TEL AVIV — Israeli media released details on the abduction of Gaza engineer Dirar Abu Sisi on Sunday, after the country partially lifted its gag order on the plight of the Power Plant official who went missing in the Ukraine in February.
In a report released in the Israeli daily news site Haaretz, said only that “Sisi was arrested by Israel as part of an investigation. Much of the rest of the details remain under gag order.”
Earlier in March, an Israeli court in Petah Tikva upheld a ban on publishing any information from Israel about the mysterious disappearance of Abu Sisi on February 19, when he boarded a train in the Ukraine during a visit to his wife’s family. Relatives said he was seeking to establish Ukrainian citizenship during the trip.
Two weeks ago, the Ukrainian interior ministry said it had received a request from Abu Sisi’s wife “to establish the whereabouts of her husband who disappeared in unknown circumstances,” spokesman Sergiy Burlakov said.
He said Abu Sisi was reported to have disappeared on a train between Kiev and the northern city of Kharkiv and that his wife said he could be in Israel.
Amid escalating unrest in Middle East and North of Africa, Moroccans have also taken to the streets to protest corruption in Morocco and demand better civil rights.
Thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered in Rabat and Casablanca on Sunday shouting “the Moroccan people demand change!” and holding up placards reading “For the freedom and dignity of the Moroccan people.”
Protests in Morocco began earlier this year following revolutions in Egypt and Tunis which led to the overthrow of the governments in both countries.
In February thousands of Moroccans staged peaceful demonstrations across the country, prompting Morocco’s King Mohammed VI to emphasize his commitment to “pursuing the realization of structural reforms.”
The king announced on March 9 that he had appointed a committee to draft a reform of the constitution widening the prerogatives of elected officials and ensuring officials are accountable and the judiciary independent.
Mohammed VI added that the new proposals would be announced in June and the draft constitution will be put to a referendum.
On March 14, however, Morocco’s riot police armed with truncheons broke up peaceful protest in Casablanca in an unusual show of violence, injuring 13 people and arresting 54 others.
How did America end up in its present trade pickle? NAFTA? No way. The WTO? I wish. To understand our present predicament, you need to go back much further than that.
In retrospect, America’s decisive wrong turn on trade was probably John F. Kennedy’s Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
Quantitatively, the so-called Kennedy Round of tariff cuts was large enough to be noticed, but not earth-shaking: as this legislation was phased in, our average duty on dutiable imports fell from 14.3 percent in 1967 to 9.9 percent in 1972.
But this was one of history’s small yet decisive turning points, occurring as it did at the same moment that America’s trading partners were getting into high gear economically and the 1944-71 Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates was beginning to falter.
And tariff cuts were exceptionally steep on high technology goods, increasing their impact. It mattered that we were letting Japan, for example, even further into our market for serious manufactured goods like cars and electronics.
Furthermore, the Trade Expansion Act should be evaluated not simply in terms of its before and after tariff levels, but contrasted with the alternative of turning back from free trade, which is what we should have done.
There were certainly warnings at the time. The famous liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith bluntly told President Johnson in 1964,
- “If we are screwed on tariffs, this will have an enduringly adverse effect on the balance of payments. It will be a serious problem for years to come.”
And, lo and behold, the first serious trade-related cracks in the American economy began to appear in the late 1960s. Black-and-white television production left for Japan. So did cameras, transistor radios, and toys.
Our trade went into deficit in 1971. We have not run a surplus since 1975.
There has, of course, been a simmering revolt against free trade ever since. Organized labor, which had actually supported the Kennedy tariff cuts when proposed in 1962, turned against free trade by the end of the decade.
In 1968, Senators Ernest Hollings (D-SC) and Norris Cotton (R-NH) managed to pass a protectionist trade bill in the Senate with 68 votes. President Johnson had it killed by House Ways and Means Committee chairman Wilbur Mills. 1969 saw the first consideration, by Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans, of creating an American agency to coordinate industrial policy. Nixon abandoned the effort for lack of Congressional support.
In 1971, a trade deficit of one-half of one percent of GDP (about a tenth of today’s level) was enough to frighten Nixon into imposing a temporary 10 percent surcharge tariff on all dutiable goods. In 1972, the AFL-CIO endorsed the Burke-Hartke bill, which would have imposed quotas on imports in threatened industries and restricted the export of capital by multinational corporations.
But free trade survived all these challenges. Fundamentally, protectionist forces in Congress fumbled the ball. In the words of one scholar describing the failure of the big protectionist push in the last days of the Nixon administration:
- Even in Congress, protectionist industries failed to utilize their potential resources. During negotiations over general trade bills in Congress, protectionists exerted weak influence because they lacked an umbrella association to represent them. Instead, protectionists were divided along industrial lines, each promoting its own distinct objectives….The logic of selective protectionism did not encourage industries to cooperate with each other, since the chances for congressional support increased if protectionist bills were narrowly constructed. In addition, protectionist industries did not cooperate with organized labor. [Nitsan Chorev, Remaking U.S. Trade Policy]
The failure of this protectionist effort carries important lessons for tactical thinking about free trade today. Sen. Hollings tried again under President Carter, but Carter preferred the Cold War priority of free trade. Ronald Reagan vetoed two protectionist trade bills, in 1985 and 1988. George H.W. Bush vetoed one, in 1990.
It is not yet too late to turn back from our disastrous free trade experiment, but the longer we wait, the higher the cost will be.
Ian Fletcher is Senior Economist of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, a nationwide grass-roots organization dedicated to fixing America’s trade policies and comprising representatives from business, agriculture, and labor. He was previously Research Fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council, a Washington think tank founded in 1933 and before that, an economist in private practice serving mainly hedge funds and private equity firms. Educated at Columbia University and the University of Chicago, he lives in San Francisco. He is the author of Free Trade Doesn’t Work: What Should Replace it and Why. | www.freetradedoesntwork.com
A former Bahraini lawmaker says that around 100 people have gone missing during the Manama-ordered crackdown on the countrywide popular revolution.
“We don’t know anything about them, we’ve asked hospital and ministry authorities and none of them are telling us anything about them,” said Hady al-Mussawy, formerly a parliamentarian with Al Wefaq, the country’s largest political party.
He made the comments during a short protest in front of the United Nations building in the capital, calling on the world body to make sure rescue medical services operate in the Persian Gulf kingdom.
Demonstrators in the Shia-majority country have been demanding the ouster of the Sunni-led Al Khalifa monarchy as well as constitutional reforms since February 14.
The government recently razed the capital’s Pearl Square, where hundreds of protesters had been camping.
At least 12 people have been killed and about 1,000 injured since the start of the anti-government protests during the government-backed armed attacks.
On Thursday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay denounced a new move by the government to take control of the country’s hospitals amid the killing and injuring of protesters by the security forces.
“There are reports of arbitrary arrests, killings, beatings of protesters and of medical personnel, and of the takeover of hospitals and medical centers by various security forces,” she said.
Manama recently sought the help of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to further suppress the protests.
Violence has intensified against the demonstrators ever since the deployment of Saudi and Emirati forces in Bahrain.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in the Yemeni capital Sunday for the funerals of some of the 52 people martyred in a massacre against protesters committed by loyalists of President Ali Abdullah Saleh last Friday, as more officials close to Saleh offered their resignations from their posts in protest of the massacre.
Around 30 bodies were laid out in neat rows and the square near Sanaa University overflowed with mourners, who massed under tight security and despite a two-day-old state of emergency.
Waving Yemeni flags and shouting slogans denouncing the regime, the mourners formed a massive procession as they carried the bodies in coffins on their shoulders to the cemetery.
“Ali, the blood of the martyrs will not be in vain!” they chanted, referring to the president. “We sacrifice blood and soul for you, oh martyr,” they roared in tribute to the martyrs.
Politicians and civil society representatives joined the throng.
Ali Abed Rabbo al-Qadi, the head of the independent parliamentary bloc who was in the crowd, said those responsible for the killings must be “held responsible for every drop of blood that has been shed.”
Muslim clerics called on Yemeni soldiers to disobey orders to shoot demonstrators, and blamed Saleh – in power since 1978 – for the slaughter on Friday. “We call on the army and security forces to not carry out any order from anyone to kill and repress” demonstrators, a group of influential clerics in the deeply religious country said in a joint statement. They also called for Saleh’s elite Republican Guard troops to be withdrawn from the capital, where protesters have defied the state of emergency called after Friday’s violence and continued a sit-in.
Saleh had declared Sunday a national day of mourning for the “martyrs for democracy,” while blaming the opposition for “incitement and chaos” that had led to the killings.
Youth activists organizing the sit-in panned Saleh’s declaration as insincere. “After getting blood on his hands… he cried crocodile tears for the martyrs,” they said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Human rights minister Huda al-Baan announced late on Saturday that she was resigning in protest at Friday’s bloodbath, where the undersecretary at her ministry, Ali Taysir, has also stepped down.
Baan became the third Yemeni minister to quit in as many days, along with a host of senior officials and at least two ambassadors.
A report said that Yemen’s Ambassador to the UN Abdullah Alsaidi has also resigned following the violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in Sana’a.
On Saturday, Yemeni Ambassador to Lebanon Faisal Amin Abu al-Ras also quit his post to protest Saleh’s crackdown on anti-government protesters. The move by Abu al-Ras marked the first by a Yemeni envoy to protest Friday’s violence brought by government forces against protesters in the capital.
The Israel Land Administration (ILA) has put a plan in place which would see land in the village of Lifta, a former Palestinian village situated on the north-west edge of Jerusalem sold to private developers. A plan which would see Palestinian history completely stripped from the village.
The ILA plan calls for amongst other things, the building of 212 housing units exclusively for Jews, a luxury hotel, a shopping mall and a museum. In objection to these building plans, a large petition has been signed by various activists, NGO’s and descendants of Lifta and submitted by Attorney Sami Arshid. As a result of this petition a temporary injunction was issued by Judge Yigal Marzel on the 7th of March ordering the ILA to freeze publication of results for tender which would see plots of land sold off to these private developers.
Over 500 Arab villages were depopulated or demolished during the 1948 war by the ruthless colonial Zionist forces. Lifta is an exception in this respect as it is ‘The only village which remains as it was before 1948,’ Daphna Golan asserts, a Professor of Law at the Hebrew University and organiser of the petition to save Lifta. Whilst on the surface the plan is sold as a rejuvenation project bringing life to an otherwise ‘abandoned’ village, Golan is adamant that it is primarily a political venture. ‘It is a building plan geared towards erasing the past,’ she asserts. In other words, serving to continue the process of judaization of the land, a policy which aims to eradicate Palestinian history, memory and presence.
Most of the original buildings and houses still remain somewhat intact in Lifta, a village which dates back to biblical times. For Yacoub Odeh, a former Lifta resident, a human rights activist and a central figure in the Save Lifta campaign, this is bitter sweet. He speaks of his memories of living in Lifta with great fondness. It is tainted however with the reality that he no longer has any right to live in the village from which he was forcefully removed by the pre-state Zionist terrorist gangs working under the auspices of the Zionist movement. ‘I remember the bakery where I went with my mother to eat bread with olive oil and zatar, it was delicious…I will never forgive those who stole our history and our memory,’ he says.
Lifta was one of the first villages occupied before the 1948 war and the creation of the Israeli state. Its proximity to Jerusalem meant that it was of great strategic importance to the Zionist movement; Yacoub explain, ‘Whoever controlled Lifta controlled Jerusalem.’ In refutation of Zionist claims that depict the pre-state Zionist movement as a heroic, pioneering enterprise, Yacoub describes how the Muslim and Christian inhabitants of Lifta were evicted from their homes through the use of brutal, racist tactics. ‘They bombed the homes of twenty people…but the Jews were allowed to stay.’ The terrorising of the Muslim and Christian inhabitants of the village ‘achieved the Zionist goal of ethnic cleansing,’ Yacoub continued. After 1967, Jewish immigrants were moved into the houses of those who had been forcefully removed. It is the descendents of these families who remain the sole inhabitants of Lifta today.
The ILA plan to redevelop the village of Lifta is symbolic for the reason that it nullifies the possibility of the Palestinian refugees who once lived there of ever returning to their homes. For Yacoub, this is the greatest injustice. The Israeli Law of return grants Jews from around the world the possibility to ‘return’ to their ‘homeland’ and gain citizenship. The original inhabitants of Lifta are, however, not awarded with this option, ‘I was evicted from my house 63 years ago and I don’t have the right to return,’ Yacoub said.
Successive Israeli governments have to date managed to maintain an unstable status quo whereby all the so-called ‘final status’ issues have been left up in the air. Yacoub asserts that the right of return is prerequisite for peace, ‘Without the right of return, there will be more killing and more blood.’
Further evidence that the ILA plans are aimed at seizing the identity and completing the Judaization process of the last remaining Palestinian village can be seen in the details. There are plans to build a museum which Yacoub asserts will showcase a purely Jewish recollection of the history of Lifta, ‘Surely it will not mention the Palestinian people; they see with one eye only.’
Furthermore, the cemetery where many former Palestinian residents of Lifta have been buried has been designated as public land in the plan, thus creating the possibility that it may in the future be removed for the purposes of further building.
The village of Lifta is significant for the reason that it reminds us of a time when Muslims, Christians and Jews lived harmoniously on the land. In this sense, Golan asserts that ‘It should be used as a place where Jews and Arabs can meet to acknowledge their shared history.’ If the ILA plans are approved, it will therefore be removing a powerful symbol of reconciliation. More ominously, the ILA plans which are portrayed as being devoid of any political significance are in fact a painful reminder that the colonial Zionist enterprise is still thriving.
The morning news of the Itamar murders broke out, I got a call from my father, a man from Gaza whose entire life was derailed by Israel’s occupation of his land. He was fuming: “nothing could justify these murders” he yelled “even if we were to bring up the occupation, the harassment, the brutality of Israel’s army and settlers – the minute we entertain an act so criminal as to kill a baby in cold blood, we become no better than those whose acts we despise.” I posted his comment on my Facebook wall.
A day later, some of my Jewish friends sent me messages inquiring if it was true that Palestinians in Gaza celebrate the killing of Jews. One of them asked “Is there a custom to give out sweets after such events?” The messages came with several links. I expected to see the usual pro-Israel hasbara sites but to my surprise one link was to the Australian Herald Sun which lead me to an article titled ‘White House Condemns Killing’.
The article had no mention of any Gaza celebrations, but was accompanied by a large AFP credited photo of a man standing in a street in Gaza offering a small platter of sweets to two somber looking Hamas Policemen. The only reference or clue to celebration came in the photo caption: ‘A Palestinian man distributes sweets in the streets of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on March 12, 2011 to celebrate an attack which killed five Israeli settlers at the Itamar settlement near the West Bank city of Nablus.’ I did some more research and found that the same article also appeared on Perth Now, News.com.au and The Daily Telegraph.
From here I began an extensive search on the internet. There were references to Gaza’s celebrations in a variety of international media websites including Fox News and Washington Post, but all the references pointed to one original source – three photos by AFP cameraman posted on Getty images, so I followed the trail.
The three original photos starred the same man with the same small sweet platter. In the first shot, he offers the platter to the two policemen; in the second he offers it to a man in a car at a traffic light who looks a bit confused but is accepting the offer of sweets; and in the third photo, the same man offers the small platter of sweets to an old lady sitting on a pavement. The backdrop of the photos revealed nothing more than an average busy day in a street in Gaza with the normal amount of traffic, a few cars, vans etc. There was nothing in the photos to convey a sense of joy or celebration: there were no crowds, no smiling faces, no banners, no flags and no scarfs… in fact, no people appeared in the photos except for the man with the platter and his subjects. This was highly unusual for a Gaza celebration.
But even if we were to assume that this lone man with the sweet platter was genuinely celebrating, how on earth does something like that make international media? One Palestinian man in a population of 1.5 million offering a tray of deserts? Did the same newspapers that published these photos also publish photos of busloads of Israeli tourists standing on a hill top celebrating while watching phosphourous rain fall on Palestinians during Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in 2009? The double standard here is astonishing.
It mattered little that no Palestinian faction claimed responsibility and even Hamas issued a statement saying that Palestinians do not target children. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview on Israel Radio: “Scenes like these – the murder of infants and children and a woman slaughtered – cause any person endowed with humanity to hurt and to cry.” The frenzy of demonisation continues even though until this article was written there was no real proof that any Palestinians were involved in the murder.
The photos of so called ‘Gaza celebrations’ are becoming an internet sensation because they offer desperately needed proof that Palestinians are evil in nature. One headline from a hasbara site read “How do you start a party in Palestine? You kill a Jewish family.”
The campaign to demonise is indeed in full swing and seems to have no moral boundaries. Barely had the blood of the murdered children dried up the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs in Israel hastened to release the graphic images of the murdered children to be used as fodder in the war to demonise the Palestinian people. The minister – who authorised the release – stated in an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz “on the internet the images are really catching on and circulating”. After all, what could be worse than people who murder children and then celebrate?