In honor of Free Speech Week, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the obvious. Free speech is incredibly, almost unbelievably important, especially in a democracy.
It can also be unpleasant, uncomfortable and even downright offensive. Which can make defending it rather awkward at times.
Let’s take a trip back to Boston during this week in 1923:
Beantown’s Democratic machine boss and chief executive is the flamboyant Mayor James Michael Curley, a felon, rake, and hometown hero. As the Boston Globe put it, he “served four terms as mayor, four terms in Congress, one term as governor, and two terms in jail.”
Another popular political force in those days was the Ku Klux Klan. At its height in the 1920s, it effectively ran several states and would stage rallies seeking support in the rapidly urbanizing northern cities, including Boston, where racial and religious tensions were taut.
Mayor Curley—a hero among the city’s Irish-American working class—saw a campaign issue. On October 23, 1923, while calling himself a “stout stickler for freedom of meeting, speech and press,” he banned peaceful Klan meetings in Boston. In response to a letter from the local ACLU condemning the KKK but strongly defending the group’s right to speak and gather, Curley said, “The Klan cannot expect to shelter itself behind the rights it denies and the guaranties it repudiates.”
The argument has some appeal. Why should we tolerate intolerance, especially by a group as objectionable as the Klan? Consider, however, another move against unpopular speech by the good mayor. In 1925, Mayor Curley banned Margaret Sanger—the birth control activist and founder of Planned Parenthood—from speaking in Boston. In doing so, he lashed out against the ACLU and explicitly linked the Sanger ban to his moves against the KKK.
Having banned the Klan, silencing Sanger was just another step down that road. When you put some lawful speech outside the protection of the First Amendment because it is unpopular or even offensive, speech you like will invariably be lumped in as well. The KKK of the 1920s was a horrific thing. But Mayor Curley proved that progressive social reformers could be painted as equally horrific and their speech just as deserving of suppression.
Fortunately, despite the efforts of Curley and many like him, free speech protections grew muscle in the decades to follow. And support for contraception and similar social reforms started to win in the marketplace of ideas, while the Klan ate dust in the bin of history.
The ACLU continues to support free speech for all precisely because of these historical experiences. We understand that our position will allow some speech that is not just unpopular, but possibly deplorable. But our defense of speech regardless of speaker comes down to a simple truth: once you give the government the ability to silence unpopular speech, no one is safe. Once you start playing favorites with the protections of the First Amendment, you put yourself at the mercy of shifting political whims.
Free speech only for some translates directly into free speech for none.
The Jewish state of Israel in the Levant (JSIL) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are different in many ways. The most fundamental difference is that the former is a recognized state and a member of the United Nations, while the latter is not recognized as a legitimate polity and is considered a political/military terrorist organization. However, the two share core characteristics that define them and by recognising these similarities observers may be able to make predictions about their futures.
Divine right to exist
Both JSIL and ISIS display what might be termed “self-defined righteousness.” Although Israel is a modern state, its politics and treatment of others (Palestinians) are based on religious concepts and principles that can be traced back to the first century BC and the teachings of Rabbi Hillel, someone who would be considered a fundamentalist today. He instructed Jews to have a religious and social identity separate from those of other people (tribes). Israel introduces itself to the international community as a Jewish state and, based on this interpretation of Zionist Judaism, is a home to Jews wherever they are in the world. In other words, it is a state which includes all Jews but excludes the indigenous people of Palestine, the Palestinians. It uses its interpretation of Judaism to deny Palestinians equal rights and prevent them from accessing their lands.
ISIS believes that it is enacting God’s will and defines itself as the force to enforce the Islamic moral code, religious rituals and law (Sharia). ISIS’ interpretation of Islam goes back to Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328) who promoted the idea that Muslims are different from non-Muslims both in their way of life as well as in religious instruction. This notion of non-acceptance together with cultural differences led Ibn Taymiyyah’s followers to the practice of excluding others and in some cases putting them to death. This particular interpretation of Islam also means the rejection of other branches of Islam.
The form of righteousness practiced by ISIS leaders and Israeli politicians is also used to set apart the “good” people from the “bad” ones. The good are those who believe and support their respective political projects while the bad ones are those who stand against them. It is this stance that makes it permissible for Israel to inflict damage on the bad ones and reward the good. As such, the Palestinian people are depicted in the official Israeli narrative as the bad people who work hard to inflict damage on the good Israeli Jews.
Historically, the state of Israel was established on the self-proclaimed premise of the Zionist movement, that anti-Semitism and murder might surge again in the world. Thus, the resurgence of another wave of anti-Semitism will inflict another Holocaust on the world’s Jews. The Zionist movement took anti-Semitism and the Holocaust out of their historical context. In other words, the concepts were given an absolute ahistoric “religious” meaning. Consequently, the “Jews” started to become reified as an ethnic identity and Israel as a refuge for the world’s Jewry from harm.
For ISIS, one of the underlying reason for Muslims’ degeneration over the centuries is that too many people have strayed far from the fundamental principles of Islam. The role of ISIS is to establish an Islamic state ruled by the caliph. It considers itself to be the force that will revive true Islam and create a state in which all Muslims can live in under its interpretation of Islam. Similarly to Israel, where non-Jews are discriminated against, there is no place for non-Muslims to live as equal citizens in the so-called Islamic State.
Both JSIL and ISIS use the self-serving interpretation of religious texts to enact pragmatic politick. The Zionist narrative that gave birth to the state of Israel and is now its official ideology starts with the idea that the Jews are God’s chosen people and that God promised them the holy land. These two concepts of chosenness are ahistorical, unconditional, and self-limited. Thus, settler colonial expansion in Palestine beyond the 1948 borders is seen as the redemption of the biblically named Judea and Samaria for the Jewish people. Putting Palestinian communities under closure during Jewish holidays is usually disguised as a religious instruction and therefore not seen for what it is: a measure of control.
ISIS also claims it is justified in its actions; it considers itself the group fighting for God and enforcing the latter’s instructions on earth. The group’s interpretation of religious texts is based on its spiritual-political leaders’ rulings that place people into two main categories – believers in ISIS’ ideology are viewed as being on the right path for following the “correct” version of Islam while everyone else, including followers of other branches of Islam, is on the wrong path. Thus the expulsion or execution of Iraqi Christians and Yazidis in Mosul who refuse to convert or pay Jizya (a tax paid by non-Muslims) is introduced as a religious instruction that permits politically motivated discrimination.
Indiscriminate attacks on perceived “enemies”
International humanitarian law forbids parties in armed conflict from deliberately launching attacks against civilians but both Israel and ISIS carry out indiscriminate attacks against their enemies, and they cite similar justifications for such attacks, mainly operational reasons.
JSIL, like ISIS, says that engaging in conflict in residential areas makes it difficult to avoid harm to civilians. Israel, which deems itself “superior” to others, says it launches military operations to prevent harm to its own people whose lives are worth much than those of “others.” ISIS believes it is on the right path and views everyone else as living in a state of sinfulness and, according to the group, sinners deserve to be put to death. Ultimately, ISIS and Israel attack civilians as part of their strategy to dispose of the natives and remove them from their lands. As such, in their quest for control of the land they both practice ethnic cleansing under a myriad of guises.In areas controlled by ISIS, in both Syria and Iraq, the group has carried out the mass executions of opposition militants captured by its forces and any person who assists its enemies is liable to be sentenced to death. Israel carries out a similar strategy of collective punishment against Palestinian resistance. It used it in its latest war on the Gaza Strip and during the so-called Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09. Even when Israel states that its attacks are intended to kill only resistance fighters, its bombardment of residential areas always leads to the killing of civilians. These attacks are clearly designed to target and punish the combatants’ families and homes.
During Israel’s latest war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, the Israeli army intentionally converted 40 percent of the Gaza Strip into uninhabited land. The Israeli army displaced up to 500,000 Palestinians out of their neighborhoods. This is the same tactic ISIS has been using in vast swaths in Syria and Iraq. The latest incident is the ongoing fighting in Kobane, the Kurdish city under Syrian jurisdiction, where ISIS’ shelling of the city forced the majority of its citizens to be displaced.
Displacement, collective punishment, terrorism and ethnic cleansing in the name of God are but a few similarities between the two entities. It is worth considering how the state of Israel has embraced the legend of the Maccabees, a sect of Judaism which fought other Jews and foreign powers in the name of piousness and righteousness, and how it has incorporated it within the contemporary ethos. The Maccabees were fundamentalists who used violence against their enemies, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and carried out forced conversions much as ISIS does today.
Samer Jaber is a political activist and researcher. He is the managing director for Dar el-Karma Inc. for Media, Researches and Publication. He tweets at @Jerusalem_sbj
The French government has prosecuted a pro-Palestinian activist for disregarding the official ban on anti-Israel rallies during its recent offensive on the Gaza Strip, Press TV reports.
France has put the spokesperson of the New Anti-Capitalist Party on trial for his attempts to organize an “illegal demonstration” against the Israeli regime.
Meanwhile, several demonstrators held a rally on Wednesday to protest against the government’s prosecution of the pro-Palestinian campaigner.
“To incriminate the spokesman of a political party who is also a strong supporter of unions… is totally unjustified and unacceptable. We would like to know why the government singled him out,” said Patrick Picard, a member of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT).
France was heavily criticized by rights groups after it officially banned demonstrations against the Israeli regime’s deadly attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip in summer. Thousands of people defied the French government’s decision, saying it was a glaring breach of their constitutional basic right to demonstrate.
“This government made two decisions this summer: to support the extreme-right regime of Benjamin Netanyahu, which was in the process of massacring people in Gaza and then, … it tried to weaken the Palestinian solidarity movement here in France by claiming it was anti-Semitic and violent which we totally reject,” stated the national secretary of Left Front Party (PG), Eric Coquerel.
The French government has recently intensified the trend of prosecuting social activists who disagree with the unpopular policies of President Francois Hollande.
For the state general budget plan for 2015 it has been announced that strategic sectors will be the largest investment at 35%. The principal areas of focus will be strengthening electric and hydraulic resources as well as hydrocarbons and increasing social investment.
This investment is intended to provide a financial base upon which the state will focus on other projects, on sectors such as education and technology, to support a future economy which will move away from extractivism.
In an interview with TeleSUR English, Latin American School of Social Sciences (FLACSO) specialist Patricio Trujillo said, “Investment in strategic sectors first creates an infrastructure that is sufficiently self-sustainable so that the second phase can be based on human talent. If we do not have infrastructure it is very difficult to better this human talent, to improve for example investigation.”
Other sectors include production at 22%, social development at 16%, Security at 7% and the rest at 6%. The sector of human talent, expected to receive greater investment in the future a critical base of the Citizen’s Revolution, will receive 14 percent investment at USD $1.19 billion, which will be directed towards basic and higher education as well as culture.
On strategic sectors, President Rafael Correa said that investment will be focused in the Ministries of Electricity and Water. He said, “This investment is just in two ministries. We are beginning with an investment of 3 billion dollars.”
Much of this investment will be directed towards creating the necessary infrastructure for the functioning of hydroelectric dam projects by the end of 2016, with the possibility of exporting energy to neighboring Colombia and Peru.
“For example, with eight hydroelectric dams, by 2016 we will have saved an enormous amount of resources. So this puts pressure on the budget, and the country. This is of course because we are trying to accomplish this in 2, 3 years what was not done in 50. There is spending, spending, spending now but afterwards, we are going to see the fruits of these efforts,” said Correa.
Heightened investment in strategic sectors is aimed at ensuring national sovereignty over energy and natural resources, and at an eventual surplus for internal consumption, allowing for export and greater revenue for investment in other areas.
Opposition protesters took sticks and other objects to attack policemen (Photo: ANDES).
The Ecuadorian government hit back on Tuesday against a report claiming it repressed protestors during a recent demonstrations.
The Ecuadorian government is challenging a lawyer cited in the report to prove his allegations.
It was responding to accusations made by U.S. based organization Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Interior Minister Jose Serrano announced during a televised interview that the government will sue the lawyer who told HRW that students and protesters detained on September 17 and 18 were tortured by the police.
“This lawyer had the audacity and cynicism to say that the police had tortured them … this individual will have to prove what he said … is effectively true,” Serrano said.
The Interior Minister also clarified that those apprehended were caught on video attacking policemen. All of them confessed to the charges against them.
President Rafael Correa had warned ahead of the September 17 protest that the opposition would try to use similar tactics to those used by the Venezuelan opposition, seeking to generate violent incidents which would then generate controversy and international reactions.
On September 17, opposition activists and government sympathizers both organized mobilizations which were located very close to one another. To avoid a small violent group from reaching the government sympathizers, a group of policemen blocked streets which connected both sites.
Opposition activists attacked the police to try to break into the pro-government rally, with arrests following.
“We had announced ahead (of the protests) that there were groups amongst the protesters which would use vandalism and violent strategies,” Serrano reminded.
According to the official, the International Red Cross was called days before the protests to guarantee that, if any detention was made, the organisation was present in the detention center.
“Mr. Vivanco (Jose Miguel Vivanco, HRW chief for Latin America) will have to show the whole world who is financing him, where are they getting their resources from, and why does he have this particular aversion against Latin America’s progressive governments,” Serrano said.
HRW is increasingly being held account by intellectuals and experts in the United States and the world due to its close relationship with the U.S. State Department.
Journalist Keane Bhatt has previously documented several cases in which HRW members have become senior U.S. State Department officials, in what Bhatt calls a “revolving door policy”.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire together with former U.N. Assistant Secretary General Hans von Sponeck and over 100 scholars wrote a letter in May requesting Human Rights Watch to change its policy so as to avoid links with the U.S. State Department.
Fourth part of a documentary produced by Béatrice Pignède, with footage shot by Jonathan Moadab, Sylvia Page, Jean-Sébastien Farez and Saber Farzard. Music by Gilad Atzmon.
Click below for other segments of the documentary:
Prisoners serving time in the state of Pennsylvania can now be sued for speaking up from behind bars after Governor Tom Corbett signed into law this week the Revictimization Relief Act that legislatures rushed to approve only days earlier.
The bill, signed on Tuesday by Corbett, a Republican, allows victims of “a personal injury crime” to sue the perpetrator if that offender “perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim.”
State Rep. Mike Vereb, a Republican and a co-author of the act, announced earlier this month that he’d be rallying lawmakers to support the bill after former death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal was allowed to record a commencement speech that was played for graduates of Goddard College during an October 5 ceremony.
Abu-Jamal, 60, is currently serving a life sentence at a prison facility in Frackville, PA for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia cop, Officer Daniel Fulkner, but he has maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration, including three decades spent awaiting execution before prosecutors agreed in 2011 to drop the death penalty. Prior to the start of his prison sentence, Abu-Jamal was considered a renowned activist and journalist, and has since published several books and thousands of essays from behind bars.
“The nation is in deep trouble, largely because old thinking, both domestically and globally, has led us into the morass that the nation now faces, which may be encapsulated by references to place-names that ring in our minds: Gaza; Ferguson; and Iraq—again!” a group of 21 graduating students from Goddard, Abu-Jamal’s alma matter, were told in the tape-recorded commencement speech. “These are some of the challenges that abide in the world, which it will be your destiny to try and analyze and resolve. As students of Goddard, you know that those challenges are not easy, but they must be faced and addressed.”
Vereb sent a letter to his colleagues in the Pennsylvania House three days before that address was given, writing in it that he was “utterly outraged that such a reprehensible person would be able to revictimize Officer Daniel Faulkner’s family with this kind of self-promoting behavior.”
The Pennsylvania legislature unanimously approved Vereb’s bill days after the address was given, and Gov. Corbett signed the act on Tuesday, 11 days after the Goddard speech, from a makeshift stage erected in Philadelphia only a few feet from the location where Faulkner was gunned down during a traffic stop 33 years ago. Nevertheless, the Washington Post reported that Corbett said in a statement that the law “is not about any one single criminal,” but rather “was inspired by the excesses and pious hypocrisy of one particular killer.”
“Maureen Faulkner, Danny’s wife, has been taunted by the obscene celebrity that her husband’s killer has orchestrated from behind bars,” Corbett said at the signing, according to a CBS News affiliate.
“This unrepentant cop killer has tested the limits of decency,” the Washington Times quoted Corbett as saying as protesters jeered nearby. “Gullible activists and celebrities have continued to feed this killer’s ego.”
Free speech advocates see no issue with Abu-Jamal’s communique from confinement, though, and say that the law signed this week is a serious blow to First Amendment protections.
“This bill is written so broadly that it is unclear what is prohibited,” Reggie Shuford, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Pennsylvania office, said in a statement offered to Reuters. “That can’t pass constitutional muster under the First Amendment.”
Samantha Kolber, a spokesperson for Goddard, told the Patriot-News that the school was “surprised” by Corbett’s signing and said Vereb’s bill “is suggesting that people are not capable of making choices about what speech they will listen to and how they will react to that speech.”
Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, protester Johanna Fernandez said during Corbett’s public signing this week that the governor’s decision to speedily make Vereb’s bill a law was a “Hail Mary pass” from his administration only a month before Election Day since polls suggest that Corbett may lose the governor’s seat. “The establishment of Philadelphia is using Mumia’s case to silence all prisoners in the state,” Fernandez said. “What they’re doing is, they’re essentially inflecting collective punishment on all prisoners in order to silence Mumia.”
On Monday, Abu-Jamal himself weighed in on the debate and the politics surrounding Corbett’s decision to speedily sign the bill during an interview with Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio Project.
“This is a political stunt by a failing politician who is seeking support by using fear,” Abu-Jamal said this week. “Politicians do it all the time. But this is unconstitutional: Tom’s latest attempt to stroke and build up his political campaign, his failing political campaign.”
According to the activist-turned-inmate, he gave his address to Goddard after students there wrote and requested he speak. Marc Lamont Hill, a professor at Morehouse College, tweeted Wednesday that “Even if you don’t support Mumia, you should be outraged at this attack on First Amendment Rights.”
Just in time for Halloween, a real zombie.
Although the Obama Administration cancelled the Yucca Mountain project for disposing high-level radioactive waste (uranium fuel rods) in 2009, the scheme stays amazingly undead.
Last Thursday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the third in a series of reports in which it declared that the deep, engineered cavern inside the mountain — 90 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada — meet the commission’s ever-changing (Eric Pianin, “Rules changed for Nevada nuclear waste site plan,” Wash. Post, Dec. 12, 2001) requirements.
Still pending are two more reports and a final NRC ruling on the site’s suitability. Actual operation of the dump also requires approval from the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Transportation and Energy (DOE). Of course, lawsuits by the State of Nevada and dozens of environmental groups would follow a decision to start burying waste.
In spite of 70 years of head scratching, science and industry have not found a cheap way to “dispose” of high-level radioactive waste. In 2008, the plan was estimated to cost at least $90 billion.
The DOE’s 1999 draft environmental impact statement for Yucca, says that leaving the wastes at 72 US reactor sites in 39 states is just as safe as moving it thousands of miles toward Yucca Mt. — as long as it is repackaged every 100 years. There is no need to rush the opening a dumpsite, except that reactor operators want to free-up storage space for freshly produced waste so they can keep running old reactors.
Yucca Mt. Project Cancelled for Hundreds of Reasons
While Republicans from nuclear-heavy states are pushing to revive the Yucca project and hoping for a November take-over of the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., broadcasts the science-based disqualifiers that prove Yucca unsuitable. Among them are fast flowing water inside the mountain, earthquake faults, lava flows, and the risk of exploding waste canisters — like the one that burst and wrecked the Energy Department’s Waste Isolation Pilot Project in New Mexico last February. Joonhong Ahn, an engineering professor at the U. of Calif., Berkeley, said in an e-mail to ScienceInsider.com, “… there are still numerous hurdles ahead.”
Indeed, the Government Accounting Office concluded in 2001 that 293 unresolved scientific and engineering problems hinder the plan. (“GAO Challenges Plans for Storage of Nuclear Waste,” Wash. Post, Nov. 30, 2001) Responding to the new report, Nevada state officials made the same point. “The NRC licensing board has admitted more than 200 Nevada contentions challenging the safety and environmental impacts of the proposed repository, and Nevada is prepared to aggressively prosecute these challenges. It is not apparent that the [NRC report] specifically addressed these and other safety contentions,” said Bob Halstead, Executive Director of Nevada’s Agency for Nuclear Projects, in a prepared statement.
“For the NRC staff to publically release just this one volume of the 5-volume Safety Evaluation Report outside the proper context of an ongoing licensing proceeding, and in the absence of a complete SER, is unprecedented,” Halsted said. “It creates a false impression that the safety review has been completed. It is difficult to see what reason there could be for such a release except to provide political support and encouragement for Yucca Mountain supporters in Congress and elsewhere.”
This false impression was spectacularly exaggerated by Rep. John Shimkus, R-Mich., who told the New York Times Oct. 17, “[N]uclear waste stored under that mountain … will be safe and secure for at least a million years.”
Nuclear Waste Production is Kept Alive by Yucca Supporters
Yucca Mt. wouldn’t begin to address the country’s vast nuclear waste problem. There already are about 70,000 tons of it stored at reactor sites. This stockpile would fill Yucca to capacity and force the start of a search for Dump No. 2. Waste that must be containerized for a million years is the “animated corpse” that will forever haunt our clean, cheap too-safe-to-meter nuclear power complex.
The Yucca Mt. “mobile Chernobyl” idea — and alternate plans for regional “interim” dumps — also explodes the risks of radiation accidents contaminating waste handlers and the people along transport routes. The DOE’s planning maps show the waste passing through 40 states, 40 Indian Reservations and 100 major cities. In January 2008, former state transportation analyst Fred Dilger caused alarm when he told a Hillary Clinton campaign rally that if waste trains go through Las Vegas, “All of the casinos on the west side of Las Vegas Boulevard would be bathed in gamma radiation.”
The shipments, using as-yet-untested waste casks, would expose between 138 and 161 million Americans to the risks of dangerous levels of radiation and to the consequences of inevitable truck, train and barge accidents. Even the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement predicts between 150 and 250 rail or truck crashes over the plan’s 25-year span — about 10 crashes every year for 25 years.
That’s an undying prospect scary enough for a million Halloweens.
You have heard that Sweden is hunting a ”submarine” and that it is ”presumed to be Russian”. Here is an example, Financial Times of October 21 – which incidentally also announces that the Swedish Prime Minister vows to increase defence spending.
Not the slightest evidence
There are only three problems with this:
1) There is not the slightest evidence of there being anything military, neither that it is a submarine nor that, whatever the object might be, it is Russian.
2) Even with CNN, BBC and AlJazeera this is nothing but speculative low-grade yellow press journalism. This is possible in the field of defence, security and peace because much less is required of journalists when they write about these matters than when they write about, say, domestic politics, economics, sports, books or food and wine. In these fields you are expected to have some knowledge and media consumers are able to check.
3) It serves other purposes than bringing you information: either to increase further the negative image of Russia, push Sweden into full NATO membership – see the remarkable offer by NATOs former Allied Supreme Commander, Stavridis – for NATO to come and help Sweden – or to scare the Swedes into feeling that it is necessary to pay even more to the Swedish military (a mechanism also called fearology).
Virtually every aspect of the media hype is based on prejudices instead of interest-based analysis and on partial and paid expertise that follows the ‘party line’. Russia has ‘denied’ it is there; Holland has ‘dismissed’ that its submarine should be there.
With one or two exceptions, all Swedish and international media have avoided asking: Could it be something else but a sub and somebody else but the Russians – or nothing at all?
The alleged-ness of it all is good enough to pass for objective reporting in the – alleged – free media.
From Swedish defence force to farce
Worse, the Swedish military has already made a fool of itself – not to be expected given the fairly large resources it has at its disposal.
It has sold off helicopters it now dearly needs.
It’s been – at least officially – relying on tips from ordinary citizens and one wonders where the intelligence (in more than one sense of that word) is.
A suspicion that a (Russian) special forces man had gone on land turned out to be an Swedish pensioner out fishing.
It has published a blurred photo of a wave-covered ‘object’ to be seen far out through some trees and indicated wrongly where that photo was taken.
One indeed wonders whether this farcical performance is made to show that it is so helpless that it must have large resources.
The more relevant consideration would be: How on earth can such amateurism be so easily accepted by the government, media and the people – and even used as an argument for what the PM has just announced?
Or to put it crudely: What does the Swedes get for their tax money?
Sweden is not a helpless pawn in the game
Sweden with a population of roughly 9 million is # 33 on the world list of military expenditures, spending US $ 6,2 billion per year. That is US $ 657 per capita, # 17 in the world.
Russia spends US$ 403 per capita and its overall military expenditures is 8% of NATO’s.
Sweden, thus, is not a helpless pawn in some game. If its military isn’t able to do better when it is really needed, someone should be made responsible.
Is it Russian?
If there is something out there, is it likely to be Russian? Not very likely.
Moscow knows very well that if a Russian submarine was found and brought up to the surface, it would mean a huge boost for those in Sweden and elsewhere who would like to see Sweden as a full NATO member. That is not in Russia’s interest.
But of course, the Russians could play a high-risk game in these waters with some NATO subs or be plain foolish. It can’t be excluded – but it isn’t very likely that the object is Russian.
If it Russian, Sweden itself may anyhow have an interest in not officially finding anything – to keep the Russians in the dark about how much it knows and whether or not there already is a NATO assistance in this case. In both cases we are likely to never be told what it was all about.
Could it be from NATO?
Could it be from a NATO country? If so, we’ll also never know that.
The Swedish Chief of Staff has said that if something is found it would be shot at to come up to the surface. But it’s unthinkable that Sweden, if it knew an object to be from a NATO country – would a) shoot at it and b) tell the world that it knew.
After all, most violations of the Swedish air space has been known since the 1980s to be done by NATO fighters but it’s basically only when Russian fighters come near or violate that the Swedish defence establishment leaks it or the media are interested in it.
Sweden isn’t a neutral country today, if it ever were.
Could NATO have an interest in these waters? In the wake of the Ukraine crisis we are back to a kind of Cold War situation and NATO has moved its military positions forward in various ways and held a steady focus on the Baltic States.
So, yes, NATO could be in Swedish waters with or without the knowledge or consent of the Swedes; it could be roaming around to check on the Russians simply because tension has built up.
It could be placing sonars or whatever devices for future emergencies – while not wanting Sweden to know that it considers Sweden so close to NATO that it can just as well be used.
And if so, Sweden would rather not be told. Clearly Sweden could not officially endorse a NATO submarine presence on its territory as part of Anti-Submarine Warfare or planning for future war with Russia. Both parties know that.
My concluding prediction is therefore rather simple: for the above reasons the Swedish military will soon call off the whole thing and the affair will have served its purpose – precisely by not stating what it was, who it was or why it was. Or if it was.
What the purpose of the event may be remains to be revealed at some point in the future. Or perhaps never if – the purpose was fearology for increased militarisation.
Somebody somewhere knows what’s going on. And they put citizens’ security at risk for purposes they would never tell you.
In New York City, the police are currently investigating hate crimes which occurred when the Israeli basketball team played in the city. At an arena where the team played, a Muslim woman was assaulted for wearing hijab and says she wants justice.
Outside of Brooklyn Borough Hall in New York City, friends and supporters of Nerden Mohsen Kiswani gathered to speak out about the recent incident, and say they want justice for what they call a “cowardly hate crime” perpetrated against her at Barclays Center earlier this month.
Kiswani was attacked by a group of Israeli men as she watched the basketball game. She was targeted because she was wearing hijab. After she was attacked, the police seemed under-interested, and let her attackers escape. Amin Hussein, a Palestinian-American lawyer, said that the atmosphere inside of Barclays Center, with Jewish fans gathering to support the Israeli team, was very frightening.
Kiswani’s attorney, Lamis Deek, pointed out that the ring-leader of the group that assaulted her was Leonard Petlakh, a well known Zionist activist and college professor. At the press conference, it was pointed out that after the incident Leonard Petlakh claimed Palestine protesters had assaulted him, and his allegations were widely circulated in the press. However, the New York City Hate Crimes Task Force determined after investigation that no hate crimes against Petlakh had taken place.
Zionism is incompatible with peace. (Tamar Fleishman/PC)
I tried to explore the long term plans of the ruling elite of Israel regarding the Palestinians. But since no Israeli government ever publicly revealed its long term vision other than maintaining the status quo, I sought to examine their thoughts through one of their surrogates, Caroline Glick. I read her book “The Israeli Solution” that has been published recently. Caroline Glick is a right wing Israeli and a strong supporter of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu policies. She is American born Israeli journalist, the deputy managing editor of the Jerusalem Post and she writes for the Israeli daily newspaper, Makor Rishon. In her book, she covers many topics that reflect the right wing Zionists views on Palestine, and she also promotes a one state plan in Palestine.
Glick argues that the two-state-solution is not acceptable because it falls short of meeting the Zionists’ goals. She writes: “The Jewish people’s rights to sovereignty over Judea and Samaria [West Bank]—as with their rights to the rest of the Land of Israel—are overwhelming from historical and political perspective.” She calls for creating an ethnic religious Jewish majority state that includes the West Bank “Judea and Samaria” and Jerusalem, but the one-state she is advocating does not include Gaza Strip and she rejects the refugees’ right of return.
Her plan offers Israeli citizenship and the right to vote to the Arab population of the West Bank neighborhoods. Glick claims that Gaza had been already an independent Palestinian state since Israel withdrew its military forces and removed its civilians from the Strip. She removed Gaza from the demographic equation and gave the Palestinians of the West Bank the option of moving to Gaza in the event that they prefer to live under Palestinian sovereignty. But she claims that Israel has the right to levy a maritime blockade of Gaza coast since it is a foreign entity governed by a terrorist organization that routinely engages in acts of war against Israel. She used a Machiavellian divide-and-conquer lie to exclude Gaza from her plan by creating fictional cultural differences between the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. She writes that the cultural affinity of the Palestinians in Gaza with Egypt is much higher than their cultural affinity with “Judea and Samaria.”
Glick states that once Israel annexes the West Bank it makes amends for the historic injustice that Jews there had suffered under the British regime which barred them from buying land! Glick ignored the November 2nd, 1917 infamous Britain’s “Balfour Declaration” that recognized the Zionist goal of establishing a Jewish home in Palestine, a country that was not a British land, its indigenous population never been consulted, and the Jews never constituted more than one percent of its population. Britain even allowed the Zionist leadership to dictate the text of the Declaration, and Britain executed it while occupying Palestine as a Mandate Power.
To support the feasibility of her one-state vision, Glick uses empirical analysis from a 2007 extensive official Israeli government study for expanding the state by absorbing all historical Palestine and maintaining Jewish majority. Based on this study, she concludes that demography is one of Israel’s greatest advantages if it decides to impose a one-state-solution. According to her book, Israel assembled a team of Israeli and American researchers to review the Palestinian population. The team was called American-Israel Demographic Research Group (ADRG). Its members included academic experts in forecasting models, demographics, and history, the former head of the civil administration in the West Bank “Judea and Samaria”, and experts in mathematical modeling. Findings compiled by the research team were presented to the leading US demographer Nicholas Eberstadt from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). It uncovered new demographic facts that had not been recognized in the past. Of the combined population of Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank, 67% are Jewish, 14% are Israeli Arab citizens living in Israel proper, 3% live in East Jerusalem, and 16% are the West Bank Arabs. The study shows annexing the West Bank would have less impact on Israel’s democracy than previously believed.
AIDRG presented to the Israeli government a step-by-step analysis of each zone in the West Bank, demonstrating that Israel can review the impact of dealing with each zone while considering territorial and security needs. Any decision made by the state was based on a rational discussion within the Israeli government and its AIDRG consultants. It was compared against alternatives for governing this same zone population by the Palestinian Authority, by a third party such as Jordan, or by intervention of the international community. Israel, according to this study can annex the West Bank gradually and retain its Jewish character.
The AIDRG study discovered that the 1997 census done by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) was a “fraud”. The Palestinians had exaggerated their population figures by 50 percent, or 1.34 million according to the report. The flaw in the PCBS census was in the natural growth forecast projection of annual growth of 4.4 percent in the West Bank “Judea and Samaria” and 5.2 percent in Gaza between 1997 and 2003. Growth based on actual data from the Israeli records showed real growth of 1.8 percent in the West Bank and 2.9 percent in Gaza. The PCBS census also forecast that the Palestine Authority would experience receiving 236,000 people in the West Bank and Gaza between 1997 and 2003, but the official numbers tallied by Israeli border authorities was only 74,000.
Actions by successive Israeli governments in the occupied lands since 1967 suggest they are thinking in the direction of Glick’s Greater Israel plan: the establishment of a one Jewish majority state within the borders of the 1922 British Mandate and maintain its Jewish character. The 600,000 settlers that Israel has transplanted in the West Bank and Jerusalem with their networks of freeways, roads, electricity and water suggests that Israel is in the process of creating the state which Glick proposes.
Israel continues to build new settlements and expand the old ones. Palestinian’s homes and villages are being demolished because they were built without permits and permits are denied because the applicants are Palestinians. Israel drove more than 56,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites out of their city by denying them residence permits because they work outside the city municipality borders, and even prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque are disallowed by the military or interrupted by Jewish extremists under the protection of the Israeli security. Israel and Egypt have no intention to ease or lift the crippling economic blockade and siege on Gaza that has been destroyed multiple times and kept its inhabitants in absolute poverty. International donors convened in Cairo to raise funds for the reconstruction of the Strip following the third Israeli brutal assault in five years, but not to end the occupation and realization of Palestinian sovereignty, the main cause of violence. There is urgent need to rebuild Gaza now, but that does not compensate for the loss of thousands of innocent lives; and the aid is not even a temporary solution to the suffering of refugees of two wars living for decades under inhumane conditions. Until the occupation ends and the Palestinians live free in their country and a just solution for the refugees is reached, there will be a never-ending cycles of violence and destruction.
Israel insists that no concessions are possible on territorial or security issues, Jerusalem or the Palestinians’ right of return.Israel’s economy minister, Naftali Bennett said recently: “The idea that a Palestinian state should be established within the land of Israel has reached a dead end”. In his 2014 speech to the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu denied that Israel was occupying Palestinians lands. He said, “The people of Israel are not occupiers in the land of Israel. History, archaeology and common sense all make clear that we have had a singular attachment to this land for over 3,000 years.” He also said on last July 11: “There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.” Israel’s Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon ruled out the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel in a speech at a cultural event recently in the South Sharon Regional Council.
In the mean time the Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders who lost credibility among their people promise to liberate their people from occupation and threaten to prosecute Israel in the International Courts while their security forces collaborate with the occupation forces to suppress any Palestinian resistance against the occupation. Members of the PA security force may even join the Israelis at the tightly monitored crossings to Gaza to prevent any possibility of allowing goods shipped to the starved people in the Strip that would threaten Israel’s security. Zionism is incompatible with peace and it is not easy for the Palestinians to be optimistic about the future when no one trusts a thing their leaders say!
- Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D. is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.