, “My sources DC working on procuring Boat transportation as we speak.” Kelly Meggs of Florida, another Oath Keeper leader, sent messages worrying about running out of ammunition: “Ammo situation. I am checking on as far as what they will have for us if SHTF [the shit hits the fan]. I’m gonna have a few thousand just in case. If you’ve got it doesn’t hurt to have it. No one ever said shit I brought too much.”

On the morning of January 6th, one of the organization’s leaders, 63-year-old Edward Vallejo of Phoenix, Arizona, discussed the possibility of “armed conflict” and “guerrilla war” on a podcast. On the day itself, members of the Oath Keepers formed paramilitary “stacks” in front of the Capitol to invade it in formation. They were, however, foiled when some Capitol police delayed them by holding the line against thousands of angry, determined fanatics, while others whisked most members of Congress away to secure locations inaccessible to the mob. Before they were rescued, some representatives lay on the floor, weeping or praying. In other words, the American far right came much closer to overthrowing the U.S. government than al-Qaeda ever did and, at the same time, resembles al-Qaeda far more than Republican lawmakers are ever likely to admit.

Ignoring White Nationalists

The Oath Keepers, like the Boogaloo Bois and other far-right groups central to the insurrection, do not so much have an ideology as a mental cesspool of conspiracy theories and imaginary grievances. Typically, in December 2018, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes spoke of asylum-seekers at the border with Mexico as a “military invasion” by “cartels” and part of a “political coup” by the domestic Marxist left. He also managed to blame Muslims and the late Senator John McCain for provoking crises that would leave this country’s borders “undefended.”

Extremists on the white nationalist right have been a known quantity to American law enforcement for decades and have committed horrific acts of violence like Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 truck-bombing of the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people and wounded more than 800. Unlike Muslim Americans, however, they have been cut remarkable slack.

The Republican Party has had a longstanding and chillingly effective policy of downplaying the dangers of extremist white nationalists. No surprise there, since the GOP depends on the far-right vote in elections and on financial contributions from well-off white supremacists who hate the multiracial Democrats. In 2009, analyst Daryl Johnson of the Department of Homeland Security in the newly installed Obama administration produced a confidential report for law enforcement suggesting that right-wing extremism posed the biggest domestic threat of terrorism to this country. Republicans in Congress leaked it and then, along with right-wing media like Fox News, went ballistic.

House minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) said at the time:

“[T]he Secretary of Homeland Security owes the American people an explanation for why she has abandoned using the term ‘terrorist’ to describe those, such as al-Qaeda, who are plotting overseas to kill innocent Americans, while her own Department is using the same term to describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation.”

According to Johnson, the Obama administration caved to this campaign:

“Work related to violent right-wing extremism was halted. Law enforcement training also stopped. My unit was disbanded. And, one-by-one, my team of analysts left for other employment. By 2010, there were no intelligence analysts at DHS working domestic terrorism threats.”

One can imagine that under Trump such groups received even less government scrutiny, since one of their fellow travelers had ascended to the White House.

The refusal of the Washington establishment to take the menace of far-right white nationalist movements seriously has been among the biggest security failures in this country’s history. The collusion of mainstream Republicans who have, in essence, run interference for such dangerous, well-armed conspiracy theorists has stained the party of Lincoln indelibly, while the participation of active-duty military and police personnel in these groups poses a dire threat to the Republic.

At the same time, this country’s security agencies failed epically in their treatment of Muslim Americans after the 9/11 attacks by infringing on their civil liberties, while abridging or disregarding constitutional protections for millions of innocent people. Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, points to congressional reports that question the value of all this monitoring of an American minority, not to speak of the absurdities it has entailed. As she put it, “Often, the reports singled out Muslims engaged in normal activities for suspicion: a [Department of Homeland Security] officer flagged as suspicious a seminar on marriage held at a mosque, while a north Texas fusion center advised keeping an eye out for Muslim civil liberties groups and sympathetic individuals and organizations.” In such a world, even Muslim Americans active in peace centers become inherently suspicious, but heavily armed white nationalists in motels just outside Washington aren’t.

Copyright 2022 Juan Cole

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel, Songlands(the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Juan Cole

Juan Cole, a TomDispatch regular, is the Richard P. Mitchell collegiate professor of history at the University of Michigan. He is the author of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: A New Translation From the Persian and Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires. His latest book is Peace Movements in Islam. His award-winning blog isInformed Comment.

Here’s how Joe Manchin just positioned China to dominate green energy in the 21st century

Coal baron Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has succeeded in blocking the part of President Biden's Build Back Better bill that would have moved the U.S. electricity grid quickly to green energy.

This development is very bad news for the earth, since human beings burning coal, petroleum and natural gas contribute the bulk of the 6.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide that the United States farts out into the atmosphere every year, and which is causing the earth rapidly to heat up to uncomfortable levels. Although the U.S. only has 4% of the world's population, it is responsible for 20% of global CO2 emissions. And that is just today. Through modern history, only Britain has been more of a carbon hog than America.

Although we have poisoned the atmosphere with greenhouse gases that do not permit the sun's heat to escape back out into space at the same rate it used to, we have a cushion. The world's oceans absorb carbon dioxide. They will take in all the extra CO2 industrial civilization has put up there. There are two downsides, though. The oceans will become more acidic and that will kill a lot of marine life. And, the oceans have a limit to how much carbon dioxide they can absorb. If we exceed that limit, then whatever CO2 we put up there afterwards will stay in the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years, keeping the earth hot.

We're near to exceeding the limit?

We're near to exceeding the limit.

In fact, one man, Joe Manchin, likely just single-handedly put us over the limit. We needed to green our electric grid as soon as humanly and technologically possible. Manchin won't let us do that. The average surface temperature of the earth is not going to rise only 2.7° F. (1.5° C.). It is going to be more, and it is going to be for millennia.

It is hard to get people to understand what we're doing to the earth and to our children and grandchildren by burning coal and gas for electricity and petroleum for transportation. They are, typically, however easy to mobilize if someone points to an attacking enemy on the horizon.

So let me just point out that Manchin and the Big Carbon corporations that fund him are weakening America's economy and infrastructure in the face of China.

China's President Xi Jinping has just announced,Bloomberg reports, the world's largest wind-and-solar farm. This gargantuan facility will generate 400 gigawatts when it is finished, and 200 gigawatts of capacity will be built by 2025.

You know how much solar capacity the United States now has? 100 gigawatts. And how much wind? 125 gigawatts. So by 2025, if China's plans are realized, just this one facility in the western desert will match the entire wind-and-solar capacity of the U.S. as it now stands. And then by a few years later it will double it. One facility.

Not only that, but researchers from Harvard, Tsinghua University in Beijing, Nankai University in Tianjin and Renmin University of China in Beijing have found that China is on the cusp of a tipping point. By 2025, unsubsidized solar power with battery storage everywhere in China will be cheaper than coal. Indeed, solar plus battery is already cheaper than coal in 3/4s of the country. Especially given drops in the cost of battery storage, the paper concludes that China can get 43% of its total power from solar at less than 2.5 cents a kilowatt hour by 2060, making the Communist Party's current plans for decarbonization by then plausible. Coal is usually figured at 5 cents a kilowatt hour, and solar plus battery is already less than that.

Harvard Engineering School's "News and Events" quotes one of the co-authors, Chris P. Nielsen, the executive director of the Harvard-China Project, as saying that most people now understand that decarbonizing is key to fighting the climate emergency. He adds, "Not as many realize that decarbonizing the power system is the linchpin, especially as more sectors become electrified, and that accommodation by the grid of renewable variability is the toughest part of the puzzle. It's a huge breakthrough, and not just for China, if storage can make solar power grid-compatible at a competitive cost."

The power system must be transformed, that is the provision of electricity. That is exactly what China is pushing full speed ahead on, and which Manchin just foiled in the U.S.

So what happens if you green the power system?

Shi Chen, the co-first author of the paper told "News and Events:"

"Our research shows that if costs continue to decline, especially for storage, there could be opportunities to power vehicles, heat or cool buildings, or to produce industrial chemicals, all using solar energy. This would extend the climate and environmental benefits of solar energy far beyond the power sector as traditionally conceived."

Far beyond the power sector. He is talking about a quantum leap in China's industrial infrastructure.

Furthermore, if you solarize the whole electric grid and use panels plus battery storage to power cars and for cooling and heating buildings, you will put enormous demands on your research and development teams to make cheaper and more efficient solar panels and batteries. China's massive push in this direction will position it to be the market leader in the essential technology of the future, a technology in which it already has an edge. China dominates some 60% of the global solar panel market and is the major producer and consumer of electric cars. We could all be driving Chinese electric cars because their companies got the benefits of massive public investment and consumer buying.

The United States, having been derailed from any similar push by Mr. Manchin, won't be putting nearly as much money into the green energy sector and risks being left in the dust by Beijing.

In game-changer, ICC will take up Israeli war crimes and apartheid in Palestine

On Friday, the International Criminal Court found that it had jurisdiction to consider war crimes and crimes against humanity and the crime of apartheid in the Palestinian territories.Israeli politician Abba Eban once quipped that Palestinians never lost the opportunity to lose an opportunity. But Palestinians have carefully, methodically created this opportunity to be heard in an international tribunal. It is the ruling Israeli right wing about which one can now quip about missing opportunities.

Israel has egregiously violated the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of people in occupied territories by flooding its own citizens into the Palestinian territories, by stealing Palestinian land from its owners and building squatter settlements on it, and by using disproportional force against Palestinian demonstrators at the Gaza border.

The court will also look into war crimes by Hamas, which was elected in 2006 and retains control of the Gaza Strip.

It has been impossible for anyone to stop Israel's repeated and serious crimes against the Palestinians because the United States backs them to the hilt and is deeply implicated itself in keeping Palestinians stateless. (The "two-state solution" long since became geographically impossible, and invoking it and an alleged "peace process," as the Biden administration does, is just a way of keeping the Palestinians from enjoying any human rights).

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu cynically called the ruling "anti-Semitic," in the ultimate debasement of a term that has otherwise been central to human rights struggles.

Filistin al-Yawm (Palestine Today) quotes Rami Abdu, head of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, as saying that the International Criminal Court announcement that it has jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories represents a victory, won by many sacrifices, for justice, freedom, and ethical values in the world. It is, he said, the fruit of a Palestinian struggle that has lasted decades to win recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

As a result, he said, Palestinian victims of Israeli war crimes from various generations will gain the right to seek justice after decades of occupation and to see the perpetrators tried in the Hague. He cautioned, however, that "the decision does not mean the end of the road, and the task will not be easy. The hope is that the Biden administration will adopt a different course from its predecessor, and will refrain from putting any pressure on the court."

In spring of 2020, then-President Donald Trump declared a national emergency as a pretext for being able to target justices and staff of the International Criminal Court with sanctions because they were looking into alleged crimes by U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan. These outrageous and ineffectual sanctions have been lifted by the Biden administration.

The International Criminal Court was established by the Rome Statute circulated to U.N. member states in the late 1990s and finalized in 2002. The United States and Israel refused to sign or to recognize the court's jurisdiction. Some 123 countries have, however, ratified the treaty and so incorporated it into their national law.

The court can take up cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and apartheid committed by officials in the signatory states. It can apply sanctions to individuals in those governments after trying them. It does not sanction states but individuals. So far its cases have been entirely from Africa.

But the court's hands are usually tied with regard to non-signatory governments. It cannot move against their officials unless the United Nations Security Council forwards a case to them. Thus, when the murderous regime of Muammar Gaddafi attacked civilians in winter-spring of 2011 during the Arab Spring youth revolt, the Security Council referred the case to the ICC. Its justices considered evidence against Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif Gaddafi, as well as interior minister Abdullah Sanusi. Arrest warrants were issued by the court for these individuals on June 27, 2011.

The state of Palestine led by Mahmoud Abbas had little hope of the U.N. Security Council asking the ICC to look into Israeli war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza, since the United States almost always uses its veto to protect Israeli officials from sanctions for their illegal occupation policies in the Palestinian territories that they grabbed beginning in 1967.

The Palestinian David very carefully and with foresight therefore moved to join the International Criminal Court. The first obstacle they faced is that court members have to be members of the United Nations. Since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the eclipse of Labor in favor of the far, far-right Likud and its offshoots, Israel's policy against the Palestinian people has been predicated on preventing Palestinians from ever having a state. They are to be kept stateless and deprived of the basic human rights that come with citizenship in a state.

So, Palestine sought the same status at the U.N. as is enjoyed by the Vatican, of permanent observer state. The General Assembly can grant this status, and did so for Palestine in 2012. Permanent observer states cannot vote, but they are not voiceless and can attend sessions. Palestine's prerogatives were expanded in 2019 when the Group of 77 at the U.N. elected it their chairman that year.

In 2015, the state of Palestine (as the U.N. calls it) acceded to the International Criminal Court and recognized its jurisdiction in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

This is like three dimensional chess on the part of the Palestinians. Because they now have what is called in the law "standing." They are a permanent observer state at the U.N. and they are signatories to the Rome Statute.

Now just one step was left, which was to take to the ICC those Israeli officials operating in the Palestinian Territories in such a way as to violate the Rome Statute. Palestine did not hurry to do so, hoping that the government of Binyamin Netanyahu would see the legal peril and become more reasonable. But Netanyahu kept stealing their land and urging Trump to cut their funding (which he did), and by 2019 the Palestinians concluded that they had nothing left to lose by filing a claim.

The ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, declared a delay while she sought reassurances that the court had jurisdiction over Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

A little over a year later, she has been assured that it does, given the recognition of the Palestine Authority as the government of those region in the Oslo Accords.

As Mr. Abdu said, this step is more the beginning of something rather than its end. Netanyahu will attempt to obstruct the workings of the court. But this is a great day for the international rule of law, and all believers in human rights should rejoice.

Bonus Video:From 5 months ago: "Palestine takes Israel's war crimes to ICC" | News Bulletin | Indus News

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008). He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles.

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Rumors are swirling that the Trump administration, i.e. Donald Trump himself, requested from Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe that he nominate Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize. Trump no doubt thinks to himself that Obama got this prize and it is completely unfair that Trump hasn’t been awarded it, especially since Trump is at least half American whereas Obama was Kenyan. (Yes, I know it doesn’t matter where you’re from, and also Obama is from Hawaii, I’m just trying to understand the squirrels running around in Trump’s brain case).

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These 7 racist exclusions reveal America's dark and ugly side

The two-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s Muslim visa ban and Holocaust Remembrance Day have arrived more or less together, and it is worthwhile reviewing how they reveal an ugly side to America. US history is replete with racism as public policy. It has been more often our history than not, and the era since 1965 has been unusual inasmuch as there has been widespread public pushback against the use of race for policy purposes. Trump’s movement is an attempt to see whether that widespread US consensus of the past few decades can be reversed. Just as the Ku Klux Klan took over the Democratic Party in the 1920s, including the whole state of Indiana, so white nationalism has taken over the Republican Party today, including the GOP majority on SCOTUS.

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Here's why Trump is responsible for our collective national two minutes of hate

Some high school young men from a private Catholic school in Kentucky had been encouraged to attend an anti-abortion “March for Life” near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on Friday. Nearby, Native Americans were rallying for their rights.

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Here's How Muslims Became the Enemy in the Age of Trump

These days, our global political alliances seem to shift with remarkable rapidity, as if we were actually living in George Orwell’s "1984." Are we at war this month with Oceania? Or is it Eastasia? In that novel, the Party is able to erase history, sending old newspaper articles down the Ministry of Truth’s “memory hole” and so ensuring that, in the public mind, the enemy of the moment was always the enemy. Today, there is one constant, though. The Trump administration has made Muslims our enemy of the first order and, in its Islamophobia, is reinforced by an ugly resurgence of fascism in Germany, Italy, Hungary, and other European countries.

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Lindsey Graham Consistently Disregards Violence Toward Women - And His State Is a Women's Murder Capital

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made it abundantly clear in the hearing on Thursday that he cares more about Republican Party control of the Supreme Court than about rape victims. He implied that the charges of sexual assault that have surfaced against Brett Kavanaugh are a Democratic Party plot to deny Trump a Supreme Court justice.

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A Middle-East Expert Explains: Erdogan Has Used Same Techniques as Trump to De-Democratize Turkey

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, began his legitimate political career at the turn of this century with a push for more political pluralism in a Turkey that had long been dominated by an elite, secular military.

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The Republican Party Would Have Had a Meltdown if Obama Gave Kim Jong-un a Summit

The depths of hypocrisy of the Republican Party in supporting Trump’s meeting with the North Korean dictator in Singapore are hard to plumb. This is a party whose leading members adopted the Ostrich Foreign Policy Principle for decades. If you don’t like a country’s government or political and economic system, pretend it does not exist.

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Three Countries Show How Close a 100 Percent Green Grid Is

The aspiration for a 100% green electricity grid is no longer a dream. It is regularly being achieved in the real world for weeks or months on end. This development is absolutely crucial, since burning fossil fuels at the rate we are burning them is rapidly changing the climate in ways that seriously harm our quality of life.

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Top 10 Signs the U.S. Is the Most Corrupt Nation in the World (2018 Ed.)

Those ratings that castigate Afghanistan and some other poor countries as hopelessly “corrupt” always imply that the United States is not corrupt. This year’s report from Transparency International puts the US on a par with Austria, which is ridiculous. All kinds of people from politicians to businessmen would go to jail in Austria today if they engaged in practices that are quite common in the US.

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11,004 Gun Murders in U.S. vs. 26 (Equiv. 130) in England Annually

A lot of smoke is being generated to cover up the fact that the Florida school shooting that has left at least 17 dead results from a virtual absence of meaningful gun controls in the US, such that a few gun manufacturers are allowed to make powerful military-style weapons available to the homicidally insane or to gangbangers. The Las Vegas shooter, whom the US press buried long ago, was not an immigrant. And Britain has a lot of immigrants, too, but it has almost no gun murders.

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Trump Admin Commits to Forever War in Syria Against Iran

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a talk Wednesday at the right wing Hoover Institution that hovers over Stanford University, in which he committed to a Forever War in Syria. The talk was a mishmash of incompatible talking points and full of inaccurate and tendentious assertions, but its most troubling feature was the determination to keep US troops in Eastern Syria over the long haul.

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Top 5 Signs Trump Doesn’t Actually Care About Iranian Protesters

Trump has tweeted as though he cares about the welfare of the Iranian protesters in small towns across that country who are upset about reduced government subsidies for commodities such as eggs and gasoline. His administration tried to prosecute protesters for laughing at VP Mike Pence.

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5 Depressing Reasons Roy Moore Could Still Win, Despite Shocking Sexual Assault Allegations

Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, was rocked by scandal this week, as a woman accused him of initiating sexual contact with her when she was only 14.

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Top 6 Trump Administration Crimes That Should Bring Indictments

1. Jeff Sessions lied under oath, saying he never met with any Russian official during the Trump presidential campaign. He met the Russian ambassador twice. The GOP impeached Bill Clinton for perjury in what was a minor personal matter, but stand by Sessions despite his perjury regarding a matter of national security. Mueller should indict.

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Top 5 Signs Donald Trump Might Be a Moron

Carol E. Lee at NBC reported Wednesday that last summer Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, called Trump a “f*cking moron.” The remark came after a number of incidents in which Trump had contradicted Tillerson on policy, and directly after Trump made salacious remarks to a crowd of boy scouts. Tillerson at one point had led the Boy Scouts.

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Failing Dam in Puerto Rico, Endangering 70,000, a Reminder that Climate Denialism Kills

President Trump, notoriously, tweeted that climate change is a Chinese hoax.

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5 Ways Humanity Made Hurricane Harvey Much More Devastating

The images from Houston and its environs are heart-breaking and we at IC wish all those affected a speedy and safe return to normality.

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Top 5 Ways Obama Sanctions on Russia Work for Democrats

President Obama’s sanctions on Russia are small potatoes and will have almost no effect on the Russian Federation. The high officials sanctioned are unlikely to have assets in the US that Washington can attach. When you hear that the US is sanctioning the FSB (the Russian CIA) and the GRU (military intelligence), that is a sign of measures taken just for show. As for the covert actions, we’ll never know what or if those were.

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Don't Let Media and Society Normalize the Neofascists Coming to the White House

It is 2017, and shortly the White House will be inhabited by an unscrupulous, corrupt narcissist who has shamelessly mobilized the Neo-Nazi fringe of the Republican Party to get into power.

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5 Reasons Senate Democrats Should Block All Trump Supreme Court Nominees, Forever

We don’t need a Trump-nominated supreme Court justice. We desperately don’t need such a person. And there is no reason to have one. The Democrats in the Senate should just filibuster any nomination for the next four years. Now, you may say that a president deserves to have the nominee of his choice voted on. But those were the old rules before we saw how the Republican Party treated Barack Obama. They just told him no, no, no on everything. Everything. They even threatened the home mortgages of government employees by closing down the government. Twice. They vilified Obama, shouted disrespectfully at him from the floor of Congress, and then they refused even to let his Supreme Court nominee, a centrist, come up for a vote. They declared President Obama a lame duck when he had 11 months left in his presidency.

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