Learning the Techniques of Persuasion

Learning the Techniques of Persuasion

by

Howard Adelman

Against a background of coal miners in hard hats, Donald Trump signed a measure a week ago that rolled back a last-minute Obama regulation restricting coal mines from dumping debris into nearby streams. Patricia Nana, a Cameroonian-American, insisted that, “If he hadn’t gotten into office, 70,000 miners would have been put out of work. I saw the ceremony where he signed that bill, giving them their jobs back, and he had miners with their hard hats and everything – you could see how happy they were.” Pictures are worth a thousand words, they say. The reality: the regulation would have cost very few jobs that would more than be compensated by new jobs created through the clean-up of the streams.

The Washington Post on 21 February 2017 reported this as “an example of the frequent distance between Trump’s rhetoric, which many of his supporters wholeheartedly believe, and verifiable facts.” These supporters at a Trump rally in Florida received their news regularly from Fox News and right-wing radio. Those interviewed were aware of what they read and what they saw, but knew virtually nothing about topics embarrassing to the president, such as the recent resignation of Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, because he lied to the Vice-President. If they knew that, they knew nothing of the broader charge, that he spoke inappropriately, frequently and possibly illegally about lifting the sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, before Trump was even president. Some did not even know that Flynn had resigned and had been replaced by Lt. General H.R. McMaster.

One cannot win an effort at persuasion unless one has access to the other side. Even then, what is said will be filtered through a set of beliefs largely resistant to the information and arguments being put forth. And we are not speaking of Donald Trump himself or his immediate acolytes. We are talking about the Trumpists, the true believers in his entourage who voted for him and would vote for him again even after a month of chaos and mismanagement.

Do not attempt to practice the arts of persuasion on Donald Trump, on his acolytes or on the true believers that are his followers. There are plenty of others who cast ballots for Donald Trump who do not approach issues with a pre-formed mindblindness. The first rule: select your targets who may possibly be open to listening to the case you wish to bring. But such a rule creates its own problems. Do we end up only talking to those who share our bubble? Do we retreat to our “safe spaces”? Does that reinforce intolerance and even deeper misunderstandings, especially with the almost total breakdown in the consensus, led by the president, in respecting the media and in engaging in civil discourse? There is no longer even a consensus on the civility expected of a president.

Even when dealing with those more malleable than the ardent Trump supporter, there is a problem in conducting discourse within the larger climate of fear and suspicion. In his Florida rally, Donald Trump may have stoked that fear by referring to a non-existent event in Sweden the night before, but what he did see and hear was an author, Ami Horowitz, who claimed that statistics on rape and violent crime in Sweden had increased since the large influx of foreigners in 2015. Don Lemon on his CNN show interviewed the author and challenged both his misuse of statistics and his conclusions, but without another expert present, the interview disintegrated into the interviewee insisting that what he claimed was true while Lemon kept offering evidence and arguments for its false representation of the situation in Sweden.

A quick subsequent review of some authoritative evidence from Sweden indicated that Don Lemon was much more accurate than his guest and supposed expert in representing rape and violent crime rates in Sweden. What had been offered was hyperbole and distortion by pointing to a one year spike and ignoring the overall pattern of declining rates of violence and sexual assault. Even when there were outstanding examples of violence, as there was two evenings ago, the riots looked tame compared to those that have occurred frequently in American cities. And they are much rarer, one about every second year. In these cases, Middle Eastern refugees were involved.

But there was no rape. There was no violence – though one police officer was slightly injured. When there is violence, the perpetrators were much more likely to be right-wing extremists than immigrants. Swedes seem to know this and a majority continue to support the intake of refugees and migrants. Nevertheless, Trumpists insist that there is a media conspiracy to cover up the incidents of rape and violence in Sweden.

However, even if we have some glimpse of what we face in the world of persuasion, how can we use our rational and communicative skills to best effect? When we try to persuade another, do we first attempt to establish the facts or, as the ancient Sophists did, focus on arête or virtue, on values of the highest order – excellence in other words? If the latter, what rhetorical and philosophic techniques are required? Or do we set aside argument and discourse altogether and instead opt for authenticity, opt for giving witness to what you believe to be true as opposed to the claims of the Other.

Mel Gibson’s totally unsubtle and sometimes saccharine Hacksaw Ridge, with the most gruesome and graphic scenes of the maelstrom of war I have ever seen, tells the “true” story of a conscientious objector, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), as the true believer and saint-like figure who served as a U.S. medic in the war against the Japanese in Okinawa. He won the highest award for bravery, the U.S. Medal of Honor. Doss volunteered to serve, but given his faith (he was a Seventh Day Adventist) and promise to God, he would not bear arms. In Gibson’s interpretation, this superhero combined an open-hearted approach to life with steely determination to defend his beliefs.

Some of his fellow soldiers viewed that as cowardice and bullied and beat him. His commanding officers treated his behaviour as disobedience and undertook an effort to have him court martialled. But through witnessing to his faith, through his unqualified brave actions in battle, he proved them all wrong. He did not use argument to defend his case, but he did need an order from a superior officer in Washington that conscientious objectors serving as medics need not bear arms. But most of all, he needed to prove they were wrong and more than did so in repeated acts of outstanding bravery in rescuing his fellow soldiers.

There are other ways to win arguments than with words and arguments. There are also other ways to lose arguments regardless of one’s skill with words and reason. Does the payment of money in exchange for such teaching these skills corrupt the process as Socrates proclaimed as he sought to establish the pursuit of Truth, Wisdom and Courage as the superior values for a warrior and aristocratic class? After all, Trumpists and anti-Trumpists often insist that supporters or opponents respectively are being paid to be there.  And senior executives of companies may indirectly be paid for touting the Trump presidency when they attend his “job” rallies because the company benefits from the positive publicity and the president promoting their products and their commitment to America. It is not they who have to pay off the president but the president who may be paying them off for being touts for himself.

Modern universities, though periodically invaded by corruption, have overwhelmingly proved the falsity of Socrates’ claims and shown that guaranteed wages and the principle of academic freedom have overwhelmingly protected the independence of scholars and scientists in both their teaching and research functions. By and large, responsible media outlets, and even irresponsible ones, have largely succeeded in drawing a line between the sources of their ad revenues and their news and editorial content. It should not be presumed in advance that material influences trump intellectual ones.

We have also learned that, contrary to Socrates, knowledge is not a single craft, but a multiplicity of tasks each with its own specialized vocabulary, techniques, objects of study and standards for assessing results. There is no singular path to knowledge. There is not even a singular Truth with a capital “T.” There is a difference between being a sage and being a scholar or research scientist. Most of the latter are not sages, as much as they may contribute to the advancement of knowledge.

In the ancient Greek world of Socrates, rhetorical skills were valued more than parsing arguments and evidence in a written work or stringing together depictions in a coherent way in a story or a novel. The latter was exemplified in the movie, Genius, the biopic of renowned Scribner’s editor, Max Perkins (Colin Firth), and his exuberant unboundaried novelist, Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law). Look Homeward Angel and Of Time and the River were, arguably, both made into coherent, readable and popular novels because of the concise effort of editing the logorrheic outpouring of the poetic prose of the American Walt Whitman of the twentieth century. In a book culture, arguments and evidence in science and scholarship, or narrative plots, themes and characterization in fiction, must be coherent to facilitate communication.

This is not the case where alternatives to persuasion are used. Incoherence, boring and meaningless repetition of phrases, body language and snorts or their equivalents in tweets, may be used to confound coherence and disparage criteria such as truth and consistency. When the message requires audience fragmentation, traditional and legacy media with standards of correspondence to facts and coherence in presentation must be regarded as the enemy to be undermined and debilitated. Following Donald Trump’s rant as an excuse for a news conference last week (16 February 2017), in a tweet the next day, he dubbed the news media “the enemy of the American people.” In the original version, he wrote: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!” Given the grammar and style, he should have written sic! The illogic was best exemplified when he dubbed the leaks about his election campaign’s links to Russians authentic, but the reporting of those leaks, “fake news.”

We have four different groups in contention, however, not two. There are the modern scholars and scientists, journalists and writers who, like the ancient Sophists, adhere to standards of reasoning and establishing evidence, to techniques of differentiating truth from falsehood. In the other corner are the modern cynics, the dogged or dog-like (κυνικός – kynikos) celebrators of fame and fortune, of strength and power. Modern cynics are the very opposite of their Athenian predecessors – Antisthenes and Diogenes made famous in Plato’s dialogues. The latter became ideologues who insisted in turning the rigour and discipline of argument into an ascetic life style. Trump and his followers have replaced rigour and discipline with incoherence and rants.

The modern version of ancient cynicism are evangelicals with their narrow adherence to ideology. Paradoxically, they unite with modern cynics because both disparage rigour in thought and use of language. The two groups are united in a single camp because of their opposition to the use of reason and reflection, attention to facts and follies, as a method for establishing truth. For contemporary cynics as ideologues as well as cynical inversions of those ancient practitioners, Truth is either revealed or it is whatever I believe. It is not something to be pursued.

In addition to the Sophists, there is a fourth group. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. From very different perspectives, they were philosophers. Like the ancient cynics and their modern evangelical ideologues, they believed in Truth with a capital “T”. Like the sophists, they believed Truth, along with the virtue of Justice, could be established by adherence to the principles of reason, of consistency in argument, of correspondence with facts and of coherence in weaving it altogether. Unlike the sophists who revered the techniques of rationality and made no claims about an ultimate revelation, these philosophers believed that they could reveal that Truth and uncover the principles of Justice through reason alone.

The partnership of sceptical sophists and rational philosophers, Camp A, opposed the members of Camp B, the union of believers in sincerity and goodness of human motives and actions (evangelical ideologues) with the contemporary cynics of disbelief and insincerity who regard human motives and actions to be fundamentally base. Linking the evangelical ideologues and the contemporary cynics are the economic ideologues who believe human motives are strictly self-interested, but, like the evangelical ideologues, have constructed an ideology, materialistic rather than value-based, indifferent to facts and arguments that predetermine how the economic order is to be constructed.

The question then is when there are no rules of discourse, when frameworks trump dialogue, how do the members of Camp A persuade those who belong to Camp B? The members of both camps speak the same language with the same grammatical rules, but the rules of logic and the rules of falsification differ dramatically. They are not shared. At least by the core members of one camp versus those of another. That is where one finds an opening in the gaps between the core and the periphery and in the divisions among the sub-groups in Camp B. Before one can take advantage of those openings, it is necessary to establish common grounds for Camp A.

In the next blog, I inquire into what we can learn from ancient Greeks caught up with the question of persuasion.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Malignant Narcissism and Empaths

Malignant Narcissism and Empaths

by

Howard Adelman

The list of characteristics described below have many similarities to the ones published by the DSM describing the symptoms of narcissism as a mental disorder and to the depictions in Michael Brenner’s email on the subject, but the organization and sometimes the emphasis is somewhat different. My concern is less with the person afflicted with the condition – I contend that he is a lost cause – but with those caught up in the mass psychosis stimulated and reinforced by the condition. I want to make clear how the skills of persuasion can or cannot be used to penetrate the minds of those caught up in the madness – including my own – and to peel them away from an obsession with the narcissist towards a greater concern with the damage done and how to deal with it. I want to pull away from the very narcissist who would colonize my mind and my attention yet not ignore the individual who inserted into a presidential executive order, not what the president in his legal capacity is allowed by law to do, but the “I” who will absolutely permit or deny.

Let me begin with contrasting the characteristics of a malignant narcissist with those of an empath, the latter clearly not a mental disorder though often regarded by others as strange or alien. The characteristics of the latter are probably rarer than that of the malignant narcissist, but just as readily recognizable. In the Denis Villeneuve’s film, The Arrival, based on Ted Chiang’s inventive “Story of Your Life” and a script by Eric Heisserer, Louise (played by Amy Adams), a professor of linguistics, is an empath of an extreme order, capable of anticipating even more than just picking up another’s feelings; she is able to adumbrate the future. That is why her daughter has the name, Hannah, which is a palindrome spelled the same forward or backward. Louise is the real alien in the movie. (As a side note, the film was made in Montreal and used two McGill professors as consultants for the linguistic issues in the film – Jessica Coon and Morgan Sonderegger.)

The fact that Louise is a linguist is not accidental, and not simply because of the function she plays in translating an alien language into our own. She is a linguist because she is totally attuned to the logic of grammar, of syntax. Language is inherently interactive. And alien languages can only be deciphered as children do by starting small with the ordinary rather than grandiloquent statements. She can decipher coherent patterns of thought where others read only chaos and still others use language as only a chaotic representation of their own internal souls. Linguistic self-indulgence is the use of speech, broken sentences and fractured thoughts, diversions, excursions and free associations, to reveal internal incoherence and absence of both reflection within and an ability to reflect the conversations of others. Such an individual is indifferent to established customs and norms for the preservation of coherent communication.

Donald Trump is the alien in all our lives who has totally dispensed with the “grammar of hard thinking” in preference to using speech as a mode of self-reference and self-preservation. He uses language to impress himself on others and to inflate himself among others. Impression, however, is not communication. His is a malignant and dangerous presence and precisely the kind of person who would have attempted to blow the aliens from another part of the universe up even though they demonstrated no evil intent and even though they self-evidently belonged to a civilization far superior to our own.

Words lose their meaning – “false facts” is an inherently contradictory phrase. If something is false, it is not a fact, and if something is a fact, it is not false. Words also lose their contact with reality, so any word can mean just what you want it to mean disregarding customary or traditional use. Those who speak the language of “false” or “alternative” facts would confound coherence and logic in favour of sheer nonsense. While humans still converse through the medium of language and words, the medium disintegrates before our ears in favour of noise and grunts of affirmation or shouts of “Arrest her.”

Reality becomes totally plastic in the process. In fact, reality is reduced to process. The distinction between the virtual and the actual world gets lost.  Since a malignant narcissist is the gatekeeper of his own reality without balance and certainly without any checks, he alone is entitled to determine what is true and what is false so that anything he dislikes and would challenge his mental portrait is a disturbance. Such assertions are banned as false facts and relegated to the recycling bin. It does not matter who did what; there is virtually no accountability. There is no need to decide what happened since the fault is in asking the question not the failure to offer an answer. And it is impertinent to ask why something happened since the ultimate answer is always because that is what The Donald wanted. Donald Trump truly lives in a world that is both truth-challenged and memory-challenged where all norms of measuring truth have been discarded.

In contrast, the aliens are represented as communicating through visual images, the logic of which Louise has the task of deciphering. However, those images on the glass barrier between the aliens and humans seem clearly to be reproductions of the representation of the nerve patterns of hubs in our brains and suggest a mode of communication that can dispense with the mediation of language. Just as some estimate that we have twelve main mental hubs, the aliens land twelve “spaceships” – really timeships – from twenty-five hundred years hence – at twelve different places on earth. I was sure the landing places formed a pattern, but as far as I can recall, the movie never revealed that pattern though the window drawings were broken down into twelve elements.

My concern here is not with the movie, but with the character of Louise who stands out in such stark contrast to that of Donald Trump. Whereas Amy Adam’s character is tremulous, soft, quiet and inviting, that of Donald Trump is hard, bombastic and repulsive. Whereas Donald’s world is made up of enemies and allies, and the greatest enemy is characterized by those committed to communication – the media – the world Louise encounters is one that is grasped through networking rather than through the barrel of a gun sight or a piece of artillery.

That is why The Arrival has very little action and virtually no violence. The Arrival is the story of reason and thought dominating fear and violent action. The Arrival is the story of feeling in tune with thought rather than radically separated from it. The Arrival is the story of female sensibility and reason winning over male schizophrenia. The Arrival is the story of integration rather than differentiation and specialization, of dynamic interaction rather than either/or thinking, of connecting various specialized faculties, whether seeing, hearing, language use and conceptualization as well as feelings.

The tone of Louise is always modulated and lacks any of the immoderate hysteria of that of Donald Trump with his broken sentences, fragmented thoughts, eruptions and disruptions, with the eternal recurrence of self-reference. Louise explicitly and directly feels and experiences the emotions of another, even of the supposed “aliens” or heptapods on the other side of a glass barrier. Louise is so clearly claustrophobic and cannot stand the “space suits” or contamination protection outfits that the military insist she wear. She strips that costume off at the first opportunity so she can come closer to her own thoughts and feelings as well as that of the aliens.

Louise, given where she lives and how she responds to the mass and mob movements, is a moment of serenity in a sea of panic. And she flees the panic. She flees the crowd. She is an independent thinker and feeler. She does not feed off fear, but struggles to overcome it. Donald Trump, by contrast, loves mass rallies and mass events. He draws his energy from the masses instead of drawing out energy from an inner being to give to others.

The greatest difference, however, is with respect to truth and falsity. Louise knows when she is being handed “false news.” She knows when others have got it wrong and especially when they are lying. She is an empath. Donald Trump is a malignant narcissist who cannot even discern when he is telling a lie. “Look at the incident in Sweden last night,” he will shout out at his rally, even though no one can locate the incident to which he was referring. MN are the enemies of empaths. As Michael Brenner wrote, “Attentiveness to the feelings and emotions of others risks subordinating the imperial self to someone else.”

Donald Trump always reminds me of carnies I worked with and about whom I wrote an essay for my anthropology professor in first year university. When they told a story, the time references never made sense because the past experience in Windsor the year before or in London, Ontario last week were as real as the events the evening before and were woven together in an amalgam where it was almost impossible to separate fact and fiction.

The biggest difference between malignant narcissists and empaths is that the former suffer from a disorder, but have a disproportionate influence in this world, whereas the latter belong to a truly higher order of being, of thinking and of feeling, but are generally considered as aliens. If malignant narcissists are bottom feeders, empaths are givers. If a malignant narcissist loves discord, an empath is tuned into harmony. If malignant narcissists reject anything that will challenge their prior beliefs, empaths are open to the novel and the new. If malignant narcissists love the garish and the kitschy, an empath is entranced by true beauty, creativity and subtlety.

A malignant narcissist is obsessed with himself and evaluates everything in relationship to himself. An empath is attuned to the other and easily picks up otherwise ignored cues. An MN can be told a feeling, can have that feeling demonstrated before him, but will be blind and deaf in the face of it, as Donald Trump was to the Muslim couple whose son died fighting for America. An empath senses based on only the slightest cues. That is, of course, why The Donald can go on and on creating barriers to any unwanted incursions from what is going on around him while an empath is highly sensitive to negative vibes and disruptive environments. A negative environment can overwhelm an empath. A MN works to dominate and overwhelm his environment.

A MN seems to lack any intuition. When an ultra-orthodox reporter asked Donald Trump at his recent inchoate press conference about what he planned to do about the rising spate of anti-Semitic incidences in America, instead of treating this as a lob from a pro-Trump supporter, and even though he should have recognized him from their conversation the day before, Trump cut him off, ordered him to sit down and went on a diatribe on how he was the most non anti-Semitic person around. Trump cannot read a room or a person even when its stares him in the face. All conversation can only be excessively self-referential. But Trump can manipulate a room better than anyone as he picks up and plays on negative feelings and responds to and exaggerates fears.

And hopes. For everything he blesses is the best and the brightest, the most beautiful and the most wonderful, the most glittering and the most captivating, the most splendiferous and the most stupendous. Alternatively, it is trash, the worst treaty ever made, the worst medical plan ever introduced, the worst slums ever seen and experienced, the worst mess that any new president could inherit. There are only these two extreme poles. There is no middle ground.

Trump is said to have a thin skin since he allows satirical sketches and negative statements about himself to irritate him so much that he cannot help scratching. But I have learned that this is not because his skin is thin and he is sensitive to criticism, but because he has a very thick almost impenetrable skin, but nevertheless allows any minor irritant to become and be read as an overwhelming assault on his very being. Unlike an empath, a MN has the body armor of an armadillo. It should be no surprise that empaths dislike narcissists and malignant narcissists heap scorn and abuse on “feelies.” A MN would rather grab for the pussy of a woman than have her emotionally touch him; it is as much a defensive as an aggressive gesture.

Donald Trump has an attention span of 2-3 minutes. He has a hard time listening to others, let alone an intelligence briefing which is a distillation of enormous effort and analyses. He always knows better – better than the intellectuals, better than the scientists, better than the generals and better than the intelligence officers. An MN is almost incapable of listening since his own voice drowns out almost any intrusion through the senses. An MN is the precise opposite of an empath.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

 

Malignant Narcissism: Mental Disorder or Metaphor

Malignant Narcissism: Mental Disorder or Metaphor

by

Howard Adelman

 

I want to use this morning’s blog both to demonstrate the role of argument in persuasion, but the veritable impossibility of employing that tool of argument to change the mind of a narcissist of the extraordinary dimensions of Donald Trump. On 15 February 2017 in the New York Times (A26), Dr. Allen Frances, an extremely eminent and highly regarded psychiatrist who is the epitome of scholarly care and judicious reasoning, wrote a letter (An Eminent Psychiatrist Demurs on Trump) criticising using the term “narcissism” to characterize Donald Trump as suffering from that mental disorder.

To the Editor:

Fevered media speculation about Donald Trump’s psychological motivations and psychiatric diagnosis has recently encouraged mental health professionals to disregard the usual ethical constraints against diagnosing public figures at a distance. They have sponsored several petitions and a Feb. 14 letter to The New York Times suggesting that Mr. Trump is incapable, on psychiatric grounds, of serving as president.

Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them. He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.

Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy. It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).

Bad behavior is rarely a sign of mental illness, and the mentally ill behave badly only rarely. Psychiatric name-calling is a misguided way of countering Mr. Trump’s attack on democracy. He can, and should, be appropriately denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers.

His psychological motivations are too obvious to be interesting, and analyzing them will not halt his headlong power grab. The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.

ALLEN FRANCES

Coronado, Calif.

This was not your run-of-the-mill criticism. Frances chaired the task force that compiled the definitive Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental; Disorders IV. (D.S.M. – IV). Frances was the member of the committee who also evidently composed the descriptive characteristics of “narcissistic personality disorder.” In his words, Trump “does not meet the criteria that define the disorder.” Frances insisted that Trump was not mentally ill.

I could try to get around his authoritative judgement by insisting that I am not using “malignant narcissism” as a professional psychiatrist – which I clearly am not – but using a term that was adopted by psychiatry from a far broader literature. And I will certainly defend my use of the term on that basis. But I also want to deal with Frances’ criticisms of the psychiatrists who also called Trump a narcissist with a mental disorder.

It is not as if Frances was defending Trump. He chastised Trump for his “grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy.” He characterized the denunciation of Trump as appropriate for his “ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers.” However, bad behaviour, he argued, is “rarely a sign of mental illness.” It is an insult to the mentally ill (mostly well-behaved and well meaning) who suffer “the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.” Further, and most importantly, Frances himself called Trump “a world-class narcissist.” Frances was not arguing that Trump was not a narcissist, but that his narcissism did not fall under the category of mental disorder because it did not produce the “distress and impairment” in the subject characteristic of a mental disorder.

Further, Frances denounced, in the same manner as my son had, name-calling. It is not clear in the letter whether the name-calling was the characterizing of Trump as narcissistic or the characterizing of his suffering from a mental disorder, but, from the context, and in order not to accuse Frances of contradicting himself, I believe it was evidently the latter. Labeling Trump as a narcissist may be alright, but naming him as a narcissist with a mental disorder is erroneous, not only because Trump does not suffer distress from his condition, but is, in fact, richly rewarded for it. Further, it suggests that psychiatry is an inappropriate response when the “antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.”

Rule 1 of rational argument: state the argument of the individual you wish to contend with accurately and fully.

Rule 2: consider alternate positions put forth by others.

One was put forth by W.J.T. Mitchell in the Los Angeles Review of Books that was published a day after Frances’ letter appeared. An earlier version had been presented in a lecture at the Université de Genève, 18 January 2017. The essay was called, “American Psychosis: Trumpism and the Nightmare of History.” It began with a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil: “Insanity in individuals is somewhat rare. But in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”

We are all, both the Trumpists and the anti-Trumpists, going through the long and dark nightmare of our collective soul. With Donald Trump’s election, we crossed the Rubicon into a new epoch. It is an epoch adumbrated in the film, Being There, though in a very different version. The epoch was predicted even earlier by H.L. Menken. “As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Mencken was a cynic and had great contempt for the “common man.” I share his prophetic view but not his reasoning. The fault is more institutional. When democracies reduce themselves to populist polities, as in Brexit, disaster will likely follow. America is even more prone to such a disaster. That is because America is a democratic monarchy and one day, a fool was almost certain to make the monarchical role primary and the presidential role and responsibility of governing second. As Mitchell wrote, when the combination of an oligarchy of the super rich joins forces with increasing inequality and the brew is fed by a new and innovative media, the conditions were created for the perfect storm.

Populism is not responsible government. Populism is not democracy, just its meanest expression. It reared its ugly head in the Brexit vote. We wait on pins and needles for the shoe to drop in the Netherlands, in Germany, but, most of all, in France. And we hope and pray that the example of the U.S. will dissuade enough voters in Europe to avoid the fatal edge of a cliff. For though the economic forces now favouring renewable energy may guarantee the eventual replacement of fossil fuels, will the victory come too late? Will Donald Trump as a climate change denier who appoints a fossil fuel lobbyist to head an agency responsible for monitoring the destructive effects of fossil fuels on our lonely and lovely green planet, do irreparable damage? Will the triumph of renewable energy sources have arrived too late?

However, the issue is not just whether Donald Trump’s condition as a malignant narcissist can be characterized as a mental illness, but also whether collective behaviour can be characterized as mass psychosis. Describing a condition as “madness” by Mitchell is not just a rhetorical tool. He put it forth, not to describe a mental illness, not to get shafted on the end of an épée, but to analyze a way of thinking, a mental state, a collective psychology rather than an individual mental illness.

I will return to our collective mental state in a subsequent blog, but I want to focus in this blog on Donald Trump’s mental state. Is that state an illness? Mitchell quotes Freud to assert than an individual’s mental state invariably involves others – models, helpers, opponents. We cannot separate the two. But, unlike Mitchell, I think it is best to start with the individual, with Trump rather than Trumpism. Subsequently, I will delve more deeply into the paradox of men and women, who are otherwise decent, hard-working, moral and, most of all, reasonable, becoming victims of “amnesia, ignorance and delusion.” Whereas Mitchell seems to see Trump as simply the purveyor of an image that mirrors a collective madness, I see him as a magnet and stimulant of that madness. And that is not saying the same thing in different words.

Let me go back to the issue of whether the primary error in depicting Trump’s characteristics is not whether he possesses those traits, but whether they add up to a mental illness. The collective Michael Brenner (MB) – https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?hl=en&shva=1#inbox/15a57040fcb2acc7[1] – argues that the man in the oval office is unhinged. MB makes that argument in all deference to Allen Frances, but in sharp disagreement with him. He does so on the basis of the following five arguments:

  1. Trump’s personality is almost a perfect fit for the profile of a narcissistic personality disorder;
  2. One does not have to suffer distress or impairment to be diagnosed with that disorder, and that criterion is not mentioned in DSMIV;
  3. Though pain and discomfort may accompany such a disorder on the individual “suffering” that disorder, those conditions are also not necessary conditions for such a diagnosis;
  4. Though many and perhaps most mentally ill individuals do no harm and cause no distress to others, this is not the case with psychotics or with narcissism of the gargantuan proportions of Donald Trump; they impose pain and discomfort on others;
  5. Narcissism is the one condition that most clearly causes acute distress for others because the strategies devised protect the self at the expense of others.

I think these arguments are persuasive. Donald Trump’s condition is a mental disorder. On the other hand, it is also, as I will argue, not a treatable condition. It a condition unworthy of attention to the “sufferer” as distinct from most mental conditions. Donald Trump neither demands of us nor is he deserving of sympathetic care. His narcissism alone is more than sufficient to protect him from abuse directed at him by others.

So why call it a mental disorder if we not only cannot but will not even attempt to treat it? Further, disorder conveys chaos, disarray, confusion and a question arises whether Donald Trump creates that disarray and disorder, simply mirrors it or more radically acts out the collective psychosis of our age?

As with many things, the devil is in the details. In the next blog, I will offer the characteristics of this state, which I also contend is a disorder. For that narcissism is not only an expression of a disordered mind, but is also a stimulant, adding to the disorder at large. One sign of that disorder is that Trump would not listen to, could not follow if he did listen, and would reject out of hand all four positions set forth in this blog, which includes my own. In the next blog, I will try not only to specify that Donald Trump’s disorder does not allow him to listen to arguments and contrary views, but why he characterizes all such arguments as personal attacks.

Neither Frances, nor Mitchell, nor MB nor I would regard our differences as personal attacks, but instead treat them as arguments and expressions to be debated and resolved in a rational universe. Donald Trump does not belong to that universe and is incapable of being persuaded of anything. Deviation from his path, sometimes, but never persuaded. That is why the real issue is not Trump, but those caught up in the mass psychosis and how they can be persuaded to abandon Trump.

With the help of Alex Zisman

[1] Michael Brenner does not exist in actuality. It is, rather, the nom de plume for a loose association of persons who share a perspective on the world of politics and a sensibility about cultural matters. They are of diverse background and profession. The consortium’s members came together by happenstance. There is no organization nor is there a physical location for an electronic hub… The associates’ insistence on absolute anonymity is due to more than their innate modesty. They hold the firm belief that what counts are the thoughts and ideas rather than persons. In addition, there is some consideration being given a run for the White House in 2020 by the “legend” of “Michael Brenner” – if an appealing individual can be found to assume the persona. High name recognition would be crucial to offset Ivanka’s immense popularity and her lock on the primate vote. (From a communication received 12 February 2017)

Alternatives to Persuasion

Alternatives to Persuasion

by

Howard Adelman

Given the apocalyptic vision that forms the foundation of satire, given that satire does not exist to offer palliatives or lessons, given that the ultimate role of its caustic method is to unveil the skeletal horror at the core of the present, where does hope come from? Where is the opening to escape this underworld of horrors? Where is there a path to redemption? It will not come from satire. For the arts of persuasion come from a very different order. Satire is inherently destructive and may prepare the ground. But satire itself is not intended to persuade, to move a person from one set of beliefs to another,

There are other methods for doing so. Inducements can be used to replace influence. In István Szabó’s 1999 film Sunshine starring Ralph Fiennes as the male protagonist, the director traces three different generations of a wealthy Jewish family called Sonnenschein who changed the family name in Hungary to Sors, meaning fate. The latter is an ironic name because, while in each generation the hero acts to take his fate into his own hands, the family’s fate is always to be regarded as Jews no matter what efforts taken to assimilate. The Holocaust does not come as an aberration in the second generation, but merely the most extreme version of the persistent years of anti-Semitism that continue well after the Nazis are defeated.

Ignatz Sonnenschein is a dedicated judge and totally loyal to the Emperor, in spite of the class discrimination of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Adam Sonnenschein, who changed the family name to Sors, converted to Catholicism to escape the race discrimination of the high period of Hungarian nationalism, ends up frozen to death as a Jesus-icicle in a Nazi concentration camp by the bare-faced racism of the Nazi period. Ivan Sors, as a police officer under the communists after WWII is forced, not only to witness, but to abet the purge of Jewish communists, including that of his Jewish friend and superior played by William Hurt, by a corrupt Stalinist regime. The attempt of the Sonnenscheins to trade in their Jewish identity for another repeatedly fails.

In the middle of these three generations, to advance his career and be able to play in the Officers Club, the only route to competitive fencing at such a high level, Adam Sors (modeled on the real life of the Hungarian Olympian fencing gold medalist in the 1936 Olympics, Attila Petschauer) converts to Roman Catholicism. Inducements to set aside one’s ostensible set of beliefs for another may be monetary, but they can also be pride and ambition, Thus, after winning the Hungarian national fencing championship, the heads on Adam’s original “Jewish” fencing club offer him huge amounts of money to rejoin the original club, but Adam not only refuses, but berates “those people” who believe they can buy anything they want in an exhibition of Jewish self-hatred. Adam’s rejection of financial inducements in favour of the inducements of honour and status and the opportunity to realize an ambition, does not make the latter a better quality of honey to the crasser but, ironically, purer inducement of money.

But authority can also be used to attempt to change minds and hearts. In New Spain, that eventually became Mexico, many centres of authority were in competition: the Office of the Inquisition versus the hierarchy of the church itself, the female nunneries from Augustinian Hieronymites to the much stricter Carmelites, the church versus the power of the state, and various forms of state power, including the conflict between Vicereine Leonor Carreto and her husband, the Viceroy of New Spain, Antonio Sebastián de Toledo. But the underlying battle is between these various sources of formal authority and the authentic authority of knowledge, whether of Copernicus or of a young brilliant self-taught illegitimate child, Juana Inés de Asbaje, eventually Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

The actual name of the superb Netflix original series, covering the life of this extraordinary scholar and poet and eventually a person of enormous political and intellectual influence in the history of Mexico, is called Juana Inés. She is forced by the authorities to join a nunnery as the only, and initially illusionary, route to her faith in the authority of knowledge, an intellectual source of authentic authority to resist the corruption of both the court and the church. The influence of ideas is the only authentic means of persuasion in comparison to the influence of inducements. In that contest, Juana Inés de la Cruz betrays both her faith and her political superiors, vows to give up writing, but continues in her deeper faith to eventually produce 200 volumes.

Finally, intellectual persuasion can be contrasted with the use of coercive means to get someone to change positions. The latter is exemplified in how God deals with Pharaoh, sending Moses in to warn Pharaoh of each disaster about to befall him and Egypt. In the end, it is not persuasion or even the threats of more disasters, but murder and war that get Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Persuasion backed by inducements, formal authority or coercive power, are never and can never be authentic means to change people’s minds and hearts.

However, inducements, whether intellectual or material, are not the only instruments to alter behaviour. For altering behaviour is quite a different enterprise than changing people’s hearts and minds.

Like Pharaoh, Trump is a bully and a tyrant. He cannot and will not be convinced that he is on the wrong track, that he is leading his country to destruction. But one must beseech him, not in the belief that he will be convinced, but to teach oneself the arts of civility, the sophisticated arts of persuasion, even though they can have absolutely no real effects on this egoistic centre of self-aggrandizement. Given that scenario, it matters little if you suffer an impediment of speech, if you are neither smooth of tongue nor clever with words, or you have the gift with words and are clever with language and an inventive wordsmith, for, in any case, Pharaoh Trump seems incapable of coherent conversation and dialogue as witnessed by his rambling, erratic and almost unhinged press conference this past Thursday – but more on that in other blogs.

One technique is to imitate the arts that allowed Pharaoh to achieve power and to maintain power. You must learn precisely whom you are addressing. You must master the science of segmentation of the audience and the arts of manipulating that audience. The character of the addressee, not the substance of the address, is what counts. In the contemporary world, it means using all the techniques of big data and psychographics to break down a supposedly homogeneous electorate of equal and rational citizens and decision-makers into a disconnected amalgam of colours. It is akin to the practice of pop art creating a portrait of the public made up of different pure colours, each colour representing a cluster of the population with common psychometric characteristics to which you can appeal. Truth is irrelevant in such messaging. Seeking out a constant message in the old politics is a disaster because you are not trying to convince them to buy your line or buy into your convictions, but to buy into a portrait where they can locate their own fears and desires.

What is needed is audience targeting and data modeling to match the message to the recipient. Alexander Nix is the new magician in the Pharaoh’s court. And the first lesson is name recognition. The first lesson is branding. The leader must be portrayed as a Pharaoh, as one entitled to and capable of exercising power, as the one and only one capable of exercising that power and occupying the position of the highest authority in the land. Pharaoh may be as ignorant as Swiss cheese and as incapable of composing a coherent paragraph only so long as he communicates strength and the will to power. The media is not the message. The message is the media that requires audience fragmentation.

If Trump were to kill Senator Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate when the Senate is in session and everyone could observe what took place, the Senate would never convict Donald Trump of murder or even manslaughter in the Pharaoh’s court. If Donald Trump were to stand on Fifth Avenue and kill a passerby, his voters and supporters would never find him guilty. That is Donald Trump’s absolute belief. He is immortal and cannot be downed by mere instruments of law and rationality. The objective of an election for a Pharaoh is to create a supine audience and a supine group of legislators that will revel in your power on the one hand as an ordinary follower and cower before that power as a co-conspirator. The objective is not to have an electorate that chooses, but to find and tease out different groups among that electorate who can be seduced, not with a coherent and repeated positive message, but with a message in which voters can find their fears confirmed and their hopes raised. The repetition of messages is used only to destroy the reputations and possibilities of individual rivals and the broader traditional media in general.

To accomplish this task, it is necessary to combine the findings of behavioural science with the techniques developed in advertising, now refined by the feedback mechanisms of big data analysis. There is no single audience. There are only audiences. You may not be able to reach the Israelites, but you must reach out to the mass of Egyptians. Not because they are divided into shepherds and stone masons, farmers and undertakers, but because they are divided, not by function, but by form, by sets of characteristics that allow one group to be inspired by one message and another group by another. Mass advertising is no longer useful. Targeted advertising is. The art of behavioural communications must be mastered to manipulate, not communicate with, different audiences.

But if I use my rod and leave the lectern to point to these different factors on the screen at the front of Plato’s dark cave, and then, while everyone is watching the graphics on the screen, turn my pointer into a slithering serpent hissing like a snake oil salesman to take down Pharaoh, he already has a host of magicians who have mastered those black arts. The sorcerers merely respond and overwhelm you with their spells and tricks. Your disposition in the first place is to use persuasion, not manipulation, so you are handicapped when it comes to competing against master manipulators. You must learn and understand the magic of manipulation, but it will never provide the road to victory, just the route for understanding the black arts at your opponent’s disposal.

Those arts attempt to establish a congruity between the message and the messaged, to marry data on age and gender, ethnicity and religious affiliation, with data on attitudes and preferences, hopes and plans, fears and foibles. If you master those arts, they will make you competitors of your opponent’s sorcerers, but not victors of citizens who choose their leaders and are influenced by them. You must go far beyond mastering the magic arts of manipulation. But you must first develop those arts, not to persuade citizens, but to undercut the power and authority of Pharaoh. It is important to understand him and not focus on the followers he manipulates to build his strength.

That is why satire is a propaedeutic. To what? That is the question.  Especially if the next phase of the battle leads to war. For the shedding of blood and the gutting to let the blood of one’s enemy gush forth will provide the next battleground. It may not be the beaches of Normandy, but it may be the beaches of Yemen. The Pharaoh may botch his battles, may try to second guess his generals and leave unprepared and without intelligence to pursue clearly enunciated goals. But it is you that must track every drop of blood that flows into the river of time. It is you who must track the casualties on both sides, and not mainly the soldiers, but the women, the old people and especially the children. You must track every single individual who contributes to turning the Nile or the Mississippi from a slow-moving stream of water into a place where the only way to bathe is to bathe in blood.

That will not make you a winner, but it will level the playing field somewhat. You must now help sew distrust between the Pharaoh and his courtiers. And you must take them on, one at a time, in a concentrated attack from all quarters.

The arts of persuasion can only have room to thrive if the non-persuasive arts are mastered. But they must be put to work always and only in the service of advancing and making room for dialogue and rational debate.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Our Communication Culture

Our Communication Culture

An Open Letter to My Youngest Son

from

Howard Adelman

As we both bewail the current political situation indicated by the rise of Donald Trump, we seem to have a dispute. You have been vitriolic about satire that is debasing and insulting rather than probing and informative. You are not at all opposed to satire. You are just critical of satire that is overwhelmingly offered to solicit laughs and not employed to enlighten and instruct. You are specifically critical of Saturday Night Live that has the resources, the audience and the talent to aim far higher than it does. Though the program sometimes meets your mark of standards, too often in the pursuit of ratings, it ignores the loftier mission of satire. Initially, I defended Saturday Night Live. We needed comic relief. I felt good calling The Donald, Trump Two Two or Orange Top. But the more I thought about my own writings on humiliation, I too began to question the use of comedy as retort and diminution of the Other.

When I call Donald Trump a serial liar and a malignant narcissist, is this a description, a put down or both? If both, can I communicate the descriptive content without the insult? It is hard, much harder than I thought. For I want readers and listeners to attend to my words. But in desiring attention instead of understanding, was I not playing into the lowest denominator of media that required short attention spans? Was I not using language to produce shocking images rather than reflective thought? Was I not, in a less successful vein, merely imitating the ability to shock, the ability to be a loud bully and make one inflammatory statement after another of the man who now occupies the White House, not as Big Brother repressing my words, but as Big Bully blasting my sound bites to smithereens with his own much louder and piercing noises?

Son number 4, you are correct that insult and mockery do not enhance public discourse, do not add to the civility of civil society, do not encourage the substitution of thought for instant response, do not replace the monologues and bubbles we live in with the dialogical mode we need to inhabit. Ideological narcissism based on perpetuating lies and creating myths that bear no relationship to reality can only be counteracted if we keep our feet on the ground and continue to insist on the relevance of both a correspondence and a coherence criterion for truth. There are NO alternative facts. There is no way that inconsistency and incoherence should be allowed to substitute for trying to comprehend the world.

I believe that civil and human rights are not descriptors, but transcendental conditions for both justice and democracy. But when a man occupies the office as a democratic monarch based on checks and balances, that man has a latitude to make decisions permitted by law, but also boundary conditions for both the process and the content imposed by law in conformity with that system of checks and balances. Trump adviser Stephen Miller is indeed correct when he says that, “The powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial,” but he is dead wrong when he continues, “and will not be questioned.” When that man in the White House trumps democracy, when he views democracy as continually opening doors to new vistas and images produced by his imagination, when he and his acolytes tout blatantly false claims about millions engaged in voter fraud, instead of electoral politics as an entry point to occupy a home that operates based on traditions, on norms, on rules, on regulations and on laws, then what we have is a case of both civil and human rights being reduced to the only right that is right, Trump’s right, his own right, the monarch’s right. We have authoritarianism and demagoguery.

Donald Trump’s constant preoccupation with his image and his repetitive and inappropriate efforts to shape that image is perfectly understandable for a politics of imagery rather than a politics of principle and reflection. Donald not only never has to be consistent, he cannot be consistent, otherwise we would not be waiting with gaping mouths and startled eyes for each new revelation from on high that is crazier than the previous one. We are living in a world in which those who love and respect traditions have been hoodwinked by a soap salesman determined supposedly to “drain the swamp,” by a man for whom the very term “tradition” has no meaning and can have no meaning in a world constructed by tweets and responses to each image he sees on television.

My Judaic tradition has prepared me to sense and fight against any system “where the gates begin to close,” but I get lost when the problem is not closing gates but opening them wide to every clown and harlequin, to every bit of nonsense and amusement one can find to fill one’s hours. I was prepared for the Devil taking power, but not the Joker. Trump does not have to be a dictator who bans books, for our current period has made books the sideshow; amusement has entered centre stage. And how can a book compete with a good joke? Trump inundates us with so much false news, so many variations of his own imagery, we soon have as much difficulty focusing as he does.

There is a principle that if democracy is going to work, we must not only stand for principles, but stand up for them. But when we are bombarded with images that principles belong in the ashbin of history, then irrelevance and indifference increasingly become the order of the day. Donald Trump almost exhausts our ability to deal with most let alone all of it.

I have begun to understand your obsession with the deforming nature of modern technology, with the satirical depth of the series, Black Mirror, instead of just being entranced by its imaginative brilliance. I have begun to catch a glimpse of your criticism of the way satire is often used, particularly by Saturday Night Live, where chasing a joke becomes more important than the mesmerizing effects of good mirroring. I need to re-read Marshall McLuhan and Jacques Ellul as well as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Dad

The following five essays on “Our Communicative Culture”, “On Satire,” both the Stages and its Function, followed by two essays, one “On Persuasion” and a second on its techniques, were inspired by the debate above and the questions posed.

Our Communicative Culture

by

Howard Adelman

Andrew Postman in The Guardian recently wrote an essay entitled, “My dad predicted Trump in 1985 – it’s not Orwell, he warned, it’s Brave New World.” (2 February 2016)

(https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/feb/02/amusing-ourselves-to-death-neil-postman-trump-orwell-huxley?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=211477&subid=15946302&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2)

Andrew’s father was Neil Postman, a professor of media ecology and chair of the Department of Culture and Communication at New York University until 2002. He wrote, Amusing Ourselves to Death in 1985. Like Jacques Ellul, an analyst of technology, he was most critical of the cultural effects of television and the internet in our information age. His 1982 book, The Disappearance of Childhood, argued that television infantilized adults and allowed children to be as expert, if not more expert, about culture than their parents making them both apathetic, on the one hand, and cynical about what an older generation could teach them. As a result, there had begun to emerge a convergence in dress and style, in attitudes and desires, between adults and children as adults began to live in a perpetual adolescent mode. In the 1985 book cited above, Postman criticized a show that was a favourite of most parents I knew, Sesame Street, for not teaching children to love learning, to love reading, to be literate and critical, to love school and, more important, schooling, but, instead, to love whatever you can learn from television, the art of imitation and the reality of the imagination.

As many of us know, George Orwell’s 1984 has once again become a best seller. Postman argued that the real danger was not the spread of the Soviet system of state censorship and control of the media, of Berlin Walls and a requirement to have an exit permit to leave one’s own country, of a system in which the individual was crushed by the all-seeing eye of Big Brother. The real danger is a system of information profusion unfiltered by any quality controls, saturated by a myriad of new media rather than restrictive use of the old media, a society oriented around consumption rather than the state ownership and control of production, a system based on the quest for instant gratification rather than founded on forced sacrifice of the masses to build the future. The real danger, in sum, was not the external threat of the spread of the communist system – which would implode five years after Postman’s book was published – but the internal threat of the system of technology and information-sharing developing in the West.

Soundbites, performance, popularity had become the buzzwords of politics. Not only the public, but most politicians became informed about what was going on by watching television. When Chauncey Gardiner, in that classic 1979 brilliant Peter Sellers’ satire, Being There, with his new-found fame, replies to the request that he write a book with a six-figure advance, he responds, “But I don’t read.” The publisher, believing he is being ironic, offers to support him with ghost writers when he also insists he does not write. When Chauncey explains, “I watch television,” he is lauded for his exemplary frankness.

Why be surprised by the emergence of a president who only gets his information either from television or from inside his own head and uses what emerges from his own imagination to browbeat journalists as a “terrible’ source of information and analysis, as purveyors of false news and lies. I cannot publish my essays in most outlets – they have a limit of 700-800 words. I spend no time on formatting for attractiveness. I rely on imagery rather than images. Most of all, my standards remain – true or false, consistent or inconsistent, coherent or incoherent, easily applied to written work, but much more difficult when applied to a performance.

It is much harder if not impossible to ask whether a sketch mocking Trump and his cohort mirrors and exaggerates what is almost impossible to inflate any further, or whether it is engaged in puncturing balloons. If the latter, is that an inferior form of satire or the only satire possible when the target is itself a harlequin? Or is it simply a different way of providing comic relief so we can return to, in Huxley’s term, a soma-tized state?

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Terrorism & Migration

Terrorism and Migration: Part III                                                  31 January 2017

by

Howard Adelman

What follows in the third part of “Terrorism and Migration” that was supposed to be sent out automatically last Wednesday (one of the great benefits of the new system – if I were not so technically challenged). The ending began prophetically – after all, it was written last weekend – “In Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Migration and Terrorism, in the provisions for reporting, there is no mention of an independent review as provided in section 11 of the existing legislation. There are many grounds upon which this presidential executive order may be challenged.” Judge James L. Robart, appointed to the bench by President Bush in 2004 and now labeled by Donald Trump as a “so-called judge”, is a Republican and a constitutional conservative. It was on those grounds that he issued a restraining order on the application of Trump’s executive order on migration and terror.

As he noted when grilling the lawyer from the Justice Department who could not produce a single name from one of the seven countries who had been involved in a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, “The answer is none.” In his appointment hearing before the Senate, he had stated, “If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed by the Senate, I will take that experience to the courtroom with me, recognize that you need to treat everyone with dignity and with respect, and to engage them so that when they leave the courtroom they feel like they had a fair trial and that they were treated as a participant in the system.” Equal treatment to all and individual treatment with respect to the dignity of the Other are foundational principles of a conservative approach to the law.

I was delighted to be proven correct in the results of the many court challenges that were launched across America. Just over a year ago, on 20 January 2016, Senator Ben Cardin (Dem. Maryland), the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, introduced a bill related to the restriction of the use of the Visa Waiver Program. He had become a guru on immigration and refugee legislation. On 4 February 2017, Ben Cardin issued a “Statement on the National Restraining Order Against the Trump Travel Ban” as a response to the most widespread application of the various legal challenges successfully launched against the application of Donald Trump’s new executive order on migration.

“Our founders wisely created three co-equal branches of government, including an independent judiciary, to serve as a strong check and balance on both the president and Congress. Like the president, our judges – and our Congress – are sworn to uphold the Constitution.  When the president of the United States abuses or ignores the Constitution, and attacks the integrity of the judiciary by calling a ruling ‘outrageous’ or calls a judge a ‘so-called judge,’ he is undermining the entire system of government, not only the decisions with which he disagrees.

“The international chaos caused by the rushed and ill-conceived executive order targeting Muslim refugees and travelers is wrong and should be rescinded.  This executive order has made America less safe.  I will continue working with the Departments of State and Homeland Security as they promptly implement the court’s order to again permit the lawful travel to and from the United States. There is no way to know how many law-abiding citizens and travelers have been hurt by the president’s actions, but I will do everything in my power to minimize the damage being done.”

As I indicated above, Ben Cardin is no newcomer to the issue of migration and terrorism. Further, since the election of Donald Trump, he has been at the forefront of criticizing Trump, not as President, but in how Trump acts and serves as President. On 22 November 2016, Ben Cardin announced his intention to introduce a resolution expressing the sense of Congress (not Congress requiring) that President-elect Trump “convert his assets to simple, conflict-free holdings, adopt blind trusts, or take other equivalent measures, in order to ensure compliance with the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” lest dealings by Trump-owned companies with any entity owned by a foreign government “potentially” violate the Constitution. Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution provides that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Cardin went on to write, “The Founding Fathers were clear in their belief that any federal office holder of the United States must never be put in a position where they can be monetarily or otherwise influenced by a foreign governmental actor.” (Rosalind Helderman and Drew Harwell wrote an article for The Washington Post (4 February 2017) that pointed to a number of documents that confirmed that Donald Trump was still benefitting from his business.)

Cardin also opposed the confirmation of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Agency, Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. He also questioned the appointment of Dr. Tom Price as “Secretary of Health and Human Services, not only because, as a member of the House of Representatives he advocated tearing apart “The Affordable Care Act” that would deny tens of millions of Americans access to affordable, quality health care coverage (70% of whom in Maryland come from communities of colour), but also because of his past opposition to restrictions on how the cigarette industry advertises and markets a cancer-causing weed,  his support for Trump’s cutting off U.S. global health funding to foreign NGOs which work on the frontlines combating many diseases, particularly in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Cardin has been clear that Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration and Refugees and the unfounded link to terrorism is but the leading edge of a much broader and more general attack on the well-being and security of Americans in the name of a totally irrelevant and very marginal fear and claim to protect that security. On the Monday following the issuance of that heinous executive order, he, along with other Senators introduced a bill to rescind the Executive Order.

It is now estimated that 90,000 individuals were immediately negatively affected by the Executive Order, quite aside from the millions around the world affected in the long run. Constituents from every part of America had loved ones temporarily detained, others denied the right to board a plane and others who decided not to travel lest they risk detention – and this does not count the citizens of all the countries around the globe, such as Canadian citizens of dual nationality, that were affected in the first iteration and interpretation of the Executive Order.

The operations of universities as well as large global corporations were detrimentally affected.  Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber along with Amy Gutman, currently President of the University of Pennsylvania, drafted the letter that was signed by 47 other American college and university presidents and sent to President Trump urging him to “rectify or rescind the recent executive order closing our country’s borders to immigrants and others from seven majority-Muslim countries and to refugees from throughout the world.”

February 2, 2017

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
United States of America

Dear President Trump:

We write as presidents of leading American colleges and universities to urge you to rectify or rescind the recent executive order closing our country’s borders to immigrants and others from seven majority-Muslim countries and to refugees from throughout the world. If left in place, the order threatens both American higher education and the defining principles of our country.

The order specifically prevents talented, law-abiding students and scholars from the affected regions from reaching our campuses. American higher education has benefited tremendously from this country’s long history of embracing immigrants from around the world. Their innovations and scholarship have enhanced American learning, added to our prosperity, and enriched our culture. Many who have returned to their own countries have taken with them the values that are the lifeblood of our democracy. America’s educational, scientific, economic, and artistic leadership depends upon our continued ability to attract the extraordinary people who for many generations have come to this country in search of freedom and a better life.

This action unfairly targets seven predominantly Muslim countries in a manner inconsistent with America’s best principles and greatest traditions. We welcome outstanding Muslim students and scholars from the United States and abroad, including the many who come from the seven affected countries. Their vibrant contributions to our institutions and our country exemplify the value of the religious diversity that has been a hallmark of American freedom since this country’s founding. The American dream depends on continued fidelity to that value.

We recognize and respect the need to protect America’s security. The vetting procedures already in place are rigorous. Improvements to them should be based on evidence, calibrated to real risks, and consistent with constitutional principle.

Throughout its history America has been a land of opportunity and a beacon of freedom in the world.  It has attracted talented people to our shores and inspired people around the globe. This executive order is dimming the lamp of liberty and staining the country’s reputation. We respectfully urge you to rectify the damage done by this order.

The Executive Order, instead of promoting values at the heart of America, instead of being consistent with the constitution of the United States, legalized discrimination based on religion and nationality. The fact that ALL Muslim countries were not included does not mean the order is non-discriminatory. Hitler’s action in the 1930’s initially only targeted Jews in Germany. Trump’s ban is inherently discriminatory because there is no connection between the ban and the threat, not even a thin thread of a connection let alone one that is proportionate based on the evidence. The Executive Order completely ignores the fact that America is steeped in “extreme vetting” already, for before 2017 it already took 18-24 months just for the screening process.

But what must also be noted is that the war on new immigrants and on refugees had already become part of American practice. A year ago, on 20 January 2016, the Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice sent Senator Ben Cardin the following letter:

Dear Senator Cardin:

On behalf of the Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ) in the National Capital Region, I ask you to urge President Obama to halt mass deportation of immigrants. These practices are contrary to our nation’s and our Unitarian Universalist values. We also urge you to vote against H.R. 4038, the SAFE Act. In addition, we continue to urge Congress to come together to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform to address the needs of the undocumented and other immigrant groups which would address our broken system that cruelly tears families apart.

There are more than 6,500 Unitarian Universalists in over 23 congregations in the greater Washington, D.C. National Capital Region, and 4,654 in Maryland. Unitarian Universalists embrace a diversity of religious beliefs. We put our faith into action through social and environmental justice work in our communities and the wider world. Unitarian Universalists affirm and promote seven Principles, which we hold as strong values and moral guides. We are called by our first Principle, “The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person.”

In 2013 our Unitarian Universalist General Assembly passed a Statement of Conscience on “Immigration as a Moral Issue.” Among other actions, it calls for:

  • Alternatives to detention for those not considered a threat to society and humane treatment for those being detained.
  • Preservation of family unity, including same-sex and transgender couples and families. • Provision of asylum for refugees and others living in fear of violence or retribution.

As people of faith, we are called to remind our decision makers about the worth and dignity of every person, of whatever parentage or nationality, as American society copes with immigrants arriving from around the world, especially from Central America and the Middle East.

Right now, in defiance of a court order to stop detaining children, the Obama administration has increased the detention of families by 173% over the last several months [my bold], according to the Migration Policy Institute. And now the administration has announced it will search for and deport asylum-seeking families back to the danger they are trying to escape. And they are putting this into practice, as evidenced by the very recent deportation of at least 121 families to Central America.

Our faith calls upon us to stand on the side of love and to support the human rights of all those in need of help, including undocumented immigrants and those seeking asylum from violence, repression, and extreme poverty. Nearly all religions are filled with admonitions to treat strangers among us with love and hospitality. Yet, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office continues to detain entire families, including children, who have fled persecution, trauma, and threats against their very lives, re-traumatizing them, and threatening to deport them to the very places where their lives will again be threatened. Our immigration courts continue to deny asylum to many people who clearly do have a well-founded fear of persecution and if returned to their country of origin could face fatal consequences.

One of the most ancient, ethical injunctions on us as human beings is for the humane treatment of strangers. Our immigration policy is a reflection upon our worth as a people, and we currently fall far short of the standard. UUSJ therefore request that you: 1) Ask the President to order a halt to the actions that the Department of Homeland Security is taking against mostly Central American families and children. 2) Vote against H.R. 4038, known by the misnomer, the SAFE Act, a divisive, punitive and …unnecessary bill. 3) Continue to speak out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform legislation similar to what was contained in S. 744 that the last Congress considered. Please do everything in your power to ensure our immigration laws are enacted in a humane, just, and fair manner. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contacts us through our Immigration Steering Committee chair, Dean Wanderer, at deanwanderer@verizon.net or (571) 214-2710.

Sincerely,

Lavona M. Grow Board Chair UUSJ.

I think these Unitarian Universalists may now be praying for Obama to return to office even though the grounds were set when the Obama administration took defensive measures in restricting the entry of refugees in the face of enormous pressures from the Republican-dominated Congress.

There is much room for hope from the activities over the last ten days. Constitutional Conservatives are beginning to peel away from any support for Trump. The Democratic Party and its members of Congress have demonstrated that they can act together and effectively. The legal community has been aroused. Universities have come not only to recognize, but to oppose Trump insofar as his initiatives detrimentally effect their mission. People on the street and from NGOs took immediate action. Opposition has grown from the business community detrimentally affected by these decisions.

However, perhaps most revealing is the chaos from within the Trump administration. Clearly Stephen K. Bannon, who probably drafted the executive order along with senior policy adviser Stephen Miller without consulting either the State Department or Homeland Security, began to be boxed in as Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly began to issue orders qualifying the ban. When Bannon moved to counter this, Kelly simply said that Bannon had no position in the chain of command. At the same time, White House Chief of Staff approved new procedures for issuing executive orders. President Trump in his first two weeks had demonstrated not only his extensive ignorance, but a gross insensitivity not only to legal processes, but to administrative ones necessary to allowing any administration to function.

What started as an effort to “pause” the processing of refugees instead became a pause on issuing executive orders. But it is a pause only. Sarah Posner has already revealed that an Executive Order is in the works “Establishing a Government Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” which would allow civil servants and others on the basis of “conscience” the ability to refuse services to everyone equally. On the basis of nativism, xenophobia and ideology of the alt-Right, efforts are well underway to undermine the principles of equality and respect for the dignity of individuals in the American constitution.

This is a real fear. But it also offers grounds for hope that the resistance to Trump’s autocratic propensities will be resisted by constitutional conservatives as well as liberals.

Terrorism and Migration: Part II

Terrorism and Migration: Part II                                                       30 January, 2017

by

Howard Adelman

If we examine Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees and terrorism, we find the following with respect to the specific countries targeted:

Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest. (Sec. 5c)

I have never read a government legal document like it. It is not an office holder legally entitled by law to make such a determination that is cited, but Donald Trump personally. This occurs several times in the document and each time it stands out from the regular bureaucratese. I am quite sure that Donald Trump never read the full document that he signed – it is doubtful if he could understand it if he had the patience to read it. However, I also suspect that he personally wrote the few sections where the personal pronoun is used.

Though the press was rife with rumours that seven countries in the Middle East would be targeted, only one is specifically included for an indeterminate ban – Syria. Look at the wording. It does not say that under current American law, Syrians will be deemed a threat to the United States. It explicitly says, “I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States.” Not Homeland Security. Not the CIA. Not the Secretary of State. Nor even I in consultation with any one or all of these agencies. Just Donald Trump need make such a determination. The entry of Syrians is to be suspended until, “I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.”

Further, “I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants (my italics) of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas (two ministers of Justin Trudeau’s government would be exempt but not an estimated at least 200 Canadians counted thus far), North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).” G-1 visas are for foreign staff from international organizations (UN or an International Mission), but not immediate family members; G-2 visas are for accredited representatives of recognized foreign governments entering to work for the UN or an international Mission, their staff and immediate family members; G-3 visas are the same as G-2 visas except they are for individuals, staff and immediate family members from unrecognized governments;  representatives; G-4 visas are for officials, employees of international organizations and their immediate family members.

These are the exceptions. But for others traveling on other visas, such as an H-1B visa issued to employees of American companies hired because of their professional, scientific and technical expertise, it is a different story. This is also the case for those travelling on various forms of immigrant visas. After Rizwan Farook, a US citizen, and Tashfeen Malik (a Pakistani, a country that does not fall under the ban, murdered 14 people in San Bernardino on 2 December 2015, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” This was later changed to “immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur.”

The promise applied to immigrants only, not those entering on tourist or student visas. Further, there was no explicit religious test in that proposed ban, only the criterion that the individuals came from a terror-prone region. The latter was to be defined under the Executive order based on a report to be compiled in the first thirty days. But until the report was prepared, visas for any Syrians, with the above exceptions, were suspended indefinitely, and from six other “terror-prone” countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen) for up to 90 days.

The current executive presidential order, though tentatively referring to a small number of countries, cuts a much wider swath for suspending the issuance of visas. The ban applies to all refugees for at least 120 days. Further, the ban applies to those who already hold visas and to those who hold Green cards and even to those who might be American citizens. The onus was then to be placed on those applying to prove they did not represent a threat to the U.S.

Section 217 1/ (8 U.S.C. 1187) established what was called a 2/ program that authorized the Attorney General and the Secretary of State together permitting the Attorney General, upon consultation with the Secretary of State to waive visa requirements under certain specified conditions: for tourist visas under 90 days, for countries with reciprocal visa programs, etc. The waiver could only apply if a determination was made (section 6) that, “The alien has been determined not to represent a threat to the welfare, health, safety, or security of the United States.”

Look at the widespread effects, first generally and then more specifically. One in eight Americans is an immigrant born abroad. Just from the countries specified, there were over three-quarters of a million people, one-third of whom immigrated before 1990. If their position in America was compromised, an average of approximately 10% employed in health care, business and education would be affected. 370,000 come from Iran and 170,000 from Iraq. After 60 days, depending on the contents of a report received from Homeland Security, more countries can go on the list and the period applied to the countries other than Syria mention already could be extended well beyond 90 days.

However, in a legal case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Judge Ann Donnelly ruled in New York that two Iraqis who had been detained could not be deported until a full hearing had been held. Hameed Khalid Darweesh had worked for the U.S. government for a decade. Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi had arrived at JFK to join his wife who was a contractor. Both, though not deported, would be held in a detention centre until a full hearing could be held a month from now even though they arrived with legal visas. Up to 200 others arriving from abroad were in the same boat – no pun intended.

From one company alone, Google, approximately 100 of its employees from the seven specified countries were travelling abroad either on business or vacation when the presidential order were issued. Even though they were legally working in the U.S. they will be affected by the ban and likely end up in detention centres. Google’s effort to call them to return immediately probably came too late for most of them. One traveling in New Zealand, based simply on the rumours, changed his plans and arrived back in the U.S. just before Trump signed the presidential decree. A British Somali woman traveling home from Costa Rica via JFK was not allowed to board her plane because airlines are subjected to severe fines if they carry passengers banned under this executive order as provided in existing legislation under “Carrier Agreements.”

The initial chaos in the first 36 hours since the decree was signed has been enormous. But what happens when, under section 3 (f), the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security submits “to the President the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment”? Every Muslim, and even every Christian or members of other countries from dozens of countries around the world will now be under a cloud. Suddenly and virtually without warning, they could be struck down by a deluge from this ban.

Section 4 of the presidential decree dealing with implementing uniform screening standards for ALL immigration programs reads:

  • The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation shall implement a program, as part of the adjudication process for immigration benefits, to identify individuals seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission. This program will include the development of a uniform screening standard and procedure, such as in-person interviews; a database of identity documents proffered by applicants to ensure that duplicate documents are not used by multiple applicants; amended application forms that include questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent; a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be; a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest; and a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.

This is the extreme vetting Trump promised. However, the U.S. already practices extreme vetting. On average, it takes 36 months – that is correct, 36 months – to get through 11 departments that must deal with a visa application. The new proposal simply forbids exceptions, such as exemptions in some cases for personal interviews. The ability of American corporations to hire the best and the brightest from wherever they come will be seriously undermined. Trump has introduced super-extreme vetting without any documentation on the need or any analysis of the cost-benefits and without any assessment of the effects on America’s core values.

Though not the largest quantitative effect, the suspension of the US Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days will mean that approximately 37,000 refugees who would have been admitted and who have already been slated for admission after extreme vetting will now once more have their lives suspended. It is hard to imagine what “additional procedures” would ensure that “those approved for admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States.” The absence of evidence that this is not a mode of entry used by terrorists, or that there are other far easier methods to get into the US, let alone any humanitarian concerns, did not deter Donald Trump from insisting on such a provision given that his immune system cannot tolerate facts and his imagination produces “alternative” facts with the wave of his hands.

Trump, however, goes further. He has repeatedly said on television and in tweets that after the ban is lifted, persecuted Christians will be favoured. He insists that all refugees taken in were Muslims when, in fact, though Christians used to make up about 5% of the population of a country such as Iraq, a population that is now probably less than 1% after several decades of “religious cleansing,” Christians made up almost half the population of refugees taken into the United States, not because they were Christian, but because those Christians, like the Yazidis, were under the most severe threat from persecution. The present system already favours the intake of Christians because they are major targets of persecution. Section 5 (b) giving priority to religious-based persecution is simply window dressing likely to make little practical difference but severely compromising the universal principles on which refugee law is based.

The executive order also gave instructions to give both state and local jurisdictions greater involvement in “determining the placement or resettlement of refugees in their jurisdictions,” (5 (g)) in direct contravention to the American principle that anyone who has legal residence in the U.S., except certain individuals convicted of specific criminal offenses, shall have the full freedom to travel anywhere in the U.S. At the same time, any city that decides to be a sanctuary city for refugees will have its federal funds cut off. In other words, you can have local power if you do not want refugees, but if you do want to offer them protection, you will be economically punished.

To be continued

Terrorism and Migration: Part I                                                                      29 January 2017

by

Howard Adelman

Donald Trump is at it again. Why doesn’t he leave me alone? Why doesn’t he leave you alone? On Friday, 27 January 2017, the Office of the Press Secretary released Donald Trump’s executive order on migration, formally called, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” Before we go to the text itself, look at all the worry and consternation Trump has already caused simply by the preliminary leaks. His own bombast on the subject on television set off verbal brush fires all over the place. The full text can be found of numerous sites around the world; s:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/us/politics/refugee-muslim-executive-order-trump.html)

Many businesses with skilled workers from overseas employed by American companies are affected. Would the companies have to meet abroad so that these employees can attend? Would all international academic conferences have to be relocated outside the United States? What about students and faculty traveling back and forth? And consider all the private universities in the U.S. dependent on income from foreign students. There are over a million foreign students; though few come from the countries specifically boycotted, all would have to go through a rigid check system.

Look at the letter the Dean of Faculty of Princeton University felt impelled to send her colleagues this past Friday even before she could access  the full text of the new executive order. Simply based on the pre-publication media reports and the consternation they were already causing, she sent out the following letter to try to quiet the fears raging though her segment of academia.

We have received many messages from members of our community concerned about the impact of possible changes in immigration policies under the new administration in Washington. According to media reports, President Trump signed an executive order today. It has been reported that the order includes stricter immigration vetting measures and may include provisions that could impact non-immigrant visa holders as well as lawful U.S. permanent residents from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. At this stage, we do not know the content of the executive order or its impact.

We do, however, want to be prepared to support and advise our students, scholars, and others who might be affected by any changes, and to express our deep concern about any potential impact on the ability of this and other American universities to engage in teaching and research of the highest quality.

We have strongly advised students and scholars who might be affected and who have travel plans in the coming days to defer travel outside of the United States until there is some clarity and legal analysis of the situation or, if they must travel, to seek legal counsel before they do. We have also shared with potentially affected students and scholars the information we are receiving from a law firm that follows these matters closely and has advised members of our community in the past. More from Fragomen Worldwide Immigration Law Firm Alert January 25, 2017.

We wanted to share this information more broadly with all of you because many of your students or peers may be reaching out to you for information or support, and we are all affected when members of our community feel at risk. We take very seriously anything that could affect the ability of our students and scholars to engage in their scholarship. International students and scholars who have immigration questions or specific questions about their current situation should contact the Davis International Center (puvisa@princeton.edu), which is following the situation extremely closely and in the best position to provide advice or resources.

We will continue to keep you posted as we know more and we will work closely with our Princeton colleagues, peer institutions and the immigration law community to understand this and other immigration issues as they arise and to support members of our community who make essential contributions to research and teaching on this campus.

Does the new executive order include “stricter vetting procedures,” what Trump thunders as “extreme vetting”? Would the new policy impact on non-immigrant visa holders, such as individuals on student visas or teaching in the United States at universities on temporary work permits? Would the policy affect lawful U.S. permanent residents from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen who already hold permanent residence visas? Would the executive order affect teaching and research of the highest quality, or any quality for that matter? Though intended to express a concern about research in general, the effect of this quickly drafted open letter to the members of her community in the wording unintentionally suggested that Princeton was only concerned about the highest quality research? The fallout from the irrationality exuding from Washington even frazzles the minds of brilliant academics so they too misspeak.

Even more fundamentally, how does the executive order conform with existing law that in designating countries for exclusion, there must be an evaluation of the effects of such a designation “on the law enforcement and security interests in the United States (including the interest in enforcement of the immigration laws of the United States and the existence and effectiveness of its agreements and procedures for extraditing to the United States individuals, including its own nationals, who commit crimes that violate U.S. law.)” In other words, if countries are designated – as Syria as well as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen are – without any evaluation on U.S. capacity for law enforcement or on U.S. security interests domestically and internationally and on extradition procedures, is the executive order illegal? It is noteworthy that the law firm commenting on the presidential executive order did not comment on the legality of some of its sections.

Further, though the President and the members of his cabinet are given wide discretion under existing legislation, they are all required to follow certain very clearly defined procedures in applying such a designation. And there is no evidence, and likely there is none given the very short period the Trump government has been in power, that those procedures have been followed. The issue is not only whether the ban is “inappropriate and ineffective in the fight against terror,” as the American Iranian Council has argued, but the executive order may also be illegal since there has been no effort to gather evidence to measure either the appropriateness or effectiveness in fighting terror.

What initial advice was offered? If you might be affected, do not travel. That is, you risk not being re-admitted to the United States. If you must travel and are in a situation that might be affected, get some legal advice. Immigration lawyers are about to do a booming business in the United States and around the world. Such are the affects of the blather coming out of the mouth of the most powerful individual in the world. America’s best and brightest, not any prospective terrorist, are discombobulated. This is the first paragraph of the legal advisory a top immigration law firm sent out:

President Donald J. Trump is expected to sign an executive order that will suspend the entry of foreign nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to the United States for a period of 30 days, according to a published draft of the order. {A report in the 26 January 2017 New York Times was cited.] The executive order is also expected to suspend a worldwide program that exempted certain visa renewal applicants from consular interviews. [See Section 8 (a)]

The focus of the panic attack was on foreign nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen or on those who hold dual citizenship for the birth place may determine whether or not the person is deemed to be a national of one of those countries. Thus, even if the person is an American citizen, if a country such as Iran insists that the person is an Iranian national, under this presidential executive order, the person can be treated as an Iranian national.

Will residents in America who have strong ties to those countries be affected, since it is the foreign country’s laws that determine whether the United States deems the individual to be a member of that foreign nation? Does the ban apply to temporary visa holders (B-1, H1B and L-1) who are currently lawful permanent residents of the United States? If so, then you should be concerned about travelling back “home” if one of your parents becomes ill. The letter from this legal firm warned about long delays in processing visa applications as a result of the executive order, since the waiver for personal interviews was removed. All applicants would have to have a personal interview.

For a government determined to whittle down bureaucracy, this perhaps illegal cancellation of existing law under section 217 2/A (8 U.S.C. 1187) applicable to countries with very low non-immigrant refusal rates will just mean many more personnel required to deal with visa applications.

Now not one of these words of the law firm or the Princeton Dean of Faculty mentions refugees, the ostensible prime target of the executive order. The momentum of this America-First inspired policy almost forced institutions and professionals to attend first to self-centred needs, those of their own community members. Those most affected and those most in need of assistance, refugees, were ignored in both the letters of the law firm and the dean. This may be the most pernicious effect of the new regime.

Certainly, there is a danger of this in Canada where officials appear primarily focused on possible negative (and positive in the case of pipelines) effects on Canada of the new Trump regime. The Minister of Immigration, who was himself born in Somalia, if not carrying a Diplomatic passport, could possibly be barred from entry into the U.S. However, contrary to the ordinary meaning of Trump’s executive order, on Saturday, the U.S. State Department “clarified” that Canadians with dual citizenship from any of the seven nations would be denied entry for the next three months. Minister Ahmed Hussen evidently got an agreement from Washington reversing this decision and that not only Canadian citizens with dual citizenship from one of the seven countries designated in the ban, but also those with citizenship from one of the countries but only permanent residence in Canada, would NOT be barred from entry into the U.S. However, an Alberta biomedical engineer, Haji Reza, born in Iran with a Canadian permanent residence card, was banned from entry into the U.S.

Further, the Minister announced that Canada would step in to invite those refused entry into the U.S. to come to Canada on temporary permits. However, though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had tweeted: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada,” However, Canada has not yet increased its targeted intake to make up, at least in part, for those refugees denied entry into the U.S.

There is anther side, however, a more tragic side. In Quebec especially, there has been a rise of Islamophobia, inspired in part by the French government ban on wearing items which communicate religious messages – kippas, large crosses but especially hijabs. A 2015 Quebec Human Rights Commission survey “found that 43 percent of Quebecers believe we should be suspicious of anyone who openly expresses their religion, with 49 per cent expressing some uneasiness around the sight of Muslim veils.” After a note had been posted the year before on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec reading: “Islam hors de chez moi,” (Islam out of my country), this past year during Ramadan, a pig’s head wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow was left on the doorstep of the centre.

Yesterday evening events became much worse. A gunman opened fire on the 40 or so congregants at that Centre. There are at least six deaths and many injured. Will Trump put a ban on travel to the United States against right wing Islamophobic terrorists?

The reality is that Trump policy measures targeting Muslims, while insisting he does not target Muslims, is contagious. Trump’s linkage between terrorism and Muslim migrants and refugees is not only dangerous to the fundamental values of the United States, not to speak of its efficient functioning, but to other countries around the world.

To be continued

UNSC Res. 2334: Consequences for America

The Consequences for America of Resolution 2334

by

Howard Adelman

I have to finish this series on UNSC Resolution 2334. But I am torn. I want to write about so many other things – The Birth of a Nation, Nate Parker’s 2016 take on Nat Turner and the rebellion he started in the slave south of the U.S. and why the movie in the end failed to connect but was a valiant effort; La La Land, another 2016 movie, but this time a romantic musical comedy by Damien Chazelle that connected brilliantly and had the feel of an extraordinary jazz concert like the one we saw before Christmas; a third 2016 movie, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea in which Casey Affleck offers one of the finest performances in film in this dark side of repetition and imitation; Jacob Bernstein’s 2015 HBO biopic of his mother, Nora Ephron, titled Everything Is Copy that explains the underpinnings of La La Land; Allan Zweig’s 2013 documentary, When Jews Were Funny that offered a very different and ironic take on reality, on comedy as the jazz art form of American and Canadian Jews, and, in terms of the arts, most of all, about the show currently on at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Mystical Landscapes.

The new year is overflowing with tasks. And there is so much more. Politics never leaves me alone. My life is haunted. In my daily existence, I cannot seem to escape its ever presence. I so want to write on one of the finest political speeches I have ever read, let alone heard, that of Barack Obama’s Farewell Speech to the Nation on 10 January. And I want to throw a damper upon its sparkles and starlight, its analytic and epic skills, by really going into the life of Atticus Lee from To Kill a Mockingbird, and what it really means to empathetically re-enact the thoughts and feelings, the ideas and beliefs behind the actions of an Other. What does it mean when a guideline for art, a guideline for historiography, is used as a reference point for action in real life? What does it mean when we cross art and life?

It is not just about politics on a global scale. But about a noon hour talk on post-secondary education in Ontario that I heard last week and my own analysis of the terrible dilemmas we face in higher education. And I want to write about that crisis against the background of the brilliant French economist, Thomas Piketty, and his blog that he sent out on 9 January called, “On Productivity in France and Germany.” For the blog was about so much more – about, for example, the importance of equity and the critical role higher education plays in ensuring both equity and productivity. And all of this when I can no longer watch news.

Yesterday, I blew it. I broke my one New Year resolution to stop watching news. CNN had another lying, misleading Trump shill on. After all, CNN believes it must offer balance as the Trump mouthpiece rudely and continually interrupted his opponent without being stopped by the moderator, and we had yet another example of lying balancing an effort at truth, insult offsetting courtesy, and absolutely no regard for the Other or the truth. Where is חֶ֣סֶד וֶֽאֱמֶ֔ת: (chesed v’emet), usually translated as “loving kindness and truth,” (Genesis 49:29) where consideration for the Other is the precondition for expressing the truth?

I blew it. I had a hissy fit. I swore and my hands were so shaky I could not type when I retreated to my computer. And I felt so embarrassed, even though the broader public never witnessed my shame and humiliation that I felt when I finally allowed the very thin-skinned Donald Trump to get under my skin. Perhaps I should take my eldest daughter’s advice and only watch news through the eyes of Saturday Night Live and Alec Baldwin. What happened to my objectivity? What happened to my detachment so crucial to how I think and write? How will I survive the next four years? How will I survive a Trump presidency? Are the ruminations that he may be impeached in his first year just more delusion and false hope? Should I escape into practicalities – redoing my files at year end, clearing up my email lists, figuring out why my blog periodically gets blocked, arranging air travel for the family of my son and my granddaughter.

Maybe I will retreat into just keeping sane and even a bit healthy. After all, my dentist convinced me last week to swear off drinking Coke, especially Diet Coke which evidently is even worse than regular Coke in its acidic strength. She put it forth as the possible explanation, not simply for the staining of my teeth, but for the acid eating into the enamel and, even more, into the bone in my jaws that last year led to cavities under my crown and so many implants falling out. I had hit a tipping point and had to take radical action to reverse the processes, I was told. So I am left with a lifetime supply of Diet Coke, that is if I ever slip and drink one, I have to sip through a straw.

Is this a metaphor for politics at large? Am I addicted to Trump? Is he my Coca-Cola? Is he the final critical dose of acid that may rot the teeth of America? So much overstretch of an image! I have to return to facts and analysis or I will really go off the edge.

Recall the problems of Resolution 2344, a resolution ostensibly passed to maintain and even advance the two-State solution to the Jewish Israeli-Palestinian conflict which, I have argued, seems really intended to dynamite that prospect as it leaves entirely vague what it means by the many options of a two-State solution, as it allows the armistice of 1949 to provide the reference lines for a solution, as it designates the land on the other side of those armistice lines as Palestinian, pre-empting negotiations, as it opens the doors to international legal pressures and economic boycotts against Israeli institutions, individuals, products and services.

Jews are a stubborn people. Opposing the settlements in Jerusalem as well as the West Bank, the blatant unfairness with respect to other occupied territories, the chasm between supposedly ideal intentions and reality on the ground, the deliberate and very selective use of key diplomatic words, all of these will unite many, if not most Jews, in opposition to any negotiations never mind agreement. And there is so much left out. But I do not want to repeat what I wrote earlier. I want to focus on the dreadful impending consequences, first in America.

In the aftermath of the passage of the Resolution, the youngest member of the U.S. Senate, Tom Cotton, the thirty-seven-year old senator from Arkansas, declared that Israel building settlements in the West Bank was absolutely no problem. This is the same Tom Cotton who received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Jews and the Jewish community, presumably in return or in acknowledgement of his strong and unwavering support for Israel. With friends like Cotton, Israel does not need enemies, as the cliché goes.

Cotton organized the letter on behalf of 47 of his fellow members of Senate that he sent to Iran, a country he considers to be equivalent to Nazi Germany. The missive was possibly in contravention of the Logan Act that forbids anyone but the President negotiating with other countries. The letter informed the government of Iran that the nuclear deal would be reversed as soon as Obama left office. Cotton is a hawk among hawks, wanting to expand rather than close Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo). He has advocated clamping down on Mexican immigrants (who were, incidentally, according to Cotton, backed by Hezbollah) almost as loudly as Donald Trump, supports building a wall along the Mexican border, and believes in harassing and belittling journalists when they contravene what he espouses. He not only is one of Trump’s most stalwart supporters in the Senate, but sometimes out-trumps The Donald. Though that is hard. Some Trump tweets: “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S.” and “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”

Cotton backed Kansas Senator Jerry Moran’s efforts to lead the charge in having the Senate denounce the Resolution, backs Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who is seeking to defund the UN because of the Resolution. At the same time as Resolution 2334 unites the Republicans in opposition, it is dividing the Democratic Party in its support for Israel. New York Senator Charles E. (Chuck) Schumer, a leading Democrat and incoming Senate minority leader, condemned Obama’s abstention and failure to veto the Resolution. He co-sponsored the Senate resolution condemning Res. 2334. As he argued, “While Secretary Kerry mentioned Gaza in his speech, he seems to have forgotten the history of the settlements in Gaza, where the Israeli government forced settlers to withdraw from all settlements and the Palestinians responded by sending rockets into Israel. This is something that people of all political stripes in Israel vividly remember.” In another tweet, “The UN has long shown its anti-Israel bias & the US govt has admirably kept the UN out in negotiations. That tradition should continue.”

His effort was backed by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). As was expected, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (D-VT) both opposed the Senate resolution. The U.S. Senate Resolution, among other things, while it still voices support for a two-state solution, not only objects to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016), but also:

• Calls for United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to be repealed or fundamentally altered so that it is no longer one-sided and allows all final status issues toward a two-state solution to be resolved through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties;
• Rejects efforts by outside bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, to impose solutions from the outside that set back the cause of peace;
• Demands that the United States ensure that no action is taken at the Paris Conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict scheduled for January 15, 2017, that imposes an agreement or parameters on the parties;
• Notes that granting membership and statehood standing to the Palestinians at the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and other international institutions outside of the context of a bilateral peace agreement with Israel would cause severe harm to the peace process, and would likely trigger the implementation of penalties under sections 7036 and 7041(j) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (division K of Public Law 114–113);
• Rejects any efforts by the United Nations, United Nations agencies, United Nations member states, and other international organizations to use United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to further isolate Israel through economic or other boycotts or any other measures, and urges the United States Government to take action where needed to counter any attempts to use United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to further isolate Israel;
• Urges the current presidential administration and all future presidential administrations to uphold the practice of vetoing all United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to insert the Council into the peace process, recognize unilateral Palestinian actions including declaration of a Palestinian state, or dictate terms and a timeline for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Though Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim and Black-American who is a leading light to become the Democratic National Committee Chair in the House, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), all opposed the resolution condemning the UN action, the House of Representatives voted 342-80 denouncing Resolution 2334. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the speaker of the House, criticized Kerry’s speech and tweeted: “After allowing this anti-Israel resolution to pass the UN, Secretary Kerry has no credibility to speak on Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

The combination of Israeli expansion of home demolitions, expropriation of Palestinian privately-owned land, denial of construction permits to Palestinians in Area C and East Jerusalem that helped provoke the Obama abstention and Kerry’s speech are all now reinforced by a phalanx of right-wing Republicans determined to use the Resolution as a pivot against the UN and to advance the extreme Right agenda in Israel that opposes the coming-into-being of a Palestinian state altogether. Most supporters of Resolution 2334 admit that it will have no real effect on the ground or on Israeli policies. I disagree. It will accelerate those policies and sow more distrust between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. Resolution 2334 empowers and strengthens the resolve and gives direction to the right in America that now holds power. The Obama and Kerry decision to abstain on Resolution 2334 was at best quixotic and at worse a source of long-term division within the Democratic Party.

My own prediction is that Israel is now on the road to renouncing the two-State solution in practice and will do so with U.S. backing. Resolution 2334, thus, divides the West just when it most needs to be united against the opponents to democracy, creates a chasm between the UN and the U.S., divides the Democrats and unites Republican who now control the White House as well as both houses of Congress, boxes the left in Israel in a corner for they oppose both Resolution 2334 and the efforts of the Netanyahu government to undermine the possibility of a two-State solution. Quite aside from its contradictions, Resolution 2334 has been defended as a victory for the two-State solution, but it is nothing of the sort. It is a Pyrrhic victory reifying the impotence of the UN and the irrelevance of Europe while allowing the rejectionist right to gain a stronger and more focused rationale to expand what they were already doing. Facts on the ground defeat abstract moral sounding off every time.

Israeli and Palestinian Role and Response: UNSC Resolution 2334

Israeli and Palestinian Role in and Response to UNSC Resolution 2334

by

Howard Adelman

The Palestinian reaction to Resolution 2334 seems obvious. Ever since the Fatah faction of the PLO decided that they could not win militarily on the ground, in contrast to Hamas, even as the battle shifted from direct warfare to guerilla warfare or terrorism, Fatah resorted to trying to win in international diplomatic and legal fora. On 4 August of 2009, at the sixth general conference of Fatah held after a hiatus of six years, and specifically convened symbolically in Bethlehem next to the Church of the Nativity within Occupied Palestine and not in a foreign Arab capital, with over 2,000 in attendance, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sold his movement on the proposition that Palestinians had to adopt a different form of opposition to Israeli power and focus on increasing international support.

“We should introduce new forms of resistance to attract universal public opinion” to reinforce Palestinian rights within the context of international law. Peaceful methods, though not exactly Gandhi’s form of non-violent resistance, recommended earlier by Faisal Husseini before the first intifada, would supersede, but not exclude, military armed struggle to become the foundation stone for building a Palestinian state. It was an explicit rejection of the proposal of President Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to achieve peace through economic cooperation and integration, a proposal Bibi put forth just after he assumed office in April of 2009.

There is, of course, a huge irony in all this. While Fatah pursued the backing of international law, Abbas consolidated his monopolization on domestic power at the expense of the rule of law. “He is the president of the Palestinian Authority, head of the Fatah movement, head of the PLO’s Executive Committee and the commander in chief of the Palestinian security forces. He neglects the law (my italics) and the movement’s statutes that govern its institutions. He monopolizes power and is abusive toward those who disagree with him.” These are not my words but those of Abdel-Hakim Awad, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council who nominated Abbas to his position, but recently was excluded from the movement’s seventh congress in Ramallah held in December because of his criticisms. This step, along with the monopoly of the control of media and lifting the parliamentary immunity of opponents, are sure signs that a leader had turned towards adopting totalitarian methods.

In that Fatah quest for the imprimatur of international law, Jerusalem was front and centre. Not East Jerusalem, but Jerusalem. Jerusalem was to be the capital of the new Palestinian state. The target became freezing settlement activities in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. No freeze then no peace negotiations. The cessation of settlement activities became the sine qua non for resuming peace negotiations. Settlement activity anywhere in the West Bank and East Jerusalem had to be branded as illegal.

Resolution 2334 was a peak victory in that effort. The upcoming French Peace Summit on 15 January, just next week, may be another, especially if the representatives to that summit endorse a pace plan along most of the lines proposed by John Kerry. I would not expect them to agree to sharing Jerusalem as a joint capital, but if they also get that summit to declare all settlements across the old Green Line as not just an impediment to peace, not just as illegitimate, but as illegal, it would mean defining the Jewish Quarter in the Old City and twelve very large neighbourhoods in Jerusalem as illegal as well as the settlements in Area C and beyond the Separation Barrier, not to speak even of the outposts illegal even under Israeli law. The effort to relocate the Amona settlers to land owned by ‘absentee landlords’ to legalize the settlement in accordance with Israeli law and in contravention of past practice of not putting settlements on Palestinian privately owned property, will become irrelevant.

Further, from now on, as Italian journalist Giulio Meotti wrote, “any Israeli, civilian or military, involved in the ‘settlements,’ will be liable to judgment for violating the Geneva Convention. The Israeli army, which administers areas B and C, may be indicted if it demolishes the homes of terrorists, if it expropriates the land for reasons of ‘security’, if it plans new Israeli homes. The decision is now in the hands of the Hague prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, who has already opened an investigation about the ‘Israeli settlements,’ believing they constitute a ‘war crime.’ Israeli military personnel and politicians could be subject to warrants if they land in London, as occurred with Tzipi Livni.” Further, Israeli banks operating even in the “illegal” Jerusalem neighbourhoods could be charged under international law. The European Council on Foreign Relations has already proposed sanction against some Israeli banks – Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi and the Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank.

Another nail will have been driven into the coffin of Resolution 242 which indirectly gave Israel permission to trade peace for territorial acquisitions. The old armistice lines would become once more a reference point for negotiations. Further, if the Summit follows the lead of Resolution 2334 and, on the issue of violence, ignores John Kerry’s speech, Palestinian incitement and celebration of terrorism could continue as a supplementary rather than prime form of resistance. Ostensibly committed to a non-violent path to peace, documents and proposals that emerge from the Summit will only be generalized condemnation of violence with no effort to pinpoint centres of responsibility.

Further, the PA can be expected to use the International Criminal Court to pursue Israeli individuals and charge Israel with more specific legal actions. In addition, the resources of the UN, now being used to prepare the organizational ground for a more comprehensive targeted boycott of Israeli goods, will get a further impetus. Finally, the U.S., Israel’s strongest defender, will be further sidelined and the Trump administration castrated in the world of international diplomacy and international law as much as Trump might shift American policy to a much stronger pro-settler position. The U.S. has been pushed from the centre to the margins in Israel-Palestinian negotiations, a position very unlikely to dent but possibly increasingly cement the close ties on military defence and intelligence issues as well as the huge economic exchange between the two countries.

At the same time, the Trump administration with Democratic Party support will likely fight back on behalf of Israel, threatening legal action against European banks if they begin to boycott Israeli banks, bar European institutions and pension funds from American-controlled systems of economic exchange if they proscribe Israel from investments and if Israeli companies are blacklisted. Instead of the regional economic cooperation that Bibi had proposed in 2009 as a pathway to peace, we will have international economic, legal and diplomatic warfare. How can one argue that Resolution 2334 enhances the prospect of peace?

There is one illusion that has accompanied Resolution 2334. Since it was passed under Article VI of the UN Convention instead of Article VII, many interpret the Resolution as non-binding. General Assembly resolutions are clearly only recommendations, but they also influence practices and budgets of the UN administration. Recommendations of the UN Security Council under Chapter VI have no enforcement mechanisms. However, though disputed by many international legal experts, the ruling of a majority of the International Court in The Hague in 1971 declared that all UN Security Council decisions are binding. There may be no coercive power attached to them, but they have a tremendous influence politically and diplomatically and help build a widespread world consensus on certain matters. In this sense, a resolution can be morally binding even if compliance is only voluntary. One should never underestimate the power of morality even in a dog-eat-dog world.

Of course, Israel’s challenge to Obama on his home turf over the Iran nuclear deal did not help Israel win friends among many Democrats. As Martin Sherman, Executive Director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Affairs put it in a relatively understated matter, the “appalling and infuriating outbursts of vindictive pique” of Israeli politicians led by Bibi Netanyahu probably damaged the Israeli position more than anything and, as Sherman predicted, prepared the ground for the UN Resolution. Then there was a total absence of preparation for the impending storm, either through diplomatic initiatives to propose putting the two-State solution and peace negotiations back on track or, on the other hand, using the stick to get the Palestinians to back off by tightening the economic screws through which Israel primarily controls Abbas. None of these entailed freezing settlement activities.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also criticized Bibi for not working to prevent the passage of Resolution 2334 much more assiduously. There is not a single bit of evidence that Israel intends to accept Resolution 2334 as a basis for negotiation, notwithstanding Bibi’s endorsement of a two-State solution in his famous 2009 Bar-Ilan speech. For Israel, while ostensibly holding up that goal, did virtually everything in its power to undermine it, often through means that appeared to any reasonable observer to be disingenuous and insincere, deceptive and deceitful. This became abundantly clear when Bibi vowed that there would never be a Palestinian state on his watch. It is the height of folly to endorse a two-State solution on the one hand and then promise it will never come into being while you are in office on the other hand. Will Israel seek to engage its old European democratic partners once again in dialogue, as extensive as the disagreements are, or will Bibi go on an all-out warpath against them? Merely to ask the question reveals the answer.

The debate in Israel will shift to whether the objective should be strengthening the control and demography of Area C, while also thickening the settlements on the other side of the Separation Barrier, versus those who want to go after all of the West Bank, perhaps sharing part in a condominium arrangement with Jordan, but, in that alternative, denying the possibility of a Palestinian state coming into existence side-by-side Israel. In the wider field, Israel will increasingly become an opponent of the expansion of international law and legal norms and will have surrendered the turf of international diplomacy and law to Palestinian machinations. As Palestine becomes more authoritarian and totalitarian, ironically it increases the number of democracies at the front line of its defence.

Thus, there are divisions within Israel, the majority favouring one or other form of two-State solution and a minority aiming for territorial maximalism. Whatever the divisions, most Jewish Israelis find themselves united in opposition to the premises of Resolution 2334. Given the right-wing character of the Israeli government, the Israeli polity will ensure that not only no transportation link between Gaza and the West Bank will be established, but that Gazan students pursuing higher education degrees will not be allowed direct access to the West Bank. If a man and woman from the West Bank and Gaza fall in love, they will only be permitted to live together in Gaza. Other mechanisms of depopulating Area C of Palestinians will continue.

While Palestinians are increasingly united on the diplomatic and legal strategy but divided on their military and security strategy, on the ground barriers, between Palestinian communities grow. Abdel-Hakim Awad, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and the Palestinian National Council, has attacked Abbas even though he originally made the motion to make Abbas head of the PA. He accused Abbas of excessively cooperating with Israel to maintain security in Area B. The irony is that, while legally and politically, the international community has moved to legitimize Palestinian control over all territories outside the Green Line, on the ground, that line is increasingly totally irrelevant. If a peace agreement is by some far out chance agreed to, Palestinian communities will have to be linked together by a series of sunken and exclusive roads, provided they are part of the agreement and Israel implements those clauses.

What has also evaporated, Kerry’s rhetoric to the contrary, is the vision of two alternatives – an Israel that is Jewish but non-democratic or an Israel that is both Jewish and democratic because it lives within much more restrictive borders. Israel can leave out the major population of Palestinians, use various devices to ensure that Palestine does not become a full self-governing state, and remain both Jewish and democratic. The real choice is between different variations of a Jewish and democratic state.

In a very expansionist scenario, outposts will be “regularized.” In a middle range objective, only Area C will be viewed for incorporation into Israel. In a very modest and dovish proposal, but one which only a small minority of Jewish Israelis share, Israel will just keep the new neighbourhoods of Jerusalem across the Green Line and the Old City. The latter two alternatives allow for a Palestinian state alongside Israel occupying 22% of the territory of the original Mandate. The first does not. But none of these include the most extreme and aggressive Zionist option of a one state solution where there is no Palestinian state at all but where Jordan is expected to play a specific role, one to which it is very unlikely to agree.

In light of the passage of UNSC Res. 2334, what might the effect be of moving the American embassy to Jerusalem? For one, it would send a clear and unequivocal message that America is no longer bound by international law. Many others would be further alienated from both the U.S. and Israel. As Martin Indyk (no admirer of Trump) pointed out, Trump might so shake things up that the peace process could possibly be reconstituted. According to Indyk, it would start by resolving the thorniest issue of all first in contrast to my preference for bracketing Jerusalem as unresolvable. It depends on buying into Kerry’s vision of Jerusalem as a joint capital, which neither the Israelis, Trump and his supporters or even the Palestinians endorse. While Israel would run into this proposal like a bull, the Palestinians would try to bite their tongues and stay out of the fray to gain more diplomatic and legal points. The move of the American embassy will be a demonstration of even more impotence on the part of the international community and a reaction by both Netanyahu (or his successor) to install more footprints in the sand.

Indyk himself admits his proposal is far-fetched, but he felt he had to grasp for straws. I prefer to breathe the political air that is actually out there.

One of the great benefits of Kerry’s speech is that it agreed with and backed the Israeli position that no solution can be imposed from outside, but that the parties themselves would have to come to some compromise. There were other gains. Kerry specifically mentioned the need to endorse Israel as a Jewish state. He also explicitly said that the refugee issue would be resolved through compensation and not through return. However, as important as these gains are, they pale in significance compared to the diplomatic and legal costs of Resolution 2334.

The result will not only be very much increased diplomatic, legal and economic wrangling on the world stage, but greatly increased tensions within the Fatah movement and within Israeli political institutions, all likely to be at the cost of democratic practices. The tensions over democratic norms within Israel are nowhere comparable to those taking place on the West Bank. However, if the treatment of Deputy Attorney General, Dina Zilber, is any indication, democratic institutions in Israel will be roiled in conflict. Zilber’s report recommended that all settlement activities be made accountable to the government and not relegated to a non-accountable World Zionist Federation. This report was thrown in the trash heap. If this treatment is any indication, then the independent advice of professional mandarins is likely to be set aside and ignored. Highly qualified mandarins will be castrated because their professional activities frustrate the ambitions of the more extreme members of the right-wing Israeli cabinet. The civil service will become far less civil and much more partisan in exclusive service to the party then in power.

Instead of peace, Resolution 2334 has opened the floodgates to a huge expansion in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the world stage. As Miriam Na’or of the Supreme Court of Israel stated, “You cannot ignore international law.” Conflict will not only increase between Palestinians and Israelis, but also within both Palestine and Israeli governmental structures. In Israel, the efforts to bend Israeli law to serve partisan political purposes is bound to increase at the same time as the prospect of a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians becomes more remote each day.

With the help of Alex Zisman