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Herb Rothschild Jr.: New developments

Most of the subjects of my column are ongoing concerns. They don’t go away just because I’ve had my say. So periodically I like to report relevant developments.

Saudi Arabia: In my May 27 column I asserted that Saudi Arabia is the largest fomenter of global Islamic terrorism, but that our government keeps selling huge quantities of arms to the kingdom and the mainstream media hesitate to criticize it. The very next day there was a report in Foreign Policy that the Obama administration had quietly frozen the sale of cluster bombs to the Saudis, in response to a growing outcry against the civilian death toll from the Saudis’ use of these anti-personnel munitions in Yemen. Foreign Policy noted it isn’t clear whether the ban will apply to current contracts or only to future contracts. Also, we’ve failed so far to ban sales of other weapons the Saudis are using, such as air-to-ground Patriot missiles.

The July 15 release of 28 formerly classified pages of the official probe into the 9/11 attacks dealing with the Saudi government’s support of the hijackers (15 of the 19 were Saudis) produced no “smoking gun.” It did finally focus some mainstream media attention on Saudi support of terrorism. For example, syndicated columnist Froma Harrop, in a piece the Mail Tribune carried on July 19, wrote, “The gun that most definitely smokes is Saudi financing of extremist Wahhabi Muslims now terrorizing and destabilizing large parts of the globe.”

Israel/Palestine: Several times I’ve used the column to focus attention on the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. In recent years public opinion on the conflict has shifted significantly, ending years of uncritical support of Israel. The latest indication: the Democratic Party platform, for the first time, includes language recognizing the legitimate rights and national aspirations of the Palestinian people. While affirming the importance of the two-state solution for securing Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, it says Palestinians too deserve “independence, sovereignty and dignity.” This achievement was the work of people Bernie Sanders was allowed to appoint to the Platform Committee, especially James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, and Cornel West.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party went backwards, refusing to oppose the settlements and support a two-state resolution of the conflict. Its new platform deletes all reference to Palestinians and makes a point of rejecting the idea that Israel is an occupying power in the West Bank. Speaking of which, early this month Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to build 1,400 new housing units on Palestinian soil.

Trade pacts and national sovereignty: In back-to-back columns during December 2014, I wrote against the pending Trans Pacific Partnership. Among other reasons is that its Investor-State Dispute Settlement provision allows corporations to challenge in secret tribunals any law that interferes with their profits, forcing governments to rescind the law or pay compensation for actual or projected profits. NAFTA has such a provision. Using it, on June 24 the TransCanada Corp. sued us for $15 billion in damages because (under grassroots pressure) the Obama administration wouldn’t permit it to complete the Keystone XL pipeline all the way from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Although both Trump and Clinton (pressured by Sanders) oppose the TPP, it’s likely that Obama will try to ramrod it through Congress before year’s end.

Herb Rothschild's column appears in the Tidings every Saturday.