Israeli army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu recently returned from a trip to China where he met with his Chinese counterparts and other officials. The goal was to deepen Sino-Israeli ties on political, security and military levels. This is only the latest in a burgeoning security relationship between Israel and China that includes drone technology, crowd control training, surveillance, intelligence gathering and more. This raises the question of how China’s official support for Palestinian self-determination will coincide with its ongoing procurement of the tools of Palestinian pacification. Similarly, how does it threaten the rights of Uighurs, Tibetans, and others under the control of the Chinese state by bringing Israel’s apparatuses of occupation and apartheid?
China, in recent years, has faced growing rebellions in Tibet, East Turkestan, and most prominently in the ongoing labor unrest focused in China’s south where strikes and protests are occurring at an unprecedented rate. Despite attempts at controlling what information comes and goes, the Chinese government has learned that complete suppression is impossible. Its political relationships with Uighurs, Tibetans and especially workers are different than that of Israel to Palestinians. Tibetans and Uighurs have certain protected statuses and rights both as minorities and as Chinese citizens, and the state, since 2008, has been supportive to a degree of improving workplace conditions and reducing the income gap in favor of the protesting working class.
But with the most visible of Uighur and Tibetan activism and resistance focusing on self-determination, China faces a likely insurmountable battle to convince already mobilized populations that they should accept Chinese control. The strong police responses to unrest in 2008 in Tibet and 2009 in East Turkestan, combined with China’s long record of authoritarian crackdowns on civil liberties, indicate any demands outside of those deemed acceptable by the state will be met harshly.
Sino-Israeli relations were generally distant prior to the 1980s but that decade saw the beginning of significant Israeli arms and technology transfers to China. Early efforts included the 1982 transfer of missile technology and the upgrading of China’s tank fleet despite closer political and diplomatic relations being hindered by Cold War and Non-Aligned Movement politics, especially Israel’s close military and political relationship with Taiwan. Yet by 1990 Israel was “a very major supplier” of defense technology to China (“Israeli Arms Technology Aids China“Los Angeles Times, 13 June 1990). Moreover, a closer relationship was built when Israel proved itself to be a reliable arms supplier during the period after the Tiananmen Square massacre when many international suppliers imposed an arms embargo in response. At the time Israel was selling arms to many repressive regimes including ones restricted by official arms embargoes such as apartheid South Africa.
The two nations only established official diplomatic relations in the wake of the 1991 Madrid Conference when the stigma of the oppression of the Palestinians was largely ameliorated by the beginning of public Israeli-Palestinian talks, presented at the time as the the precursor to Palestinian self-determination. Post-Cold War, Israel and China have developed extensive trade and military relations, despite occasional US skepticism and intervention, most notably blocking sales of advanced military systems and hardware over the past two decades.
Israel’s own Lavi fighter jet project was ended in the mid-1980s but some of the technology developed for it has made its way into China’s Jian-10 (Chengdu) jets. The transfer of Lavi technology and Chinese funding of Israeli missile projects accompanied larger sales such as the 1994 sale of around 100 Harpy unmanned aerial vehicles to China. Another aspect of their relationship started during this time too, China’s interest in Israel’s experience with Palestinian and Lebanese pacification.
Since 2004 a large number of Israeli “homeland security” and pacification systems have been deployed in China. The Israeli company On Track Innovations (OTI) began to deliver “smart cards” as part of China’s national ID card system with some of the same biometric technology it provides to ID systems at major checkpoints in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Magal Systems, whose detection systems are deployed on Israel’s wall in the West Bank, has installed nine perimeter detection systems at airports throughout China, with two more pending.
Such transfers could well be used in innocuous, or in the case of smart cards potentially beneficial, ways such as “smart” ID cards carrying information useful in medical emergencies. But their genesis as technologies of occupation and pacification deserves a critical interpretation. Numerous other surveillance and homeland security contracts to Israeli firms Nice Systems, Dr. Frucht Systems and others must be seen in a similar light.
Less innocuous is the Israeli private security firm International Security and Defense Systems’ (ISDS) training of Chinese security personnel in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. ISDS “was asked to provide know-how and situation reports about international terror, mainly regarding threats of extremist Muslim groups in Asia” (Israeli security expert takes pride in his role at the Olympics“Haaretz, 10 August 2008). The declared threat of armed attacks concerned mostly organizations associated with Uighur nationalism, Islamism and East Turkestan independence, the latter being the geographic center of the other two. With the international eye on China during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, China was especially concerned about any actions that might distract from the pageantry and bring attention to various causes in opposition to the status quo.
China was also concerned with other kinds of resistance. ISDS head Leo Glaser told Haaretz, “The Chinese fear, among other things, that some demonstrators’ group might try to take advantage of the worldwide attention to carry out a non-violent but provocative act to disgrace the Chinese organizers” (Israeli security expert takes pride in his role at the Olympics” Haaretz, 10 August 2008).
In addition to potential Uighur and Tibetan protest, Beijing police were preparing for protest by some of the 1.25 million people forcibly displaced to build the Olympic infrastructure. To this end the Israeli police trained members of China’s police force in a six-week course that included, as reported in Haaretz, “how to deal with a crowd that riots on the playing field, and how to protect VIPs and remove demonstrators from main traffic arteries” (“Israeli police trained Chinese counterparts prior to Olympics,” Haaretz, 29 September 2008). The article noted that “although the main focus of the training was to give the Chinese police the tools necessary to handle terrorist attacks, they also learned how to handle mass civilian demonstrations.” The thousands upon thousands of Palestinian protests, marches, riots and acts of civil disobedience — which Israel routinely confronts with lethal force — have made Israel a go-to destination for such training.
The rising unrest in China and Tibet, along with China’s ever-increasing economic and political efforts outside its border, have already started to bring more press attention to the collective rights and conditions of workers, Uighurs, Tibetans and others in addition to the common historical criticisms of China’s poor record on civil freedoms. China’s studying of Israeli hasbara (the Hebrew term meaning “explanation” but commonly translated as “propaganda”) pairs ideologically with its ongoing pacification efforts. China’s record will need some explaining and the October visit of Benayahu and his public relations delegation follows the March 2010 visit of Sen. Col. Xeuping and a Chinese PR delegation that visited Israel to learn “the public-relations lessons learnt during the Second Lebanon War and during Operation Cast Lead” (“IDF Spokesperson Visits China,” IDF, 20 October 2010). The delegation also studied “the IDF [Israeli army] School for Media’s training system and the integration of spokesmanship and operational planning.”
Xeuping said of the most recent visit that “IDF Spokesperson’s Unit is very effective and up-to-date, especially in times of emergency.” With regular unrest throughout China, “times of emergency” to deploy Israeli hasbara are on the rise. And China’s adoption of Israeli security technologies means the Chinese response will be built from Israel’s industry of Palestinian pacification.
In Israel, Non-Violent Solidarity Activist Goes to Prison, Anti-Gay Terrorist Gets Community Service
On December 27, Anarchists Against the Wall co-founder Jonathan Pollak was slapped with a three month prison sentence for illegal assembly. He was convicted by an Israeli magistrate judge for his participation in a January 2008 Critical Mass bike ride through the streets of Tel Aviv in protest of Israel’s brutal military assault on the Gaza Strip. Though Pollak was offered community service, he accepted prison time because he was convinced that he had done nothing wrong.
The day before Pollak was sentenced, an Israeli judge handed down a sentence of six months of community service to Michael Naky. Naky’s crime? He helped devise and detonate a pipe bomb in order to kill as many homosexuals as possible at the 2007 Jerusalem gay pride parade.
In a single day in Israel’s kangaroo courts, a right-wing terrorist was sentenced to a few months of street cleaning while a non-violent activist dedicated to stopping the occupation was jailed under the most specious charges. And while Pollak’s sentencing was reported with great fanfare in Israel’s major papers, Naky’s passed below the radar (Yedioth devoted just six lines). The contrast in punishments represented just another symptom of a sick society unwilling to face the Molock in the mirror.
The state has made little effort to disguise the political nature of Pollak’s prosecution. He was not a ringleader of the Critical Mass protest, nor did he behave in an unusual manner. He simply rode his bike slowly, disrupting the normal flow of traffic along with dozens of demonstrators. However, the police recognized him as a prominent organizer of unarmed protests against the Israeli military repression in the West Bank, singled him out and arrested him.
I have documented Pollak’s actions at protests across the West Bank, where he spends most of his weekends, and I witnessed the respect he has earned from the residents of besieged Palestinian villages who count on him as their liaison to the outside world — a realm that the state of Israel has largely forbidden them from interacting with. Last summer, Pollak helped me gain entry into Ofer Military Prison to witness the show trials of Palestinian popular committee members who organize the unarmed protests against the Israeli segregation wall. He has done the same for numerous European diplomats, including British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who declared after a harrowing tour of the Israeli Occupation that Pollak helped arrange: “Popular resistance to the Occupation is the sole remaining possible alternative for the Palestinians to achieve their rights and avoid armed struggle.”
It is clear why the Israeli justice system acted in such a draconian fashion against Pollak: His activism is making an impact against the Occupation.
Association for Civil Rights in Israel chief legal counsel Dan Yakir described the political nature of Pollak’s prosecution succinctly when he said, “The fact that Pollak was the only one arrested, even though he behaved just like the rest of the protesters, and the fact that bicycle demonstrations are usually held without police involvement raises a strong suspicion regarding personal persecution and a severe blow for freedom of expression, just because of his opinions. A prison sentence in the wake of a protest is an extreme and exaggerated punishment.”
Naky’s lenient sentencing appeared to have been influenced by politics as well, especially when viewed in light of the state’s treatment of other right-wing terrorists. Chaim Pearlman, a fanatical settler suspected of stabbing to death three Palestinians in cold blood, was set free after a month in Shin Bet custody. And Jack Teitel, another Jewish settler convicted of randomly murdering several Palestinians and attempting to kill the Israeli left-wing intellectual Zeev Sternhell (Teitel also planned to attack the 2006 Jerusalem gay pride parade), was allowed to plead insanity and ruled unfit to stand trial.
The Israeli justice system has extended no such privileges to Palestinians like Ibrahim Amireh orAbdullah Abu Rahmeh, who rot in Israeli military prisons for resisting their dispossession through unarmed protest. And the state is leveling every legal weapon at its disposal against activists like Pollak, who declared at his sentencing hearing: “I will go to prison wholeheartedly and with my head held high. It will be the justice system itself, I believe, that ought to lower its eyes in the face of the suffering inflicted on Gaza’s inhabitants, just like it lowers its eyes and averts its vision each and every day when faced with the realities of the occupation.”
The Insurance Robbers
Prod a Democrat Party loyalist on the shortcomings of ObamaCare and you are likely to get two retorts: come 2014 at least everyone will be covered; and from the moment when Obama signed the law pre-existing conditions can no longer be used by the insurers to deny coverage. It turns out, however, that neither of these claims is true.
Let’s take universal coverage first. It turns out that in 2016, two years into full implementation of ObamaCare, there may be 30-40 million Americans sans coverage. From whence and whom comes such a number? No less than Dr. Robert Kocher, former special assistant to Obama on health care who directed the simulations to get these numbers in his new post at McKinsey and Co., an international consulting company. The simulations involved a detailed county by county analysis across the country.
Asked who would remain uninsured, Kocher replied: “There will always be a residual pool of uninsured that includes the following populations: undocumented [foreigners], people between jobs, those who may lose coverage from either changes in income [or from] rolling off of Medicaid. Also, the [people whose employer-based coverage] was dropped but who haven’t yet purchased insurance; those eligible and not enrolled in Medicaid; and those [who have not enrolled in insurance] by choice.”
OK then, our Obama loyalist might say, at least as of the moment the president put pen to paper to pass ObamaCare, the insurance robbers were themselves robbed of the ability to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Perhaps in theory, but that does not turn out to be the case either. It turns out that although 6 million Americans are eligible for the “Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan” provided in ObamaCare, only 8011 are enrolled. Why the shockingly low number? Two reasons emerge. First most people and physicians do not know who is eligible or how to enroll, a recurrent problem in a health care system designed for the insurers not the insured. And second the cost, the monthly premiums for the plan ranging from $320 to $570 a month.
So even these minimal benefits turn out to be an illusion. And as we in Massachusetts are learning from RomneyCare, the model for ObamaCare, costs are not controlled by such programs. Premiums continue to rise here and now the insurers are beginning to provide physicians with global budgets for their patients with financial incentives for the docs to withhold care. We can expect more of that under ObamaCare.
But at its core the worst thing about ObamaCare is that it does not provide egalitarian care. That is, health care is not a right. We must pay bribes (aka premiums) to the insurers for our health care and better care comes to those who can pay the bigger bribe. And for those who can’t who are too poor to pay any bribes there is Medicaid whose coverage in some states is no different from having no coverage at all, based on the outcomes.
One wonders whether it would not be better if ObamaCare failed in the courts leaving us with the reasonable two choices: Medicare for all, as in Canada and France, or a National Health Service, as in the UK. Progressives might well want to ponder joining the suits against ObamaCare.
John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com. He recommends following the sorry twists and turns of ObamaCare on Dr. Don McCanne’s superb column, “Quote of the Day,” from which some of the info above is drawn, on the web site of Physicians for a National Health Program,www.phnhp.org
Mérida – On Wednesday morning Venezuela’s National Assembly approved the Defence of Political Sovereignty and National Self Determination Law, making foreign funding of political organisations illegal. It also passed a reform to the Political Parties Law, bringing in a penalty for legislators who change political parties.
The political sovereignty law is short, with only 10 articles, and aims to protect Venezuelan political life from foreign interference through financial support or donations to political organisations.
It applies to political organisations, which are organisations that promote citizen participation in public spaces or control of public power or that promote candidates seeking election. It also applies to organisations that promote and defend citizens’ political rights.
Penalties include fines of double the amount received and the expulsion from Venezuela of foreigners who participate in such financing. Presidents of the organisations breaking the law would be barred from political positions for five to eight years and organisations would likewise be banned from electoral processes for five to eight years.
In addition, political organisations who invite a foreigner to express their opinion in a way that “offends state institutions, civil servants or the exercise of sovereignty” will be penalised with fines of 5-10,000 tax unites. The current tax unit is worth 65 bolivars (US$15).
United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) legislator Rafic Souki said the law prevents political parties and non government organisations from receiving external financing with the aim of destabilising the country.
Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) legislator Edgar Lucena said his party reserved their vote of support, saying that while the law was important in preventing “imperialist intervention through financing and any type of resources coming from drug trafficking”, the law does not “guarantee…the consolidation of proletarian internationalism… expressed by international cooperation of workers, of the people, and of revolutionary movements of the world.”
Opposition parties Podemos and Frente Humanista voted against the law because they believed it is “another act of persecution of dissidence”.
Correo del Orinoco International pointed out that the law is not unique to Venezuela, and that the “US also forbids foreign funding for political campaigns or parties, and highly regulates all foreign financing for other activities, including lobbying, public relations and NGOs.”
The passing of the law follows years of funding for opposition political groups and media agencies through U.S entities such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
The National Assembly also reformed the Political Parties, Public Meetings, and Protests Law so that legislators who change political parties during their legislative period will be penalised.
The aim of the reform is to “respect the will of the people who chose the legislators during the parliamentary elections,” Telesur reported.
In the last week the National Assembly has approved or reformed over 20 laws, according to legislator Dario Vivas.