Merry Christmas to you, dear readers! It is a beautiful and serene time of hope, when the darkest time of the year is already behind us. Though the light is still not perceptible, but we know and feel that the change is coming.
The recent vote in the United Nations has been such a glimpse of light, a harbinger of Sun. The people of the world en masse rejected the American administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as a part of the Jewish state – what could be better? They did it despite open threats voiced by the crazy envoy Nikki Haley who threatened the world community mob-style, promising to write down all those who voted against the American decision. (“The first name that she should write down is Bolivia,” defiantly said the Bolivian UN ambassador.)
Trump also suggested the U.S. could cut off aid for countries that opposed it in the U.N. vote. These threats had been counterproductive: only nine states, the usual suspects including the ex-US dependencies in the Pacific voted for the Zionists. Even Canada, ever supportive of Israel and as heavily Zionised as anybody, didn’t vote for the US and Israel, because the Trump threats made it nearly impossible for an independent state to do so. If Zionists thought they already rule the world, the vote came and proved their triumphant reports were somewhat premature. “We are not Zionist slaves”, the nations of the world said.
I love these decisions of Trump: they undermine the Imperial hold on the world more than anything Putin could ever do. Did he plan it? Did the rain plan to facilitate wheat growth? What is important that Trump is doing it well. Cutting the US contribution to the UN budget is also good, as it ushers us to the blessed times when the US won’t order nations around.
Is there a flip side? Not really.
The US decision on Jerusalem has been deemed null and void. The Palestinians are justifiably angry, but they are also encouraged by world support. Before the Trump recognition, they were smothered by silence, now their struggle is back in the limelight. The Turks assumed their traditional place in the lead of the Muslim Ummah (Islamic equivalent of “Christendom”). Iran has been reconciled with its Sunni neighbours. In short, rarely has a decision by the US President made such a positive shift as Trump’s Jerusalem decision.
Even Israeli Defence Minister Mr Lieberman, well known for his fiery rhetoric, has been accommodating. He refrained from bombing Gaza despite a few stray rockets, and he watched placidly as Assad’s troops cleared the pockets of jihadis on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights armistice line. This is good news, as in normal times, he would already send his air force to strafe them.
Suppression of Palestinian protests has been less fierce than usual, too. A legless invalid protester in his wheelchair was killed by a well-aimed shot of a Jewish sniper, a teenage girl who slapped an Israeli officer has been taken to jail, a lot of tear gas has been fired in Bethlehem; but by Israeli standards, the repression has been restrained, and as I predicted, the Third Intifada did not materialise.
The Beast of Riyadh has been forced to vote against his best friends America and Israel. He tried again to convince Abu Mazen, that is Mahmoud Abbas, the PNA President, to accept “the American Peace Plan”, and in vain. Even before the Trump recognition, Abbas declined the offer; now it would be suicidal.
But don’t weep for MBS. He keeps milking his relatives and notables, locked up in the Ritz Carlton. One of them, Royal Guard Major General Ali Alqahtani died under torture. His family had difficulty recognising his body – too many electric shocks. The price tag for the freedom of al-Waleed bin Talal, the richest detainee, has been placed at $6 billion dollars, some 30% of his net worth, but probably 70% of his unencumbered assets. The Dog Still Does Not Bark, that is the world media keeps mum about this shakedown, and this is good news for MBS.
If you were taken in by Thomas Friedman oral job and came to believe that the money will be spent on an alternative economy for Arabia, rest assured: MBS bought himself a palace in France worth 300 million, a painting attributed to Leonardo, for 450 million, and a new yacht for 500 million. And he still a lot of cash to spend.
Will he start a new war with Iran? MBS found a better way. You can watch a great cartoon depicting the Saudi victory over Iran – this is his war effort.
I wholeheartedly approve of making cartoons instead of fighting wars. Let Trump learn from MBS and be satisfied by commissioning a cartoon of his brilliant victory over North Korea (Trump lands, kills Kim the Rocket Man in hand-to-hand combat, and Koreans greet him as their saviour) instead of actually going there.
The world is full of good news, suitable for Yuletide. There is good news in Russia, too. The Russian Communists, nominally the main opposition force, erstwhile a timid supporter of Putin, have chosen a new face to run in the Presidential elections of March 2018. This is Pavel Grudinin, the successful manager of a collective farm near Moscow. The farm named after Lenin survived Yeltsin’s drive to eliminate all socialist enterprises, and actually flourished – it feeds Moscow with its strawberries. His ascendancy has been greeted with unexpected excitement, and some people already predict he can win in the race.
People were reluctant to vote for the veteran Communist leader Gennadi Zyuganov. The Russians believe that he had won the Presidential elections race 1996, but agreed to accept Yeltsin’s “victory” – to save his life, or to avoid a new civil war. He has been a pocket opposition leader since then, and the Left looked out for a new independent leader. Pavel Grudinin and Yuri Boldyrev were the favourites; Boldyrev is a better polemist while Grudinin is a better practical economist. Both would be serious contenders, however, the party and assorted Left chose Grudinin.
Russia is ripe for a Communist comeback. Probably you do not remember – these events went down the memory hole years ago – but just before Putin’s appointment as Russian President by his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, Russia had been on the verge of peacefully electing Communists to lead the country.
The rule of full-blown anti-Communists (1990 to 1998) had been disastrous. By 1998, all assets and gold (and the previous loans ever given to Russia) had been stolen by Yeltsin’s family and their supporting oligarchs in the name of fighting Communism, and the Russian state had defaulted and gone into bankruptcy. In order to save his skin, Yeltsin had appointed Mr Evgeni Primakov, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Parliament Speaker, the Head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (Russian NSA), as the Prime Minister, and with Communist support, Primakov saved the country. It was almost a certainty that Primakov would become the next President of Russia, as Yeltsin’s term was running out.
Primakov had been very popular; he strongly objected to the NATO bombardment of Belgrade and even swung his jet back to Moscow over the Atlantic while going to visit Washington. He was credited with improving the economy, fighting the oligarchs and restoring Russia’s glory. But as in a Deus-ex-machina, Yeltsin passed the Kremlin rule to his hand-picked successor Lieutenant Colonel (ret) Vladimir Putin. The besmirched Primakov did not compete; the Communists supported Putin just to be tricked and discarded by the new president. Since then they impotently watched as their role has been diminished; but their grass roots support is still strong.
Putin and his aides promoted a different brand of opposition – an ultra liberal one, presently led by Mr Navalny and Ms Sobchak. They were given maximum exposure in the state-owned media, while the Communists have as little access to the media in Russia as in the US. And still, the ultra-liberals have never gotten above 10% of the vote. The Communists would be able to get much more, if they play their cards right. And here the new face will be an important factor.
Putin is doing well in his foreign policy, and people are usually satisfied with his performance, though they would prefer more confrontational attitude to the West. It is Putin’s internal policy that has been generally been disapproved. It was, and it remains neo-liberal. The flat tax rate (13%) is the lowest in the world; Russia’s workers have very low pensions and salaries, while billionaires prosper.
The public dissatisfaction is seeping, but it finds no outlet, as the only heard-of opposition, the ultra-liberal one, is much worse than Putin, in the eyes of Russian lower and middle (if they still exist) classes. The Communist opposition may become a real challenger to that power.
This is a good thing even for a convinced Putin follower. Russia has lost much of its social state since 1991; the rich guys have had it too good; some correction away from monetarist neo-liberalism to socialism or at least social democracy has been called for even by Putin’s senior advisers.
The Russian anti-communists have their pet project: resurrecting the Tsarist Empire. Baudrillard would call it a simulacra of the Empire. Memorials to the Tsars – Alexander I and Alexander III – have been erected recently; the memory of the last Tsar Nicolas II has been incorporated into the daily news. Every day, the Russians are forced to discuss a film about Tsar’s mistress (is it respectful enough? No, it is not, he was a saint), or some sordid details of Tsar’s execution (was he killed by Jews for “ritual” purposes? Yes, but do not say “Jews”). Putin’s top men live and behave as the Tsar’s nobles, flying their corgi dogs around in private jets.
Putin has been cautious, perhaps too cautious in refusing to repudiate his predecessor and nominator. People get annoyed when they see the multi-million-dollar Yeltsin Centre, for Yeltsin remains universally hated figure, as much as Gorbachev.
But the ordinary people bring wagonloads of red carnations to the tomb of Joseph Stalin, the working-class hero and enemy of the rich, the man who was born and brought up in a semi-basement apartment of his parents, an artisan and laundress. Putin’s official Russia tolerates Stalin for he defeated Nazi Germany, but the unofficial working Russia loves him for defeating the rich and powerful and preventing their revanche for many years. His birthday is celebrated in December 21, and that is when the Russians bring the flowers. (The photo was taken this year by a friend).
Though restoration of the Soviet regime is quite unlikely, some sort of shift to the left can be anticipated. Bear in mind that pro-Communists are quite positive about Putin (though some of them consider him a heir to Yeltsin and a protector of the oligarchs). There are voices of Putin’s loyalists saying that he is likely to take Mr Grudinin as his Prime Minister. If it will happen, Russia will drift to the left internally, and such a possibility is already a good news.
The final bit of good news is that the Swedish parliament did not vote for the new Draconian bill the mass media said it did. The bill is awful, no doubt. It creates a new crime, rape by negligence. A man is obligated to receive an unequivocal and undeniable consent of the female to commit a sexual act; otherwise, even if no force or threats were used, he would be committing a negligent rape. Such a law would go against female modesty and usual customs.
However, I’ve been told that the present government is promoting the bill for its PR purposes calling it the definite answer to #MeToo campaign, and they have no intention to actually bring it to a vote. This is definitely good news, though one would like to be more certain about it.
Probably this will suffice meanwhile. Merry Christmas you all!
Israel Shamir can be reached at [email protected]
This article was first published at The Unz Review.