A Paris university has withdrawn permission for a Palestine solidarity conference at the behest of the Zionist lobby.
In a statement issued today, the authorities at the University of Paris 8 said that the title of the conference – “Israel: an apartheid state?” – was “of a strongly polemical character.” Because there had been strong reactions to its theme, the university predicted there could be a “serious risk posed to public order” if the event scheduled for 27 and 28 February went ahead.
The complaint against the conference was made by the representative council for Jewish organizations in France, or CRIF as it’s better known. It had objected to the participation of Omar Barghouti, coordinator of the Palestinian campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
Boycott Israel “shock”
Barghouti’s presence in Paris would be “shocking”, according to CRIF, because the ideas that he espouses have “been found on several occasions to constitute an offence of incitement to discrimination.”
CRIF’s claim is misleading. While a number of BDS activists have been accused (ridiculously) of flouting French laws on racism, there have also been important rulings that uphold the right to urge a boycott of Israel. In December last, a court in the eastern city of Mulhouse acquitted 12 campaigners who had urged customers of the supermarket Carrefour not to buy Israeli goods.
I was also one of the invited speakers for the conference, which was part of , a series of debates and actions on university campuses throughout the world. The group behind the event, Collectif Palestine Paris 8, wasn’t consulted ahead of the university’s decision to ban it.
This isn’t the first time that CRIF has attempted to muzzle criticism of Israel on French campuses. Last year it strong-armed the authorities at the École normale supérieure (ENS), another Paris college, into forbidding a Palestine solidarity discussion. The big cheese at the ENS succumbed to the pressure but were rebuked for doing so by the French Council of State, which answers government queries on legal issues. By refusing to allocate a room to debate Israeli apartheid, the ENS didn’t respect the freedom of assembly and expression of its students, the Council found.
The “miracle” of Israel
Earlier this month, CRIF underscored its political clout, when Nicolas Sarkozy addressed its annual dinner. The president used the platform to call Israel a “miracle,” marvelling at how “from the debris [of the Holocaust], a democracy has been born.”
On his best behavior now that he is seeking re-election, Sarkozy saluted the “courage” of Benjamin Netanyahu, a man who he has called a “liar” in private conversations with Barack Obama (that were overhead by journalists).
Anyone who has been following events in that “miracle” called Israel will know that Netanyahu and his foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman are waging a war of attrition against civil liberties. Aspects of that war have been exported to France, where calling out Israel as an apartheid state is considered a threat to public order or, worse, a crime.
- [Dublin, Israeli Apartheid Week 2012] Boycott Israeli Goods demo (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- [Cork, Israeli Apartheid Week 2012] Boycott Israeli Goods Demonstration (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Officials suspect French megabank BNP Parisbas pulled out of Israel due to boycott pressure (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Raymond McCartney, the former Irish hunger striker and current Member of Northern Ireland’s Legislative Assembly for Sinn Féin is the latest from Ireland to send a message of solidarity to Palestinian political prisoner Khader Adnan, who is entering his 63rd day of hunger strike protesting administrative detention, a policy started by the British and which is illegal under international law.
McCartney, along with six other prisoners (Brendan Hughes, Tom McFeeley, John Nixon, Sean McKenna, Tommy McKearney and Leo Green) participated in what became known as the First Hunger Strike in 1980 in order to attain political status under the British occupation.
After weeks of delays by the British in implementing the promised changes, and confusion among the prisoners and their supporters, it became apparent in January 1981 that political status was not to be granted. The prisoners, faced with no alternative, would be forced to embark on a new fast that would have widespread repercussions in Ireland and abroad.
The Second Hunger Strike is the more famous one, with ten Irish prisoners hunger striking until death.
Oliver Hughes, the brother of Francis Hughes who died in 1981 after 59 days of hunger strike, had sent his message of support a few days earlier. Tommy McKearney, mentioned above, was the first of the former hunger strikers to record a message of solidarity.
Raymond McCartney, who was on hunger strike for 53 days, says that he “understands what [Khader] is feeling at this particular moment in time, so our thoughts are with him and his family.”
He goes on to say:
”All of us here in Ireland in particular those elected representatives should be doing all what we can to put pressure on the Israeli government to release this man. He’s been held by a form of internment, again a tactic well known and understood by people in Ireland. We need to have this man released and we need to ensure that we don’t have a death in present of this Palestinian who is struggling for his human dignity and the dignity for all Palestinians.”
Khader Adnan was arrested from his home at 3:30am in front of his pregnant wife and two young daughters on December 17th. He has not been charged with anything, and as a result has embarked on a hunger strike since December 18th, using his stomach to protest the immoral administrative detention that the incongruent Israeli Prison System characterizes itself with.
Amnesty International reports:
Administrative detention is a procedure under which detainees are held without charge or trial for periods of up to six months, which can be renewed repeatedly. Under administrative detention, detainees’ rights to a fair trial as guaranteed by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) are consistently violated.
Khader Adnan is one of 309 Palestinians currently held in administrative detention by the Israeli authorities, including one man held for over five years and 24 Palestinian Legislative Council members. Hundreds of other Palestinian detainees and prisoners have joined Khader Adnan’s hunger strike.
After 62 days of Khader Adnan hunger striking, the international community’s silence has been duly noted. Khader Adnan is a living legend, an icon of resistance and is determined to carry through with his hunger strike until he his released or charged, declaring that “My dignity is more precious than my food.”
- Former Irish hunger striker’s message for Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner 55 days on hunger strike (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- The EU’s shameful silence on Khader Adnan (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Peter Hart: Pundits Waiting for a Palestinian Gandhi? Meet Khader Adnan. (huffingtonpost.com)
- IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS ( Support for Palestinian hunger striker ) (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Al Jazeera English Doesn’t Care About Khader Adnan (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has called for tougher sanctions on Iran over the country’s peaceful nuclear energy program and its new achievements, claiming that Tehran endangers world peace.
Repeating Tel Aviv’s allegations against Iran during a meeting with Japan’s Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka on Thursday, Barak said, “A nuclear Iran is a danger to world stability and provides a tailwind for terror organizations worldwide.”
The Israeli official further urged the international community to use “crippling sanctions” to bring Iran’s nuclear program to a halt, saying that the current restrictive measures may not be enough to compel the Islamic Republic, urging “effective and paralyzing” on Tehran.
Tanaka, for his part, emphasized that resolving the disputes over Tehran’s nuclear program in a diplomatic and peaceful way is “indispensable.”
The United States, Israel and their European allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program and have used this pretext to push for international and unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Washington and Tel Aviv have also repeatedly threatened Iran with a military option in a bid to force the Islamic Republic to halt its peaceful nuclear program. Iran rejects western allegations of a diversion in its nuclear program.
Tehran says it is entitled to the peaceful use of nuclear technology because it has been subjected to snap IAEA inspections due to its policy of nuclear transparency unlike Israel which refuses to allow the inspection of its nuclear facilities or to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) based on its policy of nuclear ambiguity.
- You: Barak urges tougher Iran sanctions (japantimes.co.jp)
Imagine this scenario: A developing nation decides to selectively share its precious natural resource, selling only to “friendly” countries and not “hostile” ones. Now imagine this is oil we’re talking about and the nation in question is the Islamic Republic of Iran…
Early news reports on Wednesday claimed that Iran pre-empted European Union sanctions by turning off the oil spigot to six member-states: the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Portugal.
The reports were premature. According to a highly-placed source in the country, Iran will only stop its oil supply to these nations if they fail to adopt new trading conditions: 1) signing 3 to 5-year contracts to import Iranian oil, with all agreements concluded prior to March 21, and 2) payment for the oil will no longer be accepted within 60-day cycles, as in the past, and must instead be honored immediately.
Negotiations are currently underway with all six nations. Iran, says the source, expects to cut oil supplies to at least two nations based on their current positions. These are likely to be Holland and France.
Meanwhile, the other four EU member-states are in dire financial straits. They are knee-deep in the kind of fiscal crisis that has no hope of resolution unless they exit the union and go back to banana republic basics. Yet, they found the time to sanction Iran over some convoluted American-Israeli theory that the Islamic Republic may one day decide to build a nuclear weapon. I am sure arm-twisting was involved – the kind that involves dollars for votes.
But I digress. This blog is really about ideas. And not just ideas, but really ridiculous ideas.
New World Order Jump-Started by Iran?
Alternative sources of oil will be found in a jiffy for these beleaguered EU economies. But this isn’t so much about a few barrels of the stuff that fuels the world’s engines.
This is about the idea that a singular action taken amidst the political and economic re-set about to take place globally, can propel us in a whole new direction overnight.
The past few years have shown that there is no global financial leadership capable of pulling us back from the abyss. The US national debt hovers around the $15.3 Trillion mark. Its GDP in 2011 was just under $15 Trillion. You do the math – there is no fixing that one. The only next-big-thing coming out of that dead end will be the complete transformation of the current global economic order.
But how will that take place without leadership and clear direction? I’m betting hard that It will not come from the top, nor will it be directed. The new global economic order will be organic, regional and quite sudden.
What do I mean? Imagine: Iran stops selling oil to the EU; China tells the US to take a hike on currency values; India starts trading in large quantities of rupees; Russia’s central bank becomes a depot for holding dollars that don’t need to pass through New York; the creation of a global payment messaging system competing with SWIFT. Now imagine that a combination of actions – triggered only by an attempt to circumvent some really very silly sanctions – can suddenly unleash some unexpected possibilities that were beyond the realm of imagination a mere few years ago.
Imagine the emergence, say, of regional economic hubs, powered by the currencies of the local hegemonic powers, where bartering natural resources, goods and services becomes as commonplace as transactions involving currency transfers. Because of the frailty inherent in dealing with these new local currencies and a bartering system, nations tend to trade most with those closest to them in geography and culture. Shocking? Maybe not. Sometimes it just takes a need for change…and a handy tipping point.
“This is not the time to fan the flames,” someone should have told the United States. “You and your pals are sitting in a jalopy tottering on the cliff’s edge – why risk making moves now?” they should have warned. “Be a little less arrogant,” would have been sage advice.
But Washington is absolutely, irrevocably, dangerously fixated on showing Iran who’s boss, and spends a good part of every day trying to tighten the screws around the Islamic Republic. For the most part, the US’s pursuit of this dubious objective has instead stripped it of the vital political tools it once wielded. No more UN Security Council resolutions, no more unscrutinized military adventures. The only thing left is the nefarious tentacles of the United States Department of Treasury and its financial weapons. “The new tools of imperialism,” as once US-friendly central banker in the Mideast bluntly put it to me.
I only hear shrill desperation when politicos now parrot the “sanctions are biting” line. Here’s a juicy tidbit for those rolling their eyes right now: Goldman Sachs – America’s premier investment bank and Wall-Street God – has identified the Islamic Republic as one of the “Next 11” growth drivers of the global economy after the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) nations. BRIC was a term coined by Goldman Sachs, if you recall, and boy, were they right about that one.
Thirty years of “biting” sanctions and sanctions “with teeth” have achieved the following: “Strong or improving growth conditions,” said Goldman Sachs just last year, “combined with favorable demographics, form the foundation of the N-11 growth story.” The investment bank, furthermore, estimates “a measurable increase in the N-11’s share of global GDP, from roughly 12% in the current decade to 17% in 2040-2049.”
It’s a bad global economy we are facing right now, but Goldman Sachs’ charts illustrate that Iran is still one of five nations in the N-11 pot whose “productivity and sustainability of growth” is above average.
Shrugging off Dollar Dominance
A British investment research firm wrote in January: “Sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran effectively restricts Iranian oil sales to barter contracts or to state-to-state agreements utilizing non-G8 currencies…It represents a major irritation to the Iranians, rather than a chokehold.”
The authors specify the Chinese Yuan as the non-G8 currency, but in the past few days that scenario has busted open with the addition of the Indian Rupee into the mix.
The new trade deal inked between Iran and India ensures Rupee payment for 45% of Iranian oil imports, with the balance remaining in Indian banks to pay for exports to the Islamic Republic. This achieves two important things that are an unintended consequence of US sanctions: firstly, it eliminates the Dollar as the trading currency (note that oil prices have traditionally been priced in US Dollars); secondly, it significantly accelerates economic integration between Iran and one of the four largest emerging economies in the world.
D.S. Rawat, head of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India, says of the agreement: “The potential of trade and economic relations between the two countries can touch the level of $30 billion by 2015 from the current level of $13.7 billion dollars in 2010-11.”
There’s more. During the course of the past two weeks, Iran has purchased around 1.1 million tons of cereals and wheat from international markets – including products originating in Germany, Canada, Brazil and Australia – which it has paid for entirely in currencies other than the Dollar.
The US Dollar, which has been the international reserve currency for close to a century, is on its way out anyway. America’s huge balance of payments deficit has weakened US fundamentals and made investors wary. The downside of the Dollar’s changing status is that the Federal Reserve loses a lot of flexibility in managing its currency and the US economy. That does not bode well for keeping the US competitive against the BRIC nations and other emerging economies.
Iran Sanctions Biting the US Right Back?
It takes one solid idea, in a world desperately seeking them, to start the creaky shift to a new global order. Emerging economies have been nipping at the heels of the world’s governing bodies for decades, demanding entry into the hallowed halls of the UN Security Council’s permanent members; insisting on a seat at the main table at the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization.
When European leaders went begging for scraps at the last G-20 meeting, the BRICs found their feet and yawned a collective “no.” It signaled a reversal of fortunes, that meeting, and the idea that they can forge their own path was born. The BRICs then announced their first joint foreign policy statement last November – on Syria, of all places. The idea matured.
But US/EU sanctions against Iran are giving the idea steam. One has to act when faced with a dilemma, after all – and that dilemma has been literally foisted in the faces of nonaligned countries the world around: “sanction Iran or else.”
Now they are just shrugging and finding ways around the maze of traps set up by the Department of Treasury. Why should they care much? What is the United States today but an unwieldy bully with few arrows left in its quiver?
This week the US is putting the screws on Belgian-based SWIFT. If you’ve ever wired money to another country, you have used SWIFT – it is essentially the messaging system between banks that alerts them to money transfers. The US wants to cut Iranian banks out of the SWIFT system, in effect making it practically impossible for anyone inside or outside Iran to send or receive funds.
Who knows what Iran will do if this comes to pass? It will probably just join non-aligned countries to create an alternative SWIFT, further undermining the western grip on global finance. Iran, after all, decided last year not to put up with the prospect of perpetual cyberwar with the west, and is forging ahead with plans to create a closed internet system for itself.
Each step the US and EU take to hinder Iran’s flexibility is countered with an innovative solution – one that includes more and more non-western players who are keen to craft a new global order. They used to worry about that kind of confrontation with the west, but the collapse of the current order has left few obstacles in their paths – and even offers incentives.
Like the proverbial finger in the dyke to block a leak…the water will always find another way out and possibly even bust open the dam. A warning to Washington: the burden of anxiety will always fall on the one who needs the dam most.
Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow her on twitter @snarwani.
“In the financial world, the United States cannot order SWIFT to kick Iran out. But it has leverage in that it can punish the Brussels-based organization’s board of directors individually, possibly freezing their assets or limiting their travel.”
The Taser, the non-lethal law enforcement weapon that is meant to incapacitate criminals without causing great harm, has killed at least 500 people last decade. The real number of casualties might be even higher.
In the period between 2001 and early 2012, the stun-gun Taser devices used by law enforcement across America have claimed the lives of 500 people.
Amnesty International, the worldwide advocacy group that condemns torture and human rights violations, delivered the news this week with a report released Wednesday. In it, they reveal that the recent death of a Georgia man who died as a result of a Taser blast puts the body count brought on by the device at 500 in barely a decades’ time.
Despite being branded as a non-lethal alternative to firearms, hundreds of Americans have died from Taser blasts.
On Monday this week, law enforcement responded to a call of a drunk and disorderly person in Houston County, Georgia. When they arrived at a bar, the man in question, 43 year old Johnnie Kamahi Warren, was already on the ground. According to the local Dothan Eagle, a sheriff’s deputy still deployed blasts from a Taser gun on the man. Twice. He died moments later and now the officer who fired those shots is being investigated, all while on paid administrative leave.
Warren is number 500 on the list of Taser-related casualties, and Amnesty International says that number is too high to warrant a wake-up call this late in the game.
“Of the hundreds who have died following police use of Tasers in the United States, dozens and possibly scores of deaths can be traced to unnecessary force being used,” Susan Lee, Americas program director at Amnesty International, writes in a press release. “This is unacceptable, and stricter guidelines for their use are now imperative.”
Over the last decade, hundreds of others like Warren have died either directly or as a result of Taser blasts. Law enforcement continues to use the tools, however, and many feel that often that’s a decision that could be avoided.
In a 2008 report titled USA: Stun weapons in law enforcement, it was revealed that 90 percent of the Taser casualty cases studied involved a victim that was unarmed. Droves of Americans are left dead by Taser blasts every year and in many cases it is revealed that they posed little threat to the officers responsible.
One victim that was executed in 2009 by Taser was only 15 years old. Another person twice that age was victimized that same year by Tasers, but it took 19 blasts from trigger-happy cops to kill that man.
Another recent victim, Billy Walters III, was shot by Tasers in a separate Georgia incident. He was intoxicated when cops arrived, and although he repeatedly told them “I give up,” they acted by firing several blasts into the man.
Walters was hanging from a ledge during the assault. He fell and was later rendered paralyzed.
“Even if deaths directly from Taser shocks are relatively rare, adverse effects can happen very quickly, without warning, and be impossible to reverse,” Amnesty International’s Lee adds. “Given this risk, such weapons should always be used with great caution, in situations where lesser alternatives are unavailable.”
Even with this warning and countless others, however, Tasers continue to be a routine weapon used by law enforcement. After a 2008 incident that left a 17-year-old boy dead after a Taser attack, a federal court ruled that Taser International, the maker of the guns, did not provide adequate warning or instruction to the Charlotte Police Department responsible for the death, and that proper knowledge could have prevented the casualty from occurring.
A federal jury said that Taser International should compensate the family of the slain boy to the tune of $10 million. The manufacturer is planning on appealing that decision.
“I’m glad the verdict was in our favor, but we’re definitely not celebrating,” the mother of slain Darryl Wayne Turner told the Associated Press last year. “It cannot bring back my son’s life. Hopefully, it will help others in the future dealing with Tasers.”
A year later, however, the body count continues to rise.
Amnesty says that between the states of California, Florida and Texas, around 200 people have been killed by Tasers in the last decade in just those three states.The website Truth…Not Tasers put a figure of North American Taser-related deaths at 682 last year.
- Libyan militias “torture detainees to death” (libyaagainstsuperpowermedia.com)
- You: Tasers: ‘If officers have a new toy, they like using it’ (guardian.co.uk)