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With Courage and Anguish, A Gaza Athlete Speaks Out

By Barbara Erickson | TimesWarp | May 28, 2015

His name is Iyad Abu Gharqoud; he is a soccer player and a resident of Gaza, and he speaks to us directly from The New York Times today, allowing us to hear his anguish— as well as his courage—in telling his own experience of Israeli oppression. This is a rare occurrence in the newspaper of record, and we should savor the moment.

It is true that Abu Gharqoud’s op-ed piece “FIFA Should Give Israel the Red Card,” appears in print only in the international edition, but it is also to be found online, with a reasonably prominent position on the World page. The essay, calling on FIFA to suspend Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, is notable for its ring of genuine feeling: his love of soccer, his grief at the suffering he has endured and witnessed and his fear of Israeli reprisals for this moment of speaking out.

The young athlete writes to us from Bureij, a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, where his family has lived since they were driven from their home near Beersheba in 1948. He has found “great joy” in playing soccer, but as a professional he has come up against the fact that Palestinians under occupation live “at the whim of Israeli officials.”

His teams, Hilal al Quds and the Palestinian national team, are often held up at check points or prevented from traveling altogether; players, coaches and referees are denied travel rights, harassed and imprisoned; and two athletes were permanently maimed last year when Israeli border police shot them in their feet.

Abu Gharqoud writes of the special agony of Gaza, where Israel bombed soccer fields and recreation areas last summer, where four boys died under Israeli shells as they played soccer on a sandy beach and where Israeli missile fire killed eight soccer fans as they watched a televised World Cup game.

When he calls for FIFA to suspend Israel, his plea has the force of a moral argument. “I have been stopped at too many checkpoints, held for too many hours and suffered too long on account of my Palestinian nationality to be silent at this crucial moment,” he writes.

Here it becomes clear that he is taking a serious risk by speaking out. He goes on: “I have dedicated much of my life to excelling at the sport I love, but there are more important things in life than success on the soccer pitch.” In other words, he knows that Israel could choose to ruin his career for what he has told the world.

This is an antidote to the usual Times reports on Palestine/Israel, where we find official commentary taking the place of on-the-ground reality. Abu Gharqoud speaks with an authentic voice, and he gives us one small piece of the crushing Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Although he writes of soccer, he links its struggle under Israeli rule to the larger picture of occupation, to the “subjugation of the Palestinian people.” Two states or one, he writes, is not important. “Equality is.”

The article should point us to Israel’s repressive policies beyond the game of soccer. We could substitute almost any other endeavor in its place and find similar stories: in education, for instance, where schools are attacked with tear gas and students detained on the way to exams, in agriculture, where crops are destroyed and market produce left to rot at checkpoints.

In this piece, the Times has lifted the curtain to give us a brief view of the crushing effect of the Israeli occupation. Readers would benefit from more of this, but past experience warns that we should not expect a repeat any time soon.

May 29, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Activists Confront “Jerusalem Hug” March

IMEMC News & Agencies | May 28, 2015

Activists confronted participants in the so-called “Jerusalem Hug” march, in which Palestinian and Israelis participated in Jerusalem, on Thursday.

Palestinians from Jerusalem gathered near Damascus Gate, where the march took place, and started telling Palestinian participants in the event that it had “normalization” goals.

There were minor scuffles and exchanges of swearing between the two sides.

Head of Fateh’s Jerusalem youth council Ahmad al-Ghoul told Ma’an News Agency that Palestinian participants in the march — from the West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus, and Tulkarem — were deceived into joining it by luring them with permits to enter Jerusalem.

Al-Ghoul said that the organization claimed that the march was a “humanitarian project for people in the West Bank” and provided them with permits and the necessary transportation without showing them the “normalization” goals of the visit.

He added that such organizations equate the “victim and the executioner” and show the world a picture of Palestinians and Israelis living in peace and love, spending millions of shekels in the process.

Israeli police detained Mahdi Abu Sbeih and Shadi al-Labban, who were trying to stop the march.

May 29, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Alison Weir Replies to JVP Leaders’ McCarthy-like Attacks

By Alison Weir | May 26, 2015

I have long been hearing that some JVP leaders have initiated whispering campaigns against me. This began many years ago (and long before the latest accusations, which are in a letter from JVP, excerpted below). In fact, I first heard of the director of JVP accusing me of anti-Semitism, behind my back, during the first year of my public statements about Palestine. Such actions seemed related to my political positions on Palestine, which were different from JVP’s:

I endorsed Palestinian refugees’ right of return, favored ending US aid to Israel, was aware of pro-Israel neocons’ role in pushing the US into the Iraq war, and did not deny the significance of the Israel lobby.

The whispered attacks against me were troubling, but I tried to ignore them and continue my work.

Then, with the publication of my book last year, “Against our Better Judgment: The hidden history of how the US was used to create Israel,” the attacks seemed to escalate. It appeared that some JVP leaders were attempting to thwart my talks and prevent people from learning the facts that my book and my talks contain.

(It is very important to note this is not representative of all JVP members – many of whom are colleagues and supporters. Some have put on excellent speaking events for me.)

I finally decided to write an article about this situation – “Please help us overcome the accusations against If Americans Knew,” but did not name JVP, in the hope of preventing damaging division and distraction in the movement for justice in Palestine.

Before publishing this piece, I tried to clarify the situation with JVP, and emailed the national leaders asking about their statements about me. I hoped that by communicating with JVP directly the situation could be resolved. In reply I received a letter from a law firm on JVP’s behalf (a partner in the firm is the JVP board chair and was the signatory on the letter).

I was surprised at the McCarthyist, guilt-through-association attacks this letter contained, and I was amazed at the great effort someone had made to monitor my every move over the past 14 years of hundreds of speeches, articles, and interviews.

JVP sent their accusatory dossier on me to about 50 chapters around the country, and has been disseminating this and other accusations widely. I’ve just finished an extremely busy three-week speaking tour. In several locations I learned that JVP had tried to block my talks. Fortunately, they failed in almost all locations and my presentations were received extremely well; one audience even gave me a standing ovation.

By the way, although JVP is a membership organization, there is no indication that the general JVP membership was informed or involved in these actions.

Below is JVP leaders’ dossier on me, with my rebuttals below each section.

It is interesting to note that despite what seems to be a long and surprisingly intent focus on ferreting out supposedly negative information about me or potential mistakes I may have made, none of their accusations include anything about my own articles or speeches.

Instead, all their charges are based on alleged “guilt by association.” Even this McCarthyist tactic, however, is based on falsehoods, as I am not even associated with those they try to claim. Please see below:

JVP: “Jewish Voice for Peace has chosen not to work with you because our central tenet is opposition to racism in all its forms,”

This is not true. Among other things, JVP works with Zionists, an ideology that people throughout the world feel is profoundly racist. Many people find JVP’s action objectionable and will not work with JVP for that reason. At If Americans Knew, however, we believe in a broad tent, and have published JVP articles on our website, posted a link to the organization from the very beginning, and have occasionally worked with JVP members and several JVP chapters.

JVP: “and you have chosen repeatedly to associate yourself with people who advocate for racism.”

We have not done so.

JVP: “You have been a repeat guest of white supremacist Clay Douglas on his hate radio show, the Free American. Clay Douglas is concerned primarily with the survival of the White race and sees malign Jewish influence everywhere. His racist, anti-Jewish, and anti-gay rhetoric can be found across the front pages of his multiple websites. In the course of your appearance with Clay Douglas on August 25, 2010, for example, you were silent when Douglas invoked the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and engaged in a racist diatribe against Jews. Your repeated appearance on this show (April 23 and August 25, 2010; February 9 and May 18, 2011) show that you knew his extremist views and chose to continue the association.”

Over the past 14 years I have given probably hundreds of interviews to diverse people of all ages and backgrounds from across the political spectrum, as do most writers and analysts. I try to focus on the information I feel audiences need to hear, speak as intentionally as possible, and stay on target – surprisingly difficult during interviews, as others have no doubt also experienced.

I do not vet who may or may not listen to my information and have even gone on Israeli right-wing radio. We wish our important facts to reach every possible person, and I endeavor to be polite to all my hosts, even when they are hard-core Zionists.

I always use this airtime to the best of my ability to give important facts about Palestine to listeners of all backgrounds and beliefs in an effort to counter the media misinformation about the region and about Muslims.

Some sectors of US society are specifically being targeted by misinformation that is causing an alarming growth of Islamophobia in this country, some of it taking violent turns.

I feel it is critical that our facts, which counter this Islamophobia campaign, reach every portion of our diverse population, particularly those that are most vulnerable to this anti-Muslim propaganda.

As best I recall about this particular radio show from five years ago, Douglas was from Oklahoma or somewhere similar, seemed to have had a hard life and was, I suspected, a bit down and out.

In his somewhat wandering, occasionally conspiracy-tinged questions, Douglas touched on a lot of out-there thoughts, but I recall that he differentiated between Jews and Zionists, spoke strongly against violence, decried Israeli oppression, and seemed to be striving to be a fair person. When one time he failed to distinguish between Zionists and Jewish people in general, I corrected him.

(I’m told that some of those who seem to wish to “get me” are saying that he used an offensive term at one point, but I don’t recall anything of the sort. They may be referring to the term “Morlock” that he once used that I wasn’t familiar with, apparently from an HG Wells book, which Douglas used to refer to the global elite who exploit everyone, he said, including people who are Jewish.)

While someone has posted a transcript of one show (which may or may not be accurate), I actually went on his program several times, when I could squeeze it in (he asked me many times but I usually didn’t have time to do it). My purpose was to use this opportunity to convey to his audience as much important information as possible in the limited airtime available to me – the plight of Palestinians, my trips to the region, the media distortion on Palestine, how much money we give Israel, our responsibility to bring justice and peace, the real facts about Islam, the importance of opposing all racism, the fact that there are many Jewish-Americans who oppose Israeli oppression, etc.

This is what I try to convey to audiences whenever and wherever I can, as I believe that ending the long-standing injustice and horror in Palestine is the best way to protect human rights, security and peace for all parties and, indeed, the world. I believe the issue is too urgent to become distracted.

My goal is to try to reach everyone with the fundamental principle that all racism is wrong and to provide facts that will counter the falsehoods being given to them about Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Iranians, and others.

I don’t pretend that I am perfect and that all my responses will be flawless; all I can do is try my hardest. I apologize if there were cases where I should have done better.

It should go without saying (but apparently doesn’t) that appearing on anyone’s show or consenting to be interviewed by someone never denotes association with or endorsement of that person’s views, as surely everyone knows. Authors, politicians, and others go on a great many shows of diverse people, from the left to the right, and such appearances do not indicate agreement or disagreement with the host.

Jon Stewart invited John McCain, an advocate of war against many people in the Middle East, onto Stewart’s very powerful TV program and conducted a friendly, softball interview with him. Stewart gave McCain considerable airtime and even appeared to agree with McCain’s statement that the US should follow Israel’s example regarding torture, because “Israel doesn’t torture.”

This does not mean that Stewart is “associated” with John McCain. Yet, according to JVP’s illogical reasoning regarding my “guilt,” JVP should also be attacking Stewart. Why does JVP find Jon’s Stewart’s showcasing of McCain, a powerful individual with a track record of pushing wars and violence, acceptable, yet see my appearance on a tiny Internet radio show, with a host who apparently opposes both, as reason for attack.

JVP: “Your troubling associations and choices further include giving interviews to a range of far-right outlets including The American Free Press, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group”

See my answer above discussing the critical importance of giving facts on Palestine to all sectors of U.S. society.

Once again JVP is searching through my multitude of interviews for something negative to use against me and again must resort to alleged guilt through alleged (but false) association. JVP fails to mention that many diverse people have been interviewed by the American Free Press, including Cindy and Craig Corrie, Rachel Corrie’s parents.

Incidentally, it is important for people to be aware that the SPLC, like the ADL, is an unreliable source, and has changed considerably from its early valuable work: please see “King of the Hate Business,” “An Open Letter to the Southern Poverty Law Clinic: Do You Equate Anti-Zionism with Anti-Semitism?,” and “Will the SPLC Rise to the Challenge? New Frontiers in Hate Crimes.”

JVP: “and the anti-gay, anti-Jewish pastor Mark Dankof. One of your articles appeared in an anthology that was promoted by the infamous Holocaust-denial organization, the Institute for Historical Review. We see no evidence that you have disavowed any of these outlets or institutions.”

JVP’s attempt to tar me by claiming that a group once promoted an anthology that contains a piece by me is a truly bizarre way to attack me! My articles have been included in at least four, perhaps more, anthologies, and every anthology has included highly respected authors, including Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, and many others.

It is revealing that JVP’s accusation against me fails to mention that Rev. Dankof has also interviewed peace activists Ray McGovern and Jennifer Lowenstein, Israeli professor and author Ilan Pappe, and journalist and commentator Dilip Hiro, among many others.

For some reason JVP ignores our outreach policy against discrimination (iakn.us/1JV1KST):

“We are happy to provide information and speakers on Israel-Palestine to individuals and groups of all religious, ethnic, racial, and political backgrounds. If Americans Knew supports justice, truth, equal rights and respect for all human beings; and we oppose racism, supremacism, and discrimination of any and all forms.”

JVP: “Our movement must be built on a foundation of love, justice and equality for all people.”

That sounds excellent. I hope JVP will live up to these principles and will stop attacking people like me.

Our own statement of principles, posted on the If Americans Knew website, affirms:

“We believe all people are endowed with inalienable human rights regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, or nationality. We believe in justice, fairness, and compassion and in treating all human beings with respect, empathy, and in the manner in which we would wish to be treated.”

JVP: “It should not and cannot win by fueling or endorsing any form of hate, whether against People of Color, gays, Jews, Muslims or anyone else.”

I certainly agree. It also should not include hatred of Christians, conservatives, or people whose views or facts we, or one, may dislike. I truly hope JVP believes in this important principle, and that it is not like the ADL, whose definition of “hate” is often based on political stances it dislikes on Israel. I have a life history (iakn.us/1JV1KST) of opposing all bigotry.

JVP: “At Jewish Voice for Peace, we are particularly sensitive to the long history of anti-Jewish oppression”

We are acutely sensitive to historic suffering and oppression, which is why we are working on the horrific and long-lasting occupation and oppression in Palestine, which is going on right now and which we have the opportunity and obligation to stop. We deeply believe in ‘never again,’ and apply it to all people without exception. I have always opposed all forms of bigotry, and one of my very first essays was “Choosing to Act: Anti-Semitism Is Wrong.”

JVP: “as well as the ways that Palestinian liberation work is frequently tarred with false charges of anti-Semitism.”

Exactly like JVP’s false charges against me.

JVP: “Just as we call out the hateful associations of those who seek to perpetuate injustice against Palestinians, as a movement we must also hold the line against those who promote the false notion that Palestinian liberation can be won at the expense of others.”

Rather than spending our time “calling out” fellow activists in McCarthy-like witch hunts based on guilt through alleged association, we should work to provide the compelling facts that will end the tragedy.

I’ve just completed a three-week speaking tour, and was deeply pleased to see the following message from an organizer at one of my talks who received this from an audience member:

“I thought the presentation last night was awesome. She brought sunshine, hope, love, and so much courage to all of us. She is very brave to write and speak such truth in these times. So many have come before her and failed. It was wonderful to know there is still such a powerful voice for the actual history in the Middle East. She was an inspiration.”

JVP: “JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE”

I hope that at some point JVP will change its name to Jewish Voice for Peace and Justice, since peace cannot come without justice. Israel frequently claims that it desires “peace” – i.e. Palestinian submission. It is our responsibility to advocate for justice, freedom, equality, and human rights for all.

I hope JVP will desist from its attacks on those it dislikes, and will instead focus on the often excellent work it is doing and that its members want.

I feel strongly that we all contribute important things to the movement for justice and peace in Palestine. It is time to stop fighting among ourselves, for JVP and others to stop their witch hunts against deeply committed writers and activists, for JVP to stop its attempted censorship and domination of the Palestine movement, and for all of us to get on with our desperately important work.

That’s what I intend to do.

—Alison Weir

~~~

May 5, 2015

Dear Ms. Weir

Jewish Voice for Peace has chosen not to work with you because our central tenet is opposition to racism in all its forms, and you have chosen repeatedly to associate yourself with people who advocate for racism.

You have been a repeat guest of white supremacist Clay Douglas on his hate radio show, the Free American. Clay Douglas is concerned primarily with the survival of the White race and sees malign Jewish influence everywhere. His racist, anti-Jewish, and anti-gay rhetoric can be found across the front pages of his multiple websites.

In the course of your appearance with Clay Douglas on August 25, 2010, for example, you were silent when Douglas invoked the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and engaged in a racist diatribe against Jews. Your repeated appearance on this show (April 23 and August 25, 2010; February 9 and May 18, 2011) show that you knew his extremist views and chose to continue the association.

Your troubling associations and choices further include giving interviews to a range of far-right outlets including The American Free Press, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group, and the anti-gay, anti-Jewish pastor Mark Dankof. One of your articles appeared in an anthology that was promoted by the infamous Holocaust-denial organization, the Institute for Historical Review. We see no evidence that you have disavowed any of these outlets or institutions.

Our movement must be built on a foundation of love, justice and equality for all people. It should not and cannot win by fueling or endorsing any form of hate, whether against People of Color, gays, Jews, Muslims or anyone else.

At Jewish Voice for Peace, we are particularly sensitive to the long history of anti-Jewish oppression as well as the ways that Palestinian liberation work is frequently tarred with false charges of anti-Semitism. Just as we call out the hateful associations of those who seek to perpetuate injustice against Palestinians, as a movement we must also hold the line against those who promote the false notion that Palestinian liberation can be won at the expense of others.

Jewish Voice for Peace

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Corporate Welfare Fails to Deliver the Jobs

The Sad Case of Start-Up NY

By Lawrence S. Wittner | May 28, 2015

For several decades, state and local governments have been showering private businesses with tax breaks and direct subsidies based on the theory that this practice fosters economic development and, therefore, job growth. But does it? New York State’s experience indicates that, when it comes to producing jobs, corporate welfare programs are a bad investment. This should be instructive to state and local officials across the US.

In May 2013, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, with enormous fanfare, launched a campaign to establish Tax-Free NY — a scheme providing tax-free status for ten years to companies that moved onto or near the state’s public college and university campuses. According to Cuomo, this would “supercharge” the state’s economy and bring job creation efforts to an unprecedented level. It was “a game-changing initiative,” the governor insisted, and — despite criticism from educators, unions, and some conservatives — local officials fell into line. Reluctant to oppose this widely-touted jobs creation measure, the state legislature established the program — renamed Start-Up NY and including some private college campuses — that June.

After that, Start-Up NY moved into high gear. A total of 356 tax-free zones were established at 62 New York colleges and universities, with numerous administrators hired to oversee the development of the new commercial programs on their campuses. New York State spent $47 million in 2014 — and might have spent as much as $150 million over the years — advertising Start-Up NY in all 50 states of the nation, with ads focused on the theme: “New York Open for Business.” Nancy Zimpher, the chancellor of the State University of New York, crowed: “Nowhere in the country do new businesses and entrepreneurs stand to benefit more by partnering with higher education than in New York State, thanks to the widespread success of Governor Cuomo’s Start-Up NY program. With interest and investment coming in from around the globe and new jobs being created in every region, Start-Up NY has provided a spark for our economy and for SUNY.” This was, she declared, a “transformative initiative.”

But how “transformative” has Start-Up NY been? According to the Empire State Development Corporation, the government entity that oversees more than 50 of the state’s economic development programs, during all of 2014 Start-Up NY generated a grand total of 76 jobs. Moreover, the vast majority of the 30 companies operating under the program had simply shifted their operations from one region of the state to another. The New York Times reported that, of the businesses up and running under Start-Up NY, just four came from out of state. Indeed, in some cases, the “new” businesses had not even crossed county lines. One company moved one mile to qualify for the tax-free program. Furthermore, when it came to business investment, there was a substantial gap between promises and implementation. As the Empire State Development Corporation noted, companies promised $91 million in investments over a five year period, but only invested $1.7 million of that in 2014. Thus, not surprisingly, during 2014 the companies operating under Start-Up NY created only 4 percent of the new jobs they had promised.

Actually, Start-Up NY’s dismal record is not much worse than that of New York’s other economic development programs. According to a December 2013 study by the Alliance for a Greater New York, the state spends approximately $7 billion every year on subsidies to businesses, including “tax exemptions, tax credits, grants, tax-exempt bonds, and discounted land to corporations, ostensibly in the name of job creation, economic growth, and improved quality of life for all New Yorkers.” But 33 percent of spending by the state’s Industrial Development Agencies resulted in no job promises, no job creation, or a loss of jobs. In fact, “with little accountability, businesses often take the money and run.”

A recent report by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reached similar conclusions. According to DiNapoli, in 2014 the programs overseen by the Empire State Development Corporation cost the state $1.3 billion (not including the voluminous tax breaks granted to companies) and helped create or retain only 14,779 jobs — at a cost to taxpayers of $87,962 per job. The comptroller’s scathing report concluded that there was no attempt by the state agency to ascertain whether its programs “have succeeded or failed at creating good jobs for New Yorkers or whether its investments are reasonable.”

Of course, instead of shoveling billions of dollars into the coffers of private, profit-making companies, New York could invest its public resources in worthwhile ventures that generate large numbers of jobs — for example, in public education. In 2011, as a consequence of severe cutbacks in state funding of New York’s public schools and a new state law that capped local property tax growth — two measures demanded by Governor Cuomo — 7,000 teachers were laid off and another 4,000 teacher positions went unfilled. Overall, 80 percent of school districts reported cutting teaching positions. Today, with New York’s schools severely underfunded — more than half of them receiving less state aid now than they did in 2008-2009 — this pattern of eliminating teachers and closing down educational opportunities for children has continued. But what if the billions of dollars squandered on subsidizing private businesses in the forlorn hope that they will hire workers were spent, instead, on putting thousands of teachers back to work? Wouldn’t this policy also create a better educated workforce that would be more likely to secure employment? And wouldn’t this shift in investment have the added advantage of creating a more knowledgeable public, better able to understand the world and partake in the full richness of civilization?

It’s a shame that many state and local government officials have such a limited, business-oriented mentality that they cannot imagine an alternative to corporate welfare.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lawrence S. Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and is syndicated by PeaceVoice. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Struggling against the Surveillance State

By John V. Walsh | Dissident Voice | May 27, 2015

A struggle of some consequence is now being waged in Congress to keep on life support the NSA’s massive spying on the American people. And in this struggle the so-called progressives (more accurately referred to as liberals) are engaged in a massive betrayal of all they profess to believe in. Instead too many of them are scurrying about attacking Rand Paul, the libertarian, anti-interventionist, Republican Senator who is leading the charge against the Bush/Obama spying program. Among other things Senator Paul has engaged in a filibuster to stop this nefarious program. So far he has been successful.

Let us try to make the crucial events in Congress as simple and crystal clear as possible. There are two pieces of legislation that were before the Senate last week.

The first is the Patriot Act itself, Section 215 of which, in the government’s secret interpretation, allowed the NSA to vacuum up data on virtually every piece of electronic communication by every American and indeed everyone on the planet. This secret interpretation and use of 215 came to light only when the heroic Edward Snowden blew his whistle. Such massive spying has already been declared illegal by a recent opinion of the Second Circuit Court, although the NSA ignores this ruling. The Patriot Act is due to expire on June 1, and Obama is desperate to keep its essentials alive. Since the government has not been able to produce any convincing data that such surveillance has protected the U.S., one might well ask why Obama is so frantic, almost hysterical, to keep it alive. Why indeed.

The second is a “reform” of the Patriot Act, called the “USA Freedom Act,” proposed by Obama and company. However, the USA Freedom Act is not different in its essentials from the original Patriot Act. One “difference” is that the telephone and internet companies will hold the data rather than the government itself, and then the government will vacuum it up from those companies. A distinction without a difference, to be sure. Here is what the ACLU has to say about the “USA Freedom Act”:

“This bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision—the material-support provision—would represent a significant step backwards,” ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement. “The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform.”

Jaffer wants Congress to let Section 215 sunset completely, a common sentiment among privacy activists who are USA Freedom Act skeptics—they’d rather let it expire and wait for a better reform package than endorse something half-baked.

Now we get to the meat of the politics and the possible victory over the Stasi State that we have within reach. Last week both these bills came up for a vote in the Senate. Rand Paul filibustered, a filibuster denigrated by many “progressives” as just a “long speech.” Nevertheless, it was enough that cloture had to be invoked to get a vote on the bills. That means 60 votes were needed to keep the legislation alive. First came the vote for the USA Freedom Act. There were less than 60 votes to keep it alive. Down it went. Then came the vote to continue the good ol’ Patriot Act and its atrocious Section 215. Again there were less than the 60 votes needed to keep it alive. Down it went. So as things stand now, Section 215 will be history as of June 1!

That in itself is an enormous victory and should be widely heralded. But here is the interesting thing. All the Democrats voted in favor of Obama’s phony reform, the USA Freedom Act. (As noted above, they could not, however, muster the 60 votes needed to bring it forward and get it passed.) They included the favorites of the faux progressives, Ron Wyden, Patrick Leahey, Elizabeth Warren and of course that notorious advocate of butchery in Gaza, Bernie Sanders. What motivated these Dems to take such a stand? First, it was Obama’s bill, and more importantly it gave some cover to these Dems since most of their constituents are horrified by the Spy State. Next, when it came time to vote for the original Bush/Obama Patriot Act, the sides switched and the Republicans voted in favor of that measure. But they also failed to muster the 60 votes needed to go forward and so that version of mass surveillance failed. Only Rand Paul and a few other Republicans stood firm on the issue of no mass surveillance and confronted the Republican majority, a clear proclamation of principle over Party. For progressives this is (yet another) massive failure of those Dems whom they labored to install in the Senate.

Now this week the bullies that “lead” Congress are conferring frantically to find a way to keep alive the government spying on us. Every sort of blackmail, payoff, bribe and other inducement is certainly on the table to bring the necessary number of Senators along. It is not beyond imagination that the NSA is providing some embarrassing confidential information on recalcitrant Senators, which has been hoovered up in the last decade. These Congressional leaders have until the weekend to muster the 60 Senate votes needed for this ugly task, and they are within 3 votes of getting their way right now. Today Obama himself urged Congress to do whatever it takes to continue the bulk spying law.

Clearly this is a time when progressive organizations, who are forever urging us to write and contact our Congresspeople, should be rolling into action. And here is the biggest problem. I have long been on many of the progressive mailing lists. On this issue I have received nothing from them – nada, zilch. So I checked to see what they had on their web sites. Would there be at least a mention of this issue, a plea to contact one’s Senator? I checked Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), Green Party, Code Pink and Peace Action. None of them had a call to action on this issue as far as I could see as of May 26, which is very late in the game . To be fair, UNAC (United National Antiwar Coalition) did have a statement on this as an issue, dating from a while back and including condemnation of Obama for his actions. But even here there was no call to action – no call for phone or letters to Congress and certainly no calls for a street demonstration, which is almost an autonomic reflex with UNAC.

In short the pwogs have shown an abysmal failure to take action in halting the Spy State. And there is not much time to act. If you, dear reader, contribute to one of these organizations, stay your check writing hand until they do something. Dollars they understand – if not principles.

Moreover, what I have received recently in personal emails from progressive contacts is yet more excoriations of Rand Paul. Here the progressives have an ally in what should be an all important fight and they turn on him! In fact the pwogs are among the targets of this surveillance. Why then make an enemy of a potential ally in the fight against the police state? That is indeed worth thinking about.

One final point, Rand Paul in the Senate, and fellow libertarians in the House like Thomas Massie and Justin Amash (the only Palestinian American in Congress) and a few others (including a few Democrats like Mark Pocan and Zoe Lofgren) stand almost alone now in serious opposition to the entire imperial elite establishment, Republican and Democrat both, in this fight. And Rand Paul is taking the greatest hits – even from that corpulent bag of corruption and mendacity, Chris Christie.

A victory on this issue is possible now. It happened before when Obama halted a plan to bomb Syria because of opposition in Congress, an opposition fueled by letters to Congress, resulting in a bipartisan opposition to an attack on Syria.

A victory here would arouse more interest in the kind of Right/Left alliances on concrete issues that this writer, Ralph Nader and others have been advocating for some years.

So progressives should abandon their theological or religious approach to politics, an infantile disorder that produces little because it does not allow issues to be attacked one at a time. If one conducts one’s politics like a Church, then one’s influence will never extend far beyond the tiny groups huddled in Church basements.

John V. Walsh can be reached at john.endwar@gmail.com

May 28, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Course Jeb Bush Would Have Invaded Iraq! He Signed On To PNAC Six Years Before!

By Brandon Turbeville | Activist Post | May 28, 2015

When Jeb Bush (Jon Ellis Bush – J.E.B.) announced that, like his dimwitted and bloodthirsty brother, he too would have invaded Iraq had he been president at the time, ire was drawn in virtually all corners of the American populace with the exception, of course, of the typical warmongering Neo-Con segments.

After all, how could anyone suggest that he would have also invaded Iraq despite the fact that there were never any weapons of mass destruction (a term that itself was created by Western governments and their media mouthpieces), that Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 or al-Qaeda, and that the weakened country posed absolutely no threat to the US? How could anyone suggest that the Iraq invasion was legitimate 12 years on with American forces still involved and the situation on the ground millions of times worse?

The answer is simple – Jeb Bush had always wanted to invade Iraq. A staunch and longstanding member of the Neo-Con network, Jeb had taken his stand in favor of American imperialism when he signed on to the Project For A New American Century’s Statement of Principles in 1997.

Although the Statement of Principles did not specifically advocate for an attack on Iraq, it did argue against the perceived “cuts,” “inattention,” and bad “leadership” of the previous administration despite the fact that Bill Clinton acted as a complete tool of the very same network that encompasses the PNAC. This statement did, however, clearly state that America must “challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values,” a position that would become realized in an even more obvious and direct manner in the years following its publication.

Perhaps most notably, however, is the PNAC document, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” a piece published by the organization in 1999 expressing the desire to destroy regimes in the Middle East that were hostile toward America’s ambitions abroad. The document was also seen as more-than-coincidentally prophetic of 9/11, a “new Pearl Harbor” style event that was alluded to in the document.

Rebuilding America’s Defenses reads,

Any serious effort at transformation must occur within the larger framework of U.S. national security strategy, military missions and defense budgets. The United States cannot simply declare a “strategic pause” while experimenting with new technologies and operational concepts. Nor can it choose to pursue a transformation strategy that would decouple American and allied interests. A transformation strategy that solely pursued capabilities for projecting force from the United States, for example, and sacrificed forward basing and presence, would be at odds with larger American Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century 51 policy goals and would trouble American allies. Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.

Notably, in this document, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and North Korea are listed as the most important targets of the “transformed” US military. It is no coincidence that four of these listed countries were also listed by General Wesley Clark as slated for destruction per classified information he received on a visit to the Pentagon.

In 1996, a policy document prepared for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was written by Richard Perle and entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” In this document Perle, a notorious Neo-Con and fellow member of PNAC with Jeb Bush, described the strategic importance of removing Saddam Hussein from power as well as the necessity to weaken Syria.

Perle wrote that “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”

PNAC also sent an open letter to President Bill Clinton after a Clinton administration and Western media propaganda campaign presenting Hussein as uncooperative in weapons inspections, calling for Hussein’s removal from power.

Soon after the 9/11 attacks, PNAC sent a letter to President George W. Bush demanding an immediate attack on Iraq, regardless of whether or not there was any evidence linking Hussein to the attacks or al-Qaeda. The letter stated that,

We agree with Secretary of State Powell’s recent statement that Saddam Hussein “is one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth….” It may be that the Iraqi government provided assistance in some form to the recent attack on the United States. But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism. The United States must therefore provide full military and financial support to the Iraqi opposition. American military force should be used to provide a “safe zone” in Iraq from which the opposition can operate. And American forces must be prepared to back up our commitment to the Iraqi opposition by all necessary means.

With Jeb Bush’s ties to PNAC and with his public signature on the organization’s “Statement of Principles,” there can be no doubt that Bush would have invaded Iraq had he been president at the time. There is also no doubt that he is part of the same Neo-Con network that brought us that war, the war in Afghanistan, 9/11, destabilizations, a crippled economy, and a shredded Constitution. A Jeb Bush presidency will no doubt bring about a continuation of those policies witnessed under his brother and those subsequently built upon by Barack Obama.

May 28, 2015 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Wars for Israel, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Private Palestinian land in Jerusalem slated for confiscation

Ma’an – May 28, 2015

JERUSALEM – Israeli authorities on Wednesday morning left posters in the occupied East Jerusalem town of al-Isawiya notifying owners that the property is needed for urgent military purposes for two and a half years.

The confiscation order comes amid increasing incidents of demolition of Palestinian homes throughout occupied East Jerusalem and transfer of property from Palestinian to Jewish Israeli ownership in the area.

A local committee member told Ma’an that Wednesday’s orders were posted by officers of Israel’s Civil Administration who classify the confiscation as “seizure for military purpose.”

The land, measuring 8,200 square meters, is located in the eastern side of the neighborhood Al-Isawiya near an Israeli military base established 10 years ago, Hummus told Ma’an.

The order has been signed by head of the Israeli forces Central Command Nitzan Alon and the land will be used for military purposes until Dec. 31, 2017, according to the order.

High-profile Israeli military officers are expected to arrive Thursday morning to delineate the land slated for confiscation.

Hummus explained that seizure orders such as the one issued Wednesday “temporarily” reclassify private land for military purposes orders, however orders are automatically renewed and such properties are eventually confiscated from their owners.

The land slated for confiscation Wednesday houses a farm owned by heirs of Radi Ahmad Issa Abu Riyala. Riyala passed away four years ago and has been buried in the farm.

In the last two weeks, several buildings have been demolished in the nearby Silwan neighborhood including a large three-story building newly built for Palestinian residents.

Municipal inspectors ordered the building’s demolition because the construction had been carried out without a permit from the municipal council.

In effort to gain and maintain a Jewish majority in the city, government policies make it near impossible for Palestinian residents to obtain building permits, while Jewish residents frequently take over Palestinian buildings with the protection of Israeli security, according to the Israeli rights organization the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

The majority of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s newly built right-wing coalition has vowed to expand settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank, with many opposing a future independent Palestinian state.

Wednesday’s seizure order move comes shortly after the newly assembled government allocated $25 million for settlement expansion in Jerusalem last week.

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Ben Gurion ’48 letter barred return to Haifa

By Jonathon Cook | The Blog from Nazareth | May 27, 2015

Over many decades, Israel’s self-serving deceptions about the Nakba in 1948 have been exposed for the lies Palestinians already knew them to be.

It was long accepted in the west that, as Israel claimed, Palestinians left their homes because they had been ordered to do so by neighbouring Arab leaders. The lie usefully distracted diplomats and scholars from the much more pertinent question of why Israel had refused to allow 750,000 Palestinian refugees to return to their homes after the war finished, as international law demanded.

The myth about the Arab leaders’ order, which had been steadily undermined by the work of the “new historians” of the late 1980s, was decisively punctured two years ago by an Israeli scholar who was given the wrong file by Israeli army archivists. It showed the story of the Arab leaders’ order was concocted by Israeli officials.

The same files should also have ended an equally diverting and lengthy debate about how many Palestinian villages Israel ethnically cleansed in 1948. Most Palestinian scholars were agreed it was well over 500; Israeli experts variously claimed it was between 300 and 400. Not that hundreds of ethnically cleansed villages was not bad enough, but Israel was happy to engage in a debate designed to make Palestinians look like inveterate exaggerators. Again, Israel’s archives confirmed the Palestinian account, with 530 villages razed.

Now another, related deception has been exposed. For decades Israel’s supporters have been arguing that Haifa, one of Palestine’s most important cities, was not ethnically cleansed of its population. The tens of thousands of Palestinians who fled under Israeli attack in April 1948 were later urged to return, according to Israel’s supporters, but they chose not to. Further proof, it seemed, that the Palestinians had only themselves to blame for losing their homeland. They chose to stay away.

Strangely, none of Israel’s propagandists ever seriously tried to suggest that the other 700,000 or so Palestinian refugees had been invited back home. It seemed as if the welcome supposedly extended in Haifa was reason enough for all Palestinians in exile to put aside their fears of Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy at its new borders and make the journey home.

But now a letter signed by David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and the engineer of its ethnic cleansing policy in 1948, shows that, far from Haifa’s doors being thrown open, Ben Gurion ordered that the refugees be barred from returning.

Written on 2 June 1948, the letter was sent to Abba Khoushy, soon to become Haifa’s mayor. It states: “I hear that Mr. Marriot [Cyril Marriot, the British consul in Haifa] is working to return the Arabs to Haifa. I don’t know how it is his business, but until the war is over we don’t want a return of the enemy. And all institutions should act accordingly.”

Of course, that policy was not reversed after the war, as Ben Gurion hinted it might be. And one can wonder how much more specific his orders were to his army commanders if this was what he was telling civilian administrators.

The myth about Haifa was encouraged by Golda Meir, who wrote in her autobiography that Ben Gurion told her: “I want you to immediately go to Haifa and see to it that the Arabs who remain in Haifa are treated appropriately. I also want you to try and persuade the Arabs who are already on the beach to return home. You have to get it into their heads that they have nothing to fear.”

Meir added: “I went immediately. I sat on the beach there and begged them to return home… I pleaded with them until I was exhausted but it didn’t work.”

Heartbreaking – if only it were true.

How much longer must we wait to explode all the other myths associated with the Nakba, and much of Israel’s history ever since?

www.haaretz.com/news/features/.premium-1.658179

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

US senator to FIFA: Do not reward Russia with 2018 World Cup

Press TV – May 28, 2015

A US senator has called on FIFA not to allow Russia to host the 2018 World Cup following the corruption scandal in the soccer’s world governing body.

“I applaud today’s actions and am especially pleased that Swiss and US authorities are investigating FIFA’s granting of the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022,” Senator Robert Menendez said.

“I have long been concerned about FIFA’s selection of Russia and today’s announcement only underscores the need for FIFA to elect a president who will not only uphold FIFA’s values, but will ensure FIFA does not reward countries that do not uphold these values as well,” he was quoted as saying by The Hill.

On Wednesday, police in Switzerland complied with a US request arrested nine top FIFA officials to investigate decades of alleged bribe-taking and backroom deals.

The US Justice Department brought an indictment against nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives on charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

According to the indictment, $150 million were paid in “bribes and kickbacks” to obtain media and marketing rights to international tournaments.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the US for overstepping its legal authority by helping Swiss law enforcement on the case.

In an interview with TIME, Kirill Kabanov, who monitors corruption in Russia as a member of the Kremlin’s council on civil society, blasted Washington’s policies against Moscow.

“There are clearly forces in America that are trying to turn anything positive that we have into a new channel of confrontation,” Kabanov said on Wednesday.

“And even if there was bribery going on, why would the Americans only bring it up now, just after FIFA refused the demands of senators to revoke Russia’s right to host the champions?”

In a letter to the FIFA last month, 13 American senators asked FIFA President Sepp Blatter to take the next World Cup away from Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been overseeing the preparations of the next World Cup that will be held in Russia in 2018.

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Corruption | , , | 1 Comment

Corporations shell out $1.2mn in Senate contributions to fast-track TPP

RT | May 28, 2015

Records from the Federal Election Commission show corporations have been donating tens of thousands of dollars to Senate campaign coffers, particularly to lawmakers who were undecided over a controversial trade deal involving Pacific Rim countries.

Using data from the Federal Election Commission, the Guardian studied donations from the corporate members of the US Business Coalition for TPP – the Trans-Pacific Partnership – to US Senate campaigns between January and March 2015, when debate over the trade deal was ramping up.

What the documents showed was that out of a total of nearly $1.2 million given, an average of $17,000 was donated to each of the 65 “yes” votes. Republicans received an average of $19,000 and Democrats received $9,700.

“It’s a rare thing for members of Congress to go against the money these days,” Mansur Gidfar, spokesman for the anti-corruption group Represent.Us, told the Guardian. “They know exactly which special interests they need to keep happy if they want to fund their re-election campaigns or secure a future job as a lobbyist.”

Fast-tracking the TPP means voting to allow President Barack Obama to negotiate a deal without permitting Congress to amend the final document. The Senate first voted to debate Trade Promotion Authority – the fast-track bill – by a 65-33 margin on May 14. On May 21, lawmakers voted 62-37 to bring the debate on TPA to a close and pass the bill.

Little is known about the specifics of the trade deal. According to a draft document leaked by WikiLeaks, the pact would grant broad powers to multinational companies operating in North America, South America and Asia, such as the ability to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings – federal, state or local – before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations.

Besides the United States, the accord would include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Most business interests support the Pacific Rim deal while labor groups have said it will cost American jobs and suppress wages.

Just two days before the fast-track vote, when Obama’s trade deal lacked a filibuster-proof majority, six out of eight Democrats who were on the fence decided to vote in favor of fast-track. Senators Michael Bennett (Colorado), Patty Murray (Washington) and Ron Wyden (Oregon) all received contributions totaling $105,900 combined. Bennett alone received $53,700.

The other Democrats who voted in favor were Dianne Feinstein (California), Claire McCaskill (Missouri) and Bill Nelson (Florida), though it’s unclear if they received contributions.

“How can we expect politicians who routinely receive campaign money, lucrative job offers, and lavish gifts from special interests to make impartial decisions that directly affect those same special interests?” Gidfar told the Guardian. “As long as this kind of transparently corrupt behavior remains legal, we won’t have a government that truly represents the people.”

In comparison, almost 100 percent of Senate Republicans voted for fast-tracking the TPP, with “no” votes from Louisiana and Alaska. Seven of those Republicans are running for re-election in 2016 and received contributions to their campaigns – Senators Johnny Isakson (Georgia), Roy Blunt (Missouri) John McCain (Arizona), Richard Burr (NC), Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Tim Scott (SC).

According to the Federal Election Commission documents, most of the donations came from corporations like Goldman Sachs, Pfizer and Procter & Gamble.

Read more: EU drops controls on dangerous chemicals after TTIP pressure from US – report

May 28, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Corruption, Economics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Monsanto Bites Back

By Don Quijones • WOLF STREET • May 24, 2015

Monsanto, the U.S. agribusiness giant that controls a quarter of the entire global seed market, could soon be even bigger and more powerful than it already is, following renewed speculation over its interest in Swiss agrichemicals firm Syngenta. The logic behind the deal is clear: Monsanto ranks as the world’s largest purveyor of seeds while Swiss-based Syngenta is the world’s largest pesticide and fertilizer company.

A Monsanto-Syngenta tie-up would “deliver substantial synergies that create value for shareholders of both companies”, said Monsanto president and COO, Brett Begemann, adding that cash from these side deals would make an acquisition easier to finance. It would also be the largest-ever acquisition of a European company by a U.S. rival.

The target, Syngenta, seems somewhat less enthusiastic. It is the second time in as many weeks that Monsanto has tabled an unsolicited offer for its Swiss competitor. The first time, on May 8, Syngenta politely but firmly rebuffed Monsanto, saying that the offered price of $45 billion undervalued the company. In response to the latest offer Syngenta said a sell-off of its seeds business would not be enough to allay regulators’ concerns about the tie-up.

The 2 C’s: Consolidation and Concentration

If the deal is consummated, the two companies combined would form a singular agribusiness behemoth that controls a third of both the globe’s seed and pesticides markets, as Mother Jones reports:

To make the deal fly with US antitrust regulators, Syngenta would likely have to sell off its substantial corn and soybean seed business, as well its relatively small glyphosate holdings, in order to avoid direct overlap with Monsanto’s existing market share, the financial website Seeking Alpha reports.

By all measures you would think the global seeds market is already concentrated enough. According to Silvia Ribeiro, a researcher for the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (Grupo ETC), never before in the long history of human agriculture and food have we faced such heightened concentration of power and ownership of the global seed industry, the primary link of the global food chain:

In 2014, just six American and European companies – Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer and Basf – control 100% of the GM seeds planted in the world. All of them were originally chemical manufacturers.

It wasn’t always that way. Indeed, such concentration of the seed industry is a wholly new phenomenon. Thirty-five years ago, there were thousands of seed manufacturers and not a single one of them controlled more than 1% of the global market. Fifteen years later, the top ten companies had captured 30% of the market, yet Monsanto was not among them.

Now Monsanto alone, after having acquired a huge portfolio of seed companies such as Agroceres, Asgrow, Cristiani Burkard, Dekalb, Delta & Pine and the seeds division of Cargill North America, controls 26% of the entire global market of all seeds, not just GMOs. Monsanto, second-placed Dupont, and third-placed Syngenta combined control 53% of the market.

Such concentration of ownership has granted a handful of Western corporations and the governments with which they are inseparably intertwined vast control over one of the world’s primary resources, food. And now Monsanto wants to strengthen that control.

On the Back Foot

The irony is that just weeks ago Monsanto was on the back foot. Facing an unprecedented global consumer backlash, the company decided to roll out a social media and marketing campaign in a bid to win over consumers in key international markets, including China, France, India, Argentina and Brazil.

Here’s more from Reuters:

The “discover Monsanto” campaign encourages consumers to “be part of the conversation,” ask questions and learn about the company’s genetically engineered seeds and its key herbicide products. A corresponding television advertising campaign, underway since November, declares that to Monsanto “food is more than just a meal, it’s love.”

The outreach effort comes as the company’s key products face heightened regulatory scrutiny and a consumer backlash in Monsanto’s top market, the United States. Some U.S. states are mulling mandatory genetically modified labeling laws and advocacy organizations are pressuring regulators to restrict glyphosate use.

Monsanto’s glyphosate-induced headaches began when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a component of the UN’s World Health Organization United Nations, declared that the chemical, one of the active ingredients in Monsanto’s flagship product Roundup, is “probably carcinogenic”. Roundup is the world’s biggest selling weedkiller. According to some estimates, Roundup and Roundup Ready seeds account for as much as half of the corporation’s revenues.

Matters were not helped when Patrick Moore, a high-profile GMO advocate, botched an interview with French media outlet Canal+ in spectacular foot-in-mouth fashion (here’s the link). Moore insisted that Roundup isn’t remotely toxic, arguing that you can “drink a whole quart of it” without it hurting you. However, when invited to put his words to the test by downing a glass of the liquid weed killer, Moore replied that he was not stupid – not once but twice!

The Global Pushback

The fallout has been relentless. The company has been implicated in litigation cases as far away as China, the world’s second largest market for seeds. Even before the scandal, the Chinese government had already begun blocking GMO imports, while Russia has effectively banned all GMO products. In Germany, a number of states have called for a blanket EU-ban on Monsanto’s Roundup.

As for Latin America, one of Monsanto’s fastest growing markets, the rural resistance continues to intensify. As I reported last year in Seed Wars: Latin America Strikes Back Against Monsanto, rural communities are rising up against government legislation that would apply brutally rigid intellectual copyright laws to the crop seeds they are able to grow.

And thanks to the glyphosate scandal governments finally have reason to act. Just yesterday Colombia’s National Drug Council voted to suspend glyphosate spraying on illicit coca cultivations. According to Food & Water Watch, since 2003 Colombia and the US together have spent an estimated $100 million purchasing the chemical from Monsanto for the destruction of coca crops.

In Argentina, one of the world’s largest producers of genetically modified soy bean and corn, 30,000 Argentinean doctors and healthcare professionals signed a letter demanding the prohibition of glyphosate. As the BBC reported last year, in the northern province of Chaco, the minister of Public Health wants an independent commission to investigate cases of cancer and the incidence of children born with disabilities.

Ruthless Resourcefulness

However, even as myriad nations line up to ban Monsanto’s GM products, you can be sure that Monsanto will not take it lying down. As its recent history shows, the company is doggedly persistent. It is also ruthlessly resourceful.

For the moment everything hinges on the success of its hostile takeover of Syngenta. If the deal goes through, the company will expand its influence across myriad new markets. It will also get much closer access to Europe, a market that it had publicly (though certainly not privately) given up on in 2013. By resettling in Switzerland, Monsanto will also be able to significantly reduce its U.S. tax bill as well as hold greater sway over Brussels, which recently authorized 17 new GMOs for food and feed purposes.

According to research by Corporate Europe Observatory, no industry has lobbied the European Commission more fiercely for the passage of the EU-US trade deal (TTIP) than the agribusiness sector, which many rightly fear will open the floodgates to GMOs. In other words, growing public opposition to GMOs may not be enough on its own to stop GMO markets from growing.

As Ulson Gunnar reported in the NEO article Monsanto’s Covert War on European Food Security, Monsanto and friends continue to use covert means to expand their less popular markets, most recently launching GMO operations in war-ravaged Ukraine, which in 2013 was ranked third in global corn production and sixth in wheat production:

With the EU itself relaxing some of its regulations regarding GMOs, likely without the consent of a population increasingly conscious of the risks and actively seeking organic alternatives, biotech conglomerates hope to make GMO products spread from what will be the completely unregulated fields of Ukraine, into Europe and to become as ubiquitous and unavoidable as they are in America.

On Sunday masses of people in hundreds of towns and cities across the world turned out to vent their frustration against a company that has come to symbolize so much that is wrong with today’s world. Meanwhile Monsanto will continue to go about its business, pulling the strings of government and striving to impose its will in the world’s markets and on the world’s people.

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arrests by US as FIFA mulls giving Israel boot

By Jonathon Cook | The Blog from Nazareth | May 27, 2015

FIFA, world football’s governing body, is due to meet this Friday in Zurich to decide whether to back a Palestinian motion to suspend Israel for its systematic violations of Palestinian footballers’ rights in the occupied territories, including preventing practice sessions and games, arresting players, denying entry to other teams, and bombing grounds, as well as for endemic racism towards non-Jewish players in Israeli football itself. I have written about this in the past: here and here.

Although a 75% majority is needed for the Palestinian motion to carry, there has been a growing sense that the mood at FIFA is shifting the Palestinians’ way. Israel and the US are, of course, deeply worried. Such a move would have strong overtones of the sports boycott against South Africa and further reinforce the idea that the description of Israel as an apartheid state holds. It would also disrupt FIFA tournaments Israel is due to host in the coming months, causing great embarrassment to Israel and FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter.

Meanwhile, almost everyone quietly acknowledges that FIFA is corrupt from head to toe, and has been for as long as the game has been another branch of the big-business entertainments industry. Just think how impossible it would have been for a body not profoundly infected with corrupt practices to have backed desert emirate Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 tournament – in the middle of its stifling summer.

Today, however, the US decided it was time to call a halt to FIFA’s corruption. It ordered the high-profile arrest and extradition of six senior FIFA officials on corruption charges dating back to the early 1990s. The operation at the FIFA officials’ Zurich hotel, as they waited for Friday’s vote, was covered in detail by leading US media organisations after they were tipped off beforehand. Apparently it has taken the US the best part of 20 years to get round to doing the paperwork to make the arrests.

Doubtless, none of this was designed to have – or will have – the slightest effect on FIFA officials as they contemplate whether to infuriate Israel and the US by booting Israel out of world soccer.

In the meantime, you can try to shore up FIFA’s resolve by signing a petition here.

www.haaretz.com/news/world/1.658271

UPDATE:

Anyone who doubts how seriously Israel is taking the threat of being ousted from FIFA and how actively its supporters are working behind the scenes at the world body should read the comments of Avi Luzon, Israel’s representative to UEFA, European football’s governing body. Ominously, he says UEFA’s support for Israel is sown up and suggests that UEFA will prevent Israel’s suspension whatever the outcome of the vote.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: UEFA will not let Israel be harmed, especially as there is no reason for it. An agreement has been reached on a four-point draft that is acceptable to [Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu, [UEFA president Michel] Platini, [FIFA president Sepp] Blatter and now [Palestinian soccer chief] Jibril Rajoub.

In the worst case scenario, if the Palestinians do not agree to pull the proposal and the congress is held as planned, UEFA will prevent the suspension of Israel in a very clear way. From the conversations with important people, face to face here in Warsaw, I can say without a doubt that concern over Israel’s suspension through a vote will not happen.

www.haaretz.com/life/sports/1.658317

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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