Jaffa’s Ajami neighborhood is home to roughly 20,000 Palestinians, 40 percent of whom live in refugee – or “absentee owner” – property, in the partitioned homes of Jaffa’s pre-1948 elite. The Absentee Property Law was implemented back in 1950 and enshrined in law Israel’s control over this property.
The deal struck by the state after 1948 allowed these people – many of them displaced from villages surrounding Jaffa – to live in some of the city’s newly-empty homes as “protected tenants.”
In reality they had very few rights. They lived there virtually at the goodwill of the authorities. Jaffa’s remaining Palestinians were thus prevented from owning their homes, paying rent to the state for life.
Tenants’ vulnerability was underlined by the contracts drawn up under the protected tenancy clause, which were amorphous and ill-defined.
But the authorities paid scant attention to the goings on in Ajami, considered a decrepit backwater of Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, Jaffa lingered in squalor. Until, that is, a variety of factors combined to create the auspices for offloading the problematic space while making a huge profit.
Four years ago the ILA issued 500 eviction orders to residents in Ajami – most of them Palestinian, with a handful of Jewish families.
The 1990s saw the privatization of public housing en masse throughout Israel as the government began to commit to economic neoliberalism. Constructed in the ’50s and ’60s for Jewish immigrants, public housing came to be seen as a drain on state resources. So the state began to sell these old buildings to private investors.
The same was true of absentee property.
Meanwhile the exclusivist character of Jaffa’s development has forced up real estate prices and attracted Israel’s elite to the environs, while a downtrodden and increasingly visible Palestinian community sits on highly valuable land.
Now the state is taking steps to remove these people using the protected tenancy law, which was – at least in theory – supposed to provide some security for their housing needs.
After 1948, when the new authorities were rounding up and calculating the spoils of war, Zionist representatives went to the doors of those Jaffans that had remained in the city. If the residents were not at home the moment officials came knocking, the building became “absentee” and treated as state property.
The fledgling state was confronted with the question of how to deal with the vast amount of empty properties now under its control.
In response they set up housing companies to manage the properties of Jaffa in the state’s name. These companies, Amidar and Halamish, worked under the ILA as landlords, leasing rights to the Palestinians that remained in Jaffa and to the wave of Jewish immigrants..
Tenants that break any part of their rental contract become squatters, according to ILA rules. Conditions equivalent to “squatting” include failure to pay rent, remaining in a property after the death of the original tenant, and any construction or renovation without a permit.
Between 1949 and 1992 the planning authorities denied all requests for extensions and renovations in Ajami, forcing people to proceed with their own ad hoc repairs. Most of the pending eviction orders have thus been issued on grounds of illegal construction.
Jaffa’s large, patriarchal homes were cut up into apartments to house poor Jewish immigrants and displaced Palestinians from surrounding villages and other areas of Jaffa.. Each family took a room and shared the kitchen. Rental contracts were vague due to the impossibility of clearing delineating apartments.
As the Jewish families left for the newly erected public housing, their Palestinian neighbors moved in to the empty rooms, for which Amidar now defines them as squatters.
“For years no one cared,” says Yudit Ilany, legal coordinator for the Popular Committee for Housing Rights in Jaffa (or Darna), the body that came into being as a response to the tide of evictions. “Amidar knew its management was haphazard.”
Most residents of Ajami today, who inherited protected tenancy rights from ancestors, have been in their homes for decades.
Since the alleged violations took place 20 to 30 years ago they question why Amidar is penalizing them now and not when they occurred.
A sturdy resistance movement has materialised as anger builds towards Amidar. Locals point to the malleability of the protected tenancy contracts, which they believe is being used as a ploy to get rid of them.
The experience of Estelle Saba acted as a catalyst in grabbing the community’s attention as to Amidar’s agenda.
One Thursday in March, 2007, police arrived at Saba’s home in Ajami informing her that the house was to be demolished in three days time. Desperate, Saba looked to the local community for help. On Sunday, the day marked for demolition, about 150 people barricaded themselves in the house throughout the day, preventing the small band of police and bulldozers from proceeding.
“That day it became clear that everyone knew someone facing the same situation. We realised these were not individual cases but a policy,” Ilany recalls. From this the committee emerged and now provides legal representation to roughly 260 families.
Some families Darna is trying to help still live in their original pre-1948 homes. These people, at home when Zionist representatives came knocking in 1948, were nevertheless dispossessed. The property would become “absentee” with people tenants in their own home. The Khatab family is one example.
Yousef Khatab’s Ajami home – a compound of several sections – has been in the family for as long as 150 years, he says. Both Yousef’s grandparents were born in the house, situated off the narrow street that hugs the Jaffan coast.
In 1949, Yousef’s grandfather, at work when officials arrived, was forced to sign a contract agreeing to protected tenancy status. The contract was in Hebrew and he gave his fingerprint by way of signature.
Several families – those of Yousef and his brothers – live in the compound, along with their mother. In 2007 they all received separate eviction orders.
“All legal problems are combined in this one house,” Ilany notes wryly. There are multiple cases in court simultaneously: “It’s a legal nightmare,” she says.
Yousef’s mother inherited tenancy after her husband’s death. “Now Amidar claims she is only a protected tenant of the room in which she lives but we say tenancy is valid for the whole compound,” Ilany explains.
Yousef and his brothers are third generation, which means they lose all rights to their home. If Amidar wins in this case the family will be turned out of all but one room.
Further, Amidar points to violations pertaining to illegal restoration. In 2005 the roof on part of the compound had become so dangerous that the municipality asked the Khatabs to repair it. They would not, however, issue the necessary restoration permit.
The family asked Amidar to fix the roof but to no avail. Finally, one stormy night the roof collapsed, injuring Yousef’s grandmother and landing her in hospital. The family took matters into their own hands and built a new roof.
The municipality responded by issuing a demolition order for part of the house as the penalty for renovating without a permit.
The new roof sticks out slightly from the house, compared to the old one, which reached no further than the perimeter of the walls. This violates the rental contract, Amidar claims, by taking up more space than the original. The offence thus amounts to illegal construction as well as illegal repair.
When the family failed to demolish the roof, the court opted to criminally sue them for not implementing a court order. Darna hopes to negotiate a deal with Amidar but the case remains open.
The Khatabs feel an ever-growing sense of alienation as their home becomes engulfed by a tide of ultra-rich urbanites, attracted to Jaffa as a residential refuge from the bustle of Tel Aviv.
Five years ago the area was empty, most infrastructure torn down during the demolition frenzy of the ’60s and ’70s. Today it is the most expensive area of Jaffa, according to Ilany, saturated with tall and sleek apartment buildings that boast an enviable sea view.
The sense of injustice is strong. “They hate us from the inside,” Yousef says of the state’s treatment of Palestinians in Israel. “But we’re the same people.”
He holds his hands up, at a loss. “They don’t want Arabs here.”
Though he recognizes the difficulties in continuing to struggle against the might of the ILA, Yousef is determined to stay in Jaffa.
Palestinians make up 80 percent of Ajami’s population, the remaining 20 being Jewish Israelis. The concern for locals is the likelihood that, should the ILA and Amidar continue unhindered to implement their vision for Ajami, this statistic will be reversed and the Judaization of Jaffa will finally be complete.
The evictions, whose numbers continue to climb, are, for local Palestinians, a continuation by other means of the project begun in 1948.
Contemporary Jaffa has been almost entirely re-imagined in the image of a Jewish state, an “artists’ colony” filling the old city, where Palestinian homes and mosques once stood.
Chicago Rally to Thank Obama for Supposedly Ending War in Iraq Turns Up 30 Speakers and 10 Audience Members
Obama promised to make ending the war in Iraq his first act in office. Then he did what he could to avoid ending it. Forced by Bush and Maliki and the Iraqis to remove troops, he’s keeping troops nearby and filling bases with mercenaries, while expanding ground and drone wars around the region and claiming the power to make war anywhere he likes, including having already done so in Libya. Nonetheless a hearty band of Obama-Right-Or-Wrongers planned a rally in Chicago to praise the president for . . . well, for something or other.
The rally was sponsored by Marilyn Katz and Carl Davidson and “Chicagoans Against War in Iraq,” and was promoted as a big national event. I heard about the planning here in Virginia. Among the 30 speakers were the president of the Cook County Board Toni Preckwinkle, Alderman Joe Moore, and Tom Hayden. But an email report I’ve just been forwarded says the audience was “5-10,” and “Dozens and dozens of prepared placards that said ‘yes we can’ were in a box, untouched.”
Meanwhile, “In opposition, holding placards, were some 15 or more from March 19th Anti-War Coalition, Occupy Chicago, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice, and others. The placards included slogans “The U.S. War on Iraq is NOT Over” “Obama Does Mot Deserve Praise,” “Obama is Continuing Illegal & Unjust Wars,” “Obama Is Threatening Iran and Syria,” “Free Bradley Manning,” “No War on Iran,” “Orambo,” “There Is Nothing to Celebrate” and others. Hundreds of leaflets from the March 19th Anti-War Coalition entitled “The Government is NOT bringing all U.S. troops home or ending its wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, or its threats against Iran and Syria and elsewhere” were distributed to passersby as well as those at the rally.”
U.S. service members and their Iraqi and Afghan allies have a common enemy. It is not Iran, the Taliban or al-Qaeda, but the Pentagon which operated hundreds of toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the U.S. completes its withdrawal from Iraq and begins to draw down in Afghanistan, the American military, pursuant to its “pollute and run” policy, is abandoning millions of kilograms of toxic and potentially radioactive waste. Everything is being buried and covered over, just as it did in Vietnam and in the Philippines when the U.S. withdrew from Clark Air Base and the Subic Bay naval installation.
The Pentagon seems to hope that all the health problems of U.S. troops can likewise be buried and covered over.
The (U.S.) Air Force Times ran an editorial on March 1, 2010 that read: “Stamp Out Burn Pits” We reprint the first portion of that editorial:
“A growing number of military medical professionals believe burn pits are causing a wave of respiratory and other illnesses among troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Found on almost all U.S. bases in the war zones, these open-air trash sites operate 24 hours a day, incinerating trash of all forms — including plastic bottles, paint, petroleum products, unexploded ordinance, hazardous materials, even amputated limbs and medical waste. Their smoke plumes belch dioxin, carbon monoxide and other toxins skyward, producing a toxic fog that hangs over living and working areas.”
On April 12, 2010, the Richmond Times-Dispatch carried an article by David Zucchino who investigated the American burn pits in Iraq. He interviewed Army Sgt. 1st Class Francis Jaeger who hauled military waste to the Balad burn. Jaeger told Zucchino:
“We were told to burn everything – electronics, bloody gauze, the medics’ biohazard bags, surgical gloves, cardboard. It all went up in smoke.”
According to a website called the “Burn Pits Action Center” large numbers of American veterans who came in contact with burn pit smoke have been diagnosed with cancer, neurological diseases, cardiovascular diseases, breathing and sleeping problems and various skin rashes.
On October 28, 2009, President George W. Bush, signed into law H.R. 2647, which included the provisions of “The Military Personnel War Zone Toxic Exposure Prevention Act.” The Act was sponsored by Congressman Tim Bishop of New York and supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the National Guard Association of the United States, and the Military Officers Association banned the use of burn pits unless they were specifically deemed essential by the Secretary of Defense. Despite the law, burn pit use continued in Iraq and reportedly continues today in Afghanistan.
The impetus for H.R. 2647 was Lieutenant Colonel Darrin L. Curtis, Ph.D., who was a Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight Commander at Balad Air Base in Iraq in 2006. Lt. Col. Curtis wrote a December 20, 2006, report on the environmental and health impacts of the Balad burn pit. He stated that the burn pit was “the worst environmental site” he had seen in seventeen years of environmental work in the United States. He characterized the smoke released by the military as: “an acute health hazard” to everyone who has been deployed or will be deployed to Balad. Lt. Col. Curtis’ report was reviewed and endorsed by Lieutenant Colonel James R. Elliott, Chief of Aeromedical Services. The Pentagon ultimately ignored the report just as it had ignored the Fall 2004 study in (U.S. Army) “Engineer – The Professional Bulletin” which found that by 2002, Kandahar Airfield was facing “a growing human health and environmental threat” from the uncontrolled burning of hazardous waste.
In June 2008, the U.S. Army Center of Health (USACHPPM) issued a “Fact Sheet” that downplayed any health problems associated with the burn pits. It stated that the safety of the burn pits had been independently validated by the Defense Health Board (DHB). It went on to claim that:
“The DHB is an independent board comprised of experts from private industry and recognized universities.”
Research into the DHB reveals otherwise. The Board is primarily composed of retired Generals, Admirals and Colonels, along with political appointees from prior Administrations and civilian consultants currently under contract to the Pentagon and other government agencies. There is nothing independent about the Board. The Senate Democratic Policy Committee took testimony from Dr. Anthony Szema, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at SUNY and a physician with the Department of Veterans Affairs. He provided a detailed refutation of the DHB’s flawed findings regarding the burn pits. His testimony is available on the Internet under the phrase: “Are Burn Pits Making Our Soldiers Sick?”
On October 3, 2008, the Military Times published a damning report by Kelly Kennedy entitled “Army Making Toxic Mess in War Zones.” The article was prompted by the release in September 2008, of a Rand Corporation study that detailed a horrific series of environmental spills, releases and disposals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bruce Travis of the U.S. Army Engineering School told the Times that no environmental rules were complied with in Iraq from 2003-2008 (this would presumably apply to Afghanistan also). He went on to state that an estimated 11 million pounds of hazardous waste were disposed of in Iraq up to 2008. This practice did not end in 2008. A U.S. Government Accountability Report in 2010, detailed inspections in 2009/2010 of four American bases in Afghanistan and none were found to be compliant with environmental standards.
Most American military waste falls into one of the following twelve (12) categories. They are called the “dirty dozen:”
1. Paints, asbestos, solvents, grease, cleaning solutions.
2. Building materials that contain formaldehyde, copper, arsenic and hydrogen cyanide.
3. Hydraulic fluids (hazardous), aircraft de-icing fluids (toxic), antifreeze (poisonous) and used oil (cancer-causing).
4. Jet fuel, gasoline and diesel fuel.
5. Pesticides and various neuro-toxic poisons resulting from attempts to control flies, mosquitoes, ants, fleas and rodents. The military refers to such practices as “vector control.”
6. Lead, nickel, zinc and cadmium battery waste and acids (toxic/corrosive).
7. Electronic waste (or E-waste). This includes computers, printers, faxes, screens, televisions, radios, refrigerators, communications gear and test equipment. They contain cancer-causing chemicals such as the flame retardant PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), PCDD (polychlorinated dioxins), barium, copper, lead, zinc, cadmium oxides and cadmium sulphides and trivalent antimony.
8. Light bulbs containing hazardous levels of mercury. Disposal of these light bulbs in ordinary landfills is prohibited in the United States.
9. Plastics. When burned, many plastics release a deadly mix of chemicals including dioxins, furans, benzene, di 2-ethylhexyl phthalates (DEHP), hydrochloric acid, benzo(a)pyrene (BAP) and various acids and chlorine gas (which is a neurotoxin).
10. Medical/Infectious Disease waste and Biohazard Materials.
11. Ammunition waste. Lead, brass and other metals from ammunition along with all the constituents of the propellants, including trinitrotoluene, picric acid, diphenylamine, nitrocellulose, nitroglycerin, potassium nitrate, barium nitrate, tetracene, diazodintrophenol, phosphorus, peroxides, thiocarbamide, potassium chlorate, vinyl fluoride, vinyl chloride, sodium fluoride and sodium sulfate.
12. Radioactive waste. The American military routinely uses a large number of devices and equipment that contain radioactive elements or radioluminescent elements. These materials are referred to as “Radioactive Commodities” by the military. The primary radioactive materials are: Uranium, Tritium, Radium 226, Americium 241, Thorium, Cesium 137 and Plutonium 239. A partial list of radioactive equipment that may have been disposed of in burn pits or buried in Iraqi and Afghan landfills includes: night vision devices, calibration sets, engine components, weapon sights, compasses, fire control devices, level gauges, collimators, sensors, test equipment, vehicle dials, radios, chemical agent monitors and communication equipment, along with laboratory and hospital machines. In addition to these commodities, the military also uses 120mm depleted uranium (DU) warheads and 20mm DU ammunition along with DU armor plating.
The Pentagon admits operating 84 “official” burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet Adam Levine from CNN reported on October 15, 2010, that at least 221 burn pits were operated in Afghanistan alone. That number is believed to be only half of the actual burn pits operated in Afghanistan. On February 10, 2010, CBS News published a report by Nick Turse entitled: “the 700 military bases of Afghanistan.” CBS claims that about 400 bases, posts and camps belong to Coalition forces, most of which are American. Each of these facilities may have one or more burn pits, landfills, or disposal pits. The number of U.S. military bases in Iraq may be double this. Each needs to be excavated, sampled and analyzed.
The latest and perhaps the most disturbing burn pit information was published last month on Wired.Com. Written by Katie Drummond, it was entitled: “Congressman: The Military’s Burn Pit Screwed Our Soldiers.” The Congressman is Todd Akin from Missouri. The outrage was over a press release issued on October 31, 2011 by the Institute of Medicine, which is the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences. It was unable to complete its report on the burn pits, a report that had been commissioned by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Institute of Medicine found 53 toxins in the air above the Balad air base in Iraq but could not determine the sources for each due to a lack of assistance by the Pentagon. The Institute was unable to obtain information from the Pentagon as to what it burned and buried. The Pentagon claims it kept no records and has no scientific data,. The reason is that it apparently never sampled and analyzed the material in any of its Iraq or Afghan burn pits. The U.S. military is now simply covering them all over with dirt as the U.S. prepares to withdraw from Iraq and begins to draw down in Afghanistan.
In summary, there has been no competent assessment of the long-term environmental harm to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan from the abandonment of such a massive volume of toxic waste. The Pentagon has likewise abandoned its own solders, sailors, marines and airmen whom it poisoned and injured. Until all the burn pits are excavated and sampled, there is no way to determine the full makeup of the toxic soup of pollutants that U.S. military personnel were exposed to.
This “pollute and run” policy should not be permitted. If invading countries had to clean up and restore the countrysides they invaded and damaged, and if they had to treat and care for all those they injured, perhaps they might in the future think twice before launching such wars.
Sources for Further Reading:
Houston Chronicle – February 7, 2010 – “GIs tell of horror from burn pits”
Los Angeles Times – February 18, 2010 – “Veterans speak out against burn pits”
Salem News – March 29, 2010 – “Sick Veterans Sue KBR Over Iraq and Afghanistan Burn Pits”
Kabul Press – April 25, 2010 – “EXCLUSIVE REPORT: American Military Creating an Environmental Disaster in Afghan Countryside” (Part 1 of 3)
Kabul Press – May 2, 2010 – EXCLUSIVE REPORT: American Military Burn Pits Pollute Afghan Countryside (Part 2 of 3)
Kabul Press – May 4, 2010 – EXCLUSIVE REPORT: American Military Burn Pits Pose Risk to Future Generations of Afghans (Part 3 of 3).
The Lebanese foreign ministry has filed a formal complaint with the United Nations over Israel’s espionage activities in the country, Press TV reports.
Beirut called the Israeli activities a blatant violation of its sovereignty and of UN resolution 1701, which brokered a ceasefire in the war of aggression Israel launched against Lebanon in 2006 and calls on Tel Aviv to respect Beirut’s sovereignty and territorial integrity..
In addition, Israeli activities were described as “a threat to international peace and security” in the complaint, a Press TV correspondent reported on Saturday.
The complaint was filed after Lebanon discovered Israeli spy devices in its southern towns of Deir Kifa and Sirfa earlier in the month.
On December 2, Lebanon’s resistance movement of Hezbollah announced that it had uncovered an attempt by Tel Aviv to infiltrate its telecommunication network.
The Lebanese government, Hezbollah, and UNIFIL have repeatedly cited Israel’s surveillance flights over Lebanon as clear violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and the country’s sovereignty.
Hezbollah has on a number of occasions uncovered Israeli espionage devices in southern Lebanon.
Correo del Orinoco International | December 16th 2011
This week Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called on friends and allies to “be attentive” after mainstream media outlets in the United States released uncorroborated evidence accusing Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran of holding “secret meetings” in Mexico to plan terrorist attacks against “US interests”.
While President Chavez readily dismissed the “lies” produced by Spanish-language media corporation Univision, a documentary released by the company late last week is now being used by right-wing members of the US Congress to demand Venezuela be formally designated a “State Sponsor of Terrorism”.
UNIVISION: USING A LIE AS AN EXCUSE
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez referred to Univision´s recently-released documentary “La Amenaza Iraní”, or “The Iranian Threat” in English, and explained that “television shows were broadcast on US networks claiming that Venezuela is scheming terrorist attacks with Iranian terrorists against the United States”.
“They are using a lie as an excuse to attack us”, Chavez affirmed, and “we must be attentive”.
Commenting on the timing of the documentary´s release, Chavez questioned Univision´s “assault” on Venezuela and Cuba, key members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), just days after Caracas successfully hosted the founding summit of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (Celac).
Univision´s “The Iranian Threat”, which cites uncorroborated evidence of “Iranian backed money-laundry and drug-trafﬁcking cartels that are used to back Islamist networks and training camps in Venezuela and elsewhere”, also accuses acting Venezuelan Consul in Miami Livia Acosta Noguera of being “very receptive” to terrorist plots in 2006 when she was Cultural Affairs Ofﬁcer at the Venezuelan Embassy in Mexico.
A follow-up article on Univision.com afﬁrms that Noguera used her time in Mexico to “cultivate relations with Mexican leftist groups such as Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) and ally to presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador”.
The news company added that the Venezuelan diplomat “was linked to activists and directors from the Cuban and Iranian embassies in Mexico and with a group of students and professors of the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) who worked in a supposed cyber attack towards the United States”.
According to Univision, Noguera “was very receptive” when Cuban diplomats, secret agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and undercover reporters in Mexico City talked of “cyber attacks” that would harm “US interests and undermine the US in Latin America”.
Such an attack, sponsored by Iran and facilitated by Venezuela and other non-US allies in the region, could prove “worse than September 11th (2001)”, afﬁrmed Univision´s “The Iranian Threat”.
In comments to the press, US State Department Spokesman Mark Toner called the Univision documentary “very disturbing”, though he regretted the US Government has “no information to ascertain” the information in the report, “right now”.
UNIVISION: INFLUENCING US POLITICS
Univision, which sold for $ 13.7 billion back in 2007, now belongs, in part, to Israeli American media mogul Haim Saban. Currently Univision´s Chairman, Saban sparked controversy in 2007 after telling Israeli daily Haaretz, “When I see (Iranian President) Ahmadinejad, I see Hitler”.
In a May 2010 profile published in The New Yorker, writer Connie Bruck noted that Saban´s “greatest concern is to protect Israel by strengthening the United States-Israel relationship”.
According to Bruck, Saban´s self-deﬁned “three ways to be inﬂuential in US politics” are “make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets”.
Apart from his role as Chairman of Univision, Saban is a major contributor to both ruling US parties (Democrats and Republicans) and is the ﬁnancial support behind the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee´s (AIPAC) Saban National Political Leadership Training Seminar, both of which stand ﬁrm with Isreal against Palestine and regional power Iran.
US CONGRESS BACKS ATTACK
Responding to claims in the Univision documentary, and based on other “unnamed sources”, members of the US Congress last week issued an open letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanding Venezuela be formally designated a “State Sponsor of Terrorism”.
According to Republican Senator John Ensign (R-Nevada), “under President Chavez, the Venezuelan government has established a growing alliance with state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran and Cuba and provided support for terrorist organizations such as the FARC in Colombia”.
“Since 2007”, Ensign claims, “Venezuela has conducted weekly Tehran-Damascus-Caracas ﬂights without proper controls and customs inspections”.
Republican Senator George LeMieux (R-Florida) shared Ensign´s concerns, telling Congress “folks get off the plane in Venezuela, and who knows where they go”.
LeMieux, who failed to cite the source of his claims, added, “Iran has now sent shock troops to Venezuela” and asked the Obama administration to pay more attention to “the gathering storm that is Venezuela”.
Venezuela does not run a weekly ﬂight to Tehran from Caracas. The Venezuelan airline Conviasa, does have a weekly commercial ﬂight from Caracas to Damascus, which is subject to all normal controls of any other commercial airline.
Pressuring Clinton, Ensign afﬁrmed, “It’s no secret to the US people that Venezuela wishes harm to the United States. What is a secret is how many more ties to terrorist organizations and State Sponsors of Terrorism does Venezuela need to be declared a State Sponsor of Terrorism”.
Other senators signing the letter to Clinton include: Robert Bennett (R-UT), Scott Brown (R-MA), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Jim Bunning (R-KY), John Cornyn (R-TX), James Inhofe (R-OK), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), James Risch (R-ID), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).
The Congress members presented no evidence other than rumors and uncorroborated reports to back their dangerous claims against Venezuela.
If successful, ongoing attempts to demonize Venezuela could have negative effects on the economy since being designated a “State Sponsors of Terrorism” means increased restrictions on bi-lateral trade with the United States and a ban on receiving US economic assistance. Venezuela does not, however, receive any official economic assistance from the US government, although US agencies provide substantial funding to anti-Chavez groups working to oust the Venezuelan President.
Though the Bolivarian revolution has made significant progress towards political and economic independence, Venezuela´s economy is still largely dependent on the US as its major purchaser of oil and principal source of consumer goods. It is precisely because of its historical dependence on the US that the Venezuelan government has sought to diversify the country´s bi-lateral trade relations by partnering with, among many others, Iran.
One example of strengthening trade relations between Venezuela and Iran is found in the rural Venezuelan state of Cojedes, where some 2,000 low income families now live in the Ezequiel Zamora urban housing complex designed and built by Iranian construction ﬁrms.
After heavy rains displaced some 100,000 Venezuelan families in late 2010, Iran also committed to using its expertise in housing development to build 50,000 homes across Venezuela.
“A study of the struggle waged by the English working class reveals that, in order to oppose their workers, the employers either bring in workers from abroad or else transfer manufacture to countries where there is a cheap labor force. Given this state of affairs, if the working class wishes to continue its struggle with some chance of success, the national organisations must become international.”
To borrow a metaphor from the medical sciences, an effective cure requires a sound diagnosis. Yet, in the face of the current plague of unemployment the Keynesian economists issue all kinds of passionate prescriptions to remedy the problem of joblessness without paying necessary attention to its root causes.
According to these economists, the origins of the ongoing high rates of unemployment (and of the underlying economic crisis in general) can be traced back to Ronald Reagan: his election to the presidency in 1980 and the subsequent rise of Neoliberalism brought forth an economic doctrine that has gradually led to the reversal of the Keynesian demand-management strategies of economic stimulation. So, for most Keynesian/liberal economists and politicians, Reagan is the pivotal figure and 1980 is the watershed year:
“Before 1980, economic policy was designed to achieve full employment, and the economy was characterized by a system in which wages grew with productivity. This configuration created a virtuous circle of growth. Rising wages meant robust aggregate demand, which contributed to full employment. Full employment in turn provided an incentive to invest, which raised productivity, thereby supporting higher wages.
“After 1980, with the advent of the new [Neoliberal] growth model, the commitment to full employment was abandoned as inflationary, with the result that the link between productivity growth and wages was severed. In place of wage growth as the engine of demand growth, the new model substituted borrowing and asset price inflation. Adherents of the neo-liberal orthodoxy made controlling inflation their primary policy concern, and set about attacking unions, the minimum wage, and other worker protections” .
While this account of US economic policies and developments of the past several decades is shared by most Keynesians and other critics of Neoliberalism, it suffers from a number of weaknesses.
First, the claim that the abandonment of Keynesian policies in favor of Neoliberal ones began with the 1980 arrival of Ronald Reagan in the White House is factually false. Indisputable evidence shows that the date on the Keynesian prescriptions of economic stimulation expired at least a dozen years earlier. Keynesian policies of economic expansion through demand management had run out of steam (i.e., reached their systemic limits) by the late 1960s and early 1970s; they did not come to a sudden, screeching halt the moment Reagan sat at the helm.
The questioning and the gradual abandonment of the Keynesian strategies took place not simply because of purely ideological proclivities or personal preferences of Ronald Reagan and other “right-wing” Republicans, as many Keynesians argue, but because of actual structural changes in economic or market conditions, both nationally and internationally. As discussed in my previous essay on this subject , Keynesian-type policies were pursued in response to the Great Depression and in the immediate aftermath of WW II as long as political forces and economic conditions of the time rendered those policies effective, or profitable. Those favorable conditions included nearly unlimited demand for US manufactures, both at home and abroad, and the lack of competition for both US capital and labor, which allowed US workers to demand decent wages and benefits while at the same time enjoying higher rates of employment.
By the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, both US capital and labor were no longer unrivaled in global markets. Furthermore, during the long cycle of the immediate post-war expansion US producers had invested so much in fixed/constant capital, or capacity building, that by the late 1960s their profit rates had begun to decline as the capital-labor ratio and other “sunk costs” of their operations had become too high. More than anything else, it was these profound changes in the actual conditions of production that precipitated the gradual rejection of the Keynesian economics.
Second, not only is the Keynesians’ narrative of the actual developments that led to the demise of Keynesian policies and the rise of Neoliberalism inaccurate, but also their theory or explanation of the ongoing problem of unemployment (and of the economic crisis in general) is woefully deficient. By blaming the unemployment on Neoliberalism, or “Neoliberal capitalism,” as some Keynesians argue , instead of capitalism per se, proponents of Keynesian economics tend to lose sight of the structural or systemic causes of unemployment: the secular and/or systemic tendency of capitalist production to constantly replace labor with machine, and to thereby create a sizable pool of the unemployed, or a “reserve army of labor,” as Karl Marx put it. This means, of course, the higher the degree of industrialization and automation, the higher the potential of the reserve army of labor to expand. Marx described this tendency of capitalism to constantly create high levels of unemployment (or low levels of wages) as an essential condition for profitable production in the following words:
“The greater the social wealth, the functioning capital, the extent and energy of its growth… the greater is the industrial army…. The relative mass of the industrial reserve army increases therefore with the potential energy of wealth. But the greater this reserve army in proportion to the active labor army, the greater is the mass of a consolidated surplus population… This is the absolute general law of capitalist accumulation. Like all other laws it is modified in its working by many circumstances” .
The fundamental laws of demand and supply of labor under capitalism are therefore heavily influenced, Marx argued, by the market’s ability to regularly produce a reserve army of labor, or a “surplus population.” The reserve army of labor, whose size is determined largely by the imperatives of capitalist profitability, is therefore as important to capitalist production as is the active (or actually employed) army of labor. Just as the regular and timely adjustment of the level of water behind a dam is crucial to a smooth or stable use of water, so is an “appropriate” size of a pool of the unemployed critical to the profitability of capitalist production. “The industrial reserve army,” Marx wrote,
“during periods of stagnation … weighs down the active army of workers; during the period of over-production and feverish activity, it puts a curb on their pretensions. The relative surplus population is therefore the background against which the law of the demand and supply of labour does its work. It confines the field of action of this law to the limits absolutely convenient to capital’s drive to exploit and dominate the workers” .
It is clear that the Marxian theory of the reserve army of labor, which shows how unemployment arises and why it is necessary to capitalism, provides a much better understanding of the current plague of unemployment than the Keynesian view, which blames it on “Neoliberal” capitalism—and which is essentially tantamount to explaining something by itself.
In the era of globalization of production and employment, the reserve army of labor has drastically expanded beyond national borders. According to a recent report by the International Labor Organization (ILO), between 1980 and 2007 the global labor force rose from 1.9 billion to 3.1 billion, a growth rate of 63 percent. Historical transition to capitalism in many less-developed parts of the world, which has led to the so-called de-peasantization, or proletarianization and urbanization, especially in countries such as China and India, is obviously a major source of the enlargement of the worldwide labor force, and its availability to global capital. The ILO report further shows that, worldwide, the ratio of the active (or employed) to reserve (or unemployed) army of labor is less than 50%, that is, more than half of the global labor force is unemployed .
It is this huge and readily available pool of the unemployed, along with the ease of production anywhere in the world—not some abstract or evil intentions of “right-wing Republicans and wicked Neoliberals,” as Keynesians argue—that has forced the working class, especially in the US and other advanced capitalist countries, into submission: going along with the brutal austerity schemes of wage and benefit cuts, of layoffs and union busting, of part-time and contingency employment, and the like. Ruthless Neoliberal policies of the past several decades, by both Republican and Democratic parties, are more a product of the structural changes in the global capitalist production than their cause. This is not to say that economic policies do not matter; but that such policies should not be attributed simply to capricious decision, malicious intentions or conspiratorial schemes.
It might be argued: “who cares what caused the unemployment? The fact is that it is a huge problem for millions; and why not simply replicate the Keynesian-type stimulus policies that were adopted in the immediate aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II?” Indeed, this seems to be the view of most of the Keynesian economists and liberal policy makers.
While prima facie this sounds like a reasonable suggestion, it suffers from the problem of issuing useless or ineffectual prescriptions based on inaccurate or flawed diagnoses. Not surprising, repeated Keynesian calls of the recent years for embarking on Keynesian-type stimulus packages in order to help end the recession and alleviate unemployment continue to sound hollow. For, under the changed conditions of production from national to global level, and in the absence of overwhelming political pressure from workers and other grassroots, there are simply no refills for Dr. Keynes’s prescriptions, which were issued on a national (not international or global) level, and under radically different socio-economic conditions—the solution now needs to be global.
Theoretically, the Keynesian strategy of a “virtuous circle” of high employment, high wages and economic growth is rather simple: massive government spending in the face of a serious economic downturn would raise employment and wages, inject a strong purchasing power into the economy and create a strong demand, which would then spur producers to expand and hire, thereby further raising employment, wages, demand, supply. . . . Many well-known Keynesians (such as Paul Krugman, Dean Baker, Thomas Palley, Robert Reich, and Randall Wray, for example) have in recent years repeatedly put forth this strategy of economic stimulation—only to see them fall on deaf ears.
While in theory (and on the face of it), the “virtuous circle” proposition is a relatively simple and fairly reasonable strategy, it suffers from a number of problems. To begin with, it seems to assume that employers and their government policy makers are genuinely interested in bringing about full employment, but somehow do not know how to achieve this objective. Full employment production, however, may not necessarily be the ideal, or profit-maximizing, level of production; which means it may not be a real objective of employers. As explained above, a sizable pool of the unemployed is as essential to capitalist profitability as is the number of workers needed to be actually employed. In its drive to keep the labor cost as low as possible, by keeping the working class as docile as possible, capitalism tends to prefer high unemployment and low wages to low unemployment and high wages. This explains why, for example, in reaction to the ongoing high levels of unemployment in the United States, the Obama administration (and the US government in general) has been making a lot of hollow, echoing noise about “jobs programs” without seriously embarking on a genuine plan of job creation a la FDR.
Secondly, the Keynesian argument that a “virtuous circle” of high employment, high wages, strong demand and economic growth is relatively easily achievable only if it were not due to the opposition of employers, or “bad” policies of Neoliberalism, seems to be based on the assumption that employers/producers are oblivious to their own self-interest. In other words, the argument presumes that it is not in the interests of employers to drive the wages too low as this would be tantamount to undermining consumer demand for what they produce. If only they were mindful of the benefits of the proverbial “Ford wages” to their sales, the argument goes, could they help both themselves and their workers, and bring about economic growth and prosperity for all. The well-known liberal professor (and former Labor Secretary under President Clinton) Robert Reich’s view on this issue is typical of the Keynesian argument:
“For most of the last century, the basic bargain at the heart of the American economy was that employers paid their workers enough to buy what American employers were selling. . . . That basic bargain created a virtuous cycle of higher living standards, more jobs, and better wages. . . . The basic bargain is over. . . . Corporate profits are up right now largely because pay is down and companies aren’t hiring. But this is a losing game even for corporations over the long term. Without enough American consumers, their profitable days are numbered. After all, there’s a limit to how much profit they can get out of cutting American payrolls. . . .” .
There are two major problems with this argument. The first problem is that it assumes (implicitly) that US producers depend on domestic workers not only for employment but also for sale of their products—as if it were a closed economy. In reality, however, US producers are increasingly becoming less and less dependent on domestic labor for either employment or sales as they steadily expand their export/sales markets abroad. Transnational capital’s consumer and labor markets are now spread across the globe. As Professor Alan Nasser recently pointed out (in a CounterPunch article), “On both the supply [employment] side and the demand side, the US worker/consumer is perceived as incrementally inessential” .
President Obama and his top economic advisers have been specially keen, indeed aggressive, on expanding US export markets to make up for the loss of domestic purchasing power. For example, in a speech (on his National Export Initiative) to the annual conference of the Import-Export Bank (March 11, 2010) the president pointed out: “The world’s fastest-growing markets are outside our borders. We need to compete for those customers because other nations are competing for them.” Mr. Obama’s chairman of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, Jeffrey Immelt, likewise states: “Today we go to Brazil, we go to China, we go to India, because that’s where the customers are” .
The second problem with Professor Reich’s (and his Keynesian co-thinkers’) argument of “high wages as the engines of virtuous cycles” of growth and expansion is that wages and benefits are micro- or enterprise-level categories that are decided on by individual employers and corporate managers, not by some macro or national level planners (as in a centrally-planned economy) of aggregate demand. In other words, individual producers (large or small) view wages and benefits first, and foremost, as a major cost of production that needs to be minimized as much as possible; and only secondarily, if ever, as part of the national aggregate demand that may (in roundabout ways) contribute to the sale of their products. This is another example of how Marx’s theory of capitalist exploitation and wage-determination (as a subsistence-based historical category) is superior to the Keynesian view that, in a manner of wishful thinking, hopes that producers would be wise and generous enough to pay “sufficient” wages in order to sell their products!
Keynesian economists passionately talk about “virtuous cycles” of high employment, high wages and high growth as if there are no limits to such expanding, upward spiraling cycle. It is well established, however, both theoretically and empirically, that such virtuous cycles are bound to be temporary because as they expand they also sow the seeds of contraction. A discussion of economic cycles and the underlying theories of capitalist crisis is beyond the purview of this essay. Suffice it to point out that, contrary to the arguments of Keynesian economists, an expanding cycle of accumulation and high levels of employment may not necessarily be accompanied by rising wages. If it does, it would be temporary because, sooner or later, the rising wages would cut into profitability imperatives, which would then trigger the employers’ reaction to curtail wages and benefits—by either curtailing or outsourcing production and/or employment.
This means that not only may growth and expansion not be precipitates or accompanied by high wages, as Keynesian economists claim, but (on the contrary) by low wages, or low cost of labor. More often than not, capitalism flourishes on the poverty, compliance and, therefore, low cost of labor. Marx characterized capitalism’s ability to create a big pool of the unemployed, or “relative surplus population,” in order to create a largely poor and meek working class as “immiseration” of the labor force, a built-in mechanism that is essential to the “general law” of capitalist accumulation:
“In proportion as capital accumulates, the situation of the worker, be his payment high or low, must grow worse.… The law which always holds the relative surplus population in equilibrium with the extent and energy of accumulation rivets the worker to capital more firmly than the wedges of Hephaestus held Prometheus to the rock. It makes an accumulation of misery a necessary condition, corresponding to the accumulation of wealth. Accumulation at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, the torment of labour, slavery, ignorance, brutalization and moral degradation at the opposite pole, i.e. on the side of the class that produces its own product as capital” .
A major flaw of the Keynesian reform or restructuring package is that it consists of a set of populist proposals that are devoid of politics, that is, of political mechanisms that would be necessary to carry them out. They rest largely on the hope that, in an independent or disinterested fashion, the state can control and manage capitalism in the interest of all. This is, however, no more than wishful thinking, since in reality it is the powerful capitalist interests that elect and control the government, not the other way around.
In response to criticisms of this kind, Keynesians are quick to invoke the experience of the “golden years” (1948-1968) of the US economy in support of their arguments. It is true that during that long cycle of expansion high employment, high wages, high demand and high growth reinforced each other in the fashion of a virtuous cycle. But the constellation or convergence of a set of propitious socioeconomic conditions (political pressure from workers and other grassroots, fear of revolution and radical change, unrivaled US labor and capital, unlimited demand for US goods and service, both on a national and international levels, and more) that precipitated and nurtured that long cycle of expansion were unique historical circumstances of the time. Empirical observations or conjunctural developments under certain/specific circumstances ought not to be facilely extrapolated, generalized, and elevated to the level of a general theory, or a universal/timeless pattern of actual developments. Such an intellectual exercise would be tantamount to empiricism through and through—not scientific or realistic inquiry into a theoretical understanding of the actual socioeconomic developments of the day.
To sum up, the Marxian theory of unemployment, based on his theory of the reserve army of labor, provides a much better explanation of the protracted high levels of unemployment than the Keynesian view that attributes the plague of unemployment to the “misguided” or “bad” policies of Neoliberalism. Likewise, the Marxian theory of subsistence or near-poverty wages, also based on his theory of the reserve army of labor, provides a more satisfactory understanding of how or why such poverty levels of wages, as well as a generalized or nationwide predominance of misery, can go hand-in-hand with “healthy” or high levels of corporate profits than the Keynesian perceptions, which view a high level of wages as a necessary condition for a “virtuous” or expansionary economic cycle. Perhaps more importantly, the Marxian view that meaningful, lasting economic safety-net programs can be carried out only through overwhelming pressure from the masses—and only on a coordinated global level—provides a more logical and promising solution to the problem of economic hardship for the overwhelming majority of the world population than the neat, purely intellectual, and apolitical Keynesian stimulus packages on a national level, which are based on the hope or illusion that the government can control and manage capitalism “in the interest of all.” No matter how long or loud or passionately our good-hearted Keynesians beg for jobs and other New Deal-type reform programs, their pleas for the implementation of such programs are bound to be ignored by the government of big business. Only by mobilizing the masses of workers and other grassroots and fighting, instead of begging, for an equitable share of what is truly the product of their labor, the wealth of nations, can the working majority achieve economic security and human dignity.
 Thomas I. Palley, “America’s Exhausted Paradigm,” http://newamerica.net/files/Thomas_Palley_America%27s_Exhausted_Paradigm.pdf
 Ismael Hossein-zadeh, “Keynesian Myths and Illusions,” http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/11/04/keynesian-myths-and-illusions/
 David M. Kotz, “The Financial and Economic Crisis of 2008: A Systemic Crisis of Neoliberal Capitalism,” Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 41, No. 3 (2009), pp. 305-317.
 Capital, Vol. 1 (Moscow, no date), pp. 592-93.
 Capital, vol. 1 (London: Penguin, 1976), P. 792.
 International Labor Organization (ILO), The Global Employment Challenge (Geneva, 2008); as cited in “The Global Reserve Army of Labor and the New Imperialism” (by John Bellamy Foster, Robert W. McChesney and R. Jamil Jonna): http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=27549
 Robert Reich, “Restore the Basic Bargain” (November 28, 2011): http://robertreich.org/post/13469691304
 Alan Nasser, “The Political Economy of Redistribution: Outsourcing Jobs, Offshoring Markets,” http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/12/02/outsourcing-jobs-offshoring-markets/
 As cited by Alan Nasser, Ibid.
 Capital, vol. 1 (London: Penguin, 1976), p. 799.
Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave – Macmillan 2007) and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.
Speaking to a full lecture hall Friday, John Cerone, the director of the New England School of Law’s Center for International Law and Policy, gave an insider’s view of how an evolving US policy toward international criminal courts provides context to the development of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).
The talk at the American University of Beirut was the first in a series of lectures held by Al-Akhbar’s Research Unit, in collaboration with the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs. Cerone’s lecture was titled “The Politics of International Justice.”
“The STL fit within a lot of the policy priorities for the US,” said Cerone, who served as special adviser for the first US delegation to the UN Human Rights Council in 2009.
From the Bush administration’s blatant attempts to thwart international justice during its war on Iraq to the Obama administration’s policy of “principled engagement,” US interaction with international courts reflects a blend of foreign policy goals and historical precedents. The US engagement with the STL was no different.
In comparison with other international hybrid tribunals, the STL possesses, “the narrowest scope we’ve seen,” Cerone said.
The STL’s jurisdiction is limited to investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and related crimes.
“If everyone agrees it’s a crime, having selective justice is problematic, but it doesn’t undermine the legitimacy of that prosecution,” Cerone said. “I’d rather have some prosecution than no prosecution.”
Joumana Nahas, an author and lawyer who attended the lecture, described the STL as “a tribunal to end impunity in Lebanon.”
Others in attendance were less optimistic. One attendee asked, “Was this not a court established to try only one crime?” Several also asked how Israel is not being tried for crimes against humanity in the 2006 July War or in its devastating strikes on Gaza. Cerone provided insight into this query in a 2007 essay.
Cerone wrote that, in 2005, a UN official involved in STL negotiations said that jurisdictional limitations on the tribunal “were included at the behest of the United States to ensure that the Tribunal could not take jurisdiction over the conduct of Israeli forces during the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah/Lebanon.”
“The key issue for me is the fairness of the trial,” said Cerone. “The discomfort comes from the STL’s ad hoc nature. Why are we creating tribunals to prosecute criminals here and not there?”
Though it is subject to controversy, the UN’s International Criminal Court (ICC) is the world’s premier justice mechanism. Established in 1998 with the Rome Statute, the US was hesitant to sign the statute from the beginning.Though the US did eventually sign the treaty, it has failed to ratify it over the years.
“The US was concerned that rules of international criminal law contained in the statute might constrain its ability to project its power,” said Cerone.
The BBC reported today that PM David Cameron has said that the UK is a Christian country “and we should not be afraid to say so”.
In a speech in Oxford on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, the prime minister called for a revival of traditional Christian values to counter Britain’s “moral collapse”.
“We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so, Cameron told the audience at Christ Church.
However, Cameron failed to explain the bizarre fact that 80% of his Tory MPs are actually Conservative Friends of Israel (CFOI). Cameron also failed to explain why a ‘Christian country’ abolishes its precious universal jurisdiction law just to appease the Jewish lobby. Cameron also should open our eyes and explain to us why exactly a Christian country followed orders from a Jewish Lobby group and arrested Sheikh Raed Salah.
If we are a Christian country, why did we launch a criminal war based on a ‘dossier’ that was compiled in Tel Aviv? Also, is the fact that Lord Levy was chief fundraiser for the Labour Government a mere coincidence?
If we are a Christian country, as Cameron suggests, someone had better explain to us all how is it, that we have succumbed to ‘eye for an eye’ political doctrine instead of self search for compassion and empathy in the spirit of Christ.
I can only suggest to Cameron that before preaching to us, he himself had better reflect on his own words, he should contemplate over this country’s traditional Christian values and counter his own Government’s ‘moral collapse’.