War: Is Netanyahu Ready For Peace?

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Benjamin Netanyahu. Generated by A.I. 2024

War: Is Netanyahu Ready For Peace

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Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest-serving Prime Minister of Israel, has been a polarizing figure in Israeli and global politics. While some hail him as a steadfast leader who has bolstered Israel’s security and economy, others argue that his prolonged tenure has been detrimental to the country’s democratic fabric, its societal cohesion, and its international standing. The case for Netanyahu’s removal from power is compelling for several reasons, including allegations of corruption, his divisive politics, and his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Firstly, the corruption charges against Netanyahu undermine his credibility and the integrity of the Israeli government. Netanyahu has faced multiple investigations and charges, including bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. These allegations not only tarnish his personal reputation but also cast a shadow over the political system he leads. The ongoing legal battles have distracted the government from addressing pressing issues such as the economy, healthcare, and national security. A leader embroiled in such controversies cannot effectively govern or inspire public confidence, making a change in leadership necessary to restore trust in the government.

Secondly, Netanyahu’s political strategy has often relied on divisive tactics that have exacerbated societal divisions within Israel. His tenure has seen increased polarization between different segments of Israeli society, including secular and religious Jews, Jews and Arabs, and left-wing and right-wing factions. Netanyahu’s rhetoric and policies have sometimes fueled these divisions, prioritizing short-term political gains over long-term national unity. This divisiveness weakens the social fabric and hinders collective efforts to address common challenges. A leader who fosters unity rather than division is essential for Israel to move forward cohesively.

Thirdly, Netanyahu’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has drawn significant criticism both domestically and internationally. His hardline stance and expansion of settlements in the West Bank have been major obstacles to peace negotiations. These policies not only strain Israel’s relations with its neighbors but also with its allies, particularly the United States and European Union, who have repeatedly called for a two-state solution. The lack of progress toward a peaceful resolution perpetuates instability and violence, adversely affecting both Israelis and Palestinians. A new leadership approach is needed to break the deadlock and pursue a viable path to peace.

Moreover, Netanyahu’s extended grip on power raises concerns about democratic principles and the health of Israel’s political system. Long-term incumbency can lead to the concentration of power, weakening democratic institutions and processes. Netanyahu’s efforts to weaken the judiciary, control the media, and marginalize political opponents indicate an erosion of democratic norms. For a vibrant democracy, regular leadership changes are crucial to ensure accountability, transparency, and responsiveness to the people’s needs.

In conclusion, while Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure has had its share of achievements, the arguments for his removal from power are substantial. Corruption charges, divisive politics, a stalled peace process, and threats to democratic integrity highlight the need for new leadership. Removing Netanyahu from power would provide an opportunity to restore public trust, heal societal divisions, reinvigorate the peace process, and strengthen democratic institutions in Israel.

Politics: Why Black Men Won’t Vote For Trump

DALL·E-2024-05-27-15.24.50-Create-a-detailed-painting-in-impressionist-style-of-a-Black-male-voter-casting-a-ballot.-The-scene-should-capture-the-moment-he-places-his-ballot
Why black men won’t vote for Trump.

Why Black Men Won’t Vote For Trump

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Besides the fact that Trump is now a convicted felon, with a pending  sentencing hearing on July 11, 2024, other reasons are first and foremost Trump’s turbulent history with the black community stretches back decades. In 1989, he took out full-page ads in New York newspapers calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty after five black and Latino teenagers were accused of assaulting and raping a white female jogger in Central Park. Though they were later exonerated by DNA evidence after spending years in prison, Trump refused to admit his mistake.

As president from 2017-2021, Trump consistently downplayed issues like systemic racism, police brutality, and economic inequality disproportionately impacting black Americans. His administration’s harsh immigration crackdown and Muslim travel ban were seen by critics as thinly veiled appeals to white grievance.

Perhaps Trump’s most incendiary moment came after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, when he condemned “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” rather than directly denouncing the racist extremists. His lukewarm response provoked a firestorm of criticism that he had emboldened far-right factions.

On matters of criminal justice reform, minority voters felt Trump’s gestures were too little, too late. His support for the broadly popular First Step Act reduced sentences for some non-violent drug offenders, but he took no meaningful action on larger issues like ending excessive force by police or discriminatory policies within the justice system.

Trump’s loud promotion of economic nationalism and restrictive immigration policies have also turned off many black men seeking upward mobility and entrepreneurship. His hard-line negotiating stance on free trade agreements and insistence on limiting pathways to legal immigration run counter to the interests of many black business owners and workers who depend on the free flow of labor, goods, and capital across borders.

More broadly, Trump’s divisive persona and penchant for inflammatory racial rhetoric alienate many black male voters who want a president offering a positive, forward-looking vision of an equitable, multi-racial democracy. His reactionary appeals to white resentment and unmistakable nostalgia for an earlier, less-diverse America ring hollow with younger generations of black men.

While Trump insists his policies have been a resounding success for minority citizens, it appears actions speak louder than words for this key constituency. Barring a drastic change in strategy, the former president seems likely to continue trailing badly with black male voters eager for leaders promoting racial comity over grievance politics.

 

James Domingo: The Right Side of History

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Text by James Domingo, Copyright 2024

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The Right Side of History

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It’s been said that American universities are currently, “On fire.”

This is the United States of America where one of our greatest symbols is the torch of Lady Liberty which represents enlightenment and is also seen as the illumination of the human spirit and the pursuit of truth, dispelling darkness and ignorance.

I say this because it seems that some of our citizens seem to have our nation confused with a small foreign entity the size of New Jersey in the Middle East.

 As we have witnessed recently, many of our elected officials have forgotten that their primary role is to act as the voice of the American people, representing the American public’s interests in areas such as legislative, executive, and judicial roles within the American government and not in the interest of foreign governments or the unregistered lobbies that are tethered to such countries.  

Every level of our elected American government should be defending every single one of our citizen’s constitutional rights without hesitation or interruption from outside influence as their oath of office clearly states. Legislators should asking, “What’s in the best interest of the American people?” not “How will AIPAC grade me?”

As American citizens, we are free to discuss openly how we feel about the policies of our government as well as governments around the world and especially ones that we support with inordinate amounts of our hard-earned tax dollars. Our taxation should rightfully provide our opinions with representation. Unfortunately, that is not what we are witnessing as of late.

As expected, a disrespectful foreign leader, namely Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently facing numerous corruption charges, has launched an attack on American university faculty members, students and journalists for peacefully exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.

Let’s be very clear and point out that Netanyahu seems to think he’s the Prime Minister of the United States. He is not.

This delusion is certainly encouraged by the spineless American legislators who give him repeated standing ovations as if he were some sort of a celebrity whenever he speaks to our Congress. This also allows for this corrupt racist and his apartheid regime to continue to thanklessly treat the American tax-payers’ as an endless ATM with no limit.

This is a man who has snubbed American Presidents on numerous occasions. This a man who said, “9/11 was good for Israel.” This a man who has insinuated on more than one occasion that Americans are gullible and “easily moved to Israel’s side.” This is a man who encourages the U.S. to send its’ young people off to die in senseless wars against Iraq and other countries that his regime repeatedly antagonizes. This is a man who has prevented the U.S. from delivering food, water and desperately needed medical aid to the civilian population in Gaza that he is actively committing a brutal genocide against with zero regard for the condemnation of his regime’s actions by the civilized world.

His indifference to his crimes against humanity is also evidenced by his rabid, verbal attack on younger American citizens attending some of our finest universities and educational institutions. These young adults are peacefully protesting a genocide that they want no part in helping to fund or be complicit in which is perfectly understandable.

Hard working American citizens have contributed $15.8 billion dollars to his 75 + year old apartheid state which is perfectly capable of defending itself and standing on its own.

Regardless of the inordinate financial support that Netanyahu’s regime continues to leech off of the U.S., he still decided to attack American citizens by falsely claiming with no evidence, “What’s happening in America’s college campuses is horrific,” Netanyahu said. “Antisemitic mobs have taken over leading universities. They call for the annihilation of Israel. They attack Jewish students. They attack Jewish faculty.” He then went on to make the absurd and baseless suggestion that American university students, faculty members and journalists of whom a large majority are American Jews, “are reminiscent of what happened in German universities in the 1930s.”

That’s a wildly bizarre allegation coming from a racist Zionist who want’s to punish and “quell” American youth as Nazi sympathizers while sending the youth of Israel in the IDF to act like Nazis and kill the Semitic peoples of Palestine, mostly women and children indiscriminately and with impunity.

It sounds like Netanyahu and his regime are exhibiting textbook projection to blur the truth.

I for one, am glad that American students, faculty members and journalists have created a spark and have risen to the cause of justice and humanity which is not something that Netanyahu and his regime will ever be able to claim.

Keep this torch for justice illuminated until all apartheid governments are abolished and no human being lives under their rule.

Portrait of James Domingo
Self Portrait by James Domingo. Copyright 2024

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About The Author: James Domingo is a veteran professional photographer and political activist based in Philadelphia. He specializes in photographing people on location or in the studio and often promotes his activism on his Facebook profile. This is James Domingo’s first contribution to this zine. For additional article by James Domingo, link here: https://tonyward.com/james-domingo-erasing-the-myth-of-superiority/

 

Tracey Olkus: As The World Turns

Illustration of grifter Donald Trump selling bibles by Thomcat23
The Grifter. Artwork by Thomcat23, Copyright 2024

Text by Tracey Olkus, Copyright 2024

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As The World Turns

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Conflict and climate change have brought about unprecedented migration from the Middle East, Africa, and Central America to Europe and the United States. The war in Ukraine , the war in Gaza, Iran , China, the overall normalization of totalitarianism, a growing distaste for western liberal ideals and mounting global antisemitism will undoubtedly have an effect on our elections in November. The global nature of today’s chaos is undeniable.

There are agents of chaos whose  relevance depends on maintaining conflict at any cost. At the top of this list (but not limited to it)are Hamas leadership , Netanyahu, Putin, and our very own Trump.  In my opinion, The Palestinians and the Israelis both have the worst leadership they have ever had. Hamas is a terrorist organization that brutalizes its own people.The leaders of Hamas have become billionaires grifting off the huge amount of foreign aid meant for their struggling people and started a brutal and unwinnable war (not that anyone wins in war). Their only post war plan is more chaos. Netanyahu’s blanket support for West Bank settlements, disregard for the  Palestinian Authority and miscalculation of the tremendous threat from Hamas caused incalculable damage. His attack on the Israeli judicial system brought on a sustained 40 week protest  which has begun again because of his disastrous handling of the war and continued detainment of Israeli hostages. He is facing fraud, bribery and breach of trust charges presently.  His iniquitous actions will see him headed to prison once the war is over. Putin, the puppet master , promises his people a return to the greatness of Imperial Russia. While he has become one of the richest men in the world, the average Russian’s standard of living has gone down. As a distraction he has to put  on a show of expanding the Empire at the grave expense of Ukraine and Russia’s own economy. Meanwhile, killing dissidents within and beyond Russia’s borders and using the Russian military as hired mercenaries in Syria and across Africa. If Trump is a clown show, it’s the John Wayne Gacy type. He has turned the Republican party into a cult of partisan hysteria that seriously threatens the legitimacy of Democratic values and norms. Never before have we had a presidential contender so hell bent on destroying western style liberal democracy with his promise to be a dictator, to jail opponents, to turn back hard won rights,and not just to abandon our European allies but also to encourage attacks from their Russian adversary. 

For these men, these agents of chaos, peace means disappearing into the dustbin of history. They rely on each other’s existence to maintain their own power. Hamas needs Bibi. Bibi needs Hamas. Putin and Trump need each other. And they all need the war in Gaza to rage on.

I  think that all of this is connected to a global rise in totalitarianism that goes beyond these players  .I am starting to believe that the Israeli and Palestinian people are simply pawns being used in an international game of chess where the goal is to extinguish the prevailing ideals of western democracy. This would explain why we are forced to focus on one tragedy and ignore others -like  the hundreds of thousands killed in ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen.The first step in this game is to create a nebulous enemy that serves as a boogieman for both the Right and the Left. The next step is stoking a deep political cynicism leading people  to disenfranchise themselves through apathy. This is where the triangulation of authoritarianism, democracy, and antisemitism comes into play.

In the US we like to break down current events into simplistic story lines where there are easy to differentiate “good actors” and  “bad actors”. The war in Ukraine seemed like an easy narrative;  An average guy (Zellensky) uses Democracy and the power of the vote  to defeat a corrupt oligarch. Then he courageously leads his country in an  existential battle  against a sinister foe who targets unarmed civilians and bombs their schools, hospitals, apartment buildings. The cherry on top is that Zellensky is jewish and the progeny of holocaust survivors.This story spoke to Americans. We love the David vs Goliath, oppressed vs oppressor story. 

 

Israel’s  predictable extreme response to the savage attacks on October 7th allowed  far right players to flip the script and present Jews worldwide not as David but rather as the monstrous Goliath, the oppressors not the oppressed. The story fits perfectly into old antisemitic tropes of  Jewish world domination and blood libel. And that fast- the Ukraine story disappears and the war in Gaza goes on a never ending news cycle fanning the flames of  ethnic and religious hatred.. . 

 Republicans have been hell bent on eroding if not completely erasing the major tenets of Liberal democracy. American Jews have been solidly aligned with these core values and strongly supportive of the Democratic Party. Republicans needed something to split the jewish vote and neutralize that powerful Democratic support system. Republicans also needed to fathom a spectre that would turn away from the Democratic Party, the very people that stand to gain from those Liberal ideals- namely Progressives, people of color, the LGBTQ community and  young voters in general. Republicans desperately need people to be so thoroughly distracted that they forget about losing their own reproductive rights, they forget about book bans and attacks on the LGBTQ community, they forget about disappearing DEI and voting rights,  they forget about the existential climate change crisis, forget about gun violence ,etc.These things would have to happen in advance of the 2024 presidential election. There are more registered Democrats than registered Republicans so a combination of gerrymandering , deflection, and the good ole’ “Divide and conquer” strategy would be  needed to allow the Republicans to snatch power. 

Left leaning Democrats are encouraged through social media and memes to turn their backs on their party. They are encouraged to believe  that all of the candidates are the same ( nothing could be further from the truth). The best scenario is a choice between the lesser of two evils so why bother voting at all . Republicans hope this group can be distracted from the important issues that affect their lives now and into the future.Their anti Israel sentiment has increasingly resembled straightforward antisemitism. And remember Jews embody the essence of Liberal democratic ideals so the left is being swayed to see the center of their own party (not the Republicans) as the enemy.  As we get closer to the election we are seeing printed sings decrying  “Genocide Joe”  -a name that seems to be sprung from the head of Donald Trump himself. 

 T.S. Elliott said , “between the idea and the reality is the shadow”. This is where American Jews are now. Former allies are now hostile – with anti war protestors becoming increasingly supportive of Hamas -even carrying signs that say “Rape Is Resistence”. There have been calls for boycotts of Jewish owned businesses, harassment of jewish students, and vandalism of jewish institutions. Republicans, are trying to capitalize on this. They point to the protestors as a sign that the Democratic party has exiled the Jews. Trump recently made a thinly veiled threat , “liberal Jews voted to destroy America.” (by supporting Democratic candidates and causes) ” Let’s hope you learned from your mistake.”.  Nick Fuentes, the untempered right wing extremist podcaster  who promotes putting the US government under authoritarian “Catholic Taliban rule” did not mince words when he  recently called for the execution of “perfidious Jews” as soon as Trump is re-elected. I never thought I would see anything like this. 

Against all odds, and to my utter surprise, Biden ,on the other hand, has been a great president. Our economy has boomeranged back. The stock market is hot. People are working. Wages have gone up. Restaurants are packed. Manufacturing is returning to the US, Infrastructure is being overhauled. And student debt relief has started to trickle in.  But this is the boring business of the Democratic  legislative process. We are not going to see memes with Pete Buttigieg singing JT’s “Cry me a river, build a bridge, and get over it”. And I worry that it’s the memes that move people to vote. 

I think that the Democrats are counting on women, black , and LGBTQ  voters to be motivated by the devastating reversal on reproductive rights and  attacks on DEI programs and LGBTQ rights and generally by a concern for the planet. That really should be enough but I don’t think it is. They also think that the average person is paying attention to the fact that things seem to be working well right now. But good news doesn’t sell as fast as bad news. I really hope that the jewish Democratic block stays strong. I really hope that women remember how essential reproductive rights are to every single aspect of their health and wellbeing and how dangerous a Trump presidency would be.  And I really hope  the anti Israel protesters do not hand over their future to an authoritarian by throwing their vote away over this issue.   Apathy could be the critical deciding factor in November. Historically speaking, increased antisemitism comes with an  uptick in conspiracy theories being taken as fact and an easier acceptance of authoritarian rule.  It seems the whole world is trending in this direction.  The entire Arab world is run by dictators. China, Russia and Belarus have brutal  dictators. Poland, Holland, Italy and Turkey now have far right wing governments. France is teetering on the edge. I’m sure I am missing many more here but this cosmic shift has my hair standing on end. And I have never wanted to be completely wrong about anything as I do now.

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Stylist Tracey Olkus photographed for The Vixens Series by Tony Ward
Tracey Olkus. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

For almost two decades, Tracey Olkus  has been transforming faces and elevating styles from her private studio in Philadelphia. Specializing in everything from everyday glam to commercial shoots to TV and film. 

 
Tracey’s artistic interests extend beyond the chair. With a passion for costuming, she crafts bespoke headdress designs available through commissioned works.  
 
As the curator of The Performance Salon, Tracey provides a platform for emerging and established artists to showcase their talents in an intimate setting. From musicians, to thespians, writers to chefs, The Performance Salon has become a hub for artistic expression with performances that leave audiences mesmerized.
 
But Tracey’s interests go beyond her professional pursuits . A dedicated patron of the arts and the finer things in life, she enjoys hosting extravagant dinner parties and whimsical camping trips…often simultaneously.
 
When it is time to escape, Tracey can be found exploring the world, talking to strangers, and collecting stories from every corner of the globe. And along the way, she is most happy to have has amassed an eclectic collection of friends that share her passion for the extraordinary.

Mikel Elam: Today is a New Day

Mixed media artwork by the great Mikel Elam for Tony Ward Studio
Artwork by Mikel Elam, Copyright 2024

Text by Mikel Elam, Copyright 2024

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Today is a New Day

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Today is a new day . This is part of my studio practice. I try to just keep going and exploring new avenues often. Don’t get me wrong; I use my best judgement as of today. However if I grow; I might even like yesterday’s actions . Although never any regrets. I am only making decisions on what I know at that time.  My core, my foundation are and will always be rooted in positive actions. However, being human is not always constant . We carry baggage and pain.  We also carry wonderful moments. I’ve learned if I am about to be negative in emotions I should stop – and take a deep breath, give thanks to The Divine for my existence and then whatever it was I was feeling will fade. I use art as a metaphor for life. Perhaps as a visual artist I recognize this as a gift and my unique connection to the universe . We all have gifts and shifting times is inevitable. Today is a new day.

About The Artist: Mikel Elam was born in Philadelphia. He attended the University of the Arts receiving his BFA in painting. He also attended the School of the Visual Arts in New York. He has been showing his paintings in numerous gallery spaces nationally and internationally for the last 25 years. Mikel recently exhibited his work at the University of Pennsylvania’s, Annenberg School of Communications.

To learn more about Mikel Elam’s art work, link herehttps://tonywardstudio.com/gallery/mikel-elam-painter/