British Palestine Solidarity outfit ‘Palestine Place’ provides a platform for anti-Syrian speakers, while ostracising and banning activists who choose to discuss topics designated as ‘no-go’ by Zionist ideology. This is symptomatic of a wider disease prevalent in the ‘Palestine Solidarity Movement’.
The Palestine Solidarity Movement, not only within the UK but across nations worldwide, is becoming increasingly fractured and impotent. The movement is characterised by swathes of different groups squabbling amongst themselves, and ostracising members(1) who cross certain red lines – red lines which have been drawn by Zionism.
‘Palestine Place’: Symptoms of a Wider Disease
During my own recent experiences at ‘Palestine Place’ in London, I was unfortunate enough to witness acute symptoms of the disease afflicting the Palestine Solidarity Movement. The disease is not unique to Palestine Place; it afflicts the wider Palestine Solidarity Movement and the liberal ‘left’ in the UK. Not only is the Palestine Solidarity Movement paralysed with fear of being branded with the anti-Semitism epithet, but it routinely falls prey to Zionist and imperialist deception, manipulation, and propaganda. The carnal fear of being branded an ‘anti-Semite’ prevents any level of open and honest discussion on anything pertaining to Israel and the Zionist project – especially its founding myths which must be openly discussed and debated in order for truth to see light.
Outlawing Thoughtcrime in the Service of Zionism
During an open discussion at Palestine Place in June 2012, one attendee brought up the subject of Gilad Atzmon’s alleged anti-Semitism. The gentleman proceeded to misrepresent Atzmon’s words in order to paint him as a racist who merely seeks to attack Judaism.
During this discussion the subject of holocaust denial and holocaust revisionism came up. At no point was the holocaust denied by anybody present, however this writer did make the point that we must make a distinction between ‘revisionism’ and ‘denial’. All historical events must be open to investigation and questioning; the very concept of history is based on revisionism. What legitimate reason could we possibly have for shielding any historical event from examination? We are constantly reminded that we must learn from history lest it repeat itself (reminiscent of the ‘never again’ mantra), yet we are prevented from examining these very elements of history!
This particular discussion at Palestine Place continued for ten or fifteen minutes before the next scheduled discussion was due to begin. During this time, dedicated pro-Palestinian activist Ken O’Keefe came to Gilad Atzmon’s defence, drawing attention to Atzmon’s idea that Jewishness and Jewish culture must be part of our investigation of Israeli and Zionist ideology. Are Israel’s tanks, gunships and warplanes not adorned with the Jewish Star of David? Is ‘Israel’ not a self-professed Jewish State? The gentleman who had chosen to accuse Atzmon of anti-Semitism had misrepresented Atzmon’s views and launched into a baseless ad hominem attack.
Immediately before the next scheduled speaker, a spokesman for Palestine Place made an announcement to the following effect: some people have decided to air their views on the holocaust, we must remind you that at Palestine Place we do not tolerate anti-Semitism and we will not be discussing the holocaust any further.
It must be noted that this was after the same spokesperson had emphatically stated that day, that Palestine Place was not affiliated with any solidarity organisation (such as the UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign), purely to avoid the politicisation and control of discussion!
This relatively small incident demonstrates how the Palestine Solidarity Movement is not only subject to Zionist bullying, infiltration, and lobbying, but more importantly cultural indoctrination. We are instilled with a cardinal fear of discussing the holocaust outside of the officially accepted narrative – a ‘thoughtcrime’ in this democracy and beacon of free speech known as Great Britain.
The knee-jerk ‘we do not tolerate anti-Semitism‘ emotional reaction is sadly typical, and it is trotted out before one iota of thought has been given to the content and substance of the discussion.
It is incredibly sad and disheartening to see that the Palestine Solidarity Movement is utterly beholden to Zionism’s biggest rhetorical weapon: false charges of anti-Semitism coupled with a religious observance of and adherence to the dogma of ‘the holocaust’.
As activists and truth seekers, are we actually going to conflate historical revisionism (the practice of investigating and revising our understanding of history based on facts and free debate) with racism? This logic is completely lost on those who have an immediate emotional reaction to this question.
Palestine Place Bars Prominent Pro-Palestine Activist, Backs Foreign Insurrection in Syria
On June 13, 2012, Palestine Place hosted a talk on the subject of Syria. Several guests were invited to speak – all of whom were anti-Assad and pro-’revolution’. Without exception, all of the speakers represented the viewpoint of the corrupt Gulf dictatorships, the USA and Israel, who are jointly seeking the dissolution of all bastions of Arab resistance to Zionism and Western neocolonialism.
Shortly before the talk, I witnessed Ken O’Keefe being asked to leave the premises by organisers who cited a ‘group decision’ that had been made. Hypocritically, not one of the attendees to the talk was consulted about this decision – the decision was made by Palestine Place’s organisers and had no ‘grassroots’ input whatsoever.
After Ken had left the premises the talks continued and the speakers dictated their opinion to the almost exclusively young (18-23) and impressionable crowd. One after another the anti-Assad guests expounded their mythical idea that the ‘revolution’ in Syria was at all indigenous, as opposed to being a foreign-led insurrection, which is now a clearly established reality.
The speakers were Simon Assaf, UK-based Syrian activist Shiar Youssef, activist Dan Gorman, and ‘internet researcher and activist’ Miriyam Asfar.
Simon Assaf’s previous writings shed light on his ideological position. He is a commentator who claims to oppose western intervention in Libya and Syria, while breathlessly parroting the lies and propaganda that enable it. He saw the NATO-appointed NTC’s calls for a ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya as “genuine calls for help”,(2) and he mindlessly repeats the long-discredited claims that Gaddafi bombarded civilian demonstrations from the air. He even claimed that the case for the intervention in Libya was “very powerful”.(3)
At Palestine Place, Assaf continued with his delusional and romantic narrative wherein he painted the foreign-led counter-revolution in Syria as an indigenous people’s and workers’ revolution. He smugly dismissed ‘al Qaeda’ involvement in Syria as paranoid conspiracy theory.
No reasonable person would debate the CIA’s use of what would become ‘al Qaeda’ in Afghanistan throughout the 1980s to achieve its strategic objectives. This is not the stuff of ‘conspiracy theory’, rather it is established historical fact.
Assaf chose to ignore the deeply sectarian, thuggish, and terroristic inclinations of the ‘revolutionaries’ in Syria. Even the mainstream press has been forced to admit(4) that Abdelhakim Belhaj, former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), is providing fighters and assistance to the so-called Free Syrian Army.
The LIFG, still listed as a terrorist group by the US State Department,(5) is a paradigmatic example of one of the CIA’s many proxy armies of brainwashed sectarian drones – commonly referred to collectively as ‘al Qaeda’.
Assaf, as well as the other speakers, reminded the audience that the ‘revolution’ started in Daraa, Syria, in March 2011. What they didn’t draw attention to was the fact that Daraa, like the majority of the hotspots in the Syrian unrest, is on Syria’s border. As a result of calls from short-sighted, hateful and poisonously sectarian-minded Sunni religious leaders (including our new ‘al Qaeda’ boogeyman Ayman al-Zawahiri), ‘jihadists’ in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq have flocked to Syria to fight against the Assad regime(6) (Assad is an Alawi and non-sectarian leader who allows 18 different sects to live in harmony). These ‘jihadists’ include Abdelhakim Belhaj’s men, who were shipped to Turkey in order to allow them to infiltrate Syria’s borders(7) from there. Further to this, the United States and Jordanian militaries began a joint military exercise known as Eager Lion in the summer of 2011.(8) What is the significance of this, and why is the majority of the unrest in border regions?
The Houla Killings – Fruit of the ‘FSA’
Predictably, Assaf and the other speakers accused the Assad regime of committing brutal massacres against the Syrian people. The Houla massacre – an event which is held as the ‘trump card’ by the ‘opposition’ in Syria, is deserving of inspection here.
In the immediate aftermath of the Houla massacre, the Syrian ‘opposition’ and media outlets across the spectrum attempted to blame the killings on artillery attacks by the Syrian Army. When it became clear that most of the victims were killed at close range, many with stab wounds, the narrative became ‘pro-regime militia’. Now however, after the dust has settled, it is clear that pro-Assad elements had nothing to do with the Houla massacre, and in fact it was the so-called ‘Free Syrian Army’ and ‘opposition’ that is most likely responsible.
The Assad regime would have nothing to gain but everything to lose by perpetrating the Houla killings. These murders have played right into the hands of Syria’s enemies – those who seek regime change under the barrel of a ‘humanitarian’ gun. Initial reports from the opposition contradicted the physical manner in which the victims were killed. Three days after the event, Human Rights Watch joined the chorus blaming Assad and ‘pro-government forces’.(9)
However, the facts betray this speculation from the Syrian ‘opposition’ and so-called human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch.
Those killed were nearly exclusively families from the Alawi and Shia minorities in Sunni-majority Houla (while HRW and the ‘opposition’ try to suggest that the victims were Sunni). This included several dozen members of one extended family, which had converted from Sunni to Shia Islam. Also killed was the family of a Sunni member of parliament who was considered a government collaborator by the rebels.
Considering these points(10) and the fact that the massacre occurred as three Syrian Army checkpoints were being attacked by armed gangs around the town, the idea that the Syrian Army was responsible for the Houla killings is asinine. It is now evident that the sectarian terrorists whom people such as Simon Assaf refer to as ‘revolutionaries’, were responsible for this heinous crime.
Another notable moment during Palestine Place’s decidedly anti-Syrian evening was when ‘activist’ Dan Gorman showed the audience a video of an opposition-produced puppet show which ridiculed Bashar al-Assad and his father, Hafez. During the few-minute sequence, the puppets of Bashar and Hafez joked about killing Syrians, and bemoaned the propaganda peddled by Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. The entire audience smugly nodded, laughed and clapped as this ‘Two Minutes Hate’ played out before them.
When UK-based Syrian activist Shiar Youssef took the stage, he forged another memorable moment. “This is just how we work in Syria“, he said. He was referring to how Syrian activists work, compared to the way in which the Palestine Place activists were sat around on the floor of the room, gazing at the speaker. I have to confess, this reminded me of when UK Foreign Secretary William Hague admitted that the UK government is training Syrian activists.(11)
Conclusion: Solidarity Demands Intellectual Courage, not Servility & Herd Mentality
Palestine Place is, in every way, a microcosm of the international Palestine Solidarity Movement. Toothless, pseudo-enlightened know-it-alls who are intellectually servile, exclusivist, drowned in ego, and utterly impotent.
Ostensibly it has no individual leaders and is purely democratic, but this is meaningless since it religiously adheres to specific pre-defined boundaries of discussion. Freedom of speech and discussion exists only on paper; ‘thought criminals’ are barred and ostracised. It claims to present the opportunity for “radical change“. It ‘occupies’ a building with the full cooperation of the landowner (this writer confirmed this by speaking to activists on-site).
Frank Barat, a London-based human rights activist tells Mondoweiss about the ins and outs of Palestine Place. Barat, who this writer suspects plays a role in the Palestine Place project, promotes the organisation(12) as a movement that will mean the West will “never be the same again“.
He also insists that Palestine Place is “open to everyone and belongs to everyone“, and that it is a “hub of creativity, discussions and possibility for radical change“.
Palestine Place completely betrays these ideals.
Discussion of historical events intimately linked to Palestine and the history of Zionism, has been stifled. Attendees are banned and ostracised for having a different opinion; discussion outside of the mainstream is prohibited at this ‘radical’ outfit – whether this concerns the attendees or the opinionated, one-sided speakers who are invited to talk.
Palestine Place’s official ‘Safe Spaces Policy’ bars holocaust revisionism(13) (the act of enriching our understanding of history on an ongoing basis by examining and documenting the facts). I must reiterate: what legitimate reason could we possibly have for shielding any historical event from examination? What are they afraid of? What is there to hide? We are constantly reminded that we must learn from history lest it repeat itself (reminiscent of the ‘never again’ mantra), yet Palestine Place chooses to protect this aspect of history from scrutiny!
Interestingly, Palestine Place’s Safe Spaces Policy calls for (emphasis mine) “An end to the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied since 1967“. Does the land ethnically cleansed and occupied in 1948 not count? Did Israel’s crimes start in 1967? Palestine Place attempts to normalise the Nakba here, accepting the legitimacy of the 1948 land thefts and only referring to the 1967 occupation.
The following passage from the same policy statement is simply staggering in its dishonesty, keeping in mind the practices of Palestine Place:
Palestine Place will not be dogmatic nor prescriptive about attitudes, opinions or beliefs that relate to the political debate around Palestine.
Palestine Place is not an environment that encourages any level of independent or critical thought. Youngsters, keen to learn about the Palestinian cause (and the geopolitical landscape surrounding it – i.e. Syria) are being corralled into adopting a kosher ‘anti-Zionist’ viewpoint that will pose zero threat to Zionism.
Outspoken and dedicated pro-Palestinian voices are banned and ostracised. Guest speakers are invited who are exclusively representing a one-sided point of view. Discussion of Zionism’s founding myths are prevented. This supposed ‘solidarity’ outfit has demonstrably positioned itself into an anti-Palestinian standpoint, either wittingly or unwittingly.
The Palestine Solidarity Movement is terminally afraid of discussing subjects that are designated ‘no-go’ areas by Zionist ideology. The incessant false charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ is Zionism’s biggest ideological weapon – and we all know it – but our movement has no defence.
Only with real independent thought and intellectual courage will our movement proceed.
When we are held emotionally hostage by certain ideas, we must ask why.
We must never stop the pursuit of truth, regardless of the level of ‘herd mentality’ around us. We must take a step back and think objectively.
Exposing any and all deceptions which alter perceptions about Israel, anti-Semitism, and Palestine, is our place.
(1) ‘Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon’ – US Palestinian Community Network
(2) ‘Libya: at the crossroads’ by Simon Assaf
(3) ‘How Western Powers Blackmailed the Libyan Revolution’ by Simon Assaf
(4) ‘Leading Libyan Islamist met Free Syrian Army opposition group’ – The UK Telegraph
(5) ‘Foreign Terrorist Organizations’ – US Department of State
(6) ‘Jihadists Declare Holy War Against Assad Regime’ – Spiegel Online
(7) ‘Al-Qaeda Terrorists Airlifted From Libya to Aid Syrian Opposition’ by Paul Joseph Watson
(8) ‘US, 18 other nations, wrap up Eager Lion military exercise in Jordan’ – The Christian Science Monitor
(9) ‘Syria: UN Inquiry Should Investigate Houla Killings’ – Human Rights Watch
(10) ‘Leading German Daily: Houla Massacre Committed by Syrian Rebels’ – EmpireStrikesBlack.com
(11) ‘US fears fresh massacre in Syria’ – The UK Telegraph
(12) ‘‘Palestine Place’ comes to London, and the west will never be the same’ by Frank Barat
(13) ‘Safe Spaces Policy’ – Palestine Place
- Critiquing Israel: colonialism or Jewish culture? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Thought Police within the so-called ‘Palestine Solidarity Movement’ (windowintopalestine.blogspot.com)
In an article entitled “Hillary’s Little Startup: How the U.S. Is Using Technology to Aid Syria’s Rebels,” TIME Magazine reports that the Obama Administration has been providing media-technology training and support to Syrian dissidents by way of proxies such as the Institute for War & Peace Reporting and Freedom House. The title is a little misleading though. As the article reveals, it wasn’t Hillary Clinton that started it:
The program actually began four years ago with a different target: China. In 2008, Michael Horowitz, a longtime religious-liberty advocate, went to his friend Representative Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, and suggested setting aside funds to help Falun Gong, a religious group that Beijing has labeled a dangerous cult. The money was supposed to help the dissidents distribute software to jump China’s massive firewall and organize online as well as communicate freely with the outside world. Wolf succeeded in appropriating $15 million. But U.S. diplomats feared the move would derail relations with Beijing, and little money was spent. Then the 2009–10 Iranian protests and last year’s Arab Spring made Internet freedom a much more fashionable term in Washington. Congress soon forked over an additional $57 million to State to spend in the next three years. The money is split among three areas: education and training; anonymization, which masks users’ identities, usually through encryption; and circumvention technology, which allows users to overcome government censors so that their work—and that of repressive regimes—can be seen worldwide.
The destabilization program’s originators are hardly disappointed to see it now targeting one of Israel’s enemies. Michael Horowitz is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a neoconservative think tank with close ties to the Israeli right, from whence he mobilizes evangelical Christians on behalf of interventionist causes. His friend in Congress, Frank Wolf, can be also be relied upon to advance the Jewish state’s interests, such as he did when he helped block the appointment of Chas Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council, while denying that the lobby had anything to do with it.
As the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army continues to plunge Syria into chaos, the Israelis are no doubt pleased with the results of Horowitz and Wolf’s little startup.
14.2 million Egyptians live on less than one US dollar a day
A new Egypt demands a new constitution and president. Many pressing questions also need to be addressed, including the religious-secular divide, the value of Sharia in the making of law, citizenship, minority rights, the rule of civil society, foreign policy, and much more.
One issue that requires urgent attention in the current discussion is that of Egypt’s shattered economy. In the first round of elections on May 23, Egypt’s presidential candidates appeared to hold vastly different ideas regarding their vision for the future. With the elimination of independent candidate Hamdeen Sabahy before the final round on June 16-17, the economic program for the two remaining candidates seemed oddly similar and suspiciously familiar.
The oddity stems from the fact that the two contenders – Freedom and Justice Party candidate Mohamed Mursi and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq – are supposed to represent the two extremes defining Egypt after the 2011 revolution. Mursi is a Muslim Brotherhood figure, long oppressed by the very regime that Shafiq dutifully served.
The “run-off in Egypt’s presidential elections between the two most polarizing candidates has escalated investor concerns of renewed unrest,” claimed Arabia Monitor, a market research company. However, both candidates are united by their advocacy of the same free market economy, the guiding model for the discredited Mubarak regime. The news is hardly shocking in the case of Shafiq, an establishment man who would not be expected to challenge Egypt’s chronic inequality; Mursi’s position is bewildering.
While “rivals portray the Brotherhood as a nebulous organization obsessed with religion,” according to Patrick Werr, “its wide-ranging plan, details of which were revealed during the buildup to last month’s first-round presidential vote, projects a pragmatism that puts rapid economic growth ahead of ideology.” The Brotherhood ‘pragmatism’ is only commended here because it promotes “a strongly free-market economic plan” and a pledge to move quickly to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Some estimates put Egypt’s current debt at close to $190 billion. The Egyptian revolution, which in part sought economic justice and equitable distribution of wealth, is yet to produce a new economic reality. Under Mubarak, the economy operated through a selective interpretation of free market economy marred by extreme corruption in favor of the ruling elite. Over 15 months of haggling between the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), angry masses, a new elected parliament and other forces have now wreaked havoc on an already struggling economy. The Egyptian pound is facing the prospect of ‘disorderly devaluation.’ The IMF’s original loan offer of $3.2 billion, rejected by Egypt at the time, would not be enough to rectify the damage. Per Egyptian government and IMF estimates, the country requires $10-12 billion to secure the pound.
Currency devaluation is only a small aspect of Egypt’s current economic woes. The Economist (May 19-25) reported that Egypt’s foreign exchange reserve is now down to third of its value of 15 months ago and the budget deficit has surged to 10 percent of GDP. “The budget shortfall could be resolved by a stroke of scrapping energy subsidies, but in a country where 40% of people live in poverty; this is a sizzling political potato.”
It is actually much more than a ‘sizzling political potato’. The handling of the economy will ultimately make or break the relationship between Egypt’s new rulers and its people – most of whom are not only politically disfranchised, but economically marginalized as well.
Although most Egyptians now frown at Mubarak’s legacy, the country’s economic indicators were for years perceived favorably by Western financial institutions. After all Egypt recorded steady growth. Its ‘economic reforms’ post 1991 were largely celebrated for further liberalizing trade and investment, cutting subsidies (thus forcing the poor to continue teetering at the edge of poverty and utter desolation) and dismantling the public sector. The IMF and other Western lending institutions do not settle for anything but more austerity measures – regardless of whether Egypt’s new president is a bearded Muslim or an avowed liberal. The only ideology that matters for the IMF is the free market economy.
So what must be done for the almost 14.2 million people who live on less than one US dollar a day? 1.5 million Egyptian currently live in a large graveyard at the outskirts of Cairo. Austerity and further cuts could only lead to the kind of misery that instigated last year’s revolution.
Egypt’s remaining candidates promise to revive the economy while keeping social justice on the agenda. While Shafiq has promised an abundance of perks to various sectors of society, the Brotherhood has been promoting a detailed program called Al-Nahda, or The Renaissance. Enlisting the help of internationally renowned economists such as Peru’s Hernando de Soto Polar, Al-Nahda is reportedly a study of many economic models around the world, including Turkey, Malaysia and South Africa.
The Brotherhood’s initial presidential candidate, Khairat al-Shater was the “driving force behind the project,” according to the Daily Beast (June 7). In an interview last April, he laid down the basic premise of his plan: “The Egyptian economy must rely to a very, very large degree on the private sector. The priority is for Egyptian investors, then Arab then foreign.”
It is expected that Egypt’s intense public discussions in the current phase will be fixed on foundational issues such as the formation of a constitutional assembly and a redefinition of the rule of SCAF. But Egypt’s economy is deeply flawed. An IMF-style free market economy is of no use to millions of Egyptians when they lack proper education and the most basic rights and opportunities. For an Egyptian day laborer to have a better life in a country with a huge and growing income gap between rich and poor, something fundamental needs to take place.
Referencing ‘social justice’ while negotiating IMF loans suggests a precarious start for any truly fundamental economic reforms. While Hamdeen Sabahy is no longer in the race to challenge the free market wisdom of his contenders, the debate must not end here.
- Sacrificing Mubarak to Save His Regime (alethonews.wordpress.com)
World Bank president Robert Zoellick said last week that the days of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were “numbered” economically and politically following a wave of nationalisations.
Zoellick spoke ominously of “an opportunity to make the western hemisphere the first democratic hemisphere” by exploiting Chavez’s hypothetical downfall to force “rapid policy changes” on other countries, naming Cuba and Nicaragua.
Without a trace of irony he talked of how the US could make Latin America “a place of democracy, development and dignity” rather than one of “coups, caudillos and cocaine.”
A bit rich from the country which organised the coups, bankrolled the caudillos and bought the cocaine for decades before the progressive movement spearheaded by Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution began to reshape the continent.
But Zoellick may be underestimating his target. The Bolivarian revolution has made tremendous gains for Venezuela’s democracy, development and dignity precisely by challenging the might of exploitative transnational companies. Here we can look at just one example – Venezuela v a British man nicknamed “Spam.”
Or to give him his full title, Samuel George Armstrong Vestey, third baron Vestey, lieutenant in the Scots Guards, peer, ex-chancellor and lord prior to the Order of St John of Jerusalem, deputy lieutenant of Gloucestershire, Master of the Horse of the Sovereign, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.
He’s 27th in the Order of Preference for Gentlemen in the UK – a who’s who of the nobility – the ex-husband to Prince Harry’s godmother and owner of the 2,430-hectare Stowell Park estate in Gloucestershire. More importantly he’s the head of Vestey Group.
The group is a British foodstuff conglomerate founded in Liverpool in 1897, which made its fortune importing meat. It moved into Venezuela in 1903 and bought 11 ranches in prime-quality land (classified in the country as “A1,” the best possible for farming), setting up the Compania Inglesa subsidiary in the country which itself set up Agroflora, the cattle-ranching arm of the business.
The company did well, buying up land in a range of other countries from Australia to China and making vast profits for its owners William and Edmund Vestey. William managed to get ennobled as a baron despite opposition from King George V, who was irritated by his demand for tax-exempt status at the height of World War I.
When this demand was refused they went into tax exile in Argentina before setting up a dodgy if legal scheme involving a French trust fund that enabled them to evade almost all tax in Britain until the loophole was closed in 1991. A Sunday Times investigation once revealed that in 1978 the firm had managed to pay just £10 in tax on a profit of around £2.3 million.
They were at their height called “the richest dynasty in the land apart from the Windsors.” Biographer Philip Knightley wrote: “They did not live on the income, they did not live on the interest from their investments. They lived on the interest on the interest.”
Business and tax evasion went excellently for William’s successors until 2001, when the Chavez government passed a new land law allowing it to look into all landholdings of over 5,000 hectares and forcibly nationalise them with compensation if they were deemed inactive, idle or no project was presented for their development.
Spam had a problem – he owned over 420,000ha of land in Venezuela and over 130,000 head of cattle. Twelve of his ranches surpassed the 5,000ha mark. So he held a one-man protest outside Venezuela’s London embassy in February 2001.
Squatters began to settle on his lands and cultivate crops. Though they were making use of previously inactive land, there are reports of these landless farmers being shot at and even murdered by men allegedly paid off by Spam.
In 2005 things got even worse for the tycoon. The government sent troops into his Charcote ranch and confiscated 13,000 cattle. After coming to an agreement with the government Spam received the equivalent of £2.65m in local currency as compensation for two ranches he was forced to give up.
In 2008 there was controversy over the plight of 400 indigenous people who lived on his Morichito ranch. By the terms of the land contract they were literally owned by Spam.
In October 2010 he faced his biggest problem yet when Chavez declared: “All the lands of the so-called Compania Inglesa will be nationalised now. I don’t want to lose another day. Free the land, free the slave labour.”
That meant around 300,000ha of land, all his remaining ranches and 120,000 cattle.
The Central Bank immediately approved funds for buying up the ranches. Chavez pointed out: “We must recognise what is really private land, we’re not stealing it from anyone. Some companies like this insist we pay them in foreign money. No – we are in Venezuela.”
The ranches passed to the state and the jobs of the workers were guaranteed. Some land was distributed to those who lived or worked on it to set up co-operatives, some continues production under state administration and some areas are being restructured for crop rather than cattle-farming.
Spam said: “We have been in constructive discussions with the Venezuelan government for some time now and we continue in that vein in order to find a friendly agreement.”
These discussions went on for about a year. But in October 2011 talks fell apart over the payment issue and lands were ordered to be taken by force.
Spam was offered compensation in the overvalued local currency and no other, a total of 274m bolivars (£46m).
Poor Spam was left without a single ranch.
Many economists, landowners, cattle-ranchers and general bigwigs were up in arms over these land-grabs.
Many peasants, workers, patriots and general country folk supported them.
But the government pointed out that Spam’s deeds had not been in order – and that anyway if you went back far enough the land had been nicked off the people in the first place.
It also reminded us that 90 per cent of the meat produced on these ranches was to be sold in Britain. Venezuelan land, Venezuelan cattle, Venezuelan labour, but virtually no meat for Venezuela at a time when the country was importing 70 per cent of meat consumed.
That this was A1 fertile land – perfect for crop production, not cattle-ranching.
And finally that there were millions of Venezuelans without land, houses or businesses who could benefit from the lots of all three owned by the absentee landlord.
So 2011 was the year that concluded the story of Spam in Venezuela. But not to worry – the third baron Vestey’s colonial adventures continue in, among other places, Australia, Brazil and China.
- Venezuela Happiest Country in South America (webabuser.blogspot.com)
According to the Army Times newspaper, the United States will soon deploy a brigade of about 3,000 troops – “and likely more” – for duty “across the continent” of Africa. The “pilot program”has all the markings of a permanent, roving presence, joining the 1,200 U.S. soldiers stationed in Djibouti and the 100-plus Special Forces dispatched to Central Africa by President Obama, last October.
As always and everywhere, the U.S. is looking for bases to occupy – although the U.S. military command in Africa doesn’t call them bases. Rather, “as part of a ‘regionally’ aligned force concept,’ soldiers will live and work among Africans in safe communities approved by the U.S. government,” said AFRICOM’s Maj. Gen. David Hogg.
The First Black U.S. President, who in 2009 lectured Africans that “corruption” and “poor governance,” rather than neocolonialism, were the continent’s biggest problems, has made the U.S. military the primary interlocutor with African states. Functions that were once the purview of the U.S. State Department, such as distribution of economic aid and medical assistance, are now part of AFRICOM’s vast portfolio. In Africa, more than anyplace in the world, U.S. foreign policy wears a uniform – which should leave little doubt as to Washington’s objectives in the region: Africa is to be dominated by military means. Obama’s “good governance” smokescreen for U.S. neocolonialism is embedded in AFRICOM’s stated mission: “to deter and defeat transnational threats and to provide a security environment conducive to good governance and development.” Translation: to bring the so-called war on terror to every corner of the continent and ensure that U.S. corporate interests get favorable treatment from African governments.
AFRICOM’s array of alliances and agreements with African militaries already embraces virtually every nation on the continent except Eritrea and Zimbabwe. All but a handful of Black African states routinely take part in military maneuvers staged by Americans, utilizing U.S. command-and-control equipment and practices. The new, roving U.S. brigade will further institutionalize U.S. ties with the African officer class, part of AFRICOM’s mission to forge deep “soldier-to-soldier” relationships: general-to-general, colonel-to-colonel, and so forth down the line. The proposed network of “safe communities” to accommodate the highly mobile U.S. brigade is a euphemism for joint bases and the most intense U.S. fraternization with local African militaries. Regime change will never be farther away than a drink at the officers club.
According to the Army Times article, the composition of the new brigade, in terms of military skills, is not yet known. However, the brigade is conceived as part of the “new readiness model,” which “affords Army units more time to learn regional cultures and languages and train for specific threats and missions.” This sounds like special ops units – Rangers and Special Forces – which have been vastly expanded under President Obama (and are quite capable of carrying out regime-change operations on their own or in close coordination with their local counterparts).
In most cases, coups will be unnecessary. Regional African “trade” blocs like ECOWAS, the 16-member Economic Community of West African States, and IGAD, the six-nation Intergovernmental Authority on Development, in East Africa, have provided African cover for U.S. and French military/political designs in the Ivory Coast and Somalia, respectively. These blocs will doubtless become even more useful and compliant, as U.S. military commanders and their African counterparts get cozier in those “safe communities.”
Americans, no matter how bloody their hands, have always liked to think of themselves as “innocents abroad.” “As far as our mission goes, it’s uncharted territory,” said AFRICOM’s Gen. Hogg. Not really. The Americans are following a European chart in Africa that goes back centuries, and their own long experience in the serial rape of Latin America, where the close fraternization of U.S. and Latin American militaries in recent decades smothered the region in juntas, dirty wars, torture-based states, and outright genocide.
The U.S. and its African allies perpetrated of the worst genocide since World War Two: the death of six million in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Uganda, which acts as a mercenary for the U.S. in Africa, is complicit in mega-death in Congo and Somalia. As Milton Allimadi, publisher of Black Star News, reported: “In 2005 The International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Uganda liable for the Congo crimes. The court awarded Congo $10 billion in reparations. Uganda’s army plundered Congo’s wealth and committed: mass rapes of both women and men; disemboweled pregnant women; burned people inside their homes alive; and, massacred innocents.”
Naturally, as a henchman of the United States, Uganda has not paid the $10 billion it owes Congo. Ugandan leader Yoweria Museveni, who became Ronald Reagan’s favorite African after seizing power in 1986 with a guerilla army packed with child soldiers, and who for decades waged genocidal war against the Acholi people of his country, now plays host to the Special Forces continent sent by President Obama, ostensibly to fight the child soldier-abusing Joseph Kony and his nearly nonexistent Lord’s Resistance Army.
Rwanda, the Pentagon’s other hit man on the continent, has been cited by a United Nations report as bearing responsibility for some of the millions slaughtered in Congo, as part of its ongoing rape and plunder of its neighbor.
Gen. Hogg says AFRICOM’s mission is to combat famine and disease. Yet, the AFRICOM-assisted Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in late 2006 led to “the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa – worse than Darfur,” according to United Nations observers. The 2007 humanitarian crisis and the escalating U.S.-directed war against Somalia made the 2010 famine all but inevitable.
Ugandan soldiers, nominally working for the African Union but in the pay of the Pentagon, kept watch over western interests in the starving country, as did the 1,200 soldiers stationed at the U.S. base in neighboring Djibouti – a permanent presence, along with the French garrison.
There’s nothing “uncharted” or mysterious about AFRICOM’s mission. The introduction of the 3,000-strong mobile brigade and a network of supporting bases prepares the way for the arrival of much larger U.S. and NATO forces – the recolonization of Africa. Gen. Hogg swears up and down there are no such plans. “For all the challenges that happen and sprout up across Africa, it really comes down to, it has to be an African solution,” he said.
That’s exactly the same thing they said in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- Libya, Africa and Africom (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The United States has been expanding its secret intelligence operations across Africa through a network of small air bases in the continent and under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the US military has established some small air bases across Africa and trained many army personnel in a bid to keep crucial African regions under surveillance.
The report, obtained from documents and people involved in the US military project, said that the US has kept small, unarmed turboprop aircraft in the bases which are disguised as private planes.
The aircraft are supplied with veiled sensors that are able to record full-motion videos, track infrared heat patterns and vacuum up radio and cell phone signals. They are refueled on remote airstrips, used by African bush pilots, broadening their flight range by thousands of miles.
The paper quoted a former US commander, who was engaged in establishing the network, as saying that the military has set up a dozen of such air bases in Africa since 2007.
The covert air bases are reportedly situated in countries such as Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, and Seychelles.
The surveillance operations have increased recently as part of a move to “fight against al-Qaeda and other militant groups.” The operations are reportedly run by US Special Operations forces but largely depend on private military contractors and support from African forces.
Meanwhile, following the US Africa Command, the administration has been training and equipping militaries in several countries across the continent including Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia under the pretext of stopping “terrorists from establishing sanctuaries.”
Moreover, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has also increased its counterterrorism and intelligence-gathering operations throughout Africa.
The US government has repeatedly claimed that such interventions are conducted to fight terrorism. However, it is strongly believed that there are no significant terrorist threats in Africa against the US.
In his introduction to “Finding a Balance: U.S. Security Interests and the Arab Awakening,” the recently published fifth volume (.pdf) of The Washington Institute’s counterterrorism lecture series, editor Matthew Levitt writes:
Together, these lectures provide a window into both the struggle against extremism and the challenges and opportunities presented by the Arab Spring during the Obama administration’s third and fourth years in office. From finding new counterterrorism partners to keeping al-Qaeda and other illiberal forces at bay as new regimes take root, Washington and its allies must continue showing the flexibility and creativity that produced the State Department’s CSCC and facilitated the Treasury Department’s spectacular success at using financial tools to support democratic transition in the Middle East (emphasis added). After all, events in the region are still unfolding, and the outcome remains to be seen. Even as Washington and its allies contend with an evolving but still potent terrorist threat—including the rise of homegrown violent extremism—they have much more work to do in aiding the forces of democracy and liberalism in the Middle East. Although al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been remarkably absent from the Arab Spring to date, violent or nonviolent Islamist extremists could still hijack the revolutions orchestrated by liberal Arab youths and turn them to their own purpose. Preventing this will require timely analysis and creative thinking of the kind presented in this volume.
As Daniel L. Glaser, assistant secretary for terrorist financing in the Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, remarked in his lecture, “Treasury’s Response to the Arab Spring,” Levitt, the director of WINEP’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and former deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Treasury Department, “played an integral role in the development of Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.”
Those who still believe that the Arab Spring poses a threat to Israel need to consider this question: Why is the think tank AIPAC built so enthusiastic about the “spectacular success” of the lobby’s Treasury Department creation “at using financial tools to support democratic transition in the Middle East”?
- Lebanon: ‘Arab Spring benefits Israel only’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)