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How France mandated power militarily entered Damascus

Note: France was never accepted by the Syrians as an occupying force and constantly harassed this dominion. That’s why France political institutions hate the Syrian people, and not just any government, and always find excuses to harass Syria at every event.

Effondrement du rêve d’un royaume arabe indépendant

RÉCIT DE LA BATAILLE DE KHAN MEISSELOUN

ORIENT XXI L’ORIENT DANS LA GUERRE (1914-1918) JULIE D’ANDURAIN > 11 AOÛT 2017

La bataille de Khan Meisseloun1 — du nom du défilé se situant sur la route entre Beyrouth et Damas où eurent lieu les combats —

le général Henri Gouraud (1867-1946), haut-commissaire et commandant en chef des armées françaises au Levant, pénétre triomphalement dans Damas dès le lendemain du combat.

Si cette entrée dans la ville des Omeyyades marque pour eux la fin de l’expérience chérifienne en Syrie, elle est surtout perçue comme une simple mise en conformité de la présence française en Orient par un nécessaire retour à l’ordre réclamé par la Société des Nations (SDN).

De ce fait, le combat de la « colonne de Damas » — autre désignation de la bataille de Khan Meisseloun — est vite oublié du côté français.

Mais pour l’émir Fayçal Ben Hussein (1885-1933) et sa famille, convaincus que ce n’est qu’une péripétie dans le cadre d’une guerre pour la conquête du monde arabe par les « Arabes », la bataille perdue devient aussitôt la butée-témoin d’une mémoire combattante douloureuse. Meisseloun se charge alors d’une dimension symbolique dont la résonnance se fait encore sentir de nos jours.

Pour appréhender sereinement cette bataille et ses conséquences, pour distinguer l’histoire de la mémoire, il s’agit non pas d’aborder l’événement sous un angle téléologique (en connaissant la fin de l’histoire), ou pire sous un angle idéologique, mais au contraire de comprendre le processus qui a mené à la bataille en posant correctement les jalons historiques.

UN MANDAT SOUS HAUTE TENSION

Au moment de la sortie de guerre, Français et Britanniques reçoivent officieusement un mandat sur les provinces arabes de l’empire ottoman, alors que les Arabes s’estiment capables de se diriger par eux-mêmes. Entre la fin de l’année 1919 et le milieu de l’année 1920, les tensions s’accumulent : la proclamation de Fayçal Ben Hussein comme « roi de Syrie » en mars 1920, alors que le général Gouraud est arrivé en Syrie en décembre 1919 avec le titre de haut-commissaire en Syrie, met véritablement le feu aux poudres.

Côté occidental la réaction ne se fait pas attendre longtemps. Robert de Caix (1869-1970), l’adjoint civil du général Gouraud, est l’un des premiers à envisager une conquête de Damas.

« Si nous pouvions marcher sur cette ville », écrit-il à un ami aux environs du 12 mars 1920, « après avoir pendant quelques semaines envoyé des émissaires et quelques subsides dans les tribus bédouines de l’Est, surtout si Faysal n’avait pas d’argent de son côté, pour s’acheter des amis, le gouvernement de Damas s’effondrerait comme un château de cartes »2.

Le 25 avril 1920, la conférence de San Remo confirme les mandats. Elle rassure et inquiète tout à la fois. Conscients des enjeux, Fayçal et son principal ministre Nouri Saïd Pacha (1888-1958) cherchent un accord, mais les discussions se figent rapidement. Le général Gouraud récuse l’utilisation du drapeau chérifien et les prières faites au nom du « roi de Syrie » et argue de sa seule autorité, laquelle lui a été conférée par Paris et Londres. Il exige la tranquillité et la sécurité des transports, en particulier autour du nœud ferroviaire de Rayak, l’abolition du service obligatoire qui permet déjà de disposer de 6 000 hommes et le châtiment des coupables des attaques de convois.

À mesure que les mois passent, la tension augmente et devient palpable, d’autant qu’elle est relayée par des rumeurs d’attaques de la « zône3 est » (Damas) de plus en plus fréquentes. Pendant la conclusion des accords de la Conférence de paix, de nouvelles troupes débarquent dans la « zône ouest » (Beyrouth) ; à l’autre bout du territoire, des armes entrent dans le pays par Deir Ez-Zor. Au début du mois de juillet, devant les inquiétudes qui se multiplient, les Libanais repartent vers la zône ouest ; les prix flambent à Damas.

Désormais convaincus qu’il ne s’agit plus de discuter avec leurs anciens alliés, les nationalistes les plus radicaux prétendent résister aux « préparatifs français d’agression ». Le 30 juin 1920, le portefeuille de l’intérieur est attribué à Youssef Bey Al-Azmé (1874-1920), ministre de la guerre qui accélère la concentration de troupes à Meisseloun, oasis à 28 km à l’ouest de Damas.

Au début du mois de juillet, les tensions s’accumulent dans tous les camps. Dans une lettre du 7 juillet 1920, Robert de Caix pousse clairement le général Gouraud à agir « dans les plus brefs délais ». En termes de méthode, cet anglophobe assumé n’est pas favorable à la publication d’un ultimatum car celui-ci, dit-il, permettrait encore aux Britanniques d’intervenir. La présence des colonels Édouard Cousse et Antoine Toulat4 auprès de Fayçal impose cependant de respecter certaines formes. Le 14 juillet, un ultimatum lui est remis en mains propres. Le général Gouraud fait état des doléances déjà connues mais insiste particulièrement sur la tranquillité du transport ferroviaire dans la région de Rayak et sur l’occupation d’Alep, car il est par ailleurs soucieux de pouvoir acheminer des troupes en Cilicie, où les Français combattent également la Turquie.

Deux jours plus tard, Fayçal fait demander des précisions et un délai de réponse de quatre jours. La situation se détend quelque peu dans la ville de Damas. Mais le 20 juillet l’affaire rebondit car il n’a pas répondu positivement aux demandes du général Gouraud.

MOUVEMENT DE TROUPES ET STRATÉGIES DE COMBAT

Aussitôt les troupes se préparent à l’action. Partie de Zahlé, ville située dans la plaine de la Bekaa le 21 juillet à zéro heure, la 3e division du général Mariano Goybet (1861-1943) composée de 10 bataillons d’infanterie, quatre batteries de 75, l’équivalent de six escadrons de cavalerie, une compagnie du génie, 15 chars de combat et une escadrille divisionnaire à disposition de l’armée se met en route. Le Litani est franchi à 4 h 45.

Le but des opérations a été défini au début du mois de juillet. Il s’agit initialement de maîtriser les hauteurs (Sahrat Ed-Dimes), de récupérer la gare de Rayak et d’empêcher que Damas ne menace les troupes. La division doit avancer en deux bonds successifs : d’abord, rejoindre la coupure d’Ain-Jdeideh, en prenant le risque de passer par le défilé de l’oued el-Korn, puis le Sahrat-ed-Dimes. Au cours de la progression vers la zône est, les petits postes ennemis laissés auprès des ponts cèdent tous sans difficulté.

Un temps, le général Goybet croit que l’armée chérifienne reflue vers Damas sans combattre. L’aviation lui confirme que des troupes retraitent vers l’est. Il pense que Fayçal a accepté l’ultimatum. Il profite donc de la situation pour pousser encore plus en avant ses troupes qui progressent au nord de la route de Damas, le long des pentes de l’Anti-Liban, alors même que la chaleur torride épuise les hommes. Il installe son campement à Ain-Jdeideh, dans un immense évasement naturel du terrain qui permet d’installer plusieurs milliers d’hommes et de bêtes.

Fayçal dépêche Sati Al-Housri (1860-1968), son ministre de l’instruction, à Aley, au quartier d’été du général Gouraud. Il obtient un délai supplémentaire d’une journée mais l’ultimatum est maintenu tandis que les troupes françaises continuent à avancer vers Meisseloun, point d’eau important où elles comptent se refaire. À l’annonce de la nouvelle, Damas s’embrase : une émeute éclate dans la ville. Cela n’empêche pas le colonel Toulat de continuer à servir d’intermédiaire entre le général Gouraud et Fayçal.

Le 22 août il rencontre lui-même les commandants des troupes (d’une part le général Goybet et le colonel Gaston Pettelat, le chef d’état-major de l’armée du Levant, le bras droit du général Gouraud ; Youssef Bey Azmé et l’émir Zeid de l’autre) pour tenter de trouver un terrain d’entente autour de cette question essentielle de Rayak, alors que vient s’ajouter une exigence nouvelle : celle de pouvoir désaltérer les troupes françaises à Meisseloun. Le refus du ministre de la guerre chérifien de permettre aux troupes françaises de se ravitailler en eau met le feu aux poudres.

Le 23 juillet, convaincu que la bataille est inévitable, Youssef Bey Azmé fait barricader les routes et miner les terrains autour de Meisseloun. Rassemblant à la va-vite les forces hétérogènes — militaires réguliers, volontaires, cavalerie de chameaux bédouins — que le général Gouraud lui avait demandé de dissoudre quelques jours plus tôt, il aligne difficilement 3 à 4 000 hommes.

Spontanément des milices se sont formées dans Damas. Rassemblées autour de notables damascènes, elles apportent à Youssef Bey Azmé une force supplémentaire sous la forme d’une milice civile, mais celle-ci n’est guère formée au métier des armes. En outre, ces formations hâtivement constituées utilisent un armement de deuxième catégorie. En dépit de la présence de 15 batteries d’artillerie, les Syriens ont peu de munitions (120 à 250 balles par fusil, 45 balles par mitrailleuse et 50 à 80 obus par canon) et une grande partie de leur armement est inutilisable du fait des différences de calibres.

Au cours de cette même journée, le général Goybet a profité de l’attente pour perfectionner ses avant-postes, reconnaître le terrain de l’attaque et rassembler péniblement ses troupes qui dépassent désormais les 9 000 hommes. Le nouvel ultimatum qui porte sur le point d’eau de Meisseloun lui permet de comprendre qu’il faut se préparer à l’attaque pour le lendemain. L’ordre d’engagement des troupes pour le jour J est publié le 23 juillet à 17 heures. Il précise que les troupes chérifiennes semblent installées sur les hauteurs de l’oued Al-Tequieh où elles ont disposé leur artillerie, tandis que les réserves sont plutôt dans les fonds de Khan Meisseloun. Sûr de ces forces, notamment en matière d’artillerie, le général Goybet décide d’attaquer de front les hauteurs en prévoyant une intense préparation d’artillerie qui doit soutenir l’attaque du lieutenant-colonel d’Auzac ; son deuxième objectif est constitué par Meissaloun, opération qu’il confie au général Bordeaux. Dans la nuit, vers minuit, il apprend que les conditions de l’ultimatum sont rejetées par Fayçal. C’est donc la guerre. L’attaque est prévue pour 5 heures le lendemain matin.

ÉCHEC DE LA RÉSISTANCE CHÉRIFIENNE

Le 24 juillet à 5 heures du matin, une immense préparation d’artillerie signale le début des combats. Les forces chérifiennes répondent avec leur artillerie à 5 h 40. Après quatre heures de bombardements intenses, avec des obus de 155 mm qui tirent à plus de 10 km par-delà la montagne, alors que la manœuvre de contournement des spahis chargés de déborder l’aile gauche des chérifiens échoue, ordre est donné d’enlever les positions ennemies à la baïonnette.

Deux lignes de retranchement sont prises successivement, mais les Français avancent difficilement. Le soleil d’été commence à darder ; sur leur promontoire, protégées par leurs mitrailleuses, les forces chérifiennes restent très combatives. Dans leurs rangs, elles comptent un grand nombre d’officiers de la Grande Guerre, des servants allemands sur des batteries de 77, mais elles sont surtout très bien commandées par le général Youssef Azmé Bey, l’âme de la résistance chérifienne.

Leurs positions sont aussi bien organisées que celles des Français, avec des batteries, des tranchées reliées aux postes par des fils téléphoniques. Les combats les plus difficiles ont lieu dans le défilé du Wady Corm, pris d’enfilade par le tir de batteries placées à droite et à gauche de la route de Damas. Dominant les hauteurs, les chérifiens semblent maîtres de la situation.

Soudain un coup de théâtre se produit. Vers 10 heures, passés entre le mur de mitrailleuses et la montagne, grimpant le long des pentes raides, des chars escaladent les positions chérifiennes. Indifférents à l’artillerie, ils avancent sans faille, entraînant derrière eux des éléments du 415 e de ligne, des Algériens et des Sénégalais.

Quittant la route, ils débouchent sur les batteries de 77 qui ne cessent de tirer en contrebas. Quelques obus de chars projetés sur les caisses de munitions suffisent à les réduire. Azmé Bey qui les commandait est foudroyé par un éclat d’obus de 37 tiré pratiquement à bout portant. V

êtu avec élégance, impeccablement chaussé de bottes souples vernies, il est venu au combat avec des gants blancs en peau de chamois. Sa mort sonne le glas de la résistance chérifienne. À 11 heures, les combats s’achèvent. Outre le corps d’Azmé Bey, les chérifiens affichent un taux de pertes (tués et blessés) de plus de la moitié des combattants. Ils perdent également 15 canons, 40 mitrailleuses et leurs munitions.

Côté français, selon le rapport du général Goybet, les pertes font état de 42 tués, 152 blessés et 14 disparus pour la période du 21 au 25 juillet. Dès le lendemain, sans perdre un instant, ses troupes pénètrent dans Damas, la ville des Omeyyades.

Cette bataille brise le rêve des nationalistes panarabes. Tandis qu’Azmé Bey est enterré par les troupes françaises avec les honneurs militaires dus à son rang, c’est l’affolement général à Damas. Les princes hachémites se sont enfuis de la ville, dans un train blindé dit-on, mais Fayçal, pensant un temps pouvoir reprendre les négociations, revient quelques jours plus tard.

Après l’avoir déclaré persona non grata en Syrie, le général Gouraud lui demande de partir. Fayçal Ben Hussein quitte Damas le 27 juillet, se réfugie d’abord à Caïffa avant de prendre la route du Hedjaz5.

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How Lebanon civil war started and why?

هكذا أشعلت أميركا الحرب الأهليّة: لبنان شرطـة لأمن إسرائيل [2]

يمكنكم متابعة الكاتب عبر تويتر | asadabukhalil@

The Phalanges (Kataeb) party was created whole by the French mandated power in 1936 to counter nationalist organizations who refuted the notion of being mandated, and also to face other sectarian parties, mostly Islamic.

Ever since this fascist party has served well the western nations and Israel, and prevented the establishment of a valid State for all citizens.

Three of its members were elected President of Lebanon, and each one of them brought calamities to Lebanon.

اليمين اللبناني سعى إلى التسلّح بكامل إرادته لا «مُكرهاً» (أ ف ب)

يكشف كتاب صدر حديثاً في الولايات المتحدة دور واشنطن في السياسة اللبنانيّة في بداية الحرب الأهليّة. الكتاب الذي يحمل عنوان «ميادين التدخّل: السياسة الخارجيّة الأميركيّة وانهيار لبنان، ١٩٦٧ ــ ١٩٧٦»، يعتمد على الأرشيف الأميركي من سجلات وزارة الخارجية ودوائر استخبارية وغيرها، ويُظهر في صفحاته ضلوع واشنطن في إشعال الحرب الأهليّة واذكائها وكيفيه تعاملها مع «حلفائها» في بيروت. في ما يأتي، الحلقة الثانية من السلسلة التي تنشرها «الأخبار»

أسعد أبو خليل

ما يكتشفه المرء من هذه الوثائق الأميركيّة الرسميّة حميميّة العلاقة بين حزب الكتائب اللبنانيّة والحكومة الأميركيّة (أي إن مقولة أن حزب الكتائب اضطرّ مرغماً إلى الاستعانة بـ»الشيطان»، أي إسرائيل، في سنوات الحرب الأهليّة لأنه كان معزولاً، ما هي إلا واحدة من أكاذيب الحزب الذي كان يتنعّم مبكراً بدعم خليجي وأردني وأميركي، حتى لا نتكلّم عن دعم غربي آخر لا وثائق عنه إلى الآن).

كذلك إن أحزاب الكتائب والأحرار والكتلة الوطنيّة، أو بالأحرى إن شخص كميل شمعون وبيار الجميّل وريمون إدّة (الذي افترق عن حلفائه في مطلع الحرب والذي لا يبرز في الوثائق كما يبرز شمعون والجميّل، لكن الأخيرين ينطقان في اللقاءات مع الأميركيّين باسم «الحلف الثلاثي» آنذاك) كانوا مشاركين فعليّاً في الحكم في عهد شارل الحلو وسليمان فرنجيّة. يبدو أن زعماء الموارنة تكتّلوا في قيادة جماعيّة عندما بدأ نظام الهيمنة الطائفي الذي زرعه الاستعمار الفرنسي، ورعاه الغرب في ما بعد، يتعرّض للاهتزاز والتهديد المباشر.
وقد ضغط الأحرار والكتائب والكتلة الوطنيّة على شارل حلو لعدم الرضوخ للمزاج الشعبي والرسمي العربي بقطع العلاقة مع دول الغرب بعد حرب ١٩٦٧.

والحلف الثلاثي (الذي فاز بنجاح باهر في انتخابات ١٩٦٨ ــ ومن المُرجّح بقوّة ــ بناءً على العلاقة التي جمعت أحزابه مع حكومات الغرب، أنه تلقّى معونات أميركيّة مباشرة في الحملات الانتخابيّة، لكن الوثائق لم تظهر بعد في ذلك) لم ينتظر إلى نهاية شهر حزيران كي يصدر بياناً يطالب فيه بـ»تدويل لبنان» والحصول على ضمان خارجي لحياده (كأن لبنان كان مُشاركاً في حرب حزيران ــ راجع كتاب جيمس ستوكر، «ميادين التدخّل: السياسة الخارجيّة الأميركيّة وانهيار لبنان، ١٩٦٧-١٩٧٦»، عن دار نشر جامعة كورنيل، ص. ٣٢). لا بل إن الجميّل أصرّ على حلو أن يعود السفير الأميركي على عجل بعد مغادرته ردّاً على إجماع عربي (ولبناني شعبي).

وعرض على الأميركيّين نشر قوّات ميليشيا الكتائب لحماية أمن السفارة الأميركيّة. إن قراءة التقارير من تلك الفترة يؤكّد بصورة قاطعة أن الميثاق الوطني المزعوم لم يكن إلا كذبة انطلت على الزعماء المسلمين في لبنان، وكانت بنودها سارية فقط على فريق واحد، في رفض التحالف أو الاندماج مع المحيط العربي، فيما كان كل رؤساء الجمهوريّة الذين تعاقبوا بعد الاستقلال ــ بالتحالف مع الزعماء الموارنة ــ متحالفين سرّاً وبقوّة مع الدول الغربيّة، مُطالبين على الدوام بتدخّل عسكري أميركي أو فرنسي أو حتّى إسرائيلي في صالحهم. لقد خالف الزعماء الموارنة كل بنود «الميثاق الوطني» فيما كانوا يعظون الغير بجدوى «الميثاق» فقط كي يعزلوا لبنان عن محيطه العربي (ولم يكن المحيط العربي خاضعاً لمشيئة حكّام الخليج آنذاك).
ويرد في الوثائق أن حزب «الأحرار» و»الكتائب» ألحّاً في شهر حزيران وتمّوز من عام ١٩٦٧ على السفارة الأميركيّة للحصول على السلاح والمعونات الماليّة. وكتب السفير الأميركي إلى حكومته في هذا الصدد أنه ــ وإن لم يوصِ بتلبية الطلبات الواردة ــ يوصي بأن تُبلَّغ «اللجان المعنيّة» في الإدارة الأميركيّة بالطلبات في حال تغيُّر توصيته في هذا الشأن.

وفي حزيران من عام ١٩٦٧، طلب شمعون رسميّاً من الحكومة الأميركيّة تسليحاً ومساعدات ماليّة باسمه وباسم بيار الجميّل وريمون إدّه، وذلك للتصدّي لنفوذ كمال جنبلاط «والمتطرّفين المسلمين». حتى شيخ العقل اليزبكي، رشيد حمادة (كان للدروز شيخا عقل يومها، والوثيقة الأميركيّة وستوكر أشارا إلى حمادة فقط كـ»زعيم درزي») طلب سلاحاً ومالاً من السفارة الأميركيّة في بيروت في ذلك الشهر. وكأن الردّ على هزيمة ١٩٦٧ كان عند كل هؤلاء في تعزيز الحضور الميليشاوي لأعداء المقاومة الفلسطينيّة واليسار في لبنان (وحلفاء العدوّ الإسرائيلي كما سيتضح بعد قليل). ولم ينسَ حمادة هذا، المتحالف مع شمعون (والذي ذكّر بتحالفه مع «الحلف الثلاثي») أن يحذّر السفارة الأميركيّة من عواقب تجهيز الاتحاد السوفياتي لميليشيا كمال جنبلاط. والنائب اللبناني في حينه، أندريه طابوريان، التقى بالديبلوماسي الأميركي تالكوت سيلي في واشنطن، أثناء زيارة الأوّل للولايات المتحدة كي يطلب هو الآخر السلاح من أميركا (لم يتضمّن كتاب ستوكر طلب طابوريان هذا، لكنه نشر الوثيقة على صفحته). وورد في الوثيقة أن طابوريان أكّد أن السلاح لن يُستعمل إلّا ضد «المتطرّفين» وأنه سيردع «التحرّك الشيوعي المعادي» (ص. ١ من الوثيقة التي نشرها ستوكر). (وطابوريان هو الوحيد الذي ذكر في لقائه مع الأميركيّين إسرائيل بالسلب، وأشار إلى اقتناع فريق من اللبنانيّين بخطورة المطامع الإسرائيليّة في لبنان).

أما العماد إميل بستاني، قائد الجيش، فقد التقى بالقائم بالأعمال الأميركي ــ بطلب من شارل حلو ــ وسأله عن إمكانيّة مساعدة الحكومة الأميركيّة للجيش اللبناني في السيطرة على «معارضة من قبل عناصر إسلاميّة في لبنان» أو للحدّ من جهود «عناصر شيوعيّة خارج لبنان» للقيام بأعمال «ضد مصالح أميركا أو ضد إسرائيل» (ص. ٣٣). وحذّر بستاني من أن الحكومة يمكن أن تنساق وراء دعوات عربيّة لمقاطعة أميركا وبريطانيا من دون «ضمانة أميركيّة واضحة». وفهم القائم بالأعمال أن طلب المساعدة يشمل طلب مساعدة عسكريّة. وعندما صدرت قرارات عن مجلس الوزراء اللبناني لمقاطعة شركات أميركيّة (مثل «كوكا كولا» و»فورد» و «أر.سي.إي») أكّد شارل حلو للقائم بالأعمال الأميركي أن القرارات لن تنفَّذ أو ستنفَّذ ببطء شديد. واللافت أن الحكومة الأميركيّة لاحظت أن الموقف الإسرائيلي من لبنان لا يتعلّق فقط بوجود الفدائيّين على أرضه، واليسار اللبناني،

بل إن هناك أطماعاً إسرائيليّة في لبنان. وبالرغم من أن لبنان لم يشارك في الحرب بأي صورة من الصور، فإن الحكومة الإسرائيليّة أرهبت لبنان عبر اعتبار اتفاق الهدنة مُلغىً، كذلك لمّح رئيس الحكومة الإسرائيلي في شهر أيلول إلى أطماع إسرائيل في نهر الليطاني.
وعندما قصفت إسرائيل حولا في أيّار ١٩٦٨، حاولت الحكومة الأميركيّة إفهام حليفتها بأن قدرة الحكومة اللبنانيّة على «محاربة الإرهاب» الفلسطيني وعلى الحفاظ على انحياز الحكومة نحو الغرب تضعف. وإلحاح الميليشيات اليمينيّة ذات القيادة المارونيّة في طلب التسلّح لم يتوقّف. ففي أكتوبر من عام ١٩٦٨ أبلغ قيادي كتائبي القائم بالأعمال الأميركي أن الحزب قد يتقدّم بطلب تسلّح لميليشيا الكتائب، وأن للحزب قدرة قتاليّة بعدد ٥٠٠٠ رجل وقوّة كوماندوس بعدد يراوح بين ٥٠ و٧٠ (ص.٣٧).

وأكّد القائد الكتائبي ان للحزب ما يكفيه من السلاح الخفيف، لكنه يحتاج إلى «توحيد معايير التسلّح» وإلى سلاح ثقيل. لكن التقرير أوضح أن الحكومة الأميركيّة لن تلبّي الطلب الكتائبي. حتى النائب الشمعوني، فضل الله تلحوق، طالب الحكومة الأميركيّة بسلاح لمواجهة جنبلاط. (كان هذا في زمن كان فيه الشيوعيّون اللبنانيّون يصرّون فيه على «النضال البرلماني» الصرف).
أما الاعتداء الإسرائيلي على مطار بيروت في ديسمبر عام ١٩٦٨ الذي كان فيه إسكندر غانم قائد منطقة بيروت، وقد تلقّى تحذيرات قبل الاعتداء من أجل حماية المنشآت المدنيّة بما فيها المطار (وغانم هذا كان هو الرجل نفسه الذي لامه صائب سلام على تخاذله في اعتداء نيسان ١٩٧٣ ــ عندما كان قائداً للجيش ــ واغتيال قادة المقاومة في فردان، ما أدّى إلى استقالة سلام بسبب رفض سليمان فرنجيّة صرفه من قيادة الجيش، أو محاسبته على أقلّ تقدير) فقد زاد من قلق الحكومة الأميركيّة على استقرار النظام اللبناني الحليف.

لكن الحكومة الأميركيّة حوّلت الاعتداء الإسرائيلي الإرهابي على لبنان إلى مناسبة لتشجيع التفاوض وتبادل الرسائل بين الحكومة اللبنانيّة والحكومة الإسرائيليّة. ووجّه ليفي أشكول رسالة إلى الحكومة اللبنانيّة نوّه فيها بالسلوك «التعاوني» (ص. ٤١) للحكومة اللبنانيّة (مع العدوّ) على مدى عشرين عاماً، لكنه حذّر من مغبّة من أي اعتداء من لبنان على إسرائيل. وكان شارل حلو، من دون علم رئيس حكومته ومجلس النوّاب، يسعى إلى تدخّل غربي أو نشر قوّات من الأمم المتحدة في الجنوب اللبناني لحماية حدود الكيان الصهيوني من العمليّات الفدائيّة (لكن إسرائيل هي التي رفضت الفكرة التي كان ريمون إدّة من دعاتها العلنيّين).

لكن النيات التخريبيّة والفتنويّة للفريق اليميني تبدّت في أوائل عام ١٩٦٩، عندما طلب كميل شمعون مساعدة عسكريّة أميركيّة (لحزبَي الكتائب والأحرار) من أجل إسقاط حكومة رشيد كرامي عبر الإضرابات والتظاهرات (لكن طلب السلاح يتعدّى فعل التظاهرات، وقد رفض الديبلوماسي الأميركي طلب شمعون هذا ــ حسب الوثيقة). وتقدمّ حزب الكتائب بطلب مماثل في نفس الشهر. وقد طلب شارل حلو من السفير الأميركي ثني الكتائب والأحرار عن خططهم وأنها يمكن أن تؤدّي إلى معركة قد يخسرونها وقد تطيح أيضاً «التوازن الطائفي» في البلد. وحسب ما ورد في تلك الوثائق، فإن موقف رشيد كرامي آنذاك لم يعارض الطلب من الدول الخليجيّة (عبر راعيتها الأميركيّة) التأثير في الفدائيّين لوقف نشاطهم من لبنان، وإن كان يخشى إعلان ذلك. (ص. ٥٦).
وفي شهر حزيران 1969 طالب الجميّل وشمعون (مرّة جديدة) السفير الأميركي بتسليح لميليشياتهم، كذلك تقدّم شمعون بطلب رسمي من نائب رئيس البعثة الأميركيّة بسلاح خفيف لـ «حماية المسيحيّين». وفي لقاء في السفارة، أدان الجميّل تخلّي الحكومة الأميركيّة عن أصدقائها في لبنان،

فيما حذّر فضل الله تلحوق (الذي قدم طلباً هو الآخر للتسلّح) من أخطار تتهدّد لبنان بسبب عدم تلبية طلبيات التسلّح. لكن موقف السفير الأميركي، وفق المداولات في داخل الإدارة الأميركيّة، بدأ بالتغيّر لمصلحة تسليح «المسيحيّين». لكن المسؤول الأميركي تالكوت سيلي (عمل في ما بعد سفيراً في دمشق وبادر للاتصال بمنظمّة التحرير الفلسطينيّة في السبعينيات، مخالفاً تعليمات كيسنجر) رفض فكرة السفير وحثّ على إقناع الزعماء الموارنة بانتهاج الاعتدال والتعايش مع المسلمين.
لكن شارل حلو كان يتواصل سرّاً مع الإسرائيليّين، كما أخبر أبا إيبان الحكومة الأميركيّة في شهر أيلول. وفي رسالة سريّة ومباشرة وجّهها الرئيس اللبناني إلى إسرائيل، قال لهم إنه «يتفهّم المشكلة التي يُشكّلها الفدائيّون ضد إسرائيل، لكن الحكومة لا تستطيع أن توقف التسلّل كليّاً»
(ص. ٥٨). وعندما وصل الجواب الإسرائيلي إلى حلو، ومفاده أن الحكومة الإسرائيليّة ستتخذ «الإجراءات الدنيا لحماية مواطنيها»، وصفه بأنه «يُظهر تطوّراً إيجابيّاً في الموقف الإسرائيلي».

وقد أخبرت الحكومة الإسرائيليّة الحكومة الأميركيّة أن «لبنانيّين مرموقين» كانوا يتواصلون معها سرّاً وأنهم «يرحّبون باعتداءات إسرائيليّة على قواعد الفدائيّين بين الحين والآخر».
لكن الموقف الأميركي تغيّر بحلول شهر أكتوبر من عام ١٩٦٩، حين عقدت «مجموعة العمليّات الخاصّة في واشنطن»، وهي لجنة حكوميّة تجتمع للتعامل مع الأزمات، اجتماعاً خاصّاً للتباحث في شأن التدخّل في لبنان. وتركّز البحث على المفاضلة بين تسليح الجيش اللبناني وتسليح «الميليشيات المسيحيّة». ووافق كل المجتمعين على وضع خطة تكون موضع التنفيذ لتسليح الميليشيات اليمينيّة، لكن لم يكن واضحاً الظروف التي يمكن فيها مباشرة عمليّة التسليح. وزارة الخارجيّة رأت أن سقوط الحكم في لبنان يمكن أن يكون الحافز للتسليح. أما ممثّل وكالة المخابرات الأميركيّة، فاقترح تسليح الميليشيات عبر شركة أميركيّة خاصّة (مثل «إنترأرمكو») لمدّ الميليشيات بالسلاح، على أن تتكفّل الحكومة الأميركيّة بالنفقات. وبُحث في أمر التسليح عبر عمليّات إسقاط من الجوّ (ص. ٦٣).

وعندما تساءل مسؤول أميركي عن سبب عدم المباشرة بتسليح الكتائب على الفور، أجابه كيسنجر بأن تسليح الجيش اللبناني مماثل لتسليح الكتائب، لأن الجيش واقع تحت «سيطرة ضبّاط متعاطفين مع الكتائب».

لا نعرف حسب الوثائق ماذا حصل بعد هذا الاجتماع، لكن الاستنتاج بمباشرة التسليح يكون منطقيّاً، خصوصاً أن كيسنجر أخبر نيكسون بأنه بالإضافة إلى التسليح، فإن الحكومة الأميركيّة ستقوم أيضاً بـ»عمليّات سريّة». لكن وزارة الدفاع حذّرت من أن تسليح الكتائب سيؤدّي إلى صراع طائفي. ومن الأكيد أن الحكومة الأميركيّة قامت بتحريك أساطيلها في البحر على بعد ٤٥٠ ميلاً من لبنان لدعم النظام اللبناني. وفضّل كيسنجر تدخّلاً إسرائيليّاً على التدخّل الأميركي المباشر في لبنان.

وفي موازاة المفاوضات التي أدّت إلى اتفاقيّة القاهرة، قامت الحكومة الأميركيّة بالاستعانة بتاجر السلاح الأميركي ــ اللبناني المعروف، سركيس سوغانليان (الذي لعب دوراً كبيراً في تسليح الميليشيات اليمينيّة في سنوات الحرب في ما بعد، ولنا عودة إليه) لإمداد قوى الأمن الداخلي بوسائل عسكريّة «للسيطرة على المخيّمات وعلى التظاهرات» (ص. ٧١). ورأت السفارة الأميركيّة في تسليح قوى الأمن والجيش أنه لا يختلف عن تسليح الميليشيات، وأكدت قيادة الجيش اللبناني أنها ستتولّى هي تسليح الميليشيات وتجهيزها عندما يحين الوقت. وكان ممثّلون عن الجميّل وشمعون وإدّة وسليمان فرنجيّة يسعون إلى التسلّح في لبنان، أو في خارجه. (قدّمت الميليشيات طلبات تسلّح من الحكومة الفرنسيّة أيضاً).
ومن العمليّات السريّة التي اتفقت عليها الحكومتان الأميركيّة واللبنانيّة (عبر لقاء بين ميشال خوري والسفير الأميركي) محاولة «إحداث الشقاق» (ص. ٧٣) بين الفدائيّين والأهالي في جنوب لبنان.

وقدّم ميشال خوري في كانون الثاني ١٩٧٠ طلباً رسميّاً من أميركا في هذا الشأن، عبر تقديم مساعدات ماليّة سريّة لـ»مؤسّسات دينيّة وسياسيّة» في جنوب لبنان، أو عبر الحصول على مساعدات من شاه إيران بوساطة أميركيّة. لكننا لا نعرف طبيعة تلك العمليّات السريّة لإشعال الفتنة بين الأهالي والفدائيّين (قد يكون قصف العدوّ للقرى من نتاج تلك العمليّات).
وعندما صعّد العدوّ الإسرائيلي من غاراته على لبنان في الأشهر الثلاثة الأولى من عام ١٩٧٠، لم تتوقّف الاتصالات الرسميّة المباشرة بين الحكومة اللبنانيّة وحكومة العدوّ. ونقل «مطران مقيم في القدس من أصل لبناني» (لم يرد اسمه في الوثائق)، وكان يلعب دور الرسول بين حكومة العدوّ ورئيس الجمهوريّة اللبنانيّة تهديداً من موشي دايان بتحويل لبنان إلى صحراء.

لكن شارل حلو ردّ على التهديد المباشر بالودّ والاحترام لإسرائيل (وقال إنه كان متحفّظاً في ودّه خشية تسرّب مضمون الرسالة التي بعثها إلى دايان.) وفي رسالته، أوضح حلو أن لبنان يلعب في الماضي والحاضر دور «شرطي إسرائيل»، مع أنه لا يستطيع أن يعترف بذلك. وأضاف حلو أن تدمير لبنان سيكون بمثابة تدمير إدارة شرطة حيفا. وزاد حلو عاملاً طائفيّاً يحمل تعاطفاً مع الصهيونيّة، إذ قال «إنه ليست في مصلحة إسرائيل تدمير الدولة الديموقراطيّة غير الإسلاميّة الوحيدة وذات التنوّع الديني في المنطقة. وإن اللبنانيّين بالرغم من مشاكل تعتري تفهّمهم، فإنهم على الأقل يفهمون مشاكل إسرائيل، وأن هذا قد يشكّل رصيداً قيّماً لإسرائيل عندما تقرّر أن تندمج ــ وليس فقط أن تكون في ــ الشرق الأوسط».
(يتبع السبت المقبل)

إسرائيل تحترم فؤاد شهاب

طلب فؤاد شهاب أن تزيد قوّات الاحتلال الإسرائيلي من دوريّاتها على الحدود مع لبنان لمنع الفدائيّين من الحركة (مروان طحطح)

في أزمة نيسان 1969، هنأت الحكومة الأميركيّة رئيس الجمهورية شارل حلو على استعمال القوّة لقمع المتظاهرين. وزاد شارل حلو من رغبته في طلب تدخّل عسكري أميركي (أو «آخر»)، لكن السفير الأميركي أبلغ ميشال خوري، مبعوث حلو الشخصي، أن عليهم ألّا يتوقّعوا تدخّلاً عسكريّاً أميركيّاً في لبنان (ليس مباشراً، على الأقل). عندها، أجابه خوري بأنهم تلقّوا نفس الجواب من فرنسا، ما يوحي أن حلو كان قد طلب تدخلاً عسكريّاً فرنسيّاً ضد الفدائيّين واليسار في لبنان. لكن حلو لم يكتفِ بالأجوبة الفرنسيّة والأميركيّة، إذ هو أرسل في سؤال عاجل إلى السفير الأميركي سائلاً: «في حالة القلاقل المدنيّة التي قد تكون فوق طاقة قدرات قوى الأمن اللبنانيّة المحدودة، ما هو احتمال المساعدة الخارجيّة لمساعدته في إعادة الاستقرار؟» (ص. ٥٠). لكن جواب السفير خيّب آماله مرّة أخرى.
وفي الوقت الذي كانت فيه الحكومة الأميركيّة تخيّب فيه آمال الزعماء الموارنة (وحلفائهم) في طلب تدخّل عسكري أميركي، كان الرئيس الأميركي،

ريتشارد نيكسون، يعقد اجتماعاً لمجلس الأمن القومي لدراسة إمكانيّة القيام بتدخّل عسكري أميركي مباشر على غرار تدخّل ١٩٥٨ في لبنان (ص. ٥٠). وأخبره وزير دفاعه أن القوّات الأميركيّة جاهزة للقيام بمهمّة كهذه. لكن ستوكر يستنت أن الحكومة الأميركيّة تخلّت عن فكرة التدخّل إلّا في حالات يتعرّض فيها «المسيحيّون أو الأجانب» لأخطار أو لترحيل الأميركيّين. لكن حلو لم يتوقّف بالرغم من الإجابات الأميركيّة عن تكرار طلب المساعدة أو طلب التدخّل، لأن ذلك يقوّيه، ولو من باب «الخيار الأخير». وبناءً على إلحاح حلو، بدأت الحكومة الأميركيّة بالبحث في سيناريوهات تدخّل عسكري من نوع إرسال الأسطول السادس. وعلّق السفير الأميركي على موقف حلو بأنه كان يفكّر «كرئيس مسيحي» يسعى لحماية المسيحيّين.

وكانت الحكومة الأميركيّة تحثّ حلو على طلب قوّة تدخّل تابعة للأمم المتحدّة للحدّ من نشاط الفدائيّين، لكن حلو طالب أيضاً بقوّة تدخّل أميركيّة تمهّد لتدخّل الأمم المتحدة. وبحثت الحكومة الأميركيّة مع مدير «الأنروا» في إمكانيّة لعب المنظمّة «الإنسانيّة» دوراً أمنيّاً ضد الفدائيّين، لكن الاعتراض القوي من مقرّ الأمم المتحدة قضى على الفكرة الأميركيّة.
واجتمع كميل شمعون وبيار الجميّل في شهر نيسان مع السفير الأميركي ضمن الحملة المستمرّة في طلب المساعدة (لكن شمعون تحفّظ في اللقاء لعلمه من الجميّل برفض الطلب من قبل أميركا). لكن شمعون ذهب أبعد من ذلك، إذ اقترح على السفير الأميركي أن تقوم الحكومة الإسرائيليّة بتوجيه تحذير مباشر وعلني إلى لبنان حول نشاط الفدائيّين «لعلّ ذلك يؤثّر في المسلمين المتطرّفين الذين يطالبون بحريّة حركة مطلقة للفدائيّين».

وبعد اللقاء مع شمعون، التقى السفير الأميركي مع فؤاد شهاب وسأله رأيه في أن تقوم الحكومة الإسرائيليّة بتحذير لبنان لتخويف مؤيّدي العمل الفدائي فيه. وطلب شهاب مهلة ٢٤ ساعة للردّ، ثم أخبر السفير بأن التحذير الإسرائيلي هذا سيساعد (ص. ٥٣). لكن السفير الأميركي امتنع عن نقل الطلب اللبناني خوفاً من تأليب الرأي العام العربي ضد إسرائيل والحكومة الأميركيّة. ولم يكتفِ فؤاد شهاب بهذا، لا بل طلب أن تزيد قوّات الاحتلال الإسرائيلي من دوريّاتها على الحدود مع لبنان لمنع الفدائيّين من الحركة (سبق فؤاد شهاب جماعة ١٤ آذار في تقديم النصح للعدوّ الإسرائيلي في عدوانه). وعبّرت الحكومة الإسرائيليّة، من خلال سفارتها في واشنطن، عن «احترامها» لشهاب.

وفي هذا السياق، وبعد أن فقد شارل حلو الأمل في تدخّل عسكري أميركي لمصلحة النظام الطائفي الحاكم في لبنان، قرّر التفاوض مع الفدائيّين.

A few saying of Malcolm X

An explorer blog: Header illustration

Hanane Kai posted
Some project are challenging, others feels like second nature to me. This one was both, and a delight!

Rafah was a client, then a friend, who like me and many others is searching for herself and trying to make sense from the things happening around her.

An “explorer”.
I had the pleasure to co-design and to illustrate the header of her blog.
Blog co-designed and developed by William.

Header illustration and blog design for an explorer’s personal blog

Rafah is a young Saudi woman who, like me and many others, is searching for herself and trying to make sense from the things that happen around her. I was commissioned by her to design and create a visual of her blog.

Rafah is an explorer, not in the physical sense, rather in the spiritual sense. Her blog is about her discoveries and realizations, as she explores life.

The quote over the illustration says: “The first step to find yourself is to allow yourself to get lost”.

The blog is co-designed, and developed by William Choukeir.

Click here to read more about/from Rafah

Searching for the self illustration
Explorer blog design and illustration
Explorer illustration

“It is life that chose me”

It is life that made me survive all the hurdles.

And it is events that directed me in what I selected to follow, in so many forks that led me far away.

Far away from the path my parents wished me to take and strove to guide me at every bend of the roads.

Ease up your judgement on your fellow neighbors.

Your neighbor might seem a tad luckier. He could be more unlucky than you.

Both of you had to struggle to survive and grab a few moments of satisfaction and hope”. (Roman Gary)

For the customers, nothing has changed in the big, busy McDonald’s on Broadway at West 181st Street, in Washington Heights.

Promotions come and go—during the World Cup, the French-fry package was suddenly not red but decorated with soccer-related “street art,” and, if you held your phone up to the box, it would download an Augmented Reality app that let you kick goals with the flick of a finger.

New menu items appear—recently, the Jalapeño Double and the Bacon Clubhouse, or, a while back, the Fruit and Maple Oatmeal. But a McDonald’s is a McDonald’s. This one is open twenty-four hours. It has its regulars, including a panel of older gentlemen who convene at a row of tables near the main door, generally wear guayaberas, and deliberate matters large and small in Spanish.

The restaurant doesn’t suffer as much staff turnover as you might think. Mostly the same employees, mostly women, in black uniforms and gold-trimmed black visors, toil and serve and banter with the customers year after year. The longtime manager, Dominga de Jesus, bustles about, wearing a bright-pink shirt and a worried look, barking at her workers, “La linea! La linea! 

Behind the counter, though, a great deal has changed in the past two years. Among the thirty-five or so non-salaried employees, fourteen, at last count, have thrown in their lot with Fast Food Forward, the New York branch of a growing campaign to unionize fast-food workers.

Underneath the lighted images of Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets, back between the deep fryer and the meat freezer, the clamshell grill and the egg station, the order screens and the endless, hospital-like beeping of timers, there have been sharp and difficult debates about the wisdom of demanding better pay and forming a union.

Most of the workers here make minimum wage, which is $8 an hour in New York City, and receive no benefits.

Rosa Rivera, a grandmother of four who has worked at McDonald’s for fourteen years, makes eight dollars and fifty cents. Exacerbating the problem of low pay in an expensive city, nearly everyone is effectively part time, getting fewer than forty hours of work a week. And none of the employees seem to know, from week to week, when, exactly, they will work.

The crew-scheduling software used by McDonald’s is reputed to be sophisticated, but to the workers it seems mindless and opaque. The coming week’s schedule is posted on Saturday evenings. Most of those who, like Rivera, have sided with the union movement—going out on one-day wildcat strikes, marching in midtown protests—suspect that they have been penalized by managers with reductions in their hours. But just-in-time scheduling is not easy to analyze.

Arisleyda Tapia, who has been working here for eight years, and makes eight dollars and thirty-five cents an hour, says she was fired last year by a supervisor for participating, on her own time, in a protest. She was reinstated three days later by cooler management heads, but Tapia, a single mother with a five-year-old daughter, says that she now gets only thirty hours a week. She used to average forty. “And they don’t really post the schedule anymore,” she told me. “They just give you these.”

She waved a thin strip of paper in the air. It was like the stuff that comes out of a shredder. Tapia laughed, and mimicked a manager frantically snipping each line out of a printed schedule, for individual distribution. “This way, it’s harder for us to see what’s going on at the store. You see only your own hours.”

Tapia was a nurse in Santiago de los Caballeros, the second city of the Dominican Republic. She had two children, Scarlet and Steven. Her

husband drove a taxi. Her mother, also a nurse, raised orchids. When Tapia’s marriage fell apart, she felt her hopes for her children dimming. It was 2003; a banking crisis had cratered the Dominican economy. With her mother’s blessing, she left her job at a big university hospital where she had worked for twelve years and moved, alone, to New York. She rented a shared room in Inwood, a working-class neighborhood in upper Manhattan, for $50 a week, got a job at a McDonald’s in Inwood, and then a second job, at the 181st Street McDonald’s.

She made minimum wage. Still, she was able to send most of her paychecks home. “I made more in a week here than I did in a month as a nurse there,” she said. Her children were provided for. College remained a possibility. Her Facebook cover photo has a woman’s closed eye with long lashes and a big tear trickling down. “That’s for missing my kids,” she told me.

Tapia struggled with depression. Her immigration status was work-authorized, letting her obtain a Social Security number, and then it wasn’t. She got scammed by a lawyer. She feared she would be deported. Tapia makes friends easily—if you walk the streets of Inwood with her, you will see her merrily accosted by neighbors—but she felt isolated. The sueño americano—the reason she still gives, half-ruefully, for emigrating—had taken on nightmarish colors.

She felt trapped in a cold, foreign, overwhelming place. She felt that people were following her. She went for therapy at public clinics. Tapia, who is deeply religious, found herself looking for a sign from God. One night, in church, she got it. Her anxiety receded. She talks about the experience in awed, fierce tones.

She took up with a man—a taxi-driver—and on New Year’s Day, 2009, she gave birth to a daughter, Ashley. The relationship with the taxi-driver did not last. Tapia was thirty-seven. She found an apartment on Sherman Avenue, in Inwood, across from the 207th Street Subway Yard.

The apartment was small and dark, partitioned to create more rooms, and Tapia shared it with other renters. She and Ashley slept in a single bed in a closet-size alcove. They still sleep there. Tapia had already bought, sight unseen, a small rental house in Santiago; her mother manages it, and the rent helps support Scarlet and Steven.

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With an infant, Tapia had to quit one of her jobs. Money got tighter. She and Ashley received food stamps—a hundred and eighty-nine dollars a month—and, crucially, an earned-income tax-credit refund. But day care was expensive, and Tapia could never get enough hours at work. Wary of the courts, she received no child support. Still, her spirits were strong.

Now she lived for Ashley, who was bright and mischievous. Friends and co-workers deluged the child with love and toys. Somebody gave her a little plastic cash register. She banged away on it, piping, “Welcome to McDonald’s. How may I help you?”

One of Tapia’s closest friends was Dominga de Jesus, her manager. La Dominga, as everybody calls her, is also Dominican. She lives in the Bronx, started at the bottom herself at McDonald’s, and has a daughter slightly older than Ashley. The little girls are friends. La Dominga was kind to Tapia in her despair. In turn, Tapia helped Dominga when she had housing troubles. Between crises, the two women loved to party together.

Tapia was delighted for Dominga when she went off to Hamburger University, the McDonald’s training center, in Oak Brook, Illinois, where she earned a degree in Hamburgerology. The course there “sounded like a good party,” Tapia told me, grinning.

In 2012, community organizers from New York Communities for Change, a Brooklyn-based descendant of ACORN, started sniffing around the McDonald’s in Washington Heights. La Dominga—perhaps forewarned, or simply aware of

the long-standing vigilance at McDonald’s against any stirrings of union sentiment—spotted a suspected organizer on one of her closed-circuit cameras. His name was Alfredo Miase. He was Dominican. Tapia recalled, “She told me, ‘Don’t talk to him.’ ”

But Tapia had recently had a run-in with another manager, who kept her working, even though she had a fever, for hours. “Finally, I couldn’t take it,” she told me. “I just couldn’t stand up anymore, and I went home. She suspended me for a week for that. She’s gone now, but she was abusive. That experience left me ready to do something.” So Tapia met with Miase, down the block, beyond the closed-circuit cameras, skulking, scared. And she was not the only one. “He was a very thoughtful, sympathetic guy,” she said.

A small group of workers, nearly all women, started meeting with Miase and another organizer, Marisol Vasquez, at a nearby Chinese restaurant called Jimmy’s. They discussed their problems and what might be done. Tapia, unlike some American workers, already had a solid grasp of what a union is.

In the D.R., she had been a member of the national nurses’ union during a major dispute with the ministry of health. That fight culminated in strikes that caused a national furor. Doctors had also walked out. “Patients were dying,” she remembered. In the end, the government agreed to meet with the strikers and address their demands.

The Service Employees International Union, the second-largest union in the United States, was quietly funding the fast-food campaign. The first public act was a one-day strike on November 29, 2012. Some two hundred workers, from around forty fast-food outlets in New York City, gathered at dawn outside a McDonald’s on Madison Avenue in midtown, chanting, “Hey, hey, what do you say, we demand fair pay.”

They had walked off jobs at Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Domino’s Pizza, and McDonald’s. Their goals, they told reporters, were an industry-wide raise to fifteen dollars an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. It was a day of rallies, walkouts, and a march through Times Square. The Times called it “the biggest wave of job actions in the history of America’s fast-food industry.” Tapia and several co-workers from Washington Heights were in the thick of it.

La Dominga was shocked to see her friend’s face in the crowd in a photograph on her Facebook news feed.

The protests spread to the Midwest, with hundreds of fast-food workers demonstrating in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Detroit. By the summer of 2013, workers in sixty cities across the United States, even in the traditionally anti-union South, were staging coordinated one-day walkouts and marches with a single message: fifteen and a union. In December, it was more than a hundred cities.

The movement picked up political support. President Obama renewed a long-neglected pledge to raise the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour—it should be nine dollars, he first suggested, and then lifted his sights, in early 2014, to $10.10.

That’s a modest proposal; in 1968, the minimum wage, in current dollars, was $10.95.

Even so, minimum-wage legislation has no chance of passing in this Congress. But opinion polls show wide public support for a hike. Some cities and states have been bidding up their own minimum-wage laws. In June, Seattle decided to raise its minimum wage to fifteen dollars. Fast-food workers rightly took credit for having made plausible a minimum wage that, less than two years ago, sounded outlandish.

The fast-food giants have seemed clumsy, and wrong-footed by the surge of protest. Their traditional defense of miserable pay—that most of their employees are young, part time, just working for gas money, really—has grown threadbare. Most of their employees today are adults—median age twenty-eight. More than a quarter have children. Particularly since the onset of the global recession of 2009, McJobs are often the only jobs available. And seventy per cent of fast-food workers are indeed part time, working fewer than forty hours a week.

McDonald’s has tried to acknowledge the real lives of its workforce by providing counselling through a Web site (since taken down) and a help line called McResource. A sample personal budget was offered online last year. The budget was full of odd assumptions: that employees worked two full-time jobs, for instance, and that health insurance could be bought for twenty dollars a month. The gesture made the corporation look painfully out of touch. The same thing happened with a health-advice page. Workers

were advised to break food into pieces to make it go farther, sing to relieve stress, and take at least two vacations a year, since vacations are known to “cut heart attack risk by 50%.” Swimming, one learned, is great exercise. Fresh fruit and vegetables are good for you, McDonald’s declared.

A mother of two in Chicago, who had worked at McDonald’s for ten years, called the help line and found herself counselled to apply for food stamps and Medicaid. This was, at least, realistic. A recent study by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that fifty-two per cent of fast-food workers are on some form of public assistance.

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Sensitive to the beating that their brands are taking in the escalating confrontation with employees, the fast-food giants have been leaving the hardball response to their lobby, the National Restaurant Association. “The other N.R.A.,” as it is known, is an enormous organization, with nearly half a million member businesses, but its strategic thinking seems to be dominated by the major chains. It has fought minimum-wage legislation, at every level of government, for decades.

It has fought paid-sick-leave laws, the Affordable Care Act, worker-safety regulations, restrictions on the marketing of junk food to children, menu-labelling requirements, and a variety of public-health measures, such as limits on sugar, sodium, and trans fats. Its press releases now deride the demands of fast-food workers as “nothing more than big labor’s attempt to push their own agenda.” But internal N.R.A. documents, leaked this spring to Salon, show the group’s concern about the “reputational attacks on our industry.”

They say that N.R.A. agents are “closely monitoring social media for any plans or signs of activity,” and are even tracking the movements of one activist. Scott DeFife, the chief N.R.A. spokesman, told me that the crowds at the protests actually consist of organizers: “There’s often not one restaurant

worker to be found among the crowds of organizers.”

McDonald’s has rarely hesitated to act aggressively on labor issues. In 1990, it sued a tiny group called London Greenpeace for libel, because of leaflets the group had distributed attacking the company. According to Eric Schlosser’s book “Fast Food Nation” (2001), McDonald’s had been successfully using Britain’s plaintiff-friendly libel laws to intimidate British mass media for many years.

Two members of London Greenpeace fought back. Although they could not afford a lawyer, the court proceedings went on for more than a decade, revealing, among other things, the extensive use by McDonald’s of spies—some meetings of London Greenpeace apparently had as many spies in attendance as real members. The “McLibel trial” was, from start to finish, a public-relations fiasco. For the second-largest private employer in the world (after Walmart), with more than thirty-five thousand restaurants in a hundred and nineteen countries, McDonald’s can be, in the court of public opinion, remarkably inept.

In recent months, Fast Food Forward and its many partners—Fight for 15 (Chicago), Stand Up KC (Kansas City), STL Can’t Survive on $7.35 (St. Louis)—have been rhetorically thrashing their corporate opponents. The Berkeley-University of Illinois study, commissioned by Fast Food Forward, found that American fast-food workers receive almost seven billion dollars a year in public assistance.

That’s a direct taxpayer subsidy, the activists argue, for the fast-food industry. Taxpayers are also, by that logic, grossly overpaying the industry’s top management. According to the progressive think tank Demos, fast-food executives’ compensation packages quadrupled, in constant dollars, between 2000 and 2013. They now take home, on average, nearly twenty-four million dollars a year. Their front-line workers’ wages have barely risen in that time, and remain among the worst in U.S. industry. The differential between C.E.O. and worker pay in fast food is higher than in any other domestic economic sector—twelve hundred to one. In construction, by comparison, the differential is ninety-three to one.

The fast-food chains insist that if they were to pay their employees more they would have to raise menu prices. Their wages are “competitive.” But in Denmark McDonald’s workers over the age of eighteen earn more than twenty dollars an hour—they are also unionized—and the price of a Bi

g Mac is only thirty-five cents more than it is in the United States. There are regional American fast-food chains that take the high road with their employees. The starting wage at In-N-Out Burger, which is based in Southern California, and has two hundred and ninety-five restaurants in California and the Southwest, is eleven dollars. Full-time workers receive a complete benefits package, including life insurance—and the burgers are cheap and good.

McDonald’s, throughout its history, has denied responsibility for the labor practices of its franchisees, who own and operate nearly ninety per cent of its more than fourteen thousand outlets in the United States. In March, seven class-action lawsuits were filed against the company in three states—California, Michigan, and New York—alleging wage theft and other violations of labor law.

In late July, the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled, in connection with another set of complaints, that McDonald’s is a “joint employer” with its franchisees. The corporation exercises, through its standard contract, the most elaborate possible control over virtually every aspect of its franchisees’ operations, and the pay and the treatment of workers are very largely determined by that control. Indeed, the lawsuits allege that the crew-scheduling software that McDonald’s franchisees are required to use leads directly to the cost-cutting practices that amount to wage theft.

McDonald’s will fight the ruling and its implementation, both on its own behalf and on behalf of other major franchisors. The implications of the ruling, if it is upheld, are profound. Not only will the responsibility of corporations for millions of workers be increased sharply but the prospects for fast-food unionization will brighten. Shop-by-shop organizing in what the economist David Weil calls “the fissured workplace” is a Sisyphean chore. Having the legally chosen representatives of the industry’s workforce sit down with the leaders of McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s, all of whom are capable of a cost-benefit analysis of their business model, makes more sense.

I asked Arisleyda Tapia who she thought could raise her pay. “Bruce,” she said immediately. “He’s rich.”

She meant Bruce Colley, the owner of the McDonald’s where she works. Colley owns twenty-nine McDonald’s franchises, including nineteen in

Manhattan. He grew up in Westchester County, and graduated from the Trinity Pawling School and Cornell. When he joined the family business, in 1980, his father, Dean, owned more than a hundred McDonald’s franchises in the Northeast. Dean was master of foxhounds of the Golden’s Bridge (New York) Hounds. Bruce is a polo player. His net worth is not a matter of public record. Still, you can see where Tapia got her impression.

Colley found himself in the news when, in 2003, he was reported to be having an affair with Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, triggering her divorce from Andrew Cuomo.

According to the Post, Kerry was “crushed” when Bruce decided not to leave his then wife for her. Otherwise, Colley does a good job of staying out of the papers. (He declined to comment for this article.) In July, 2013, during a heat wave, Sheliz Mendez, one of Colley’s employees at the McDonald’s in Washington Heights, fainted in the kitchen and had to be hospitalized.

Some of her co-workers walked off the job, protesting the lack of air-conditioning, and began chanting on the sidewalk outside. Reporters showed up. So did Colley. CBS New York described him as a “McDonald’s spokesman.” He apologized for the inconvenience to customers and employees and said that two of the store’s three air-conditioning units were already repaired. His workers said that they had been complaining about the heat for months and that the units were turned on only because camera crews had appeared.

Jamne Izquierdo, who has worked at the Washington Heights outlet for nine years, said she had never seen the air-conditioning on before.

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A year later, on another hot July day, I stopped in the store and found it stifling. Managers were setting up big portable fans near the counter. Colley did not want another labor incident. I was waiting for Tapia to finish her shift. There was a new freestanding sign,

touting the Bacon Clubhouse with a cryptic boast: “Artisan is how this club rolls.” On the workers’ uniform caps, multicolored stitching declared “FAMOUS CRISPY FUN LOVEABLE.” Was William Burroughs writing ad copy from the next world? Having clocked out, Tapia emerged, looking drained, and eating Fruit and Maple Oatmeal from a paper cup.

We walked south on Broadway. A rainstorm had broken the heat. We passed through the spooky, puddled maw of the George Washington Bridge Bus Station, its concrete arms hulking overhead like a Soviet brutalist ruin. Tapia had sent Ashley, her five-year-old, to visit her grandmother in the Dominican Republic. She couldn’t afford to go.

It had been 11 years. She Skyped with her kids and her mother several times a day, but it was strange, this free time that she suddenly had. There was a national conference of the fast-food workers’ movement coming up, in Chicago. The union was sending a couple of buses from New York. Maybe she could go. We found a Dominican restaurant down Broadway.

Did she really believe that Bruce Colley could unilaterally raise the pay of all his employees to fifteen dollars an hour?

Tapia looked down. “He used to give us just one shirt,” she said, finally. “We tried to give a petition to La Dominga about people getting their hours reduced, but she wouldn’t accept it. Then Bruce came and had a meeting with us. He came because we have a strong union committee. He didn’t go to any of his other stores. He listened to us. Then they gave us each a box with four uniforms. That was a real strike victory.” She sighed. “But we know who our real opponent is. It’s the corporation. McDonald’s.”

The space between franchisees and a parent company is nowhere more opaque than at McDonald’s, where the price of admission is exceptionally high: applicants must show at least seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars of

unborrowed money even to be considered for a franchise, and the investment costs go up from there. Very few franchisees fail to observe the code of omertà that governs their relationship with the corporation. One disgruntled franchisee in California recently broke the silence, telling the Washington Post that McDonald’s executives had advised her to “pay your employees less” if she wanted to take home more herself.

Two former McDonald’s managers recently went public with confessions of systematic wage theft, claiming that pressure from both franchisees and the corporation forced them to alter time sheets and compel employees to work off the clock.

Having a union will put a stop to this type of injustice, Tapia believes. And she was not wrong, I thought, about the importance of tangible victories, however small. Building confidence was crucial, even in the fissured workplace—showing doubters that standing up for yourself need not always bring down the wrath of the bosses on your head and could actually achieve benefits.

“Some people are too scared to say anything,” she said. “They’re scared to talk to you, for instance—the media.” I could confirm that. “It’s not that everybody working there supports the union. But they all want us to keep fighting. They’re afraid to fight themselves, but they know they’ll benefit when we win.”

But would the boat parties be reinstated?

Tapia laughed. Bruce Colley was famous for taking his employees on an annual summertime cruise on the Hudson. Tapia had to admit that they were a blast. Colley danced with all the women. But last year, she said, she had not been invited. She blamed her activism. And this year there had been no boat party at all, as far as she knew.

More important to Tapia—far more important—was her friendship with La Dominga. Things between them had cooled lately, she said, but not really, not in her heart. It was only this situation at work. On Dominga’s birthday, Tapia and some of her co-workers had given her a big bunch of flowers. Dominga understood the message: none of this conflict was personal. When the fight for a union was over—after the workers had won their rights—“things between me and Dominga will be just like they were before.”

The modern American labor movement rose out of the struggle over the eight-hour day. Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union, told me, “This fight for fifteen is growing way beyond fast food. It’s getting to be what the eight-hour day was in the twentieth century.” That may be so (or it may be a stretch), but labor unions, the centerpiece of the movement to improve working conditions in the last century, have definitely shrunk to the margins. Fewer than seven per cent of private-sector workers are union members today—that’s the lowest density in nearly a century.

The landscape of American business has changed, reflecting the shift from a manufacturing to a service economy, but unions have not changed with it. The S.E.I.U., with more than two million members, has probably done the best job among large unions of adapting to the new workplace, organizing health-care workers and janitors, for instance, in circumstances that did not allow for traditional industrial organizing.

The Justice for Janitors campaign of the nineteen-nineties offers a good precedent for the current fast-food campaign, Henry said. The janitors were fissured by the broad move of commercial property owners to subcontracting, much as fast-food workplaces are fissured by franchising. Their nominal employers, small cleaning companies, had no power and thin profit margins.

The tactics of the janitors were unorthodox, and included mass civil disobedience: closing freeways in Los Angeles; blocking bridges into Washington, D.C. Their goal was to get building owners to the table, and in time they succeeded, in some cases nearly doubling with their first contract the compensation they had been earning. The movement was largely Latino, and crucially strengthened by undocumented immigrants who stepped up, risking deportation.

But big-city janitors had been unionized, historically—and in some cities, like New York, still were—so the fight was really to reorganize and rebuild. There is no comparable history in fast food. More important, the fast-food workforce is just under four million and growing, and the main companies are so rich and powerful that the stakes are higher than in any labor struggle in recent memory.

To date, it’s been “more air war than ground war,” as Ruth Milkman, a sociologist of labor movements at the City University of New York Graduate Center, puts it. The one-day strikes, which aren’t really strikes, since they don’t usually close shops or try to shame (nonexistent) strikebreakers, get larger each time. This May, the fast-food workers staged simultaneous protests in two hundred and thirty cities worldwide.

They have gathered endorsements from a very long list of labor groups and others, including the seventy-six-member Progressive Caucus in the United States Congress and the Boston Wobblies. For the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, an editorial in the Times declared, “The marchers had it right 50 years ago. The fast-food strikers have it right today.” The percentage of the workforce actually committed to the movement still seems quite small, however, and the organizing tactics still decidedly nontraditional. None of this acclaim will translate anytime soon into a shop-floor union vote presided over by the National Labor Relations Board.

The S.E.I.U. leadership sometimes suggests that it is merely following the lead of a spontaneous workers’ movement, but it invested about two million dollars in organizing in New York before the first public protest, in November, 2012, and it has continued to fund organizing nationwide—to the tune of more than ten million dollars. It has retained the services of BerlinRosen, a progressive political-consulting firm that helped propel Bill de Blasio from dark-horsedom into the mayor’s office.

In the vacuum left by the subsidence of labor unions, a rough movement sometimes known as Alt-Labor—community groups, “worker centers”—has

emerged. New York has an abundance of such groups, including the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, launched in 1998, which has successfully defended drivers against exploitation by medallion owners, and the Restaurant Opportunities Center, or ROC, which was originally founded as a help center for displaced restaurant workers after the September 11th terrorist attacks and has since grown into an all-purpose resource for food-sector employees, offering training, conducting research, and filing complaints and lawsuits. Thirty-two cities now have their own ROC. The group has thrown its energy behind the fast-food movement. The National Restaurant Association has targeted ROC, apparently considering it a serious threat.

Alt-Labor groups, by legal definition not unions, will never be bargaining units. Fast Food Forward and its numerous allies in the fast-food campaign, though all closely tied to their funding source, S.E.I.U., are in many ways Alt-Labor, which makes the movement’s path forward rather difficult to picture. Mary Kay Henry told me that the S.E.I.U. is supporting the movement “because it helps our members.”

She said that “6.5 million workers have already had their wages increased owing to minimum-wage increases” driven by fast-food activism. Minimum-wage legislation is great, she said, but “collective bargaining can set a standard that obviates legislation.”

So is she hoping to sign up millions of new members from the food industry?

“Membership is not our foremost question,” she said. “Our first concern is winning $15 and a union. The workers will then choose whom they want to represent them.” That answer seems to dodge the question. Henry, like other labor leaders, likes to sketch a climactic meeting with the big fast-food employers: “The Big Three”—McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s—“are going to have to see the union part, and not just the minimum-wage part, and get their heads around that, before they come to the table.”

The golden arches glowed at dawn above Danville, Pennsylvania, and, later, above other towns—Sharon, Mercer. For Tapia, they were a familiar touch in an unfamiliar land. Also Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts. Tapia napped on and off all morning. She was near the front of the charter bus. It had departed from downtown Brooklyn at 2 A.M., in a convoy with another bus. It got stuck in 3 A.M. traffic on Canal Street, but now they were flying westward. The driver and his alternate were chatting in Chinese.

Tapia was the only person from her McDonald’s going to the conference. Across the aisle was Corina Garcia. She worked at another McDonald’s—at Broadway and 145th—that was owned by Bruce Colley. Garcia, who is fifty-six, looked very put-together, with a sweet smile and a sharp little travel bag. She had been an executive secretary for ten years in the Dominican Republic, she said. Stacked on the seat next to her were cases of water, bags of apples, and a box full of small cans of Pringles. People from farther back in the bus, which was packed, made occasional raids on the supplies.

Tapia was excited about going to Chicago. She had never been west of New York. The cornfields of Ohio seemed to go on forever. It was so different from el campo back home. No grasslands, rain forest, cane fields, coffee farms. She wondered about the cost of living out here. It was surely cheaper than New York. But you would probably need a car, which was expensive. Hearing that South Bend, Indiana, had a famous Catholic university, she made a mental note—possible college for Ashley.

At the rest stops, the younger men sauntered across the strangely wide Midwestern forecourts, wearing baggy basketball shorts, neck pillows still in place. But most of the conferencegoers were older. Alvin Major, the father of four teen-agers, was from Guyana and worked at a K.F.C. in Brooklyn.

His oldest was going to college upstate this fall. He sometimes worked three jobs, collecting three paychecks, all from K.F.C.—but no overtime, which wasn’t right. Jorel Ware worked at a McDonald’s in midtown. He was thirty-one. He still made minimum wage, after two years. “They say the franchisee is just a small man in the middle,” he said. “If that’s true, then who am I? I’m just a dot on the wall. I just want to be able to get an unlimited MetroCard. I can’t afford nothing.”

Shantel Walker, who works at a Papa John’s in Brooklyn, jumped up as the bus approached Chicago. She wore a gold-billed cap and a big crucifix. She had a microphone. “I work too hard,” she chanted, “for a little income.” The bus erupted, workers chanting the lyrics after her. “Your story is an inspiration / People are with you / New York is proud of you, Hey.”

Tapia, who speaks little English, chanted softly: “People are with you / New York is proud of you, hey.” She was looking pretty sharp herself, in form-fitting jeans, black suède loafers, a black shirt with a cheetah-print panel, long gold earrings.

Walker: “You got to work hard, Hey / To get a union and fifteen.”

Tapia: “You got to work hard, hey / To get a union and fifteen.”

Walker: “Detroit’s gonna be there, remember. Chicago. We gotta represent. We the original starter of this movement.”

Cheers, shouts,whistles.

Chicago, to Tapia’s disappointment, never appeared. Was it a very small city, then? No, the conference was in a convention center out in a western suburb, Villa Park, and the bus took a route that never went near Chicago proper.
October 18, 2010“Looks like someone’s eyes are bigger than his liver.”Buy or license »

The conference, however, did not disappoint. Buses pulled in from every direction—St. Louis, Detroit, Greenville, North Carolina. Delegates in red T-shirts practiced their chants in the late-afternoon sun. Inside the convention center, twelve hundred workers filled one end of a vast space. There were elaborate shout-outs from each delegation, a ritual that seemed to go on for hours. But the energy stayed high. There were videos, rappers, a driving beat. The proceedings were directed by an organizing committee of a dozen-plus people on a stage. They never seemed to call for order. They just drove the thing forward.

The New York rep, Naquasia LeGrand, a twenty-two-year-old K.F.C. employee from Canarsie, said, “I got to be on my feet all day, and you don’t want me to go to the foot doctor? You want me to smile at customers, but you won’t give me a dental plan?” Mary Kay Henry gave a passionate speech, declaring, “I am proud to bring into this room two million workers who are in this with you to win it!” After Henry’s speech, Tapia was on her feet, along with the rest of the crowd, chanting, “We believe that we can win!” She was rocking, clapping, smiling excitedly.

On the second day, delegates were directed to sit at tables with people from other cities. Tapia found herself at a Spanish-speaking table with workers from Denver and Chicago. The best part of the conference, she told me later, was sharing stories with Martina Ortega, who was originally from Guerrero State, in Mexico, and Otilia Sanchez, from Denver, about raising families on minimum wage in El Norte, and what their respective union committees were doing.

Tapia filled a notebook with names and contact information. Each table was asked to report to the conference as a whole, and Otilia Sanchez rose and delivered a forceful speech, in Spanish, about how this would be not an armed struggle but a political fight waged by peaceful means—strikes, boycotts, media—and how if the workers stayed strong they would make history.

Tapia said afterward that she was surprised to see that the movement was predominantly African-American. “That’s good,” she told me. “Because they’re not afraid. They have nothing to lose. We’re all afraid of getting deported. They’re not.”

The history of the civil-rights struggle was constantly invoked. The N.A.A.C.P. had just formally endorsed the fast-food workers’ movement at its national convention (without mentioning the central demand for fifteen dollars an hour, possibly to spare the fast-food franchisees among its leadership the shock of that stark figure). The Reverend William Barber II, the head of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., gave a stand-up-and-shout sermon after lunch. Barber talked about President Franklin Roosevelt’s belief that a minimum wage should allow American workers to “live decently,” then offered his own gloss on that idea.

“I want to be able to live,” Barber said. “I want to be able to pay my rent, feed my kids, put gas in my car, maybe buy a house—and every now and then fix my hair!” Representative Keith Ellison, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, was on hand. “Income inequality is an existential threat to the American Dream,” he told me. “And these people are doing something about it.” In his conference speech, he said, “In the richest country in the world, you should not be working full time and still be on food stamps.”

I noticed Tapia nodding seriously when this was said, as she did when Terrence Wise, a Burger King worker from Kansas City with three children, said, “Most of us are doing this for our kids. For the next generation. If somebody was hurting your kid, you would crush them. And that’s how we need to think about these corporations. They’re trying to destroy our families, hurt our kids.”

The return bus left that afternoon, arriving in New York at nine the next morning. Tapia took the subway directly to work. She stashed her travelling bag under a storage bin, where the manager was unlikely to see it and ask questions. Fortunately, it was Sunday, La Dominga’s day off.

Tapia applied to ten charter schools for kindergarten for Ashley. She got into none. She was wait-listed at three, though, including at Tapia’s first choice, a new Success Academy school opening on Fort Washington Avenue, in Washington Heights. The school’s Web page wouldn’t load on Tapia’s phone. “I need to get Internet,” she said. We were in her apartment, and she pointed out an old Dell desktop wedged among other appliances on the dresser she shares with Ashley. Internet access is about twenty dollars a month. Something would have to give.

It could not be her unlimited-ride MetroCard. That was a hundred and twelve dollars a month—a giant bite out of her paycheck, and a purchase that many people couldn’t manage, but it was indispensable. If she rode the train or the bus (she preferred the guagua, as everybody in her neighborhood calls the bus) eighty times a month, it cost less than half what it would for individual rides.

If she got a raise to fifteen dollars an hour, she could buy new work shoes, help her mother, get Ashley a good winter coat. Even so, fifteen dollars an hour is not considered adequate for a basic household budget by economists who study the matter. Not in New York City, anyway. A recent study found that, assuming you get forty hours a week, which Tapia never does now, it might be enough for a single person living in Montana. In New York, the bare minimum comes to $22.66. For a single parent with a child, it’s $30.02.

I didn’t mention these figures to Tapia. We were sitting in her tiny railroad kitchen, talking in whispers, because the other renters might be asleep. A message came in on Tapia’s phone. It was a photograph of her son, Steven, now a strapping fifteen-year-old and a serious baseball player. He was a lefty, looking snappy at bat, in full uniform. “I could not live without Facebook,” Tapia said. “I’ll get a photo of Steven when I’m at work, and McDonald’s cannot bother me.”

She had told La Dominga about Chicago, after all. “She understands,” Tapia said. “We’re not fighting her. But she’s getting all this pressure.”

I had asked La Dominga for an interview. When we spoke, on a busy Saturday afternoon at the store, she had agreed that her own story was a good one for McDonald’s. But she needed Mr. Colley’s permission to talk, and that had not come.

Tapia pointed to the light switch on the kitchen wall. It wasn’t a sign from God, but it was, in her opinion, close. Under many layers of paint, there was, still discernible, a raised plaster decoration around the switch which, after a moment’s study, revealed itself as a traditional depiction of Christ. Tapia carried a photograph of this odd little miracle in her phone.
August 3, 1998“It’s not enough that I succeed. My friends must also be drawn and quartered.”Buy or license »

We took a walk through Inwood. Her church, the Church of the Good Shepherd, stands above Broadway. It is big, imposing yet sedate, Romanesque Revival, beautifully maintained. Wooden confessionals are built into the walls, along with a poor box with a brass door. Many of the Masses are in Spanish. Tapia tries to come every Tuesday evening. “They welcome you especially, and individually,” she whispered. “It’s a community of brothers.” She has done a great deal of crying here.

“I had so much rancor toward my ex-husband,” she said. “It has finally left me now.” One of the best things about Good Shepherd was the number of young people it attracts. “I came here to pray when my mother said that my kids were becoming impossible teen-agers. I prayed for help. Now my mother says they are acting better.”

We stopped at a McDonald’s on 207th Street. Tapia had worked here, long ago. We started talking about local politicians who now reliably show up at fast-food protests, and also at the next-morning “walk-backs,” when strikers are escorted by sympathetic crowds back to their restaurants. Some of the politicians are sincere; all want the media attention.

Then Tapia shushed me. She texted me from across the table: Don’t talk union—the store manager had spotted her, and he was eavesdropping on us. I saw that she was right. Her expression was strangely mixed: fear, paranoia, mischief, pride. What could this manager possibly do to her? Her activism wasn’t a secret. But struggles for dignity are complex. We talked about Ashley. Tapia was praying hard for that charter school.

Speaking at a Laborfest rally in Milwaukee on Labor Day, President Obama declared, “All across the country right now, there’s a national movement going on made up of fast-food workers organizing to lift wages, so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity.” The President was blunt about the central issue. “You know what?” he said. “If I were looking for a good job that lets me build some security for my family, I’d join a union. If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, I’d join a union.”

A few days later, the fast-food campaign mounted actions in a hundred and fifty cities. In New York, there was an early-morning sit-in outside a McDonald’s in Times Square. Nineteen strikers were arrested for blocking traffic. Tapia missed it, because she was busy taking Ashley to school. (Her prayers had been answered. Ashley was admitted to Success Academy—a high-powered bête noire of New York’s teachers’ union.)

Among the several hundred protesters, there were a fair number of labor organizers, but many more fast-food workers. I noticed Jorel Ware, Naquasia LeGrand, Shantel Walker, and other activists from the conference in Chicago, and an all-female delegation from the Washington Heights McDonald’s. Workers were also being arrested in Detroit, Chicago, Little Rock, and Las Vegas. Among those arrested in Times Square was an eighty-one-year-old McDonald’s janitor named Jose Carrillo.

Tapia made it to the day’s second sit-in, a few hours later, outside a McDonald’s at Eighth Avenue and Fifty-sixth Street. The protesters first marched up Eighth, beating on drums, blowing vuvuzelas and kazoos, and chanting, “What do we want? Fifteen and a union!” There were rabbis, priests, preachers, a Buddhist monk, and a full complement of local politicians. Some of the marchers wore their McDonald’s uniforms. Tapia was in civilian clothes. It was midday, hot.

She and the rest of the protesters were steered by police into a containment pen, built of interlocking metal barricades, on the east side of Eighth. Diners on the second floor of the adjacent McDonald’s looked out on the scene, chewing distractedly, and returned to their phones. Cars honked. Then fifteen protesters, quietly avoiding the pen, made their way into the center of the intersection, which was in full blazing sun, and sat down in a circle on the asphalt. Most were dressed in black. Most were women. Nearly all looked to be African-American. Shantel Walker was among them.

Tapia, at the front of the pen, watched closely, her face full of anger and admiration, as the demonstrators were brought to their feet one by one, not roughly, by police, and had their hands cuffed behind them. The police used disposable restraints—white plastic “flexicuffs.” They led their captives toward two large white vans, herded them inside, and shut the doors.

The energy level of the protest dropped. Tapia and the other women from the Washington Heights McDonald’s checked their phones. Some had shifts to work. Tapia had to pick up Ashley from school. ♦

contributor_williamfinneganphoto_p320

William Finnegan has been a contributor to The New Yorker since 1984 and a staff writer since 1987.

ISRAEL’S NEW LEGALIZATION LAW

Cathy Sultan blog

Israel’s new Legalization Law legitimizes under Israeli law dozens of so-called settlement “outposts” that were built without official approval from Israeli authorities but were tacitly supported by successive Israeli governments as part of an effort to colonize as much Palestinian land as possible.

This new law follows Israel’s approval of 6,000 new settlement units in just the last two weeks and the announcement that Israel plans to build its first entirely new settlement on occupied Palestinian land in more than two decades.

According to Jonathan Cook writing in The National on February 8, 2017, the Legalization Law was the right’s forceful response to the eviction in early February of 40 families from a settlement “outpost” called Amona.

The eviction of these families was transformed into an expensive piece of political theatre, costing an estimated $40 million. It was choreographed as a national trauma to ensure such an event is never repeated.

As the evicted families clashed with police, sending several dozen to the hospital, Naftali Bennett, the Education Minister and leader of the settler party Jewish Home called Amona’s families “heroes.” Netanyahu added: “We all understand the extent of their pain,” and promised them an enlarged replacement settlement along with monetary compensation.

The real prize for Bennett and his far right party was the legalization law itself. It reverses a restriction imposed in the 1970s and designed to prevent a free-for-all by the settlers. International law is clear that an occupying force can take land only for military needs.

Israel committed a war crime in transferring more than 600,000 Jewish civilians into the Occupied Territories. (Millions of Palestinians were forced transferred after each war)

Israel’s Attorney General has refused to defend the law should it be brought before Israel’s Supreme Court. Very belatedly the lower courts drew the line in land confiscation in Amona and demanded that the land be returned to its Palestinian owners.

This new law overrules the judges in the lower courts, allowing private land stolen from Palestinians to be laundered as Israeli state property.

In practice there has never been a serious limit on theft of Palestinian land but now government support for the plunder will be explicit in law. It will be impossible to blame the outposts on “rogue” settlers or claim that Israel is trying to safeguard Palestinian property rights.

I saw this injustice for the first time in March 2002 when my Palestinian guide, Naim, on our way to Bethlehem, stopped his car and pointed off to the left.

“My family used to live here,” he said, and began to tell me his story. One of the things which upset me was the part about the ancient olive grove. No one knew how old the hundreds of trees really were. Some of the old-timers swore the olive grove was 300 years old or perhaps even older. The trees probably didn’t need irrigation because they’d been there so long. Their roots intermingled with the rich, dark dirt and delved deeply into the earth. A small village nearby had an olive press and every day during the season the villagers brought their freshly-picked crop to be pressed for oil.

Naim still remembered the exact location of his house, what time the sun shone through the kitchen window, and where each tree was planted. He remembered because he was the one who scurried up the trees and shook the branches at harvest time, carefully aiming for the sheet spread around the base of each tree to catch the olives as they fell.

Now there is no sign of a Palestinian presence. The villagers, if not already dead, have been dispersed to one of the many refugee camps. As for the ancient olive grove, it was uprooted to make way for Har Homa, a massive Israeli settlement. It sits atop Abu Ghnaim Mountain, once a forest of some 60,000 pine trees and a refuge for wild animals and plants.

One the southwest edge of Bethlehem, this entire area was stripped bare to build 7,000 identical red-roofed, multi-storied square housing units, arranged in layers some two kilometers in circumference. When completed, the project looked from afar like asymmetrical Lego blocks. Gilo, another Israeli settlement, dominates the eastern perimeter of Bethlehem, sandwiching the Christian village between these two Israeli colossi. These and other stories can be found in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides.

As opposition leader Isaac Herzog said: “The train departing from here has only one stop–the Hague, home of the International Criminal Court. If ICC judges take their duties seriously, we could see Prime Minister Netanyahu tried for complicity in the war crime of establishing illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon


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