The South American trade bloc Mercosur has announced that Venezuela will become a full member of the group on July 31.
On Friday, at a summit meeting in Mendoza, a small city in western Argentina, Mercosur leaders also agreed to extend Paraguay’s suspension over the dismissal of President Fernando Lugo until constitutional order is restored, Reuters reported.
The lower house of the Paraguayan Congress impeached Lugo on June 21, and the Senate opened his trial on June 22 and quickly reached a guilty verdict, ousting Lugo.
Mercosur leaders did not impose economic sanctions on Paraguay but banned Paraguayan officials from participating in Mercosur meetings.
Paraguay’s suspension created an opportunity for Venezuela to be incorporated into the bloc since opposition in the Paraguayan Congress was the only obstruction after a six-year wait.
Although the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay approved Venezuela’s admission into the bloc in 2006, its status remained in limbo as the agreement depended on ratification by the Paraguayan Congress.
“We’re calling on the entire region to recognize the need to expand our union so we can confront this crisis… caused by rich countries, but which will affect our economies regardless,” Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said at the summit.
“(We need to) develop the incredible potential that South America has in terms of food and agriculture, minerals, energy, and science and technology,” she added.
Mercosur is an economic union and political agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay founded in 1991. Its purpose is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people, and currency.
The bloc’s combined market encompasses more than 250 million people and accounts for more than three-quarters of the economic activity on the continent, or a combined GDP of $1.1 trillion.
- Mercosur suspends Paraguay from trade bloc over Lugo ouster (alethonews.wordpress.com)
One of the most common questions anyone who has ever written about Palestine or engaged in debate around the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would regularly face is “Why do they [Palestinians] teach their children to hate?” This question is a favoured rhetorical tool of the pro-Israel propagandists because it neatly encapsulates a host of Orientalist and racist implications while never actually making them explicit.
By asking this question one is implying that Palestinians do not love their children the way every other culture loves theirs. The question dehumanises Palestinians and casts them as other and alien, in effect blaming them for their own oppression. Rafeef Ziadeh tackles and deconstructs that very question, while constructing an alternative more robust narrative in her spoken word piece ““We Teach Life, Sir””, culminating in the phrase “We Palestinians wake up every morning to teach the rest of the world life, sir”.
The question is largely based on misleading, and since proved false, reports by Israeli government sources and the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP). The Electronic Intifada described this group in an article entitled The Myth of Incitement in Palestinian Textbooks, published on 07/12/2010, as “a Jewish organization with links to extremist and racist Israeli groups that advocate settlement activities in the Palestinian territories, expulsion (transfer) of Palestinians from their homeland, and claims that Palestinians are all “terrorists” and that peace with them is not possible.”
These reports, which have been accepted at face value by proponents of Israel, particularly in the USA’s political and media spheres, claim that textbooks used in the occupied Palestinian territories are filled with anti-Semitic and inciting language. While these claims have been completely debunked by a variety of sources and have been shown to be pure fabrication, they keep being parroted and resurface whenever the occupation is questioned.
What is however missing from this discussion, but becoming more apparent, is that the reverse is actually true. The Israeli education system and Israeli textbooks are in fact filled with incitement and racist discourse. The latest example of this was a leaked civics preparatory examination question approved by the Israeli ministry of education. The text can be viewed on The Alternative Information Centre (AIC) news website.
The text of the question reads (translation used from AIC):
“The wives of rabbis published a letter calling on daughters of Israel not to hang around with Arabs. There are those who support this letter and those who think it’s not appropriate. Express your opinion about the letter. In your answer, present two reasons and explain using concepts you learned in civics.”
The most disturbing part of this story is that the sample answer provided takes the side of “the wives of rabbis” and provides racist arguments in support of that stance.
The sample answer reads as follows: “I support the letter of the wives of rabbis.
- If the daughters of Israel will hang around with Arabs, they are liable to have relationships and marry them. This would harm the Jewish majority of the state.
- If the daughters of Israel will hang around with Arabs, they are liable to fall victims of violence for nationalistic reasons. This would harm their right to life and security.”
The fact that the Education Ministry promotes openly racist stereotyping and discourse, particularly in a civics class, is indicative of the normalisation and prevalence of such forms of discourse within Israeli society at large and the education system in particular. This type of language and use of racist tropes is not uncommon in Israel. It is however, remarkable that it would be considered acceptable to use in an educational setting.
The Israeli political leaders commonly use these tropes to represent Palestinians as alien and other. Being referred to as “Arabs” as opposed to “Palestinians” is highly problematic, particularly when it is directed towards the Palestinian citizens of Israel. It is a strategy that aims at separating them and their struggle from that of the Palestinians within the occupied territories and the refugees and Diaspora Palestinians. It is also a way of diluting the specific Palestinian identity within a larger Arab identity, making it possible to argue that Palestinians can settle in any Arab country.
Another problem is the fact that “The daughters of Israel” is seen to represent only Jewish Israelis and not Palestinian citizens of Israel, even though around twenty per cent of Israelis are in fact Palestinian. Palestinians are thus marginalised and excluded. They are not seen to be legitimate citizens of the state of Israel. They are outsiders and alien to the state of Israel.
The third racist trope is the assumption of the threat of violence. Palestinians are seen as inherently violent. This assumption of violence is presented as fact.
The fourth and final trope is the representation of Palestinians as a demographic threat. There is nothing new in this statement, it is however extremely problematic. The portrayal of Palestinians as a demographic threat is very commonplace in Israeli political discourse. While this description can be traced back the early years of the Israeli state, It was first the Koenig Memorandum in 1976 and then Benjamin Netanyahu in 2003 who mainstreamed the use of the term in reference to the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
In 2003 the then interior minister, now prime minister, Netanyahu openly called the Palestinian citizens of Israel a demographic threat. He said: “If there is a demographic problem, and there is, it is with the Israeli Arabs who will remain Israeli citizens.” Since then, that language has become mainstream in Israeli political discourse and is regularly used to describe the native population.
The leaked civics examination question is not the only indicator that the Israeli education system is in fact filled with incitement and racist language. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli scholar, tracks the propaganda and racism in Israeli textbooks in her book “Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education”.
In an interview conducted by Alternate Focus last year she explains part of her findings in the book. She explains that Israeli schoolbooks tend to use and deploy strategies of racist discourse similar to the ones used to represent the third world in European textbooks and First Nations in US ones.
The first such strategy is that Palestinians in Israeli textbooks are completely absent. She says: “Palestinians are not represented at all in Israeli textbooks… In all the text books […] that I looked at you cannot find one photograph of a human being who is a Palestinian”
She continues by saying that “You never see a Palestinian doctor, or teacher, or child. And the only way they are represented are as the problems or threats… As terrorists… or primitive farmers… or in racist cartoons”, which is the second strategy to represent Palestinians. She explains that Palestinians are often referred to as “the Palestinian problem”, echoing the European anti-Semitic language prevalent in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, which described the Jewish population as “the Jewish Problem”.
She explains in the rest of the interview the various other strategies deployed by Israeli schoolbooks, which as a whole amount to a very disturbing picture of the Israeli education system. These strategies include representing the death of Palestinians “as the lesser evil if it brings any good consequences to us”. She also says that: “Israelis are really educated to worship death, to sacrifice themselves for the country”.
She also notes that the “demographic problem” is very prominent in these textbooks, in reference to the 1948 Nakba. The ethnic cleansing that took place in Palestine prior to and after the creation of Israel is represented as a just and necessary event in order to secure a Jewish majority in what had become Israel.
All these facts lead to the conclusion that if this deployment of incitement and racist discourse within the Israeli education system does not change, there is very little room for progress in resolving the plight of Palestinians.
What the mounting evidence shows is that the Israeli education system is a highly ideological system that institutionalises and normalises racist representations of the native population, i.e. Palestinians. In such a context, it seems more apt to reverse the perennial question and, instead, ask “why do Israelis teach their children to hate?”
- UK Report finds Israel breaches International Law in treatment of Palestinian children (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli ex-top diplomat backs boycott (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- In Israel: “Textbook Warns, Associating With Arabs Is Dangerous” (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel Plans Demolition of Entire Palestinian Village (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- CPR calls for an international investigation into death of Palestinian prisoners (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- The Silent Ethnic Cleansing: A Glimpse Into the Plight of an “Invented” People (alethonews.wordpress.com)
THEDUMBPLANET | May 15, 2012
The people of Iceland forced their corrupt government to resign.
A public assembly was created to rewrite the constitution.
The banks were nationalized;
it was decided not to pay the debt that PRIVATE banks created.
All of this was accomplished in a peaceful way…
What would happen if the rest of the world followed this example?
Head of the Census Department at the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees, Abdul-Nasser Farawna, reported that the current number of elected Palestinian legislators imprisoned by Israel dropped to 22 after Israel released, on Thursday afternoon, two legislators, the Palestine News Network, PNN, reported.
The two legislators who were released Thursday are Khalil Ar-Rabaey from Hebron, and Nasser Abdul-Jawad from Salfit.
Farawna said that Israel released, over the past five days, five legislators identified as Anwar Zboun, Ayman Daraghma, and Mohammad At-Til, in addition to Ar-Rabaey and Abdul-Jawad.
He added that 22 legislators are still imprisoned by Israel, 19 of them are members of the Hamas Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, in addition to the Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, legislator Ahmad Saadat, legislator Marwan Barghouthi and legislator Jamal At-Terawi, both members of Fateh movement.
Farawna stated that the continued abduction and imprisonment of the elected legislators and officials is a direct violation of international law and basic principles of human rights, and a violation of the principles of democracy.
He added that kidnapping Palestinian officials is a rude Israeli meddling in internal Palestinian affairs, and called on Arab and international parliamentarian to act on obliging Israel to secure the release of all elected officials.
- Israeli Government Fails to Carry Out Terms of Prisoner Agreement (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Palestinian prisoners’ conference declaration statement (windowintopalestine.blogspot.com)
- Israel arrests 800,000 Palestinians since 1948 (alethonews.wordpress.com)
An angry crowd, beating drums and waving pitchforks, clubs, and hammers, marches up the street, heading for the house of a local politician. It’s political theater, but the pitchforks, clubs and hammers are real. So, does the politician get out on her porch and meet the protesters with a shotgun? Or, as has become a standard response to protest in Oakland, does she call in riot police, armed with everything from tear gas to tanks?
This was the scene on June 11th, a public protest to an ordinance proposed by Oakland City Council member Patricia Kernighan to ban what she calls “Tools of Violence.”
It’s true that violence is a serious problem in Oakland. People shoot people, and the police also shoot people. Police are part of the problem. In February an officer killed a teenager and shot himself in the foot–literally. In dealing with political protests the OPD also has a terrible record, most famously on April 7, 2003 when 59 people were injured by attacking police; the incident was investigated by a United Nations commission, and the city received mention on the list of the world’s human rights abusers. The practice continues: At Occupy demonstrations last fall officers critically injured Iraq war veterans Scott Olsen in October and Kayvan Sabeghi in November. There’ve been numerous injuries, some major and many minor.
(It almost happened to me–on January 28 I happened to look up and see an officer aiming a shotgun at my face. For an instant I thought I was going to be the next Scott Olsen.)
This has been going on for years. It’s gotten to a point where a judge has warned that the OPD may be placed in federal receivership for failure to implement court ordered reforms. So Council member Pat Kernighan’s concern with violence might have seemed totally justified and downright commendable if it had been directed at the police rather than at peaceful protesters.
However, Kernighan’s ordinance targets protesters who, after Scott and Kayvan were injured, began carrying shields to protect themselves from police projectiles. The proposed “tools of violence” ordinance defines the “tools” so broadly as to include shields, as well as backpacks, and even water bottles and tripods for cameras. Obviously, the proposed ordinance has little to do with ending violence; it’s about suppressing First Amendment rights.
The situation called for creative theater, a dramatic response as bizarre as the proposed ordinance. So Occupy Oakland called a demonstration, inviting people to bring pots & pans and their favorite TOOL OF VIOLENCE. The event was publicized, both online and in leaflets, so Pat Kernighan obviously knew we were coming to visit her at her home on Monday, June 11th.
That evening a delegation of about fifty of us gathered at the northeast end of Lake Merritt. We were appropriately equipped with the various items of the Kernighan Tool Kit. One couple had brought a huge fork and spoon, some had shields, others wore bike helmets, and almost everyone had water bottles. Several carried hammers. Hammers, which would normally seem quite out of place at a demonstration, had now become a symbol of protest against the suppression of our First Amendment rights.
I brought my whole earth flag on a pole–the same flag I’ve been carrying for years at the Sunday peace walk. Although there has never been any complaint about my flag, Kernighan’s proposed ordinance would define the 6-foot pole as a club, and the penalty would be six months in jail. So that qualified my flag as appropriate for this event.
People carried all sorts of “tools.” My favorite of that evening was a large manure fork, carried by a hefty fellow looking like he was on his way to clean a barn. A standard farm tool, its long sharp prongs added a subtle touch of serious authenticity to our image.
After a brief rally, we set out marching up Lakeshore filling the right hand lane as usual, beating drums and chanting, “These are NOT–tools of violence!”
Some passersby gawked at us, staring wide-eyed at the bizarre display of tools, nearly enough to equip a hardware store. Others waved.
Police cars trailed behind, but didn’t interfere.
At the front of our column was a banner, reading “No justice, no peace.” We had several livestreamers, camera people, some in front and some in the middle.
Up Lakeshore Avenue, onto Walavista, and eventually up a long steep hill on Arimo Avenue towards where Councilmember Pat Kernighan lives.
“Patty! Patty! Can’t you see? You will live in infamy!” we chanted as we ascended the hill, also distributing leaflets as we went.
And what would we find on arrival? What would she do when she saw an angry crowd, beating drums and waving pitchforks, clubs, and hammers, marching up the street, heading straight for her door? Would she be standing on her porch, shotgun in hand, like in a Western movie? Or, as has become the pattern here in Oakland, would we be greeted by a phalanx of riot police? Perhaps even an armored vehicle–the one the sheriffs had brought out on May Day?
This was a relatively affluent neighborhood, and there were no potholes in this street. Houses up here were elegant, well kept up, but not really mansions. The inhabitants were clearly among the better off residents of Oakland’s District 2, but they didn’t appear to be the 1%. Some families came out and waved to us. Even up here, Occupy seemed to enjoy a bit of popular support.
And finally, along the crest of the hill, we came to a halt. This was where Pat Kernighan lived. It was a one-story house, pale green with white trim, and large windows across the front. Nice, but rather modest for an officeholder who serves the 1%.
No police. Not in front of her house anyway. There were just the two or three cop cars behind us. They stayed back, keeping their distance.
So where was Pat Kernighan? Three or four of our delegation went to ring her door bell, knocking on the door, peering in the windows. “Councilmember Kernighan, where are you? You have visitors. A delegation from Occupy Oakland. Don’t you want to come out and talk with us? No?”
The rest of us waited out in the street, watching. A TV camera, I think it was Channel 2, was filming the scene, as were several of our camera people.
Watching this, I thought of a demonstration I’d read about years ago which was held in front of a governor’s mansion. I forget which state, or who the governor was, but anyway. He came out and talked with the protesters, who must’ve been pretty surprised. It gave the appearance of a politician who listened, and it made the guy look good. And it occurred to me that if Pat Kernighan were to come out and talk with us, she might come off looking good this evening.
“Maybe she’s hiding in the basement,” quipped someone standing next to me.
“Leaving her house undefended? Look at those big windows. She’s been telling everyone that we’re a band of violent vandals.”
“She could’ve had riot police here to protect her home, but she didn’t bother to call them. Obviously she doesn’t believe we’re violent. It’s just something she talks about at the city council.”
We held a short rally, Bella Eiko and Elle Queue spoke while others leafleted the nearby houses, just to let Kernighan’s neighbors know why we’d came. Then we marched back the way we’d came, down the hill and back to the flatlands, beating drums, and waving flags, hammers and pitchforks.
*****Below is Council member Kernighan’s proposed ordinance (The numerous typos in the below are in the original):
ACTION REQUESTED OF THE CITY COUNCIL
Adopfion of this ordinance.
APPROVED AS TO FORM AND LEGALITY
ORDINANCE NO. C.M.S.
INTRODUCED BY COUNCIL MEMBER KERNIGHAN AND CITY ATTORNEY PARKER ORDINANCE PROHIBITING THE POSSESSION OF THE TOOLS OF VIOLENCE DURING A DEMONSTRATION
THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF OAKLAND DOES ORDAIN AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. The following is added to the Oakland Municipal Code, Chapter 9.36 – Weapons.
Section 9.36.500. Tools of Violence at Demonstrations
The following definitions shall apply only for the purposes of this section.
“Club” means any length of lumber, wood, wood lath, plastic, or metal, unless that object is one-fourth inch or less in thickness and two inches or less in width or, if not generally rectangular in shape, such object shall not exceed three-quarter inch in its thickest dimension. Nothing in this section shall prohibit a disabled person from carrying a cane, walker, or similar device necessary for mobility so that the person may participate in a demonstration.
“Painting Device” means any aerosol paint can or pressurized paint sprayer, including but not limited to, any improvised device.
“Paint Projectile” means any container, including a plastic bag or balloon, and containing paint and designed to be thrown or projected.
“Shield” means any impact-resistant material held by straps or a handle attached on the holder’s side of the impact-resistant material and designed to provide impact protection for the holder. “Handle” does not include a stick or dowel used as a sign post. Paper, cloth, cardboard, or foam core less than one-quarter inch thick are not impact-resistant material for the purposes of this ordinance.
“Wrench” means a wrench with a span greater than or expandable to one and a quarter inches standard or 30 millimeters metric and of a length of 12 inches or more. B. Weapons and Vandalism Tools Prohibited.
No person shall carry or possess a Club, fire accelerant, fireworks, Painting Device, Paint Projectile, Shield, sling shot, hammer, or Wrench while participating in any demonstration.
The prohibitions of this section shall not apply to any law enforcement agency employee, fire service agency employee, or public works employee who is carrying out official duties.
1. Any person violating Subsection B is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) or by both.
2. Remedies under this chapter are in addition to and do not supersede or limit any and all other remedies, civil or criminal. The remedies provided for herein shall be cumulative and not exclusive.
Daniel Borgström is an ex-Marine against the war, a veteran occupier. He writes about progressive actions. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
This Wednesday, June 27, Ecuadoran President Rafaeal Correa, after hearing from a delegation of SOA Watch, has taken the decision to cease sending Ecuadoran soldiers to the School of the Americas.
We wish to express our happiness for this decision by the Ecuadoran government, convinced that the School of the Americas – now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation –indeed trained and trains Latin American soldiers under the doctrine of National Security, based on fighting the internal enemy. This doctrine has borne human rights violations throughout Latin America.
In 2010, in the Truth Commission Report that investigated human rights violations in Ecuador, the training that Ecuadoran soldiers had received at the School of the Americas was called to attention, and the report recommended that the State cease sending troops to the military school. Today that recommendation has been taken into account and we are happy.
The thousands of victims of human rights violations in Ecuador and all of Latin America have the right to know those responsible for the killings, forced disappearances and torture, and that they are brought to justice to pay for their crimes. At the same time, nations must give guarantees to society and survivors that this will not happen again. One concrete way to do this is to end military training at the SOA, that has caused so much damage and suffering to our people.
Ecuador joins Venezuela, Uruguay, Argentina and Bolivia, who have pulled out of the SOA. As a result, we call on the other countries of Latin America to stop sending their troops to the School of the Americas as soon as possible.
We congratulate President Rafael Correa for this sovereign decision and to finally protect the Ecuadoran people from being subject to future human rights violations.
School of the Americas Watch
South American foreign ministers have suspended Paraguay from the regional trade bloc, Mercosur, over last week’s ouster of former President Fernando Lugo.
However, the bloc stopped short of imposing economic sanctions on Paraguay, which is one of the four founding members of the Mercosur bloc, along with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
Paraguay was banned from this week’s summit held in Mendoza, Argenita, as the regional leaders considered the removal of the country’s first left-wing president as a parliamentary coup.
“Through a unanimous decision by Mercosur’s permanent and associate members, it has been decided– because of the events that occurred last Friday– to suspend Paraguay’s participation in this presidential summit,” Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said on Friday at a news conference.
Last week Paraguay’s Senate removed Lugo from office after a five-hour impeachment trial. He was accused of mishandling an armed clash over a land dispute in which seven police officers and ten landless farmers were killed on June 15.
Lugo was immediately replaced by his pro-US deputy, Federico Franco. The move has prompted harsh criticism inside the country and among its neighboring nations.
South American officials said that the suspension of Paraguay will stand until “democracy is fully restored” to the country.
Bolivian President Evo Morales voiced his concerns over what happened in Paraguay, saying that his country will not “recognize a dictatorship in paraguay.”
Several South American nations have recalled their ambassadors from Paraguay’s capital Asuncion, permanently or for consultation, in a bid to show their opposition to the dismissal of a democratically elected president.
- Paraguay faces expulsion from Mercosur/Unasur, economic isolation (alethonews.wordpress.com)
By Mairead Maguire | June 29, 2012
People around the world are deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis in Syria.
While we are being presented with some perspective of what is occurring on the ground to the people of Syria, the door seems closed to others. We search for voices we can trust, voices which point to a peaceful, lasting solution to the conflict. We search for truth because it is truth which will set the Syrian people free. Truth is difficult to find, so through the haze of conflicting narratives we must inevitably hear the voices and wisdom of men and women of peace in Syria.
Many may believe that there is a fight going on in Syria for ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. We can be seduced into thinking there is a magic wand or instant formula to mix that will create a democratic country, but there are none. If it is a democracy a people want they must strive for it in their own way. It is said the Greek idea of democracy was that people would be equally valued. This is something every society has to strive for at every point in its history; it itself is a ‘revolutionary’ concept and a nonviolent revolutionary action. Strive to value everyone equally. It is an idea, a motivation for a better world that doesn’t require blood; it requires the hard work of people and the nurturing of a community spirit; a constant growing of peace and it starts within each human heart.
Who are the voices of peace in regard to the crisis in Syria? Many of them we cannot hear from where we are standing. They are the mothers and fathers and children who want to leave their homes to walk to market or to school without fear. They are the people, who have been working hard for Syria, for the idea of Syria as a secular and modern country.
There are some Syrian voices that have been heard consistently since the beginning of the crisis. Many of them are anonymous and they speak to us about injustices and atrocities. Numbers are given and fingers are pointed. The blame may be apportioned correctly or it may not. Everything is happening too quickly; commentators and politicians are making decisions with haste and looking only in one corner for support for their certainty. But in the heat of the madness of violent ethnic/political conflict we must listen and ask questions and hear and speak with some uncertainty because it is certainty that can take a people and a country in a rush to war.
The face of the Mufti of Syria is hardly known in the western world, but if we have learned anything from past conflict, it is the importance of all inclusive dialogue. He and many other Syrians who have peace in their hearts should be invited to sit with a council of elders from other countries, to tell of their stories and proposals for ways forward for the Syrian people. The United Nations was not set up to provide an arena for the voices and games of the powerful; rather it should be a forum for such Syrian voices to be heard. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of the Syrian people and find peaceful ways forward in order to stop this mad rush towards a war the mothers and fathers and children of Syria do not want and do not deserve.
We all know there are imams, priests and nuns, fathers, mother, young people all over Syria crying out for peace and when the women in hijabs shout to the world after a bombing or a massacre in Syria ‘haram, haram’ let us hear and listen to them.
We are sure there are many heroes in Syria among them, christian patriarchs, bishops, priests, and religious. A modern hero of peace, one whose name we do know and whose voice we have heard is Mother Agnes Mariam*. In her community her voice has been clear, pure and loud. And it should be so in the West. Like many people in Syria she has been placed in life threatening situations, but for the sake of peace she has chosen to risk her own existence for the safety and security of others. She has spoken out against the lack of truth in our media regarding Syria and about the terror and chaos which a ‘third force’ seems to be spreading across the country. Her words confront and challenge us because they do not mirror the picture of events in Syria we have built up in our minds over many months of reading our newspapers and watching the news on our televisions. Much of the terror has been imported, we learn from her. She can tell us about the thousands of christian refugees, forced to flee their homes by an imported Islamist extreme. But Mother Agnes Mariam’s concerns, irrespective of religion, are for all the victims of the terror and conflict, as ours must be.
In all our hearts we know War is not the answer for Syria (Nor for Iran). Intervention in Syria would only make things worse. I believe all sides are committing war crimes and the provision of arms will only result in further death. The US/UK/NATO and all foreign governments should stay out of Syria and keep their funding and troops out of Syria.
We should support those Syrians who work for peace in Syria and who seek a way of helping the 22 million or so people of Syria to resolve their own conflict without furthering the chaos or violence.
* Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross is a Greek-Catholic (Melkite) nun of Lebanese / Palestinian descent and has lived and worked in Syria for 18 years. She restored the ancient ruined monastery of St. James the Mutilated at Qara, in Homs province where she founded an order which serves the local and wider community. In 2010 the monastery welcomed 25,000 visitors both Syrian and international.
Mairead Maguire is a Nobel Peace Laureate with The Peace People.
The Peace People, 224 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 6GE, Northern Ireland
Phone: 0044 (0) 28 9066 346
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.peacepeople.com
Fearing that defense lawyers may succeed in undermining the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at the Hague, Washington is cooking up its own case against Hezbollah involving drug trafficking and money laundering.
“The Joumaa network is a sophisticated multinational money-laundering ring, which launders the proceeds of drug trafficking for the benefit of criminals and the terrorist group Hezbollah,” thus declared David Cohen, under-secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence in the US, two days ago.
“We and our partners will continue to aggressively map, expose, and disable this network, as we are doing with today’s sanctions,” he warned.
These new threats to Hezbollah coincide with the faltering of the process set up by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) charged with prosecuting the assassination of prime minister Rafik Hariri.
The team defending the four defendants from Hezbollah, who had been accused by [STL Prosecutor] Daniel Bellemare of involvement in the crime, recently launched three campaigns targeting the legitimacy of the establishment of the court and the legality of the indictment.
These campaigns caused a stir at the Hague and has made Washington worried. This led the US administration to renew its attempts to create an alternative international legal process targeting Hezbollah.
On Wednesday, the US Treasury released a statement titled “Treasury Targets Major Money Laundering Network Linked to Drug Trafficker Ayman Joumaa and a Key Hezbollah Supporter in South America.”
It pointed to 12 Lebanese citizens working in three groups, each made up of a commercial and a financial company accused of being involved in a multi-million US dollar drug trade to support Hezbollah.
The statement charged Ali M. S. with supporting the party and accused Ayman S. J. of moving more than a million US dollars in 2010 into the account of Abbas H., a Lebanese holding a Venezuelan passport living in Colombia.
It also claimed that a Lebanese bank branch manager was involved in the process and evoked the “February 2011 action against Lebanese Canadian Bank.” The statement focused on a “money laundering enterprise that has reach throughout the Americas and the Middle East with links to Hezbollah.”
Before going into the content of the memo, we should recall the statement released by the US Embassy in Beirut during the visit of US treasury official Daniel Glaser to Lebanon in November 2011. It had stressed his call “for Lebanon to meet all of its international obligations, including cooperating with and funding the STL.”
Documents published by WikiLeaks had indicated a high level of cooperation and information sharing between the US Embassy in Beirut, on one side, and the International Independent Investigation Commission and Bellemare’s office, on the other.
The indictment issued by Bellemare, following pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen’s approval, on 10 June 2011 had adopted the point of view of the US administration by describing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization (Item 59).
Hezbollah’s branding as terrorist in the US Department of State was developed in three stages. The first was in 23 January 1995, categorizing it as a “Specially Designated Terrorist.” Then, the party was included in the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
The final classification was announced on 31 October 2001 through an Executive Order of the State Department (#13224), calling Hezbollah a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist.”
The latest US Treasury statement targets Ali M. S. as “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” due to his role in “acting for or on behalf of and providing financial, material, or technological support to Hezbollah” and directing and coordinating Hezbollah activity in Colombia.
The memo maintained that “he is a former Hezbollah fighter with knowledge of Hezbollah operations plans.”
“As of July 2010, Saleh was a contact of Hezbollah’s Foreign Relations Department and has maintained communication with suspected Hezbollah operatives in Venezuela, Germany, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia,” it said.
The Illegality of the STL
The renewed US legal offensive against Hezbollah coincides with the blowing apart of the legality of establishing the STL by the four legal teams defending Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi, and Assad Sabra.
In this respect, the lawyers initiated three consecutive campaigns. First it challenged the legality of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 1757 on 30 May 2007, which established the court, considering that the 14 February 2005 crime did not pose a threat to international peace and security.
This meant that the Security Council had overstepped its authority provided by late Judge Antonio Cassese during his presidency of the international court for the former Yugoslavia (the Tadich case).
The evidence was provided by defense lawyers Antoine Korkmaz, Eugene O’Sullivan, Emile Aoun, Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse, Dr. Guenael Mettraux, and David Young to the judges of the Trial Chamber in the Hague on the 13th and 14th of this month.
The decision of judges Robert Roth, Micheline Braidi, David Re, Walid Akoum, and Janet Nosworthy is expected in the next few weeks.
The second campaign was initiated by Korkmaz, who was later joined by the other seven lawyers. It refers to the illegality of the indictment which was issued by Bellemare in 2011.
The argument stressed that Bellemare’s appointment as international prosecutor was for one year, ending on 13 November 2010. Therefore, he did not have the legal authority to issue the indictment.
STL officials told Al-Akhbar that the challenge to the legality of the indictment caused a stir in the hallways of the court’s headquarters at the Hague. It hit the prosecutor’s office bureaucracy where it hurt.
The third – and not necessarily the final – campaign was initiated by Oneissi’s defense lawyers Courcelle-Labrousse and Yasser Hassan and Assad Sabra’s lawyers Mettraux and Young. It challenged some of the formal aspects of the indictment which violate the legal standards that can safeguard justice.
The challenges focused on the following points.
1- The four suspects were not informed of the details of the indictment nor did they choose their defense lawyers. This infringes on international judicial standards that can guarantee justice, violating several articles.
The first is Article 6 of the European Convention on Human rights which says that “Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights: (a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him; (b) to have adequate time and the facilities for the preparation of his defence; (c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing” (Paragraph 3).
The second violated Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality: (a) To be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him; (b) To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing; (c) To be tried without undue delay” (Paragraph 3).
The third violation was of Article 131 of the Lebanese Law of Criminal Procedure that states that the indictment should contain “a clear and detailed account of the facts of the case” and “an itemized list of the evidence,” both of which were absent from Bellemare’s decision.
2- An indictment based on circumstantial evidence requires a high level of accuracy, but this also does not apply to Bellemare’s decision.
The third article of the indictment declares that it was “built in large part on circumstantial evidence.” But the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia had defined circumstantial evidence “as being evidence of circumstances surrounding an event or an offence from which a fact at issue may be reasonably inferred” (Decision of the Appeals Chamber on 20 February 2001).
It also defines it as “evidence of a number of different circumstances which, taken in combination, point to the existence of a particular fact upon which the guilt of the accused person depends because they would usually exist in combination only because a particular fact did exist” (Decision of the Trial Chamber on 15 March 2002 in the Krnojelac case).
But the defense maintains that they were not informed clearly and accurately of the evidence on which the indictment was based, an infringement of legal standards.
The defense insists on the need to be informed of all the details of the accusation due to the absence of the suspects and their inability to communicate with their defense lawyers.
This is in addition to the acute shortage of sources for the defense and the narrow margin of cooperation, which is limited to the Lebanese authorities without any cooperation of other states.
3- Some phrases used in the indictment, such as “during this period” (Item 32c.), “a number of days prior to the attack” (Item 33), “surveillance occurred on at least 15 days” (Item 34), and “on at least 20 days between 11 November 2004 and 14 February 2005,” are unacceptable by legal standards.
They are enigmatic and lack an accurate identification of circumstances that Bellemare claims are true.
In addition, there were more than 60 challenges to the indictment on formalities. Here are a few examples:
Item 5 states that “the four Accused participated in a conspiracy with others aimed at committing a terrorist act.” The word “others” is not defined, in violation to accepted standards in drafting indictments.
Item 30 states that “Oneissi used at least one phone,” but the decision does not mention the use of any other phone by Oneissi.
Item 35 states that Oneissi “falsely” called himself “Mohammed” without mentioning where and when he did that, or any evidence of its use. The same item mentions that Bellemare does not designate the time of Oneissi’s presence in the mosque (in Tariq al-Jdideh).
Article 59 says that “all four Accused are supporters of Hezbollah” without mentioning the type of support or its relationship to their alleged involvement in the crime.
Accusations Built on a Void
Former prosecutor Daniel Bellemare presented the preliminary judge Daniel Fransen with the first draft of the indictment on 17 January 2011. The judge found that it does not fulfill legal standards and asked for its amendment.
On 21 January 2011, Fransen directed several questions related to the interpretation of the Lebanese laws used in the appeals chamber. The court allowed itself to expound on some articles of the Lebanese code without going back to the Lebanese parliament, the main authority charged with the law.
It announced its understanding of the law on 16 February 2011. Bellemare published the amended draft of the indictment on 11 March 2011. Based on these explanations, he added the accusations against Oneissi and Sabra to those of Ayyash from the first draft, and requested the issuing of warrants against the three suspects accordingly.
But he later incorporated several other changes from the second draft in May 2011, adding the accusation against Badreddine. He also asked to remove the supporting documents from the first draft, in order to prevent the defense team from using them.
On 9 June 2011, Judge Fransen requested some formal amendments to the indictment before approving it tentatively on June 28 and issuing warrants against the four suspects.
According to an article yesterday in Ynet, the Israeli military fears that “global Jihad terrorists will launch attacks from Syria” if President Bashar Assad’s regime falls. The Israeli newspaper reported:
Army officials are not ruling [sic] a situation whereby terrorists will take advantage of the chaos that may follow a regime change in Damascus to seize control of the border region, as was the case in the Sinai Peninsula after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown.
Over the past few months the 36th Armored Division (Ga’ash), which is in charge of security along the border, has been gearing for a number of possible scenarios, including a cross-border attack by global jihad, which is operating in Syria against Assad’s regime.
The IDF fears the Horan region, near the border with Israel, will become a “no man’s land” and a hotbed of terrorism. Military officials are not ruling out the possibility of rocket fire from Syria and attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians.
But if Israel is so concerned about global Jihad terrorists getting a foothold in Syria, then why is its American lobby leading the push for regime change in Damascus? Anyone who has been paying the slightest attention to websites such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Foreign Policy Initiative or Foundation for Defense of Democracies over the past year and a half knows how fervently pro-Israelis have been urging Washington to topple Assad.
To cite but one example, in November last year Foreign Policy Initiative and Foundation for Defense of Democracies jointly issued a discussion paper that outlined “policy options for the United States and like-minded nations to further assist the anti-regime Syrian opposition.” Entitled “Towards a Post-Assad Syria,” the paper advocated imposing “crippling sanctions” on the regime and providing assistance to opposition groups, including no-fly/no-go zones.
Foreign Policy Initiative co-founder Bill Kristol also heads the Emergency Committee for Israel, which specializes in producing videos attacking any politician, including President Obama, it deems to be insufficiently supportive of the Jewish state. Unless Kristol et al. are pursuing an agenda on Syria opposed by Tel Aviv — which is most unlikely — then why have they been promoting a policy that the IDF says will lead to global Jihad terrorists launching attacks on Israel? Could they be that stupid? Or could it be that Israeli strategists welcome the chaos that its army officials supposedly fear?
- Rumsfeld’s Papers: The Perennial Anti-Syrian (alethonews.wordpress.com)