According to Pentagon figures, some 77 American service members have been killed so far in 2010, the Associated Press reported on Saturday. This is while, the figure stood at 41 in the same period a year ago.
US officials have warned that casualties are likely to rise even further. “We must steel ourselves, no matter how successful we are on any given day, for harder days yet to come,” Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a month ago.
A rise in the number of the wounded also shows the Taliban remain a formidable opponent. According to the data, the Americans are facing an increase of almost 350 percent in the wounded soldiers.
The number of American troops in Afghanistan rose from 32,000 at the beginning of last year to 68,000 at the end of the year, an increase of more than 110 percent.
Four people have been killed in the latest US drone attack on local tribesmen in Pakistan’s northwestern area near the border with Afghanistan.
The missiles targeted “two compounds owned by local tribesmen,” AFP quoted a local security official who spoke on condition of anonymity as saying.
“We have confirmation of four people killed and more than five injured,” said another Pakistani security official. The identities of the victims were not immediately revealed.
The United States has been conducting drone attacks in tribal areas within the Pakistani borders despite protests from Islamabad. The strikes have significantly hiked since US President Barack Obama took office last year. Washington says the drone attacks target militant hideouts in Pakistan, but the soaring number of civilian causalities inflicted during the strikes has given raise to strong anti-US sentiments across Pakistan.
The inaccessibility of the regions makes it very difficult to get independent confirmation of the casualty figures provided by officials and the identity of those killed. Civilian casualties are rarely, if ever, mentioned in army accounts of the fighting.
The numbers vary but range at any time from over 7,000 to 12,000 or more. In April 2008, the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel cited 11,000, including 345 children and 98 women. Over 1,000 suffered from chronic or other diseases. Around 150 were seriously ill from heart disease, cancer, and other diseases, and 195 or more Palestinians died or were killed in prison since 1967.
As of January 2009, Adalah said about “22,500 individuals were imprisoned or detained in Israeli prisons; around 70% (or 15,750 are) Arabs.” Included are 9,735 Palestinians, nearly 80% classified as “security.” Of these, 570 were administrative detainees, uncharged by order of an administrative official, not a judge.
Another 20 were so-called “unlawful combatants” under Israel’s Unlawful Combatants Law (UCL), saying they’re not entitled to POW status under international law because they either took part in hostilities against Israel (directly or indirectly) or belong to a force carrying them out. No proof is needed, only “a reasonable basis for believing” the designation is accurate, and under UCL, detentions can be permanent, without trial or judicial fairness.
According to the Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association, since 1967, “over 650,000 have been detained by Israel,” about 20% of the total Occupied Territory (OPT) population and 40% of the male population. Most are held in Palestine, but many thousands in Israeli civil and military prisons, in violation of numerous Fourth Geneva provisions, including Article 49 stating:
“….forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons (including prisoners) from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”
This applies to OPT prisoners, most of whom are political victims of militarized oppression, or in other words, guilty of being Palestinian. In addition, Fourth Geneva states protected persons shall be detained in the occupied territory and, if convicted, serve there sentences therein.
OPT arrests and detentions come under about 1,500 military regulations for the West Bank and over 1,400 for Gaza. The IDF commander issues orders, but new ones aren’t revealed until implemented because they’re issued any time for any reason, often arbitrarily and capriciously.
Israeli prisons and military detention facilities are mainly located within Israel’s 1948 borders. They include five interrogation centers, six detention/holding facilities, three military detention camps, and about 20 prisons where OPT Palestinians are held.
A secret Facility 1391 at an unknown location is notorious for using severe torture. Gilboa Prison, north of the West Bank, is also believed to administer extreme treatment.
“The location of prisons within Israel and the transfer of detainees to locations within the occupying power’s territory are illegal under international law and constitute a war crime.”
On June 7, 1967, Military proclamation No. 1 justified them “in the interests of security and public order,” weasel words meaning anything. Since then, over 2,900 orders were issued, gravely harming Palestinians’ welfare. “These orders serve as justification every time the Israeli authorities arrest a Palestinian….”
They can be held for extended periods, interrogations lasting up to six months, during which time torture, abuse and other degrading treatment is commonplace, against the great majority in custody.
After interrogation, Palestinians can be detained administratively without charge or tried in military courts where “military orders take precedence over Israeli and international law.”
Under Military Order 1530, months may elapse between being charged and trial. The entire process is structured to deny due process and judicial fairness, unlike for most Jews in civil courts.
Activists, protesters and human rights defenders are especially at risk. In July 2008, Israeli authorities, by military order, closed the Nafha Society for the Defense of Prisoners and Human Rights. It’s one of several organizations representing Palestinian detainees in Israeli courts and advocates for them in prisons and detention centers.
Currently, Israeli security forces, politicians and extremist groups are targeting human rights groups in response to their support for the Goldstone Commission report. Among those affected are:
– Breaking the Silence
– the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)
– Yesh Din
– the Centre for the Defence of the Individual
– the Public Committee Against Torture in Israeli (PACTI)
– the Israel Religious Action Centre
– Physicians for Human Rights – Israel
– Rabbis for Human Rights, and
– the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) that condemned the practice in a February 8 press release stating:
PCHR “condemns the continued persecution of international human rights defenders in the West Bank….and the deportation of international activists from the country.”
On February 7, PCHR learned that Israeli security forces entered Ramallah and al-Bireh, storming an al-Bireh apartment building and arresting Spanish journalist Ariadna Jove Marti and Australian student Bridgette Chappell. They were taken to Ofer Prison pending their deportation, citing expired visas as pretext. The two women are International Solidarity Movement activists known, according to an IDF spokesman, “for being involved in illegal riots that obstruct Israeli security operations.”
Other activists were also arrested, Israel now issuing tourist visas only to 150 selected NGOs operating in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including Oxfam, Save the Children, and Doctors Without Borders. However, they’ll be excluded from Area C under Israeli control, comprising 60% of the West Bank, thus hampering their work and imposing additional hardships on Palestinians.
PCHR condemned the action and recommends that international civil society and human rights organizations, bar associations, and international solidarity groups continue exposing suspected Israeli war criminals and pressuring their governments to prosecute them according to provisions of international law.
The extremist Netanyahu government won’t tolerate criticism or censure for its expansionist West Bank plans, including making all Jerusalem exclusively Jewish.
His cabinet introduced a Knesset bill prohibiting organizations from receiving funding from foreign political institutions unless registered with the Registrar of Political Parties.
They must then provide details about all “foreign political entity” donations, the source, amount, purpose, commitment made for its use, and more, as a way to harass and make the process more cumbersome.
The bill’s supposed purpose is to:
“increase the transparency and to correct lacunas (empty spaces or missing parts) in the law regarding the funding of political activity in Israel by foreign political entities (where such activity is defined as being) aimed at influencing public opinion in Israel or one of the branches of government in Israel regarding any element of Israel’s domestic or foreign policy.”
In fact, it’s to stifle free expression, dissent and activism, the way police states do it, how Israel always treats Palestinians, now increasingly toward outspoken Jews and international human rights organizations as well.
Conditions in Israeli Prisons
Israel willfully and systematically violates international humanitarian law, including Common Article 3 applying to the four Geneva Conventions, requiring:
“humane treatment for all persons in enemy hands, specifically prohibit(ing) murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment (and) unfair trial(s).”
Fourth Geneva’s Article 4 calls “protected persons” those held by parties to a conflict or occupation “of which they are not nationals.” They must “be treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention.” They’re entitled to full Fourth Geneva rights. Prisoners of war under Third Geneva have the same rights and those under Common Article 3.
Israel willfully denies them. Under the 1971 Israeli Prison Ordinance, no provision defines prisoner rights. It only provides binding rules for the Interior Minister who can interpret them freely by administrative decree. For example, it’s legal to intern 20 inmates in a cell as small as five meters long, four meters wide and three meters high, including an open lavatory, and they can be confined there up to 23 hours daily.
An April 2009 PCHR press release said thousands of Palestinians “continue to suffer in Israeli jails” under horrific conditions, including:
– severe overcrowding;
– poor ventilation and sanitation;
– no change of clothes or adequate clothing;
– sleeping on wooden planks with thin mattresses, some infested with vermin; blankets are often torn, filthy and inadequate; hot water is rare and soap is rationed;
– at the Negev Ketziot military detention camp, threadbare tents are used, exposing detainees to extreme weather conditions; in summer, vermin, insects, scorpions, parasites, rats, and other reptiles are a major problem;
– Megiddo and Ofer also use tents; in addition, Ofer uses oil-soiled hangers;
– for some, isolation in tiny, poorly ventilated solitary confinement with no visitation rights or contact with counsel or other prisoners;
– no access to personal cleanliness and hygiene; toilet facilities are restricted, forcing prisoners to urinate in bottles in their cells;
– inadequate food in terms of quality, quantity, and dietary requirements;
– poor medical care, including lack of specialized personnel, mental health treatment, and denial of needed medicines and equipment; as a result, many suffer ill health; doctors are also pressured to deny proper treatment, some later admitting it;
– extreme psychological pressure to break detainees’ will;
– widespread use of torture, abuse, cruel and degrading treatment;
– women and children are treated the same as men;
– NGOs like Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and the ICRC are deterred from aiding detainees;
– denied or hindered access to family members and counsel;
– imposed conditions link visits:
“with the overall security situation, requiring that prisoners must not be security prisoners and that persons applying for visits must not have a security record, requiring that visitors be first-degree relatives and that brothers or sons applying for visits must be under the age of 18.”
Treatment of Gazans Arrested During and After Operation Cast Lead
On January 28, 2009, a complaint to Israel’s Military Judge Advocate General, Brigadier General Avichai Mandelblit, by seven Israeli human rights organizations, cited degrading and appalling conditions in which detainees, including minors, were held.
Before transfer to the Israel Prison Service, they were held for many hours or days in pits dug in the ground, handcuffed and blindfolded, under extreme weather conditions. No sanitation was provided and limited amounts of food. Some, in fact, were held in combat areas, in violation of international law prohibiting their exposure to danger.
After removal from pits, some were held overnight in a truck, handcuffed, with one blanket for two people in winter. Others were kept for extended periods in the rain with little food or water. Incidents of extreme violence and humiliation were also reported that continued after prison transfers.
Legal Department Director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PACTI), Bana Shoughry-Badarne, said:
“Israel’s indifference to its moral and legal obligations to detainees is particularly objectionable in view of the fact” that the IDF completely ignored “the basic rights of the detainees and captives” under international law, violations committed against every detainee held.
Since July 2007, Gazan families have been denied access to their relatives in Israeli prisons. Non-Israeli Palestinian lawyers can’t represent them in military courts. Travel restrictions impede all lawyers. Meetings with their clients aren’t confidential, and most prisoners have no access to an attorney.
In 2006, B’Tselem issued a report titled, “Barred from Contact: Violation of the Right to Visit Palestinians Held in Israeli Prisons,” citing obstacles families face to visit their relatives. They include difficulties obtaining required permits and “grueling journeys” of up to 24 hours, the result of long distances through numerous checkpoints plus delays.
This “arbitrary and disproportionate policy not only infringes the right to family visits, it also results in violation of other rights and principles of international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as domestic Israeli law.”
In January 2010, Adalah addressed the same issue stating:
On December 9, 2009, “Israel’s Supreme Court (HCJ) decided that the state has no obligation to allow family visits for Gazans detained in Israel.” Writer Grietje Baars, a UK lawyer, said the HCJ rejected petitions by detainees, their relatives and Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations, claiming that “Israel’s rights as a sovereign state” lets it deny “foreigners” entry in violation of international law – a clear act of persecution.
Under Article 7(g) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (HCJ), crimes against humanity include:
“Persecution (meaning) the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity.”
In a previous decision, the HCJ held that:
“It is a firmly established precept that the human rights to which a person is entitled simply by being human remain even when he is detained or imprisoned, and the fact that he is incarcerated cannot serve to deprive him of any right.”
Denying them defies that ruling, and the fact that hundreds of Gazan detainees in Israel are held indefinitely without trial, are in virtual isolation, and can only send their families occasional messages through ICRC representatives.
Petitioners call banning visits “collective punishment” under Fourth Geneva’s Article 33 stating:
“No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties….are prohibited.”
Doing so (along with torture and other forms of abuse) aims to break their spirit to get them to cooperate or confess to crimes they didn’t commit.
“Aside from the right to have their rights hououred and protected, and to live their lives in dignity and freedom, the Gazans and the Palestinians in general, have the right to an effective judicial remedy. Without domestic enforcement of international law, the onus is on the international community to fulfill these rights and uphold the rule of law, internationally, for the benefit of all.”
The international community’s failure to comply with international law lets Israel violate its provisions freely. Unless changed, Israel’s lawlessness will continue unchecked, a no longer to be tolerated grim prospect.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
On 26 March, fighting erupted between Palestinian resistance and invading Israeli soldiers when IOF jeeps, tanks, and bulldozers invaded, supported by F-16s, Apache helicopters and unmanned drones from above.
Two Israeli soldiers were reported killed and 2 more injured. Medics with the Red Crescent report that three Palestinian resistance fighters were killed, along with 1 civilian, Haitam Arafat, 22 years old, shot on his land.
Eight more Palestinians were injured, according to Muawiyya Hassaniin, director of emergency services in Gaza. The injured include Osama Abu Dagga, a child of 6 years, shot in the head while in his home 2 km from the border. He is in critical condition.
While the invasion was underway, locals reported several F-16 Israeli warplanes, Apache helicopters, drones, roughly 20 tanks and 6 bulldozers.
During the Israeli invasion, Palestinian ambulances were unable to reach the injured, delayed and unable to attain coordination from Israeli authorities to retrieve the injured, although international law obligates Israel to accord this permission.
Long after the fighting between the resistance and invading Israeli soldiers, 3 Israeli bulldozers destroyed the home of Hashem Abu Daggma and surrounding farmland, all well over 500 metres from the border.
“They came around 11 pm and stayed until 3 am,” accompanied by tanks and aerial reinforcement, said a cousin of Abu Daggma’s, one of 15 living in the home until yesterday.
“I have no idea why they destroyed the home. It’s the third time they’ve attacked the house. Eight months ago they destroyed the outer side walls. Five months ago they destroyed the back wall. And this time they finished the job,” he said.
Abdel Aziz and Ibrahim Egdiah own 1.5 dunams next to the Abu Daggma home.
“We had parsley, radishes, olive and palm trees. Some of our trees were over 25 years old,” said Ibrahim Egdiah.
“Twelve people depend on this land,” he said, throwing aside a mangled olive branch. “Mish haram?” Isn’t this shameful?
Jaber Abu Rjila, a resident of Faraheen in the greater Abassan area, watched the Israeli invasion from a rooftop in the village a kilometre away.
“There were up to 20 tanks at the height of the invasions. The F-16, Apaches, drones and tanks were firing rockets, missiles and machine gun fire. I really felt that they might come into Faraheen again.”
Rjila’s house and chicken farm, 500 metres from the border, was ravaged in May 2008, his chicken barn destroyed, all but a percentage of the birds, farm equipment, and crops.
Rjila and other farmers in the border regions are constantly subject to Israeli soldier gunfire from border jeeps and towers.
“Many people are worried that Israel might come back and do something worse,” said Rjila. Today, the day after the invasion, Israeli bulldozers were visible waiting along the border.
In the West Bank, there is a two-tiered system of justice, including for minors. For settler children, justice is administered according to Israeli domestic law, with all the due process protections that affords. They cannot be charged as adults until they reach 18, in accordance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory. For Palestinian children, military law applies, and that pretty much means due process, and the tenderness of their years, is irrelevant. Their childhood itself is cut short, both by the circumstances of the Occupation and the letter of military law. Until recently, they could be charged as adults as young as 12 years of age. A recent military order “reformed” that anomaly by setting their age of majority at 16 –still two years earlier than their settler counterparts, and two years younger than required by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. But the reality is that children as young as 12 continue to be arrested and imprisoned in adult military jails. In the majority of cases the soldiers who arrest them say that the children were throwing stones, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Defence of Children International-Palestine reports that arrests of children have been increasing . Presently approximately 350 West Bank children under 17 are being held in Israeli prisons. Defence of Children provides testimonies of the children, detailing the brutal circumstances of their detention and interrogation, and their confinement with adult prisoners. Urgent appeals on behalf of the children are issued by Defence of Children, including in the case of masse arrests (17 children taken in a night raid from Al Jalazun Refugee Camp near Ramallah), and the transfer of children to prisons within Israel, where family members cannot visit because of restrictions on movement of people under Israel’s military Occupation.
Despite critics’ exaggerated outcries and accusations in the international media alleging Internet censorship, President Chavez announced a new government-sponsored program to promote Internet usage and cyber communication throughout Venezuela.
Venezuela has made headlines recently in international media for alleged threats to freedom of expression, this time directed at the Internet. But as in the past, many of these accusations against the Chavez administration that spread contagiously throughout mass media outlets and are tweeted and blogged in cyberspace at the speed of light, are just not true.
Press agencies and major world newspapers, such as the New York Times, El Pais and The Guardian, were quick to react to statements made by President Hugo Chavez two weeks ago regarding a website that had maliciously reported the murders of two prominent government figures. “Venezuela’s Chavez calls for internet controls,” headlined a Reuters release, which went on to claim that “Chavez is angry with Venezuelan political opinion and gossip website NoticieroDigital, which he said had falsely written that Diosdado Cabello, a senior minister and close aide, had been assassinated.”
By referring to Chavez’ reaction to the website’s dangerous and false reporting as a personal issue, i.e. “Chavez is angry,” Reuters downplayed and ridiculed very serious crimes: inciting violence and knowingly and maliciously reporting false information to further criminal acts. Additionally, contrary to Reuters’ brushing aside the content of the posts as something that President Chavez “said,” and therefore questioning the veracity of the charge, the Venezuelan website NoticieroDigital actually had posted false reports on Diosdado Cabello’s assassination by armed attackers, alongside another post claiming that pro-Chavez television host Mario Silva had been “gunned down” the following day. Both stories remained on the website for at least two days, and were only taken down after government supporters publicly denounced the website for the malicious posts.
THE INTERNET IS NOT A FREE-FOR-ALL
President Chavez did state that “the Internet cannot be something open where anything is said and done,” a notion shared by governments and societies around the world. In the United States, controls on Internet content are frequent. Content such as pornography is strictly regulated, and criminal acts or incitement to commit such acts is outright prohibited, even on blogs, chats and informal, anonymous forums. In early 2009, Steven Joseph Cristopher, a 42 year-old resident of Wisconsin, was arrested by the US Secret Service for threatening to assassinate President Obama in a chat forum on a website about UFOs and aliens. Christopher was charged with violating a US law that prohibits threatening to kill a president or president-elect of the United States, carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In late December 2009, President Obama named Howard Schmidt, a former White House security advisor to George W. Bush, as Cybersecurity Chief, to oversee Washington’s Internet policies and regulations, as well as aid in the protection of US cyber assets. The US Congress has also debated a law that would give the US President emergency control over the Internet and permit a seizure of “private-sector networks” during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.
That type of regulation goes well beyond what is presently being discussed in Venezuela. At most, the Venezuelan government — legislative and executive branches alike — are debating extending current penal codes to cyberspace. Rumors spread internationally, probably via twitter, which is used by more than 160,000 Venezuelan residents, that Venezuela’s National Assembly was debating a law to regulate Internet content. But members of the Venezuelan legislature were quick to deny those rumors and clarify that current laws should merely be applied to crimes committed over the Internet, as is common in most countries.
Germany has also been considering creating a government agency to specifically regulate and create policy regarding cyberspace, one of the most rapidly growing industries and business fields around the world.
FREE, UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO INTERNET
Dispelling critics and so-called international defenders of freedom of expression who claimed President Chavez was shutting down Venezuelans’ access to Internet, the Venezuelan head of state declared on television Sunday, “A false rumor is spreading, and it’s wrong, saying that we are going to limit Internet access, that we are going to control it. It’s false. We have a central strategy and it’s none other than transferring power to the people, and the first and most important power is knowledge.”
In that context, President Chavez inaugurated twenty-four new Infocenters last Sunday during his program, Alo Presidente, bringing the total to 668 nationwide. He also approved more than $10 million for the creation of 200 more of these community-based free cybercenters to be built during 2010. Infocenters are a project of the Ministry of Science and Technology, and are government-sponsored and funded computer centers built in communities throughout the nation that provide free Internet and technological access and services to all Venezuelans. Twenty-seven mobile Infocenters were also launched this week, which will travel across the nation to remote areas in the Amazon, Andean and rural regions, guaranteeing free Internet services and computer training to citizens with little or no access to technology.
At present, the Infocenters have the capacity to provide Internet and computer services to more than 2.5 million permanent users and up to 10 million visitors annually. The government’s goal is to transfer the operations and administration of the Infocenters to organized community groups, such as Community Councils, that can collectively determine the use and technological needs of their residents, neighborhoods and regions. “The transfer of the management and administration of the Infocenters and technological spaces built by the Revolution will permit organized communities to collectively make decisions regarding the use of these spaces. Our strategic objective is to advance the technological growth and communications access to aid in the creation of the Communal State,” explained President Chavez.
“Technology will be assumed as a form of communication of the People’s Power, to capacitate and articulate communities,” added Chavez. “The people should have the responsibility to maintain and operate the Infocenters and to conserve their equipment, as well as guarantee the functioning of each center” said the Venezuelan President, emphasizing that the Internet is a “tool of the Revolution” and should aid in the creation and expansion of Venezuela’s alternative press.
“Each community can create a network and we can communicate with one another to inform each other of developments,” exclaimed Chavez, also announcing the creation of his own blog. “I am starting my own battleground in the Internet with a blog. It’s going to be full of different information, and we will be ready for the bombardment of responses we will surely receive. Even from the enemy, they will attack me with fire and I will respond. Battle is battle, assault is assault,” he warned.
TECHNOLOGY FOR THE PEOPLE
President Chavez also announced that in Venezuela, only 273,537 Internet subscribers existed in the year 2000. But by the first trimester of 2009, more than 1,585,497 Internet subscribers were registered, an increase of 600%. “And the number of Internet users in 2000 was only 820,000 in Venezuela. Nine years later, that number has risen to 7,552,570 users, an increase of more than 900%,” indicated President Chavez.
In the year 2000, only 3.4% of the Venezuelan population had access to Internet, while statistics show that by the end of 2009, 30% of Venezuelans had Internet access, a huge increase in large part made possible by government programs. The Infocenter project not only provides computers and Internet access to communities nationwide, but also trains users in computer literacy. Brigades of computer and Internet educators, sponsored by the Science and Technology Ministry, have trained thousands of Venezuelans in the basics of computer usage, ranging from simply how to use a computer to advanced Internet searches and blogging.
MEDIA BATTLEGROUND — INTERNET AS A WEAPON
While the Venezuelan state has been empowering its own citizens to enter the world of cyberspace in a conscientious and responsible way, another government has been training and funding a select group of Venezuelans to destabilize their nation and promote regime change using the Internet as a weapon.
During the last few years, more than $7 million have been channeled from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to anti-Chavez youth and student groups in Venezuela to “strengthen new media tools that can improve access to information and allow open and productive debate on the Internet.” Since 2002, USAID has funded hundreds of opposition organizations and political parties in Venezuela with over $50 million USD in an ongoing effort to promote the overthrow of the Chavez administration.
The millions invested in Internet “strengthening” for opposition youth groups have accounted for the proliferation of anti-Chavez websites, blogs and propaganda online, aiding in the mass media offensive against the Venezuelan government. New media tools such as Twitter and Facebook are also overridden with anti-Chavez users. And it’s no surprise. In October 2009, the US State Department sponsored the 2nd Annual Summit of the Alliance of Youth Movements (AYM) in Mexico City, bringing together the founders and representatives of new media companies, such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Myspace, Google, Meetup and others, along with a selection of handpicked student and youth leaders from around the world. Representatives from US government agencies, including the State Department, USAID, Freedom House, International Republican Institute (IRI), National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Cato Institute, Cuba Development Initiative, and others, were also present at the event, which included a welcome speech from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Forty-three young political activists funded by the State Department were brought to the AYM Summit from nations such as Sri Lanka, Colombia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Lebannon, Turkey, Moldovia, Malaysia, Mexico, Ecuador and Venezuela. The Venezuelan attendees were Yon Goicochea, current leader of the ultra-conservative Primero Justicia party, and winner of Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Award for promoting neoliberal politics; Geraldine Alvarez, member of Goichochea’s foundation Futuro Presente, created with funding from US agencies; and Rafael Delgado, another former student leader associated with the opposition.
The goal of the State Department event was to capacitate selected youth with the knowledge, technology and funding to promote “Twitter Revolutions” in their countries, citing the examples of Iran, Moldovia and the anti-FARC and anti-Chavez marches promoted in Colombia via Facebook and Twitter.
BALANCING THE BATTLEGROUND
Nevertheless, pro-Chavez groups and activists in Venezuela are now flooding those same new media technologies used by Washington to promote the imperial agenda. Facebook and Twitter accounts have recently been opened by prominent figures connected to the Bolivarian Revolution, and new blogs, websites and email lists are growing fast, in an attempt to gain ground in the information battlefield in cyberspace.
While the Internet is still dominated by those forces working to destabilize and discredit the Chavez administration and the Bolivarian Revolution, chavistas are catching up fast. The hundreds of new Infocenters throughout the nation, guaranteeing free access to all Venezuelans, will enable millions to share their stories and voices — previously ignored and invisible — with the international community.
Congratulations to the 16 professors at the University of Regina who have sent a letter to the university’s president Vianne Timmons saying it should withdraw from the program known as “Project Hero”. The program, an initiative of Rick Hillier, a retired general, offers free tuition to the children of dead Canadian soldiers. Hillier, as Chief of the Defense Staff, was notorious for his war-mongering propaganda about killing Afghan resistance “scumbags”. In addition to the thousands of Afghans killed by Canadian forces, close to 140 Canadian soldiers have died in that country, and thousands more have been permanently disabled physically or mentally.
According to the Globe & Mail, “Several universities have signed onto the program, including Memorial University in Newfoundland and the universities of Ottawa, Windsor and Calgary. The University of Regina announced earlier this month that it would provide the scholarship starting in September.”
The professors’ letter says Project Hero is “a glorification of Canadian imperialism in Afghanistan and elsewhere.” Instead of “privileging the children of deceased Canadian soldiers,” it says, “we suggest that our administration demand all levels of government provide funding sufficient for universal qualified access to post-secondary education.”
The professors’ action has been met, predictably, by a storm of criticism in the corporate media and denunciation by the Royal Canadian Legion, which purports to speak for military veterans.
The Globe quotes political science prof Joyce Green, who signed the letter: The program “conflates heroism with the death of individuals who are in the military service and we think that the death of individuals is always a tragic matter, but we think that heroism is something different,” Ms. Green said.
“When you attach heroism to the deaths of the military, it makes it very difficult, maybe impossible for us to talk about what’s going on, what the nature of our military engagement is. In other words, it shrinks the space for democratic discussion and criticism of military policy in Canada and in the university.”
Few media outlets have actually published the text of the letter. Here it is:
Dear President Timmons:
We write to you as concerned faculty members of the University of Regina, to urge you to withdraw our university immediately from participation in the “Project Hero” scholarship program. This program, which waives tuition and course fees, and provides $1,000 per year to “dependents of Canadian Forces personnel deceased while serving with an active mission”, is a glorification of Canadian imperialism in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We do not want our university associated with the political impulse to unquestioning glorification of military action.
“Project Hero” is the brainchild of Kevin Reed, a 42-year-old honorary lieutenant-colonel of an army reserve unit in southwestern Ontario, who has said publicly he was inspired by the work of retired Canadian General Rick Hillier. General Hillier, one of the most controversial figures in the recent military history of this country, was the first to introduce “Project Hero” at a Canadian post-secondary institution, just after he took up the post as Chancellor of Memorial University of Newfoundland. Since then, a number of other public Canadian universities have come on board.
In our view, support for “Project Hero” represents a dangerous cultural turn. It associates “heroism” with the act of military intervention. It erases the space for critical discussion of military policy and practices. In signing on to “Project Hero”, the university is implicated in the disturbing construction of the war in Afghanistan by Western military- and state-elites as the “good war” of our epoch. We insist that our university not be connected with the increasing militarization of Canadian society and politics.
The majority of young adults in Canada find it increasingly difficult to pay for their education. If they do make it to university, they rack up massive student debts which burden them for years. Instead of privileging the children of deceased Canadian soldiers, we suggest that our administration demand all levels of government provide funding sufficient for universal qualified access to post-secondary education.
The University of Regina has always been closely tied to our Saskatchewan community, and the strategic plan, mâmawohkamâtowin, means “co-operation; working together towards common goals”. We do not think that “Project Hero” is a common goal chosen by those of us who work in the University; it is not drawn from the values of this institution. We think it is incompatible with our understanding of the role of public education, or with decisions made by a process of collegial governance.
In addition to withdrawing from “Project Hero”, we think the issues we raise should be publicly debated. We are calling on the U of R administration to hold a public forum on the war in Afghanistan, and Canadian imperialism more generally, at which the issues we raise can be debated. This forum should be open to all; it should take place this semester, before exams, as “Project Hero” is set to start at U of R in September 2010.
To summarize, we are calling for:
(1) The immediate withdrawal of our university from “Project Hero”.
(2) An institutional deployment of public pressure on both orders of government to provide immediate funding sufficient for universal access to post-secondary education.
(3) A public forum on the war in Afghanistan and Canadian imperialism more generally to be held this semester before exams begin.
Joyce Green, Department of Political Science
J.F. Conway, Department of Sociology and Social Studies
George Buri, Department of History
Emily Eaton, Department of Geography
Jeffery R. Webber, Department of Political Science
David Webster, International Studies
Annette Desmarais, International Studies
Darlene Juschka, Women’s and Gender Studies and Religious Studies
Meredith Rogers Cherland, Faculty of Education
Garson Hunter, Social Work
John W. Warnock, Department of Sociology and Social Studies
William Arnal, Department of Religious Studies
Leesa Streifler, Department of Visual Arts
Carol Schick, Faculty of Education
Ken Montgomery, Faculty of Education
André Magnan, Department of Sociology and Social Studies”
GAZA — Senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan stated Friday that the Palestinian resistance has the right to respond to Israel’s incursions into the Gaza Strip, and its daily violations and crimes against the Palestinian people and their holy sites.
In a press statement to the Palestinian information center (PIC), Radwan stressed that the operation of Khan Younis confirmed that the resistance is still alive and the Gaza Strip is not easy to invade.
He warned that the Israeli occupation has to think a thousand times before making foolish steps against the Islamic holy shrines in Palestine, adding the Palestinian resistance is able to retaliate to Israel’s crimes in the manner it deems appropriate.
For his part, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that the commando operation of Khan Younis proved his Movement’s adherence to the resistance option and its keenness on the protection of the Palestinian people.
In the same context, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) admitted that two of their troops were killed and five others were wounded during an incursion into the eastern area of Khan Younis.
The IOF spokesman said on Friday that a deputy commander in the Golani brigade and another officer of low rank were killed and five other soldiers were injured, one of them in a serious condition, when a big explosive device was detonated near Kissufim crossing, east of Khan Younis.
The spokesman acknowledged that the soldiers were killed and wounded after they carried out an incursion east of Khan Younis.
For his part, commander of the IOF in the southern region Yoav Galant said few hours after the Khan Younis operation that one of the officers was killed when one of the Palestinians (resistance fighters) shot at a grenade in his flack jacket, while the other one was killed during the clashes.
Galant’s remarks authenticated the communiqué issued by Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, that its sniper unit was responsible for killing two Israeli officers on Friday evening.
Al-Qassam spokesman Abu Obeida told a news conference on Friday that the attack unit of the Brigades supported by the sniper unit attacked an Israeli military force that attempted to infiltrate into Khan Younis.