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What Really Happened at the Montréal May Day Protest?

From Peaceful Protest to Police Brutality

By Andrew Gavin Marshall | The Media Co-op | May 2, 2012

The police line as they are about to charge
The police line as they are about to charge

On May 1, 2012, thousands of students and other protesters took to the streets for the Anti-Capitalist rally in downtown Montréal. I attended the protest with a couple friends, and having read the “news” emanating from the “stenographers of power” (the mainstream media), it’s important to set the record straight about what happened here in Montréal.

The Montreal Gazette reported the events with the headline, “Police respond as May Day anti-capitalist protesters turn violent in Montreal.” This exact story and headline were carried across the English-speaking media fresh for the morning’s papers: with the Vancouver Sun, the Province, the Calgary Herald, the Regina Leader-Post, the Edmonton Journal, and the Ottawa Citizen.

The story, as they tell it, goes like this: it started peacefully just after 5 p.m. (this part is true!), and then it “was declared illegal by police at two minutes after 6 p.m. following violent clashes.” A police spokesperson (who apparently is the only person the media chose to interview for their article) said that, “injuries to a citizen, police officers and vandalism on cars and property were the reasons for declaring the march illegal.” The article then blamed “black-clad youth [who] were seen hurling rocks at store windows,” after which the police began to launch flash grenades, and the riot police moved in after 6 p.m. “using batons to disperse the crowd.” At 7:10 p.m., “a full hour after declaring the demonstration illegal, police announced that anyone who refused to leave would be arrested.”

Peaceful beginnings
Peaceful beginnings

The CBC went with the headline, “More than 100 arrests in Montreal May Day riot.” CTV reported that of the 100+ arrests that took place, “75 were for unlawful assembly, while the remaining 34 were for criminal acts.”

So, arrested for “unlawful assembly”: what does that mean? It means that when the police unilaterally declare a protest to be “illegal,” everyone who is there is “unlawfully assembling,” and thus, mass and indiscriminate arrests can be made. In Part 1, Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is stated that “[e]veryone has the following fundamental freedoms”: conscience, religion, thought, belief, expression, media, communication, association, and “freedom of peaceful assembly.”

Having been at the protest from its beginning, I can say that it was a peaceful march. While there were individual acts of vandalism (the worst I saw was drawing on a bank’s window with a black marker), if police action were to be taken, it should be to arrest the specific vandal. Instead, they implemented collective punishment for exercising our “fundamental freedoms.”

The protest began in the Old Port of the city of Montréal, and made it’s way down rue Notre-Dame, up St-Laurent, and down to the financial district. The mood was good, people were in high spirits, with music, drums, the occasional fire cracker, young and old alike.

What Really Happened at the Montréal May Day Protest?

As we entered the financial district, the presence of the riot police became more apparent. When the protest made it to McGill College Ave. – crossing a wide intersection – as the march continued in its consistently peaceful path, the riot police quickly assembled alone the street below us. The crowd quickly became nervous as the protest was declared “illegal.” Before I could even take a photo of the police down the street in a long line, they began charging the crowd. Protesters dropped their signs and began up the street toward McGill University, while another section branched off along the intended direction, and others scattered.

The march had been successfully split, and the small factions were then being isolated and surrounded. Suddenly, riot police were everywhere, marching up the street like storm troopers, police cars, vans, horses, motorcycles, and trucks were flying by. As one faction of the protest continued down another street, the riot police followed behind, while another massive onslaught of riot police went around to block off the protesters from the other side. When the police first charged, I had lost one of my friends simply by looking away for a moment. After having found each other up the street, we watched as the protest which descended down the street was surrounded by police from nearly every side. It was then that we saw flash grenades and tear gas being launched at the crowd of people. There was a notable smell that filled the air.

As we stood, shocked and disturbed by what had just happened, we made our way toward McGill to see where other protesters were headed when we saw a group of riot police “escort” three young protesters whom they had arrested behind a police barricade at the HSBC (protecting the banks, of course!).

Onward and Upward
Onward and Upward

Up the street, and across from McGill, one protester who had run to get on the bus was chased down by several riot police who then threw him face-first onto the pavement, and as a crowd quickly gathered around (of both protesters and pedestrian onlookers), the police formed a circle around the man and told everyone to “get back!” and then they began marching toward us, forcing the crowd of onlookers to scatter as well. The police then took the young man over to where the other protesters were being “collected” at the HSBC.

There was one young girl, with the notable red square patch on her jacket (the symbol of the Québec student movement) who had to be taken away on a stretcher into an ambulance. We don’t know what happened to her.

As more and more police gathered, we decided it was time to leave, walking down the street through which the police had chased the protesters, remnants of signs, red patches, and other debris spilled across the streets; the remains of a peaceful protest ended with police violence.

The first sign of trouble
The first sign of trouble

This has become all too common in Montréal and across Québec, as the student protest enters its twelfth week, having had over 160 protests, an average of 2-3 per day. As the demonstrations take place, the police have used obscure and unconstitutional city by-laws in both Montréal and Québec City which are so vague in their descriptions that any peaceful assembly or march can be declared illegal. Those who are indiscriminately arrested are fined $500, and if arrested again, are charged between $3,500 and $10,500.

It is clear that the State has decided – unilaterally – that freedom of speech and freedom of assembly do not conform to their specific “by-laws,” and are clamping down on students and protesters in order to quiet and crush the student strike and the emerging social movement which is being referred to as the ‘Maple Spring’. The national media, for its part, has decided to demonize the students, the protesters, and the people; taking the word of a “police spokesperson” over everyone else. Having been at the protest, however, I must question whether these so-called “journalists” were at the same event, because we witnessed two entirely different scenarios.

We entered the march in good spirits, and the police ended it in violence and repression, leaving us standing still, scattered, and disturbed; but our spirits are not crushed, our resolve is only growing stronger, and for each act of violence the police and State impose upon the people, we begin to see them for what they truly are, and thus, what is truly at stake: our very freedom, itself!

Heading down the financial district

Heading down the financial district

The Charge! (it's blurry because we all had to run)
The Charge! (it’s blurry because we all had to run)

this "march" replaced the one they dispersed
this “march” replaced the one they dispersed

protecting the bank
protecting the bank

What Really Happened at the Montréal May Day Protest?

arresting protesters
arresting protesters

throwing protester face-down on the ground
throwing protester face-down on the ground

Girl taken away on stretcher
Girl taken away on stretcher

Also posted by AGMarshall:

The Québec Student Strike: From ‘Maple Spring’ to Summer Rebellion?

What Really Happened at the Montréal May Day Protest?

Canada’s Economic Collapse and Social Crisis

Student Strikes, Debt Domination, and Class War in Canada

Of Prophets, Power, and the Purpose of Intellectuals

The Purpose of Education: Social Uplift or Social Control?

The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education

May 3, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on What Really Happened at the Montréal May Day Protest?

Israeli Hawkademia in Australian Universities

By Vacy Vlazna | Palestine Chronicle | May 2, 2012

The Israeli ‘defense’ industry is embedded in Israeli universities and in universities around the world including Australia. It plunders overseas intellectual property for Israel’s military research-and-development (R&D) programs while strategic bi-lateral research and exchange missions deliberately whitewash or ‘normalize’ the Zionist military occupation of Palestine and her people.

In Israel, Zionism and the military are undifferentiated. The IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces), the world’s fourth most powerful (nuclear) army, since the inception of the state of Israel, is duty bound to secure the fanatical Zionist goal of Eretz Yisrael or Greater Israel, which incorporates the whole of historic Palestine and beyond (from the Nile to the Euphrates).

The 1948 Nakba, the Catastrophe, which accounted for the destruction of 500 Palestinian villages and the forceful expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians by Israeli terrorist militia (Irgun, Lehi, and Haganah) that metamorphosed into the Israeli army, has never ended with Israel’s relentless policies of ethnic cleansing through the expansion of its illegal colonies and the illegal Annexation Wall on stolen Palestinian land perforated moreover by hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks manned by belligerent IOF.

Under international law, Israel’s military occupation of Palestine is illegal and yet it has impunity to defy UN Resolutions and to daily commit war crimes because of US, EU, Canadian and Australian support as well as the $3.1 billion in Israeli military assistance granted annually from the US State Department budget.

“Israeli defense sales in 2010 totaled 7.2 billion U.S. dollars, making the small nation the world’s fourth largest exporter…Most of the sales are from four leading companies: Elbit Systems, Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI), Rafael, and Israel Military Industries ..Strong points of Israel’s arms industry include unmanned aerial vehicles, armoured vehicles, smart munitions, military and civilian aircraft avionics, weapons platforms and structural upgrades for foreign governments and private clients.”

It is Palestinian men, women, teenagers and children who are the guinea pigs of Israel’s ‘battle-tested’ weaponry.

Israeli defense companies as well as their joint venture US/UK defense partners have subsidiaries in Australia- Elbit Australia, Oracle Australia, Thales Australia, Raytheon Australia and have footholds in and associations with Australian universities.

In November 2011, Elbit Systems joined the Australian Defense Department’s Rapid Prototyping, Development and Evaluation Program. The University of Western Australia and Edith Cowan University also joined. “Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries contribute directly to two of the most insidious facets of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory: the indiscriminate assaults on civilian populations, through the provision of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s or ‘drones’) and other military equipment to Occupation forces; and the ever-tightening ghettoization of the West Bank, through the provision of surveillance and electronics systems along the Apartheid Wall and settlements. During Israel’s 23-day assault in Gaza in 2008-09, missiles fired from drones were directly attributed to the killing of 78 Palestinians, including 29 children. Like all Israeli firms operating the military technology sector, endless war and occupation create valuable marketing opportunities. Elbit UAVs, for example, can be sold on the global market as ‘battle tested’ devices, significantly increasing their appeal and leading to their adoption by a number of militaries.”

The ZEN Entrepreneurs’ Challenge is a student business planning competition run by the Entrepreneurship, Commercialization and Innovation Centre at the University of Adelaide. ‘Participants work with dedicated mentors to cultivate their entrepreneurial plans including marketing thanks to Dr. Ben-Ari who joined Elbit Systems in 1978 and is, since 2001, Managing Director of Elbit Systems Singapore.

The Edith Cowan University’s Security Management program is offering academic credit to delegates on completion of the 2013 “Security Fundamentals Tour of Israel designed to provide a select group of security specialists and professionals with an insight into Israel’s critical infrastructure security and what continues to drive Israel to be one of the leading security technology providers.” The tour includes the euphemistically named ‘Separation’ Wall which is in fact an Apartheid/Annexation Wall deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004 and also includes the security, passenger screening and deterrence applications of Ben Gurion Airport which last month detained and deported volunteers invited to Palestine to help build a school for blind children. Last year, Australians Vivienne Porzsolt and Sylvia Hale were also arrested and detained at Ben Gurion for having the temerity of wanting to visit Marrickville’s sister city, Bethlehem.

In February, a guest speaker at Deakin University’s 7th Annual International Electromaterials Science Symposium was A/Prof. Yair Ein – Eli, He had been Director of Research and Battery Technology at Electric Fuel Ltd before joining the Department of Materials Engineering at the Technion. Electric Fuel Ltd is a subsidiary of the Arotech Corporation which has facilities in Israel and “operates through three major business divisions: High-level armoring for military and nonmilitary air and ground vehicles; interactive simulation for military, law enforcement and commercial markets, and batteries and charging systems for the military’.

Each Israeli university has societies worldwide that encourage and facilitate academic and scientific exchanges and collaboration. ‘Recent exchanges organized by The Technion Society of Australia have included Technion staff at Sydney University, University of NSW, University of Newcastle, Victoria University, University of Adelaide and Australian National University.’ On staff at the University of Western Sydney is a professor with Technion associations and experience in military and civilian R&D. Both Elbit and Rafael Advanced Systems (run by the Israeli Ministry for Defence)have long-standing partnerships with the hawkish Technion.

In May 2008 was the launch of the AICC s inaugural WA Innovation and Business Development Mission to Israel, supported by the WA State Governments Department of Industry and Resources and coordinated by the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce (WA) Inc. (AICC). Among delegates were representatives from the University of Western Australia and Murdoch University. Mr R McCulloch representing Murdoch University’s interest in water research and renewable energy institutes praised Israel’s “immediate interest and openness to finding partners” though, of course this excludes Palestinians whose critical water resources are stolen, controlled and/or demolished by Israel.

The University of Johannesburg which had a joint water project with Ben Gurion University severed links in 2011 because it found “detailed, factual evidence and information regarding Ben Gurion’s direct and indirect role in further entrenching the violations of human rights and international law by the Israeli state”.

Innocuous academic interchange can promote normalization whereby Israeli oppression, racism and apartheid is accepted as the ‘normal’ status quo.

The Yachad Accelerated Learning Project designed to improve outcomes and address inequalities in Indigenous and Remote education was set up with the support of Melbourne and Monash Universities and The Hebrew University (Michael Federmann, the Chairman of Elbit Systems is a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors of Hebrew University). In 2007 an Australian Yachad delegation enthusiastically visited the Bedouin village of Kseyfeh aware or unaware that the per capita spending per Bedouin student is less than half Israel’s average and that 40% of indigenous Bedouins are threatened by forced transfer policies and live in Unrecognized Villages systematically deprived of water, electricity, health care, education yet not deprived of incessant home demolitions.

The information presented here about the relationship between Australian universities and the Israeli occupation of Palestine is merely the tip of a very grubby iceberg. Australian universities by their degrading prostration to funding donors associated with Zionist Israel have lost their moral equilibrium and the purpose and ideals of academia. Dissenting academics are rare. Few emulate Professor Jake Lynch’s protest of the 2011 Israel Research Forum at the University of Sydney with guest experts from the The Weizmann Institute of Science, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and Tel Aviv University, all of which collaborate with the Israeli military industry.

Academics and students, concerned for the human rights of the people of Palestine, must investigate their university finances and demand divestment from and boycott of companies and Israeli universities that are implicated in the war crimes and crimes against humanity that Palestinians suffer daily.

Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005.

May 3, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sudan says UNSC resolution contains positive elements

Sudan Tribune | May 2, 2012

WASHINGTON – The Sudanese government reacted with caution to the resolution adopted unanimously today by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) saying it contains positive elements but vowed to review it carefully in order to determine its negotiating strategy with South Sudan.

Today’s decision directs Khartoum and Juba to inform the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and UNSC president in writing of their intention to commit to a cessation of hostilities including aerial bombardments within 48 hours.

The two sides must immediately withdraw their forces inside their respective borders without conditions and within a week activate the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) and the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ).

Also, withdrawal from the disputed border region of Abyei must be completed in two weeks in accordance with the June 2011 Agreement on Temporary Security and Administrative Arrangements for Abyei.

Furthermore, the two countries will return to the negotiating table in two weeks time to settle issues including oil, citizenship, border demarcation and Abyei. A four-month window was given to conclude the talks.

Talks on these contentious items is mediated by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) led by Thabo Mbeki but there was little success in achieving any breakthrough.

The panel managed to schedule a meeting between Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir and his southern counterpart Salva Kiir for April 3rd to seal framework agreements on borders and citizenship. However, clashes that erupted between the two countries in late March over the oil-rich region of Heglig inside South Kordofan led to the suspension of the summit.

Relations deeply deteriorated in early April after South Sudan army (SPLA) managed to occupy Heglig for 10 days before Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) reclaimed the area. Juba insists that it withdrew voluntarily and dismissed Khartoum assertions that they were expelled by force.

South Sudan claimed that Heglig is part of Unity state that was annexed to north Sudan several decades ago through an administrative decision. Heglig, which produces half of Sudan’s oil, saw its facilities severely damaged which Khartoum blamed on SPLA and vowed to sue it internationally.

The UNSC resolution passed today called for a fact finding effort to assess the losses including economic and humanitarian damage to oil facilities and other key infrastructure in and around Heglig.

Despite reservations expressed by China and Russia, the resolution maintained the threat of non-military measures against any side that fails to comply with council’s demands that were in essence part of the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) roadmap endorsed last month.

“We are always very cautious about the use and threat of sanctions,” China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong told the council.

“China has all along maintained that African issues should be settled by the Africans in African ways” Baodong added.

The Russian envoy expressed the same sentiment.

“The arsenal of political and diplomatic instruments for normalizing the situation has nowhere been exhausted,” Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council.

“We consider sanctions as an extreme measure” he said

In Beijing, the United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised China for backing the resolution.

“I’m pleased that China and the United States joined with a unified international community just hours ago to support a strong UN Security [Council] resolution that provides unambiguous support to the African Union roadmap,” Clinton said.

The Sudanese government criticized the AUPSC for requesting the blessings of the UNSC and warned against the attempt to override the African role by involving the UNSC. It said that the intervention by the world body will make political considerations and pre-established positions prevail over the requirements of peaceful settlements.

Last Sunday, the Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti sent a letter to the AU declaring his country’s “preliminary” agreement with the roadmap while expressing several reservations that were not specified.

Karti traveled to Moscow this week to press Russia on Sudan’s point of view regarding the draft resolution. However, the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov signaled his backing to the resolution despite expressing discomfort with including Article 41 of the UN charter.

Article 41 states that the UNSC may decide what measures – not involving the use of armed force – are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call on the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures.

These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.

Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesperson Al-Obeid Marwih said that elements of the UNSC resolution related to condemning Heglig occupation and calling for assessing damage to oil facilities are positive.

Marwih noted that Sudan has no “fundamental objection” on the resolution as long as it is made on the basis of the AUPSC roadmap.

But the head of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) parliamentary bloc Ghazi Salah al-Deen slammed the AUPSC communiqué saying that it equated between the victim and the villain.

“We cannot endorse any international decision denying the right of the Sudanese people,” Al-Deen told the legislative assembly.

Al-Deen, who also serves as Bashir’s adviser, said the labeling of Heglig as a disputed area is “malicious”.

Sudan’s ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Osman expressed disappointment with the resolution.

“It is notable that the resolution has disregarded the continuous aggression by South Sudan against Sudan,” Osman told the council.

“Peace … will only be achieved through halting all forms of support and sheltering of proxy rebel and armed groups espoused by the South Sudan,” he added.

But South Sudan’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs Deng Alor Kuol who attended the vote told the council that his government would comply with the resolution.

“It is my privilege to reaffirm to you that, in compliance with the decisions of the African Union Peace and Security Council, the UN Security Council’s Presidential Statement, and in the spirit of our commitment to peace, my government ordered the withdrawal of our police force from Abyei Area on 28 April 2012. We expect the international community to exert efforts to ensure the immediate and complete withdrawal of Sudan Armed Forces from Abyei Area,” Alor told the council.

As acknowledged formally by the African Union, my government is already committed to the cessation of hostilities and the resumption of negotiations under the auspices of the African Union High Implementation Panel. We welcome the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council, and the commitment of the UN Security Council to the enhancement of the AUHIP led negotiations process through the active participation of the UN, the Chairman of IGAD and other international partners.”

“We appeal to the United Nations and its member states to urgently mobilize humanitarian assistance for the population affected by Sudan’s continuous aerial bombardment and ground incursions in northern states of South Sudan,” he said.

Alor told reporters that his country did not abandon claims to Heglig and stressed that the move on the region was in response to Khartoum’s aerial bombardments and ground incursions. He said the ownership of Heglig would be on the negotiating table.

The U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice hailed the vote saying that it enforces a time frame to achieve results after years of talks.

“With this vote, the Council has clearly imposed tight deadlines for concrete action, in line with the African Union decision. This Council, especially those members with particular influence, including my own, must continue to press both parties to implement the African Union Roadmap by ending hostilities, ceasing cross-border attacks and movements, halting aerial bombardments, withdrawing all their forces from the border areas including Abyei, activating the necessary border security mechanisms, and ending support to rebel groups working against the other state,” she said.

“It is also essential that both parties return at once to the negotiating table under the auspices of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel to reach agreement on critical outstanding issues. We support the plans of the African Union to travel to Khartoum and Juba in the coming days to begin the process. This is ultimately the only way that further conflict can be avoided” Rice added.

She warned that the UNSC is willing to impose punitive measures if there is lack of progress.

“If the parties fail to take these steps promptly, this Council is united in its determination to hold both sides accountable. We stand ready to impose Chapter VII sanctions on either or both parties, as necessary,” the U.S. diplomat said.

But the Russian ambassador said that sanctions should not be used in relation to conflicts in the Sudanese states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where fighting has been raging since last year between Sudan’s army and rebels from Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) who want to topple to Khartoum government.

The resolution orders Khartoum and SPLM-N to cooperate with the mediation and use a June 2011 framework agreement as a basis for talks. The deal was signed by presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie only to be scrapped by Bashir himself later.

May 3, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sudan says UNSC resolution contains positive elements

Illegal Settlements Bonanza: Israel Plots an Endgame

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | May 2, 2012

Israel’s colonization policies are entering an alarming new phase, comparable in historic magnitude to the original plans to colonize Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem following the war of 1967.

On April 24, an Israeli ministerial committee approved three settlement outposts – Bruchin and Rechelim in the northern part of the West Bank, and Sansana in the south. Although all settlement activities in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal by international law, Israeli law differentiates between sanctioned settlements and ‘illegal’ ones. This distinction has actually proved to be no more than a disingenuous attempt at conflating international law, which is applicable to occupied lands, and Israeli law, which is in no way relevant.

Since 1967, Israel placed occupied Palestinian land, privately owned or otherwise, into various categories. One of these categories is ‘state-owned’, as in obtained by virtue of military occupation. For many years, the ‘state-owned’ occupied land was allotted to various purposes. Since 1990, however, the Israeli government refrained from establishing settlements, at least formally. Now, according to the Israeli anti-settlement group, Peace Now, “instead of going to peace the government is announcing the establishment of three new settlements… this announcement is against the Israeli interest of achieving peace and a two states solution”

Although the group argues that the four-man committee did not have the authority to make such a decision, it actually matters little. Every physical space in the occupied territories – whether privately owned or ‘state owned’, ‘legally’ obtained or ‘illegally’ obtained – is free game. The extremist Jewish settlers, whose tentacles are reaching far and wide, chasing out Palestinians at every corner, haven’t received such empowering news since the heyday of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The move regarding settlements is not an isolated one. The Israeli government is now challenging the very decisions made by the Israeli Supreme Court, which has been used as a legitimization platform for many illegal settlements that drove Palestinians from their land.

On April 27, the Israeli government reportedly asked the high court to delay the demolition of an ‘unauthorized’ West Bank outpost in the Beit El settlement which was scheduled to take place on May 1st. The land, even by Israeli legal standards, is considered private Palestinian land, and the Israeli government had committed to the court to take down the illegal outposts – again, per Israeli definition – on the specified date.

Now the rightwing Netanyahu government is having another change of heart. In its request to the court, the government argued: “The evacuation of the buildings could carry social, political and operational ramifications for construction in Beit El and other settlements.” Such an argument, if applied in the larger context of the occupied territories, could easily justify why no outposts should be taken down. It could eradicate, once and for all, such politically inconvenient terms such as ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’.

“Previous Israeli governments have pledged to demolish the unauthorized settler outposts in the West Bank, but only a handful have been removed,” according to CNN online. In fact, that ‘handful’ are likely to be rebuilt, amongst many more new outposts, now that the new legal precedence is underway.

Michael Sfard, an attorney with Yesh Din, which reportedly advocates Palestinian rights, described the request as “an announcement of war by the Israeli government against the rule of law.” More specifically, “they said clearly that they have reached a decision not to evacuate illegal construction on private Palestinian property.”

Some analysts suggested that Netanyahu was bowing down to the more rightwing elements in his cabinet – as if the man had, till now, been a peacemaker. The bottom line is that Israel has decided embark on a new and dangerous phase, one that violates not only international law, but Israel’s own self-tailored laws that were designed to colonize the occupied territories. It appears that even those precarious ‘laws’ are no longer capable of meeting the colonial appetite of Israeli settlers and the ruling class.

Israeli settlements have been contextualized through Israeli legal and political references, as opposed to references commonly accepted in international law. The emphasis on differences between Israeli governments, political parties and religious/ultra-nationalist settlement movements is distracting and misleading; colonizing the rest of historic Palestine has been and remains a national Israeli project.

An article in the rightwing Israeli Jerusalem Post agrees. “Support for settlement is not simply a program of right-of-center Likud. Its history has firm roots in Labor party activity during the periods of its governments, and activities by predecessors of the Labor party going back before the creation of the Israeli state” (April 27).

The only variable that might be worth examining is the purpose of the settlement, not the settlement itself. Following the war of 1967, the Allon plan sought to annex more than 30 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza for security purposes. It stipulated the establishment of a “security corridor” along the Jordan River, as well outside the “Green Line”, a one-sided Israeli demarcation of its borders with the West Bank. Then, there was no Likud party to demonize, for that was the Labor party’s vision for the newly occupied territories.

While the Israeli settlement drive since then has swallowed much of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, populating them with over half a million Israelis, the international community’s response was as moot in 1967 as it is now in 2012. Responding to the latest sanctioning of illegal outposts, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon declared that he was “deeply troubled” by the news. Meanwhile, Russia was ‘deeply concerned’ and so was the EU’s Catherine Ashton. As for the US, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland insisted that the Israeli measure is not “helpful to the process.” What process?

While Israel has now showed all of its cards, and the international community declared its complacency or impotence, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah continues to plan some kind of UN censure of the settlements. Even if a watered-down version of some UN draft managed to survive the US veto, what are the chances of Israel heeding the call of international community?

There is no doubt that Israel is plotting its version of the endgame in Palestine, which sees Palestinians continuing to subsist in physical fragmentation and permanent occupation. Unless a popular Palestinian uprising takes hold, no one is likely to challenge what is actually an Israeli declaration of war against the Palestinian people.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

May 3, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Comments Off on Illegal Settlements Bonanza: Israel Plots an Endgame

South American Fiber Optic Ring

By Raúl Zibechi | Americas Program | May 2, 2012

On March 9th, the Ministers of Communication from 12 countries that make up the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR, for its acronym in Spanish) made the decision to build a fiber-optic ring that created a direct connection between countries in the region without relying on the United States. The network will be completed in 18 months and they will begin laying ocean cables between South America, Europe, the United States and Africa.

The initiative originated from Brazil’s government, which took the proposal to the South American Council on Infrastructure and Planning (Cosiplan, for its acronym in Spanish). This body, which began operations in 2010, is one of the 8 sectoral councils at the departmental level in Unasur for political and strategic debate of programs and projects that promote the regional integration of infrastructure. During the first meeting, it put forth a Plan of Action that sought to “substitute the logic of exportation with one of regional development,” according to Joao Mendes Pereira, Coordinator of Latin American Economic Affairs in Brazil’s State Department.

This fiber optic ring is beginning to loosen one of the many knots that tie the region to the influence of the Global North, and in particular, the United States. It may not be a great work or a radical step forward, but Unasur’s decision illustrates two points: first, the way in which relations with the central powers weaken and fragment marginalized regions; and second, the existence of the political will to make concrete advances towards building autonomy.

South-South Connection

In South America, communication via internet takes a strange and irrational journey. Emails sent between two neighboring cities in Brazil and Peru, such as the capital of Acre, Rio Branco, and Puerto Maldonado, travel all the way to Brasilia, leave Fortaleza via submarine cable, enter the United States through Miami, pass by California descending down the Pacific to Lima, and continue on their way to Puerto Maldonado: a 8,000-kilometer trip between two points only 300 kilometers apart. On a basis like this, it is impossible to speak of sovereignty and integration.

There is also a dependence on European countries. In order to connect some sites between Brazil or Argentina and Ecuador or Colombia, the connection must cross the Atlantic to Europe and return to the continent. A country like Brazil, which is already an emerging global power and will become the world’s 5th-largest economy this year, lives in a situation of dependence on communication: 46% of its international internet traffic comes from outside of the country, and of that 90% makes a pit stop in the United States.

With respect to the region as a whole, 80% of international data traffic from Latin America passes through the United States, double that of Asia and four times the percentage from Europe. This excessive dependence makes communication more expensive. After the meeting at Asunción, the Minister of Industry and Energy in Uruguay, Roberto Kreimerman, stated that between 30% and 50% of connection costs correspond to payments to companies offering connection services to developed countries.

The first step approved by Cosiplan is to survey and chart all the existing networks in each country. After that, three steps of development have been established: first, the connection of physical points located on every border, some of which will be finalized this year, such as in Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela, Bolivia and Uruguay. Second, state-owned telecom companies, like Telebras of Brazil and Arsat of Argentina, as well as private companies, will lay the foundational framework for the networks. In the third stage, they will extend the cables to neighboring borders.

At each border, internet exchange points will be created to support the companies. The fiber-optic ring will extend 10,000 kilometers and be managed by state-owned companies from each country to keep communications safe and cheap. According to Paulo Bernardo, Minister of Communication in Brazil (and head the agency that came up with the project), the ring “reduces our vulnerability to an attack and the safety of state or military secrets.”

The direct link will increase the connection speed between South American nations 20% to 30% and will decrease costs. Investments at this stage will be very low, around $100 million, which begs the question why it wasn’t done before.

Autonomy and Sovereignty

The project will be complete after the installation of various submarine cables. One will lie between Brazil (the country most interested in the project) and the U.S., entering Miami, Jacksonville or Virginia and passing through the Caribbean, which allows Colombia and Venezuela to be connected. Another will unite the continent with Europe directly passing through Cabo Verde and preferably entering via Amsterdam. A third will connect Fortaleza (northern Brazil) with Angola (Africa) branching off to Argentina and Uruguay.

This part of the project will be realized by Eletrobras, the Brazilian state company in charge of the National Broadband Plan, the federal government’s initiative to broaden access to the entire population before the 2014 World Cup. The objective is to provide 40 million citizens with broadband access and 60 million with broadband mobile access.

Until now Brazil has had only four submarine cable links in Fortaleza, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and Santos that connect South America with the U.S. Each is operated by private companies, which, from a strategic perspective, causes the country to lose part of its sovereignty. The rest of the countries in the region have access to these cables, but some either lack international fiber optic networks or have overloaded existing ones. That explains why the international “link” represents 45% of the cost of broadband.

At the same time, Brazil is negotiating with the United Nations to democratize internet management which is currently in the hands of American companies who control the IP addresses, URLs and domain names. The spokesperson for the Minister of Foreign Relations, Tovar da Silva Nunes, explained that “the management of the flow of information is very concentrated” because “the internet domain is under the auspices of the U.S. government …it is not safe, fair or desirable.”

For this reason, Brazil and other emerging nations, in addition to some European countries, support the creation of a global convention for access to information at Rio+20 that allows the democratization of the control of communication. Such a framework must include the construction of a fiber optic ring as a physical infrastructure for collaborative communication.

New Risks

The region is living a new reality that shows it is possible to advance in a type of collaboration that goes beyond free commerce to promote equal development in the region. Nonetheless, there remain many doubts and uncertainties. Many processes progress quickly, like the fiber optic ring, highways and hydroelectric dams, while others sink, like the southern gas pipeline that would have created an energy interconnection. Meanwhile, others creep along at a slow pace, like Banco del Sur which promotes a new financial framework in the region.

Brazil is interested in releasing itself from the grip of the Global North and promoting these policies in the region. However, it does not have as much interest in promoting other initiatives like Banco del Sur since it already possesses a powerful development bank, the BNDES, which is handling finances for a good part of infrastructure works in the region.

Given this sentiment, it was Unasur who laid out the objective of providing continuity to the “successes and advances” of the Initiative for the Integration of Regional South American Infrastructure (IIRSA), to the project it considers “a consensus response to the challenges of effective integration and growing necessities for infrastructure in South America initiated in 2000.”

Accordingly, Unasur picks up where IIRSA left off, which has been seriously criticized by social movements. In its 10 years of existence it has picked up 524 projects with investments totaling 100 billion dollars. In January, 2011, there were 53 completed projects, almost 200 in the execution phase and 150 in the preparation phrase. 85% of the projects are transport-related while 12% are in energy.

In 2010, Cosiplan laid out a Plan of Action that urges “building a strategic and integral South American perspective of regional infrastructure favorable to balance and territorial cohesion as well as human development in harmony with nature.”

This new “strategic vision” is a positive one in that it responds to the interests of the South American people. On the other hand, it may reproduce old forms of suppression since it was born from the interests of one country and multinational corporations. The works of IIRSA-Unasur are being challenged by those citizens who feel affected, as happened with the highway that was proposed to cross the TIPNIS in Bolivia and the energy agreement that Peru and Brazil signed in 2010, which foresaw the construction of five dams in the Inambari River.

Apart from the dams to be built in Brazil’s rivers in the Amazon, the state company Eletrobras plans on constructing 11 dams in Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Uruguay with an installed power of 26,000 MW, almost double that of Itaipu which supplies 17% of energy consumption to Brazil. The energy and highway projects that are currently being postulated by Unasur tend to replicate the same structures that until now had been the cause of Latin America’s dependence.

It may be that the Fiber Optic Ring presents these same characteristics since it was proposed and designed by Brazil and it tends to serve Brazil’s interests. The exit route of the most important submarine cables will stay on Brazil’s coasts. The connection with Africa foments the multiple commercial and corporate interests that Brazil has on that continent. Eletrobras is the company in charge of a good part of the optic ring and its financing is controlled by BNDES.

That is why we can say that initiatives, like the fiber optic interconnection, are a step towards regional autonomy although it may be laying the foundation for new inequalities. It will be up to the governments and people of the region to debate the benefits of these projects.

Raul Zibechi is an international political analyst from the weekly Brecha de Montevideo, a professor and researcher on grassroots movements at the Multiversidad Franciscana de América Latina, and adviser to many grassroots groups He writes the monthly “Zibechi Report” for the Americas Program.

May 3, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , , , , , , | Comments Off on South American Fiber Optic Ring

The Waldorf Astoria conspiracy

By Kian Mokhtari | Press TV | May 3, 2012

Some of the largest hedge funds, private equity groups, university endowment managers, and other high rollers have met at New York’s up market Waldorf Astoria Hotel to facilitate “the next big thing in finance.”

The event, organized by HighQuest Partners, a heavy hitter in the hedge fund market of big agro, bio-tech and bio-fuel companies charged entrance fees of $3,000. But the sinister undercurrents of the meeting have not been lost on some people.

The money managers attended because they had been promised to make between 25-40 percent returns on short-term investments in areas of the world weighed down by incredible food insecurity or weak or subservient political systems. Corrupt dictators with no moral qualms about displacing millions of souls from their ancestral lands have become the new Bourgeoisie for the Western elite.

In 2009 alone, nearly 60 million hectares of arable land – an area the size of France – was purchased or leased, 70 percent of it in Africa. It’s impossible to acquire that much of land without the continued taking of land previously held by small indigenous farmers. That number has only been increasing as more and more land has been leased off to Western companies in Africa by corrupt governments. In a 2011 post on their website, HighQuest partners bragged about representing $3.5 trillion in aggregated institutional assets and 25 million acres under cultivation alone: the figure is expected to double by the end of 2012.

However the above is only the farming angle on the issue. There is an even more sordid action plan in operation as we speak.

The real estate market has taken a beating courtesy of the toxic assets and mortgages debacle in the US and the West. So the focus of the murky business has shifted abroad. Shady deals with real estate owners in the developing and the Third World countries have ensured a minimum of 40 percent rise in property prices in places where the average annual income is well below $5000 per year. This means a Western land grabber can, vis-à-vis local landowning gangs, invest in real estate futures in countries that even on the face of it are politically opposed to the West. The insider gangs fix prices on the population and ensure 25-40 percent returns every other year for themselves and their Western patrons.

Talk about making a killing!

Colonialism is making a return via a backdoor to blight lives and relieve the world population of what small chances of leading healthy and productive lives they have left. The new techniques of the 1% combined with the human tendency for corruption is the next big danger for humanity.

Think about it: An investor at a luncheon in Waldorf Astoria Hotel could double his or her money every four years via dodgy land investments while not a blade of grass is cultivated or a room for living is built in the developing and Third World countries.

This policy will make a desert out of the world bar where the elite choose to take up residence, which for the moment is in the Western Hemisphere.

~

A former editor for the Jane’s Information Group in the UK, Nader (Kian) Mokhtari is a foreign policy specialist, columnist and political commentator with 15 years of experience in the field. He’s also worked as a lecturer at the Tehran School of Media Studies. Mokhtari is a frequent contributor to Press TV.


Kian Mokhtari

May 3, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | | Comments Off on The Waldorf Astoria conspiracy