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The Occupation’s Accomplice

By Meghna Sridhar Tripp Zanetis | Jacobin | May 18, 2017

Mass incarceration is a central pillar of Israeli occupation. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are waging a hunger strike to fight it.

On April 17, on the anniversary of Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, over 1,500 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons launched a mass hunger strike. A month later, 834 of the prisoners remain on empty stomachs — with several dozens now placed on “close medical watch” by Israeli authorities. The strike has drawn a wave of solidarity among Palestinians and has been met with severe repression by Israeli authorities.

Weeks before the strike erupted, we visited the military courts in the West Bank as a part of a delegation from Stanford Law’s International Human Rights Clinic. Observing the court proceedings drove home how the prison system serves as a core pillar of the occupation — and why the prison strike has attracted so much support among Palestinians.

The prisoners are demanding better conditions: improved access to family visits and phone calls; access to books, newspapers, mail, and educational opportunities; and an end to administrative detention and solitary confinement.

Yet at the heart of their struggle lies a more insidious problem: the sprawling military court system that has stripped them of their dignity and incarcerated over one in three Palestinian men since 1967. Palestinians imprisoned in Israel are sentenced by a court system run by the Israeli military, without any of the safeguards of the Israeli civilian courts. These military courts are predicated on a legal double standard: they only prosecute crimes against Israeli citizens or property; they do not prosecute crimes committed by Israeli settlers living in the Occupied West Bank, or crimes with Palestinian victims.

As strike leader and political prisoner Marwan Barghouti has put it, Israel’s military courts are an “accomplice in the occupation’s crimes.”

Israeli authorities have cracked down swiftly on the hunger strike — not only have they punished those who have protested, but they are also reportedly looking into setting up a separate military hospital to force feed those still on strike. Far-right National Union activists, meanwhile, have organized a barbecue outside the prison, seeking to mock the hungry prisoners with the wafting scents of grilled meat. And Pizza Hut released an advertisement taunting Barghouti to end the strike with a slice of their pizza.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon has said that the Palestinian prisoners are not political prisoners, but “convicted terrorists and murderers” who were “brought to justice.”

Our observations of the military courts — and the statistics — tell a different story. The courts prosecute between five hundred and seven hundred children each year — 79 percent, between 2010 and 2015, for stone throwing, which under the Israeli military’s own classification is only a “public order” offense. This crime generally involves youth throwing stones at military targets so distant that no bodily harm occurs.

Several other offenses that the military courts process are also nonviolent in nature. Incitement — a catch-all crime that could include posting anti-occupation status on Facebook — increasingly appears on the docket. Infiltration — which involves Palestinians illegally entering Israel in order to work, usually as manual laborers — also accounts for a fair share of the men brought before military courts.

There is a good reason that the practice of trying civilians — especially children — in military courts for such a prolonged period of time is unprecedented in an ostensible democracy. International law does allow military courts for civilians in the exceptional case of belligerent occupation. But the international laws governing occupation never contemplated a situation of a fifty-year occupation. And Israel’s military courts prove exactly why.

A staggering 99.74 percent of the cases heard in military court end in conviction: once accused, a Palestinian has little chance of mounting a successful defense. Evidence, especially when it pertains to children, is often the result of coerced confessions — but exclusion motions throwing out such illicitly obtained evidence are rarely successful. The court proceedings are entirely in Hebrew — a language almost all defendants, and most of their lawyers, don’t speak. Translations are often inadequate, or sloppy: we witnessed a translator walk out of the court midway through a proceeding. Most cases are resolved through guilty pleas — because, according to the attorneys we interviewed, defendants and defense lawyers alike are often punished for attempting to take cases to trial.

Palestinian prisoners, in short, are not just faced with harsh prison conditions, in prisons that their families have limited or no access to. They arrive in these facilities after facing a dehumanizing trial in a language that they do not speak, where the presumption of innocence does not apply, and where they face little chance of defending themselves successfully. When they put their bodies on the line with a hunger strike, they are doing so because the system offers them no other option.

That system must fall.

Mass incarceration is a central pillar of Israeli control over the West Bank. Improving prison conditions or adding procedural protections will not solve the problem. Only ending military control over the civilian population will deliver justice to the striking prisoners, as well as the millions suffering daily indignities on the outside.

May 21, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

Authoritarianism in Venezuela? A Reply to Gabriel Hetland

By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | May 19, 2017

Venezuela is once again dominating international headlines as violent opposition protests bent on toppling the elected Maduro government enter their seventh week. The demonstrations have claimed to date at least 54 lives since April 4, surpassing the previous wave of violent anti-government protests in 2014, known as “the Exit”. However, this time around, the unrest coincides with a severe economic downturn and a transformed geopolitical landscape defined by the return of the right in Brazil and Argentina as well as an even more bellicose regime in Washington.

Meanwhile, the international outcry at this latest violent effort to oust the Chavista government has been far more muffled than the last time.

With the notable exception of an open letter by LASA members, a UNAC/BAP joint statement,  and other smaller protest actions, the US left has been largely passive vis-a-vis both the Trump administration’s escalating intervention against Venezuela as well as the systematic media blackout, preferring silence to active solidarity with Chavismo.

In this environment, some leftist academics have publicly broken with the Maduro administration over its response to the country’s current political and economic crisis.

In a recent piece for NACLA*, University of Albany Assistant Professor Gabriel Hetland parts ways with the Bolivarian government, citing concerns over Maduro’s “authoritarian” slide.

“Yet, while previous claims of Venezuela’s authoritarianism have had little merit, this is no longer the case,” he writes.

While we deeply respect Professor Hetland’s critical contributions to the debate on Venezuela, we at Venezuelanalysis ** – a collective of journalists and activists who at one point or another have lived, studied, and/or worked in Venezuela – firmly reject this charge of authoritarianism on both analytical and political grounds.

Setting the record straight

Hetland cites a number of recent actions of the Venezuelan government to bolster his claim, including the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s (TSJ) alleged “dissolving” of the opposition-held National Assembly (AN), the “cancel[ation]” of the recall referendum, the postponing of “municipal and regional elections that should have occurred in 2016”, and the TSJ’s blocking of the AN’s legislative activity in 2016.

There are of course a number of serious problems with this account.

To begin, several elements of this narrative are misleadingly presented, if not all-together factually inaccurate.

First of all, as Venezuelanalysis reported at the time, the TSJ’s March 29 decisions did not “dissolve” the Venezuelan National Assembly as was almost uniformly reported in the mainstream press. Rather, the rulings sought to temporarily authorize the judiciary to take on pertinent legislative functions, which in this particular case meant approving a pressing joint venture agreement between Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and its Russian counterpart, Rosneft, which was critical for the former’s solvency. The ruling – which was based on article 336.7 of the Venezuelan constitution – provoked a rift within Chavismo, with the current and former attorney generals lining up on opposite sides of the constitutional divide. One can certainly criticize the since-reversed decision on constitutional and political grounds, but to present it as a “dissolution” of the parliament is just disingenuous.

This brings us to the question of the Supreme Court’s blocking of the opposition-majority legislature in 2016. It is undeniable that the TSJ did in fact strike down three of the four laws the AN managed to approve last year. However, it takes two to tango and Hetland severely understates the opposition’s own role in this protracted institutional standoff. It’s important to note that the AN did not “act beyond its authority” only “in some cases”, as Hetland describes.

From quite literally the moment that the new AN was sworn-in in January 2016, the body explicitly declared war on the Bolivarian institutional order crafted by Chavismo, with AN head Henry Ramos Allup promising to oust Maduro “within six months” – a blatantly unconstitutional threat against a sitting president. A sampling of the legislation pursued by the National Assembly in 2016 includes a law to privatize Venezuela’s public housing program, a law to return expropriated lands and enterprises to their former owners, a law forcing the executive to accept humanitarian aid into the country, the infamous Amnesty Law, as well as a constitutional amendment retroactively shortening the presidential term by two years. We can add to this list the opposition’s attempted parliamentary coup, in which it declared that Maduro had “abandoned his post” first in October and again this past January – which Hetland likewise neglects to acknowledge. Nor does he mention the reason for the legislature’s current “null” status, namely the opposition’s refusal to unseat three of its lawmakers from Amazonas state currently under investigation for alleged vote-buying in flagrant violation of the high court. Again, one may still criticize the TSJ’s blockage of the AN, but to understate the parliament’s systematic efforts to overthrow the Bolivarian government by any means necessary is quite misleading.

Hetland similarly omits the opposition’s own role in the suspension of the recall referendum (RR) process. As we noted, the opposition-held parliament came into office with the objective of overthrowing Maduro “within six months” – a goal evidently incompatible with the RR, which takes a minimum of eight months. Indeed, the RR was just one of the strategies in the opposition’s four-pronged plan to oust Maduro unveiled in March 2016, which also included the aforementioned constitutional amendment, a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution (which the opposition now opposes), and heating up the streets to force Maduro’s resignation. As a result of the opposition’s own internecine divisions, it delayed in beginning the RR and made serious procedural errors, such as collecting 53,658 fraudulent signatures, which gave the government a pretext to indefinitely stall the process in the courts. There is no doubt that the Maduro administration dragged its feet on the RR process knowing full well it would likely lose, but this was hardly the one-sided drama presented by Hetland.

Lastly, the National Electoral Council (CNE) did in fact postpone the regional elections scheduled for last year, citing logistical conflicts with the RR process, a move which is indefensible on constitutional and political grounds. However, it’s worth noting that there is a precedent for such a delay: the local elections slated for December 2004 were similarly postponed until August 2005 on account of the recall referendum against then President Chávez the year before. Hetland passes over this important detail in his rush to indict Venezuela’s democratic credentials.

Moreover, while it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize the Bolivarian government for delaying the governors’ races, municipal elections are a different story. Local elections are scheduled for 2017, meaning that they can be held any time before the close of the year. In suggesting that the government has postponed local elections, Hetland commits yet another factual error that serves to inflate his largely ideological case for the Maduro administration’s “creeping authoritarianism”, as we shall see below.

Fetishizing liberal democracy

Beyond these factual errors and misrepresentations, the main problem with Hetland’s piece is his implicit notion of “authoritarianism”, which he at no point takes the time to actually define.

Without going extensively into the genealogy of this term, it’s key to remember that authoritarianism is hardly a politically neutral concept.

As Hetland correctly observes, the charge of authoritarianism was dubiously leveled against the Chávez administration and other “pink tide” governments who were excoriated by Western commentators and political scientists for daring to challenge the hegemony of (neo)liberal capitalist representative democracy.

Indeed throughout the last decade, political scientists led by former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Casteñeda have distinguished between a “good” reformist, liberal left epitomized by Brazil’s Lula Da Silva that is willing to play ball with the Washington and transnational capital and a “bad” radical, populist left embodied by Hugo Chávez, which has opened up the liberal representative floodgates to direct mass participation in democratic governance.

As Sara Motta underlines, this binary is deeply colonial in nature: the “mature” and Westernized “good-left” has learned from the alleged failures of revolutionary Marxism and embraced incremental reform, while the “bad-left” remains mired in the clientelism and tribal authoritarianism of the “pre-modern” past, rendering it hostile to liberal democracy.

This “good-left”/“bad-left” dichotomy is of course nothing new, amounting to a minor aesthetic rehashing of the “revolutionary”/“democratic” distinction applied to the Latin American left in the wake of the Cuban Revolution, which in turn is founded on the classic “civilization” versus “barbarism” divide.

Hetland, in lieu of questioning the liberal ideological criterion behind this colonial binary, preserves the distinction, announcing that the Maduro government has passed over into the dark realm of authoritarianism:

By cancelling the recall referendum, suspending elections, and inhibiting opposition politicians from standing for office, the Venezuelan government is systematically blocking the ability of the Venezuelan people to express themselves through electoral means. It is hard to see what to call this other than creeping authoritarianism.

In other words, “authoritarianism” for Hetland seems to amount to the quashing of proceduralist liberal democratic norms, including most notably separation of powers, threatening the political rights of the country’s right-wing opposition.

What we get from this formalist approach is a sort of Freedom House-style checklist in which the pluses and minuses of global South regimes (freedom of speech, press, etc.) are statically weighed and definitive moral judgement concerning “democratic quality” are handed down. Venezuela is still not yet a “full-scale authoritarian regime,” Hetland tells us, “given the opposition’s significant access to traditional and social media and substantial ability to engage in anti-government protest.” In this point, Hetland’s conclusion is virtually indistinguishable from that of mainstream Latin American studies, which has long invented convoluted monikers such as “participatory competitive authoritarianism” to characterize the Bolivarian government.

The trouble with this perspective is that it ends up reifying these so-called authoritarian practices, casting them as the cause – together with the opposition’s regime change efforts – of Venezuela’s current crisis rather than a symptom of the underlying correlation of forces.

The Maduro administration’s alleged steamrolling of certain liberal democratic norms – particularly the postponement of regional elections – is undoubtedly quite concerning, precisely because it evidences the catastrophic impasse in the Bolivarian revolutionary process.

We at Venezuelanalysis have long been critical of the Bolivarian government’s top-down institutional power plays to contain the opposition’s efforts to oust Maduro, which we view as a conservative attempt to maintain the status quo in lieu of actually mobilizing the masses of people from below to break the current deadlock and resolve the crisis on revolutionary terms.

In this vein, we have critiqued those tendencies within the Venezuelan state which we see as consolidating the power of corrupt reformist “Boli-bourgeois” class fractions in the bureaucracy and armed forces, including direct military control over imports, the de-facto liberalization of prices, reduced social spending coupled with draconian debt servicing, the Orinoco Mining Arc, a dubious but since-modified party registration process, and a conservative turn in anti-crime policy.

Yet Hetland is strangely silent regarding these reformist retreats and regressions over the past four years, which for all intents and purposes are far more serious than many of the above “authoritarian” abuses he describes.

It is precisely here that the charge of “authoritarianism” betrays its liberal ideological bias: by prioritizing the procedural violations affecting the bourgeois right-wing opposition, Hetland renders invisible the underlying dynamics of class warfare brutally impacting the popular classes.

Therefore, contra Hetland, the problem is not that liberal democratic norms have been undercut per se, but rather that the revolutionary construction of alternative institutions of radical grassroots democracy – the “communal state” in Chávez’s terms – has come up against decisive structural roadblocks.

Here we must be unequivocal: liberal democracy is not absolute nor universal, and its relation to revolutionary processes is always mediated by context. To impose these norms on the Cuban Revolution, for instance, in its context of genocidal imperial siege is the height of absurdity and political irresponsibility. Given these circumstances, Cuba’s model of revolutionary democracy – despite all its faults and limitations – is no less legitimate than other democratic socialist projects that have made strategic use of elements of liberal democracy, such as Chile and Nicaragua in the 70s and 80s or Venezuela and Bolivia today.

The Bolivarian process is, however, fundamentally different, as it is premised on an electoral road to socialism in which the existing bourgeois democratic order is approached as a strategic space of counter-hegemonic struggle. In this context, the suspension of certain liberal rights such as elections or specific opposition freedoms would only be acceptable under exceptional circumstances in which the Bolivarian government were actually taking revolutionary measures to resolve the current crisis and commanded unquestioned legitimacy among its social bases.

Despite the undeniable spiral of political and economic violence driven by the opposition, Venezuela is unfortunately not going through an equivalent of a “special period” insofar as the leadership of the party and state has thus far failed to go on the offensive against endemic corruption and take the fight to the local and transnational capitalist enemy as was the case during crucial revolutionary turning points in Russia, China, and Cuba.

Given this reality, the message coming from some sectors of Chavismo that there can be no elections under conditions of warfare – a legitimate argument in other contexts including Nazi-besieged Britain – is questionable at best. Nonetheless, this counterfactual is useful insofar as it demonstrates that liberal democracy is a wholly inadequate yardstick for evaluating revolutionary processes, confounding far more than it clarifies, as in the case of Hetland’s critique of “authoritarianism” in Venezuela.

Throw them all out?

In this diagnosis of causes of the current crisis, our position coincides with that of the vast majority of Venezuelan left-wing movements whose chief grievance is hardly the litany of “authoritarian” practices against the right-wing opposition enumerated by Hetland, but, on the contrary, the reformist and at times outright counter-revolutionary policies being pursued by the Maduro government.

The same is true for Venezuela’s popular classes – the social base of Chavismo – who don’t particularly care that the Supreme Court has blocked the National Assembly and the president has been ruling by emergency economic decree since February 2016. According to independent pollster Hinterlaces, around 70 percent of Venezuelans negatively evaluate the opposition-controlled parliament, while 61 percent have little faith that a future opposition government will address the country’s deep economic problems. Rather, the majority of Venezuelans want the Maduro administration to remain in power and resolve the current economic crisis. Their discontent flows not from Maduro’s use of emergency powers – contrary to the international media narrative – but rather from his failure to use them to take decisive actions to deepen the revolution in lieu of granting further concessions to capital.

Despite the setbacks, retreats, and betrayals that have characterized the past four years since the death of Chávez, the mood among the Venezuelan masses is not a uniform rejection of Venezuela’s entire political establishment as Hetland suggests in a sweeping generalization:

If any slogan captures the current mood of the popular classes living in Venezuela’s barrios and villages it is likely this: Que se vayan todos. Throw them all out.

While Chavismo has undoubtedly bled significant support over the past five years and the ranks of independents, or ni-nis, has swollen to over 40 percent of the population , the PSUV remarkably remains the country’s most popular party, actually increasing its support from 27 to 35 percent since January. Similarly, Maduro still has the approval of approximately 24 percent of Venezuelans, making him more popular than the presidents of Brazil, Mexico, and Chile – a fact consistently suppressed by international corporate media. These poll numbers are nothing short of incredible in view of the severity of the current economic crisis ravaging the country, speaking to the partial efficacy of some of the government’s measures such as the CLAPs as well as the opposition’s utter failure to present any alternative program.

Likewise, despite growing disillusionment with the government and hints at a possible rupture, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of Venezuela’s social movements and left-wing political parties continue to back Maduro.

What’s more is that this left unity in support of the Bolivarian government has only hardened in the face of the ongoing opposition onslaught and in anticipation of the National Constituent Assembly to be held in the coming months.

However baffling on the surface, this staunch defense of the Maduro administration actually makes perfect sense for at least two reasons.

First, as any Chavista who has lived through the last six weeks of right-wing terror can attest to, the choice between the continuity of Chavismo in power and an opposition regime is not a matter of mere ideological preference – it’s a question of survival, as there is no predicting the extent of the political and structural violence the opposition would unleash if they manage to take Miraflores. This is in no way to deny or downplay the fallout of the current economic crisis, for which the government bears a great deal of responsibility, but there is no doubt that an opposition government would take this economic war on the poor to new levels of neoliberal savagery.

Second, the existence of the Bolivarian government embodies the lingering possibility of transforming the inherited bourgeois petro-state as part of the transition to 21st Century socialism. While there is cause for skepticism about the real possibilities of pushing forward the democratization and decolonization of the Venezuelan state in this conjuncture, there has been an outpouring of grassroots support for the National Constituent Assembly which could serve as a vehicle to retake the revolutionary offensive and institutionalize radical demands from below.

This broad-based consensus of critical support for the government on the part of Venezuela’s left stands sharply at odds with Hetland’s “plague on both your houses approach”, which, in Steve Ellner’s terms, ends up “placing opposition and Chavista leaders in the same sack” as equally undesirable alternatives.

While there is indeed tremendous anger and frustration with the government – which may in fact translate to a crushing electoral defeat for Chavismo in the next elections – the prevailing sentiment among much of Venezuela’s popular classes in the face of the opposition’s present reign of terror remains “no volverán” (they shall not return).

The role of solidarity

All of this brings us to the position of international solidarity activists with respect to Venezuela.

We wholeheartedly agree with Hetland that it is the duty of each and every self-respecting leftist and progressive to “reject any and all calls for imperialist interventions aimed at ‘saving’ Venezuela”.

Nevertheless, while anti-interventionism is urgently necessary, this begs the question, with whom are we supposed to be in solidarity?

Hetland calls on us to stand with “the majority of Venezuelans who are suffering at the hands of a vengeful, reckless opposition, and an incompetent, unaccountable government.”

The end result of such a “plague on both your houses” approach is a refusal to take a side in this struggle – in a word, neutrality. This posture flows naturally from Hetland’s liberal framework of authoritarianism, which necessarily posits the Western intellectual as a disembodied arbiter – occupying the Cartesian standpoint of the “eye of God” in Enrique Dussel’s terms – uniquely capable of objectively weighing the democratic virtues and deficits of Third World regimes.

In contrast, we at Venezuelanalysis stand unconditionally with Venezuela’s Bolivarian-socialist movement, which at this conjuncture continues to critically support the Maduro administration.

We take this stance not out of a willful blindness to the Bolivarian government’s many faults and betrayals, but because we (and particularly our writers on the ground) know that for a great many Chavistas the choice between radicalizing the revolution and right-wing restoration is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

A version of this article was submitted to NACLA, but no initial response was received. The editor elected to go ahead and publish at venezuelanalysis.com in the interest of a timely response. UPDATE: NACLA did ultimately respond to our submission on the afternoon of May 19, but by that time, the article was already published. 

** Written by Lucas Koerner on behalf of Venezuelanalysis’ writing and multimedia staff as well as VA founder Greg Wilpert.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Remembering Maidhc Ó Cathail

Remembering Maidhc Ó Cathail

By Alison Weir | If Americans Knew | May 15, 2017

I’ve just learned devastating news: Irish investigative journalist Maidhc Ó Cathail is dead.

I met Maidhc (prounounced “Mike”) for the first and only time in 2014. He had traveled from Japan, where he was then living, to Washington, D.C. for our National Summit on the US-Israel “Special Relationship.” I had previously read some excellent articles about Israel-Palestine by Maidhc and had occasionally corresponded with him, so I was looking forward to talking with him in person.

During a few long, relaxed conversations, I found him engaging, principled, and intelligent. He had a bright smile, gentle sense of humor, and seemed to me a truly decent and compassionate human being – and a brave one, as he sought after facts and connections many wish undiscovered.

I never saw him again, but we occasionally corresponded. We didn’t always share the same view of ongoing happenings, but I found him continually seeking to understand the full context of current events no matter where this took him. Such work receives little financial compensation.

Awhile ago Maidhc contacted me about a book of his writings that he hoped to get published. I was immensely impressed by his work and told him that if he couldn’t find a publisher, perhaps If Americans Knew could publish it. He seemed excited about this prospect. Since we have a tiny staff and a multitude of projects, I explained that it would take awhile for us to get to this. I envisioned publishing a book of his strongest articles and hoped to bring it out this year. I fervently wish I had published this book sooner.

Maidhc was an honest seeker, painstaking researcher, and talented writer. He cared deeply about those who are oppressed and victimized and worked to expose and end injustice. I wish the world valued and supported such people. We badly need them. He exposed information about Israel, Palestine, and related subjects that is of profound importance.

Maidhc deserves to be remembered and honored. While luminaries ignored him and are unlikely to mention his passing, the rest of us can and must share his work.

Thank you, Maidhc. I’m so sad you’re gone. May you Rest in Peace and Justice.

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | 2 Comments

Hamas: We appreciate North Korea’s support for Palestinians

Sami Abu Zuhri, File Photo
Palestine Information Center – May 1, 2017

GAZA – Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri praised on Sunday the statements of the North Korean Foreign Ministry against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and in support of the struggle of the Palestinian people until the attainment of freedom.

In a statement on Twitter, Abu Zuhri rejected the offensive Israeli speech against Pyongyang, saying that Israel is the source of “evil and terrorism” and the cause of instability in the region.

The Israeli war minister, Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with the Hebrew website Walla that any confrontation between the United States and North Korea would directly affect Israel.

On Lieberman’s statements, Pyongyang said that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons under the protection of the United States, adding that Israel “constitutes an obstacle in the Middle East, occupies Arab lands, and carries out crimes against humanity”.

Pyongyang affirmed that North Korea’s stands are always based on justice and peace, expressing support for the Palestinian people and their struggle to establish their own state.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Le Pen’s Pro-Palestinian PM Choice

By Stephen Lendman | April 29, 2017

Ahead of the May 7 French presidential runoff, Marine Le Pen chose defeated Debout la France (Arise France) presidential candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan as her prime minister if elected.

He’s ideologically right-wing like herself. With him at a Saturday news conference, she said “(w)e will form a government of national unity that brings together people chosen for their competence and their love of France.”

Both support abandoning the euro, what Dupont-Aignan called a “racket,” and restoring the franc as France’s currency, regaining control over its monetary and fiscal policies from Brussels.

Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage called him an “utterly respectable Eurosceptic.” Dupont-Aignan said “I am and remain a free man. I have dared before history to build a government agreement.”

Unlike establishment figures throughout Europe and America, Dupont-Aignan is pro-Palestinian.

In July 2014, during Israeli aggression on Gaza, Dupont-Aignan said the following:

“Gaza: Nicolas Dupont-Aignan deplores the inertia of France in the conflict.

After the bombing, ground fighting and unacceptable collateral damage of the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians, men, women and children, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict entered last night in a new phase with the invasion of the gang Of Gaza by the Israeli army (with) complicit silence of the UN, the West and France. The disproportion of the forces involved is blatant.

Whatever the responsibilities of the irresponsible leaders of Hamas in the outbreak of this new confrontation, the path chosen by Israel only pushes it into an impasse.

It is not by accumulating the ruins and the dead that Mr. Netanyahu will appease the tensions, passions and hatreds in this region of the world.

In this bloody context, the inertia of France is perfectly scandalous. We expect our government to finally take the initiative for international action to impose Israel’s compliance with UN resolutions, that is, the withdrawal and dismantling of settlements illegally settled in the territories The recognition of the Palestinian state.

It is only under these conditions that we will avoid importing the conflict into our country, and that the new massacre in progress will be stopped.

It is only under these conditions that lasting peace can finally return to the Middle East. Letting aggravate and aggravate an unbearable situation is not only stupid but criminal.”

Fact: On July 8, 2014, Israel launched premeditated aggression on Gaza. Hamas had nothing to do with initiating it – planned by Israel, waged until August 26.

Thousands were killed or wounded. Defenseless civilians were willfully targeted. Entire neighborhoods were destroyed. Entire families were annihilated. Schools, hospitals, mosques and UN shelters were attacked.

So were clinics, ambulances, healthcare workers, journalists and human rights supporters. During the war, Israeli forces rampaged throughout the territories, invading over 3,000 homes, terrorizing families, traumatizing children, making mass arrests, including Palestinian parliamentarians.

Nearly three dozen were lawlessly imprisoned. Israeli aggression went way beyond attacking Hamas.

It was war on Palestine, vicious collective punishment, the highest of high crimes against peace. More Israeli aggression could happen anytime, likely worse than 2014 if launched.

Dupont-Aignan supports Palestinian self-determination. Le Pen said they share a “common project (they’ll) promote together.”

Macron backs continuity, dirty business as usual. Le Pen wants France out of US-dominated NATO and EU membership.

Macron is the choice of the “oligarchy,” she said. She wants French sovereign independence restored – free from control by Washington, Brussels and Berlin.

Stephen Lendman can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His new book is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.

April 29, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Roger Waters has lost millions by standing up for Palestine–but he doesn’t care

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | April 28, 2017

Roger Waters, the primary composer and lyricist of Pink Floyd during their most prominent years has for decades, used his music  to convey a message of peace and humanity. He has typically got it right and occasionally gets it wrong.

One issue he has got totally right is the issue of Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israeli war, occupation and economic blockade. For over ten years, Waters has made the issue of Palestinian freedom a central point in his music and accompanying dramatic stage shows.

Waters is part of the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement which encourages individuals to boycott Israeli products and tourism. Waters uses his status as a ‘music legend’  to highlight the plight of Palestinians. In 2012 he spoke at the United Nations on the issue. He frequently pens open letters to fellow musicians asking them to refrain from performing in Israel until a meaningful peace settlement is reached.

Waters is a perfect example of how the media-industrial complex punishes individuals who do not fit the tired stereotype of a veteran rock star.

Late last year, a grossly under-reported story explained how American Express ditched a planned sponsorship deal with Waters for his 2017 tour in a move which was said to be worth $4 million.

American Express like any other company has the right to refuse sponsoring any individual or organisation however they see fit. But in doing so, American Express has shown that they are willing to sponsor events of every variety including politically charged music performances by Beyonce.

Why then is American Express put-off by Roger Waters’ embrace of the Palestinian movement?

Are they opposed to Waters’ calls to end the starvation and medical deprivation of Palestinian children?

Are they opposed to Waters’ pleas for justice and democracy for Christians, Muslims and Jews in the region?

Are they appalled by his anti-war message?

Where many celebrities use anodyne political causes to enhance their status, I can see no evidence that Waters has profited from his endorsement of Palestine. Quite the contrary is true. It seems that his message of peace for everyone and hatred for no one has cost him millions.

Waters described the situation in his music industry in the following way,

“My industry has been particularly recalcitrant in even raising a voice (against Israel). There’s me and Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, Manic Street Preachers, one or two others, but there’s nobody in the United States where I live. I’ve talked to a lot of them, and they are scared shitless.

If they say something in public they will no longer have a career. They will be destroyed. I’m hoping to encourage some of them to stop being frightened and to stand up and be counted, because we need them. We need them desperately in this conversation in the same way we needed musicians to join protesters over Vietnam”.

The fact is that most musicians neither win nor lose the majority of their fan-base because of politics. The fact is that most people buy albums and concert tickets based on the fact that they like the sound of a song or enjoy singing along with the lyrics, even if they’re hardly paying attention to what the lyrics mean.

But for those who do care, the reaction to Waters’ Palestine politics is shocking. If Waters was advocating for genocide, cruelty, hatred or imperialism, I would agree that his concerts should be boycotted. But the fact that he is advocating for precisely the opposite of the aforementioned things makes the position of American Express seem not only extreme, but illogical.

Roger Waters is being punished for free speech on a subject that ought not to be controversial. The fact that some find it controversial demonstrates how low and beastly the nature of modern debates about human rights have become. No innocent people deserve to be suppressed, repressed and occupied, but that is exactly what is happening to the Palestinians and it has been happening for decades.

I personally disagreed with Roger Waters’ statements about Donald Trump and I also disagreed with his characterisation of Leonid Brezhnev on the otherwise stellar 1983 Pink Floyd album The Final Cut. But at no time would I seek to shut down Waters’ free speech or his ability to peacefully perform what millions consider to be important pieces of music in a peaceful and safe environment.

American Express has shamed its own reputation by treating Roger Waters in the way they have done. Roger Waters remains undeterred and will continue to tour his new show across the world.

As someone who has seen Waters perform many times, I highly recommend it, even for those who disagree with his views but enjoy a challenge.

April 28, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , , | 2 Comments

South Koreans protest movement of US THAAD Missile System

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | April 25, 2017

In a further sign that the political climate of South Korea has turned increasingly anti-American/anti-militaristic since the impeachment and arrest of President Park in March of this year, South Koreans took to the streets to protest the arrival of the US THAAD Missile System in North Gyeongsang Province.

The THAAD system arrived in the country in March and is now being positioned at its permanent installation point in Seongju in the south east of the country.

The Duran has previously published a piece speculating that increased pressure from the US directed to North Korea, may actually be an attempt to meddle in the South Korean political process as special Presidential elections are to take place on the 9th of May. A war could possibly dispute those elections.

Initial reports state that 200 people blocked the entrance to the site where THAAD will be set-up and over 8,000 locals came out to protest. Local police who were escorting the US military convoy came under attack from outraged locals.

One must consequently question the following: with US rhetoric constantly stating how little the North Korean’s support their government. How much do South Korean’s support their government?

READ MORE:

Could the US go to war with North Korea to stop democracy in SOUTH Korea?

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition

By Stanley L. Cohen | CounterPunch | April 25, 2017

This coming Sunday, April 30th, at 5PM, there will be a panel discussion entitled “The Post Political Condition… Trump, Brexit, and The Middle East… What Next? at Theatre 80 located at 80 St. Marks Place on the Lower East Side (LES) of New York City.

Timely, and simple enough in its reach, this discussion will include myself and a number of intellectuals such as history professor Norton Mezvinsky, whistle blower Michael Lesher and author Gilad Atzmon. The panel will focus on the collapse of identity politics, the crises within new left thinking, and the future of liberal and progressive thought.

In particular, I will discuss  “Insular View of the American Left” while Professor Mezvinsky will speak to “The Quagmire of Current Political Terminology in U.S. Society.” Mr. Lesher will explore dichotomy between “Jewish Identity and Jewish Religion” and Mr. Atzmon will address “The Tyranny of Correctness- deconstructing identity politics and understanding its origin.”

Although the panel will necessarily touch upon Zionism, Israel, and events in the Middle East, these topics will play but a small part in a much broader exploration of the political winds of today.

To some, the subject matter of the discussion is apparently of less consequence than the makeup of the panel itself. In particular, the presence of Gilad Atzmon, a onetime Israeli citizen and Jew who has since renounced both, has triggered an organized effort to bully the theatre into canceling the event or, failing that, to disrupt it.

I’ve long been accused of being a “self-hating” Jew largely because of my work as legal counsel for the political wing of Hamas and my fervent opposition to the state of Israel as one built from the marrow of ethnic cleansing.

Described as controversial because of my opposition to Zionism, and a long list of revolutionary clients and movements that have included more than a few accused of domestic or international terrorism, I’ve grown accustomed to being “shunned ” by the political opposition that rarely seeks to engage in public discussion or debate. That’s fine. For some, it’s so much easier to toss barbs from the safety of the shadows then it is to withstand open exposure for the weakness of one’s thought.

Yet, Gilad Atzmon presents another picture. Mr. Atzmon’s stinging criticisms of Zionism, Jewish identity… perhaps even Judaism itself… have so enraged both Zionists and some anti-Zionists alike, that the mob seeks to silence him and thereby deny us all the benefit of his speech.

Censors of thought are not new to time or place. Throughout history, they have deigned to dictate the parameters of acceptable dialogue and, when unable to control the discourse, have sought to shut it down as if ideas are in themselves dangerous.

One need only look to recent events in Washington D.C. to understand that those who fear the market place of free ideas often seek to shutter it whether by economic intimidation or through resort to violence.

Just this past month, JDL (Jewish Defense League) imports from Canada brutally attacked, and seriously injured, a 55-year old Palestinian-American professor from North Carolina who had the temerity to pass an anti-AIPAC demonstration with his family.

The mindless brutality of the Canadian JDL members, that day, cannot be seen in a vacuum but rather must be viewed in the light of 50 plus years of terrorism carried out by its US counterpart, now formally designated as an outlawed terrorist organization.

Over these many years, the membership, indeed,  leadership of the American branch of the JDL… or “associate organizations”… have unleashed an unprecedented reign of terror which has produced dozens of convictions for crimes ranging from a plot to bomb the office of Arab-American Congressman Darrell Issa and the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, Calif. to numerous bombings of foreign embassies and properties to attacks on US buildings to conspiracies of kidnap and murder to assaults on foreign nationals and US police. Countless other crimes, including murder and conspiracy to bomb, have been laid at the feet of the JDL but to date remain un-charged.

Despite this documented, nay, unprecedented history of violent attacks by zio-fascists upon free speech and association, neither the JDL of Canada nor its US counterpart will suppress this panel discussion at Theatre 80 or silence our voice. Ours is a community of free spirits and thinkers. Women and men directed by little more than the pursuit of truth and justice.

Indeed, long ago the community of the LES of New York City opened its arms to refugees who fled tyranny abroad and, in so doing, became a welcome host to the dissident, the politically unpopular, the revolutionary idea or person.

Today, that greeting is under attack by some who have failed to learn the history of this community that I have called home for most of my adult life. A journey down the hardscrabble, but exhilarating, road of this community of resistance can say far more than I can about the necessity of the exchange of ideas that will occur this coming Sunday evening at Theatre 80.

The History of Dissent on the Lower East Side

Long before the free speech battles of the 60’s, or the recent ones at Berkeley, there stood a proud tenement building at 208 East 13th Street in New York City.  More than a hundred years ago, it echoed with the booming resonance of resistance… a declaration of who we were at the time and, more important, who we could become if only we dared to challenge political and social orthodoxy.

Today, on the façade of that old battered 19th century tenement building on the LES of Manhattan sits a cracked and stained plaque that simply says “Emma Goldman lived here.” Enough said.

The same building was home to “Mother Earth,” Goldman’s periodical that promoted anarchist views and provided a platform for “radical” artists and militant ideas of the day… until it was closed as subversive by the government in 1917.

Goldman was a fierce and tireless supporter of “controversial” revolutionary struggles such as free speech, birth control, women’s equality, union organizing, workers rights, sexual freedom and peace.

Known as “Red Emma”, she was labeled by J. Edgar Hoover as one of the “most dangerous women” in the country.” Among her closest friends and comrades were Alexander Berkman, Margaret Sanger, Roger Baldwin, Max Eastman, John Reed, Dorothy Day and Floyd Dell… a veritable who’s who of radicals who, long ago, confronted political convention not all that different from that which seeks to intimidate or to silence us today.

In 1917, Goldman was sentenced to two years in prison after founding the No-Conscription League in protest against the draft.  It was one of several stints she did, beyond bars, for political beliefs that ranged from a year in prison for “inciting to riot”… for a speech she gave at a Union Square hunger demonstration where she told the poor to steal bread if they could not afford to buy it… to another one for illegally distributing information about birth control.  Following her arrest during the notorious Palmer Raids that began on November 7, 1919 (the second anniversary of the Russian Revolution), she was deported to Russia along with some 250 other “subversive aliens.”

While the Palmer Raids occurred throughout the United States with more than 10,000 arrests for subversion, they, in particular, targeted hundreds of high profile “militants” who were rounded up on the LES which was then home to a powerful and vibrant community of revolutionary thinkers and activists.

In the life blood of the LES, Goldman has been anything but the exception to the rule in a community that historically has been home to the dissident… the unconventional… those who see more to life than surrender to the whims of politically correct dogma or the constraints of “patriotic” mobs.

Dorothy Day heard the call of the LES.  Along with Peter Maurin, she founded the Catholic Worker Movement which, with anarchists and communists, fought for the rights of the homeless, workers, women, immigrants and others disempowered by virtue of gender or class.

Although the Movement found its vigor in Christian charity and promoted a political strategy of total non-violence, Day was never one to shy away from direct action. Jailed for picketing the White House in support of women’s right to vote, while imprisoned for her offense, she helped organize a hunger strike at Occoquan Prison.

It is said that, over the course of a long life of civil disobedience, Day was arrested more than one hundred times. A poster memorializing her final arrest at age 76 declares “our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy rotten system.” It hangs from the wall of my office.

To Dorothy Day, peaceful resistance necessarily demanded of activists’ controversial speech that directly confronted the tyranny of the status quo…  something she excelled at while working as the editor of The Masses.

Based in “Alphabet City” in the LES, Masses was a radical magazine that reported on most of the major labor struggles of its day: from the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912 in West Virginia to the Paterson Silk Strike of 1913 and the Ludlow massacre in Colorado. It strongly supported Big Bill Haywood and his IWW, the political campaigns of Eugene V. Debs and vigorously argued for birth control and women’s suffrage.

Until closed by the government in 1917 for its anti-war and “anti-government” platform, The Masses featured a chorus of militant voices including such writers as John ReedCrystal Eastman, Hubert Harrison, Inez MilhollandMary Heaton Vorse, Louis Untermeyer, Randolf Bourne, Arturo Giovannitti, Michael Gold, Helen Keller, William English Walling, Anna Strunsky, Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, Floyd Dell and Louise Bryant. It also featured a host of  political artists including John Sloan, Robert Henri, Mary Ellen Sigsbee, Cornelia Barns, Rockwell Kent, Art Young, Boardman Robinson, Robert Minor, Lydia Gibson, K. R. Chamberlain, Hugo Gellert, George Bellows and Maurice Becker.

At other times, the radical history of the LES has been marked not just by controversial speech or passive resistance alone, but by direct action that, on occasion, has exploded into violence captivating the watch of the rest of New York City as if this one hundred square block area is very much of a different world.

Thus, on January 13, 1874, over 7,000 largely unemployed workers gathered in Tompkins Square Park, in the largest demonstration New York City had ever seen, to demand financial assistance from the City during an economic depression.

Ten and a half acres in total, the square-shaped park is bounded on the north by East 10th Street, on the east by Avenue B, on the south by East 7th Street, and on the west by Avenue A. It is abutted by St. Marks Place to the west.

Without warning, not long after the demonstration began, some 1,600 policemen charged the park and dispersed most of the crowd beating people throughout it with clubs. Others, on horseback, cleared the surrounding streets. Some of the demonstrators fought back in vain… attempting to defend the square. Hundreds were injured.

Samuel Gompers, himself a resident of the LES,  who founded the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and was scheduled to address the demonstration that day, described the events and his experiences:

“. . . mounted police charged the crowd on Eighth Street, riding them down and attacking men, women, and children without discrimination. It was an orgy of brutality. I was caught in the crowd on the street and barely saved my head from being cracked by jumping down a cellar-way.”

Little more than a century later, on August 6, 1988, Tompkins Square Park exploded yet once again when police attacked a large group of peaceful demonstrators protesting a newly established curfew intended to clear the park of activists, homeless and so-called squatters that had made increasing use of Tompkins Square for demonstrations against the City and its misuse of local community space. Bystanders, activists, neighborhood residents and journalists were caught up in the violence.

Despite a brief lull in the fighting, the mêlée continued until 6 a.m. the next day. Numerous injuries resulted with over 100 complaints of police brutality lodged following the riot. One headline in the New York Times summed up the events: “Yes, a Police Riot.”

St. Marks Place

If Tompkins Square Park is the heart of the East Village, St. Marks Place is its soul. James Fenimore Cooper lived at 6 St. Marks from 1834-1836. While there, he published his epic “A letter To My Countrymen.” It proved to be his most scathing work of social criticism in which he denounces the “slavery of party affiliations.”

In 1854 The Nursery for the Children of Poor Women… the first of its kind… was set up in a rundown house on St. Marks.

In 1917, Leon Trotsky arrived on St. Marks Place where he wrote for the Novy Mir (“New World”), then based at 77 St. Marks, while living with his family across the street in an apartment at 80 St. Marks. Just a few years earlier, Berkman and Goldman opened the progressive Modern School at No. 16 St. Marks. Among its teachers were famed muckrakers Jack London and Upton Sinclair.

In the 1940’s, W.H. Auden resided on St. Marks.  In the 60’s, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin co-founded the Youth International Party (“Yippies”) at No. 30 St. Marks and Lenny Bruce lived for a while, on the famed street, at No. 13. In 1966, Andy Warhol housed his Exploding Plastic Inevitable collective above the Electric Circus nightclub at 19-25 St. Marks… installing the Velvet Underground as the house band. During the same period, Debbie Harry lived at 13 St. Marks. Often were the occasions when a vibrant sweep down St. Marks Place would mean a chance encounter with Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg… a longtime area resident.

Elsewhere on the Lower East Side, throughout the 60’s, political activists, movements and artists alike continued its well established tradition of serving as a safe haven for cultural diversity, political dissidents and controversial speech.

For example, just up the block from what had been the home of Charlie Parker, stands the Christodora House.  Located on Avenue B, directly across the street from Tompkins Square Park, the Young Lords and Black Panther Party maintained their respective headquarters during this period.

The Young Lords, in particular, played an important role in what was, and remains, a heavily Latino neighborhood… creating community projects similar to those of the Black Panthers but with a Latino flavor. Such projects included a free breakfast program for children, the Emeterio Betances free health clinic, community testing for tuberculosis and lead-poisoning, free clothing drives, cultural events and Puerto Rican history classes. The female leadership in New York pushed the Young Lords to fight for women’s rights.

80 St. Marks Place

The venue for Sunday’s panel discussion has a storied history itself in the LES.  Beginning as a nightclub during Prohibition, 80 Saint Marks Place was home to performers that included such Jazz greats as Thelonious Monk, Harry “Sweets” Edison, John Coltrane and Frank Sinatra.

After Theatre 80 was established in the former nightclub, its tradition of diversity in the arts continued as it launched the careers of famous performers including the likes of Gary Burghoff, Bob Balaban and Billy Crystal, who once worked there as an usher.

Richard “Lord” Buckley, described by Bob Dylan in his book “Chronicles” as “the hipster bebop preacher who defied all labels”, had his final performance at Theatre 80 when his cabaret card was seized by police from the vice squad and his show closed.  Outraged, Buckley went to the local precinct to demand his card’s return. Not long thereafter he ended up dead in St. Vincent’s Hospital of an apparent stroke. That brought about a movement which eventually ended the Cabaret Card system in New York City.

Not many years later, the legendary play “Hair” was cast at Theatre 80. During the 1970s and 80s it also served as a revival house where one could see vintage films. Among those who attended, often to see their own body of work was Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell.

More recently Theatre 80 presented a play by noted poet, playwright, author and racial equality activist, Sonya SanchezFred Hampton Jr. was often seen at the theatre to attend events for famed radical defense attorney, Lynne Stewart, who recently died having been politically persecuted and imprisoned for her life’s work.

Actively involved in a wide range of community issues, the theatre, not long ago, along with Patti Smith, sponsored a concert to raise money for the victims of the Second Avenue gas explosion which caused two deaths, injured at least nineteen people… four critically… and completely destroyed four buildings between East 7th Street and St. Marks Place. It has held a number of so-called “truther” forums that explored the events of 9-11… an issue of burning interest to the local community.

Come this Sunday, the panel discussion will proceed in the ideal venue in the perfect community.  To be sure, at times, its participants will surely say things that may offend the sensibilities of some in the audience. On occasion, panel members will disagree with one another as the market place of ideas is not a group-speak but rather a challenge to explore diverse and often competing thoughts in the pursuit of truth.

Ideas may sting, they may hurt, and they may challenge us to explore issues that can cause great personal discomfort. That’s precisely what they are intended to do. There is no question that while the clash of ideas causes pain; the suppression of ideas causes greater harm… and sometimes pain is the stretch of growing.

Thanks to the refusal of Lorcan Otway, owner of Theatre 80, to surrender to howls of a few, join us this Sunday, April 30 at 5PM in the heart of the ongoing American evolution at Theatre 80, 80 St. Marks Place in the Lower East Side of New York City.

Stanley L. Cohen is lawyer and activist in New York City.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction

By Jack Dresser | CounterPunch | April 24, 2017

US-instigated and propelled wars have continued to rage for 15 years in fulfillment of  influential neoconservative ideologue Michael Ledeen’s envisioned “creative destruction” through “total war.” General Wesley Clark related the Bush administration’s intention, reported by a Pentagon friend, to “take out” seven countries: Iran plus six Middle Eastern and North African Arab countries – all of which happened to be unfriendly to Israel.  Egypt and Jordan, which had peace treaties with Israel, were not on the list. Nor was oil a common denominator. The list included Lebanon, of interest only to Israel, not Exxon, and did not include the oil-saturated Gulf states that collaborate with Israel despite lip service paid the Palestinians. This agenda fits Israel’s long-term strategic game plan recounted in 1982 by Israeli Foreign Service senior official and Jerusalem Post journalist Oded Yinon to control the Arab world by shattering its countries into  sectarian political shards emasculated as nations. As John Pilger titled two documentary films 25 years apart, “Palestine is Still the Issue” –  the ever-bleeding heart of the Middle East.

The imperial monster behind this agenda is clearly non-partisan. Like the bullfight picadors weakening the bull in preparation for the matador, Bill Clinton had prepared Iraq for easy takedown with eight years of suffocating sanctions that killed an estimated half-million children. Obama/Clinton followed Bush with the wholesale destruction of Libya, a secular, socialist, well-developed nation with the highest human development index in Africa, and using weapons looted from Gaddafi’s arsenal, launched the Syrian war in collusion with the Saudis, Qatar, Turkey and Israel, each with its own motives, none of which Americans should support. However rationalized as oil-driven, currency-protecting or strategic moves on the global chessboard, the monumental financial, moral and societal costs of these wars vastly exceed any benefits, real or imagined.  Without the regional conflicts long caused by Israel and relentless pressure and political extortion by the Israel lobby, most or all of these terrible debacles might well have been avoided.

But change – perhaps revolutionary change – seems in the air. Israel no longer exerts automatic mastery of her neighbors and the US government. As Gideon Levy titled his 2014 Haaretz article, “The World Is Sick of Israel and Its Insanities.”

Israel failed to prevent the Palestinian Authority from filing war crimes evidence with the International Criminal Court. The Israel lobby failed to stampede the US into attacking Syria. It failed to derail the nuclear negotiations with Iran. After an unbroken 44-veto win streak, it failed to strong-arm an American president into vetoing the 2016 UN Security Council resolution condemning settlements. It is desperately fighting a losing battle against the BDS movement despite mounting a full-court press in American universities, ecumenical faith communities, the mainstream media, and the academic and entertainment industries with its familiar, shrill accusations of “anti-Semitism” and dubious claims of  indispensability to American “interests” and “shared values.” In an April 5, 2017 Portland, Oregon city council hearing to consider divestment from socially irresponsible corporations, a third of citizens testifying cited business practices enabling Israeli abuses of Palestinians as a divestment criterion. And on April 16, the reliably pro-Israel New York Times unexpectedly published an occupation-searing op-ed by Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti, long-imprisoned in Israel for presumed complicity in three attacks that killed five people during the second intifada.

The Palestinian solidarity movement shows signs of burgeoning life, but with uncertain direction now that President Trump announced departure from 23 years of formal US insistence on the fraudulent two-state solution – “as long as both sides agree.” Agreement, of course, is the devil in substance as well as details. Palestinians have the rightful position under international law, but Israel has all the power in the relationship and has never come close to agreeing to anything remotely approaching justice. With Palestinians rendered helpless for 69 years, responsibility for justice falls by default upon “the international community.”

World opinion outside the US is not sanguine toward Israel. Not one among the four other permanent and 10 rotating UNSC members ever joined the US in those 44 UNSC votes. Israel is effectively a US protectorate clinging tenuously to its claims upon the American taxpayer to fund its occupation and its assurance of US protection in the UN from international justice, with a loose cannon in the White House inclined to unpredictable reactions when offended.

With pressure building and the impasse shaking loose, several possible developments are in play.

Trump’s ambiguity evoked immediate UN and Arab League declarations reaffirming a two-state solution as “the only way to achieve comprehensive and just settlement to the Palestinian cause.” But the long-stalled, tentative two-state “Geneva Initiative” blueprint developed through the interminable “peace process” – which largely ignored the refugee and diaspora population’s rights – is neither comprehensive nor just.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the pro-settlement Jewish Home Party, is  pushing Netanyahu to abandon the idea of a Palestinian state altogether, abandon restraints and annex a settlement of 40,000 population near Jerusalem for starters.

Hamas and Fatah continue to press for an independent state, anticipating that a single state by annexation would merely create “one state, two systems” continuing Israeli control without even a token pretense of PA administration.

J street also opposes this. Annexation would dismantle the myth of democracy Israel projects to the world. J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami dreads the one-state model as “not a solution but a dissolution” since this would publicly formalize their apartheid system with a Jewish minority ruling over a Palestinian majority. He is right. But alternatively, were Israel to annex the Palestinian territories and provide constitutionally protected equal citizenship rights to all – which the Arab population would demand, supported by international pressure – this would end Israel as a self-definable “Jewish state.” The Jewish and Palestinian Arab populations of the combined areas are now approximately equal, and Palestinians exercising their right of return coupled with predictable exodus of Jews unwilling to live as equals with Palestinians will shift the demographic balance decisively.

With its collective identity embattled and its stability threatened by BDS, Israel is becoming increasingly desperate, arresting BDS founder Omar Barghouti, a non-citizen resident of Israel, for allegedly evading taxes on income from a Ramallah-based company for 10 years they hadn’t apparently noticed until now, and passing a law banning foreign nationals who support BDS from entry despite significant economic and public image risks. Most troubling to their control obsession, American Jews are no longer reliable Israel supporters. The recent annual AIPAC protest demonstration in Washington was the largest and most vociferous yet, conspicuously amplified by Jewish protesters.

Although this protest was Palestinian-organized with numerous well-known groups and figures, the media spotlight was captured by hundreds of young, spirited American Jews who made themselves newsworthy by blocking entrance to the convention center with a human chain and speaking with passion to the press, demanding freedom, equality, justice and dignity for Palestinians. The stated goal of their main organization, If Not Now, is “to end American Jewish support for the occupation.” Without unison on thorny related issues, their proximal focus is simply the intolerable here and now.

Logically and morally, Jewish voices deserve no special privilege. We all have the same duty to protect human rights. And almost all US taxpayers involuntarily supporting Israel are non-Jewish. But politically, American Jewish voices carry special weight in confronting AIPAC, ADL and 336 tax-exempt “Israel affinity organizations” depriving the US Treasury of tax revenues on $5-6 billion annually supplementing Israel’s current foreign aid allowance of over $3 billion. Anti-Zionist Jewish voices can dispel conflation of Palestine support with anti-Semitism and confer permission to the non-Jewish 97% to challenge Israel without fear of being so labeled. However imbalanced the media coverage of the protest, the size, energy and unequivocal repudiation of Israel by young American Jews may mark a turning point smoothing the path ahead for others.

However, the 2-edged sword here should not be overlooked. The largest, best-established Jewish organization challenging Israel is Jewish Voice for Peace. At the recent Portland hearing, six of 14 advocating divestment from companies enabling the abuse of Palestinians were JVP members. With annual budgets in the $3 million range, JVP is also the largest, best-financed organization within the Palestine Solidarity Movement, which provides it disproportionate visibility and influence. This influence is not without potential hazards.

JVP has endorsed strong positions including the BDS movement, which includes the right of return among its three bottom-line objectives. The right of return was declared by UN Resolution 194 in 1948, has been re-confirmed annually, and remains a yet-unfulfilled condition of Israel’s 1949 admission to the UN. This has been a major roadblock to conflict resolution. A 2009 survey by One Voice, an organization that tries to paper over conflicting goals to discover or manufacture appearances of Israeli/Palestinian agreement, nevertheless found the greatest disagreement on the right of return, with 95% of occupied Palestinians rating this, including compensation, as “essential” to a final resolution, an outcome rated “unacceptable” by 77% of Israelis.

Both JVP and upstart If Not Now are focused on ending the ugly occupation, a deformity on the face of Judaism. But what next? It is the Palestinians who for 69 years have suffered armed robbery, forced exile, political imprisonment, extrajudicial killing, continuous humiliation under apartheid within Israel, suffocating military occupation and blockade in their own land outside Israel, and who, as the oppressed people, have the inalienable right to determine the course and outcomes of their movement. The rights to redress and restitution belong to the victims and cannot as a matter of justice be parsed by the perpetrator or its friends. Full and fair justice for Palestinians will mean significantly restructuring Israel/Palestine. Will JVP be willing to go that far?

It is less a question of principles than of competing loyalties. Can people with personal, familial, cultural and/or financial stakes connected to Israel honestly follow the path to full justice? How many JVP members are potentially compromised by such ties? For example, JVP executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson’s husband, Jonathan Lebowitsch, is employed as a “solution architect” for an Israeli company, Check Point Software Technologies, founded by an IDF Intelligence Corps veteran. Imagining itself ever-threatened, Israel relies heavily on surveillance/security technology and would predictably intend to continue such intrusions to undermine Palestinian self-determination under any new political arrangement. What position would JVP take when faced with restoration of proportional Palestinian political power in historic Palestine with its transfiguring on-the-ground  implications?

To be in solidarity as allies of an oppressed people, the rest of us including Jewish Americans must provide unequivocal support along whatever paths toward whatever goals of freedom, equality, justice and dignity under international law Palestinians themselves choose to seek, without efforts to steer them in other directions or toward lesser goals.

Whether within two genuinely equal states, a federation, or a unified single state with universal rights, this would not end the right of Jews to live there as their homeland but would end their current supremacy and privilege, just as the US is the homeland for people of many ethnicities and religions living (at least formally) in political equality. Israel could become a normal country rather than, as encouraged by IDF General Moshe Dayan, “like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.” To be honest allies, I believe Jewish supporters of Palestinians must embrace this transformative vision.

Jack Dresser, Ph.D. is National vice-chair, Veterans for Peace working group on Palestine and the Middle East and Co-Director of Al-Nakba Awareness Project in Eugene, Oregon

April 24, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Badee Dwaik of the #AlKhalil4 on the “daily torture” of Israeli imprisonment

Photo via Badee Dwaik
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – April 15, 2017

Palestinian organizer Badee Dwaik, co-founder of the Human Rights Defenders group that has been coordinating actions and popular organizing to confront settlements and occupation in al-Khalil, was recently seized by Israeli occupation forces with three of his colleagues in the #DismantleTheGhetto movement, Anan Odeh, Ishaq al-Khateeb and Younis Arar.

The four organizers, swiftly known as the #alKhalil4, were participating in a Land Day protest on Thursday 30 March when they were attacked by occupation forces. Following his release, Dwaik spoke with Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network about his experience under arrest and interrogation. He noted that he had previously been arrested, interrogated and jailed on multiple occasions, but that this experience highlighted intensified repression. In fact, only one month prior, on 24 February 2017, Israeli occupation forces had invaded Dwaik’s home and threatened him with arrest.

The four organizers were part of an action that involved planting olive trees, where they were attacked by settlers. Despite the attack, they continued marching to the center of their city of al-Khalil, which has been subject to forcible closure by the Israeli occupation and its settlers. As the demonstration continued, occupation forces declared the area a closed military zone and picked Dwaik, Dana, Arar and Khateeb out of the crowd of about 50, accusing them of participating in an “illegal demonstration.”

Dwaik noted the presence among the harassing settlers of the notorious Ofer Ohana, who was also present for the extrajudicial execution of Abdel-Fattah Al-Sharif by Israeli occupation soldier Elor Azariya. The murder of al-Sharif came to light as it was videotaped by Imad Abu Shamsiya, co-founder of Human Rights Defenders. Ohana was videotaped kicking a knife near the body of Sharif and referring to Sharif and his fellow slain Palestinian, Ramzi al-Qasrawi, as “the trash.”  Dwaik noted that Ohana has threatened Abu Shamsiya and Dwaik and repeatedly harasses them as they carry out tours of al-Khalil with internationals.

The four were arrested under false pretenses, Dwaik said. They were accused of being in the street, said Dwaik, even though three of the four were standing on a grassy hill and one of the four, Anan Odeh, was off to the side of the road. At the present time, while the four were released on bail, they continue to face allegations in Israeli military court – where Palestinians are convicted at a rate of over 99 percent – of “disturbing the public peace of the area,” organizing an “illegal action,” attempting to escape from the army, and “blocking the street.”

Dwaik noted that he denied all allegations under interrogation and refused to sign any paperwork or confessions. He and his fellow organizers were taken by occupation forces to the Kharsina military camp near Kiryat Arba settlement. Dwaik, who has diabetes, was sent to a medical worker; he stated that he needed medicine for his diabetes, but that the medical worker gave him two cold tablets but nothing to address his actual medical condition.

Later, Dwaik reported, he was taken to Shaare Tzedek hospital from 11:00 pm to 3:30 am, during which he received medical tests. He was told that he would receive insulin, but when Dwaik explained that his diabetes is treated with medication, they told him they would sell him a tablet. However, they still did not provide his medication and he was instead told that he would receive medication in jail.

Dwaik was then sent to the Etzion detention center (jail), where he reported that he was subject to an experience seemingly designed for humiliation and subjugation. The jail officers demanded Dwaik strip down, including removing his underwear. As he refused to remove his underwear, the jail officers demanded him to repeatedly move about and stand up and sit down in an attempt to humiliate him. He was then told that he would be left there until the morning without clothes. However, when he still refused to remove his underwear, he was finally given his clothes and put in the room with his fellow detainees.

The conditions at Etzion and other detention centers, where Palestinians are often held under interrogation and prior to being transferred to the major prisons, have been repeatedly highlighted by former prisoners for their unsuitability for human life. Palestinian prisoners have even launched hunger strikes to demand to be moved to regular prisons and have repeatedly reported beatings and assaults in the Etzion jail.

When he arrived in Etzion, he was told that his belongings would be registered; however, the jailers refused to register his belt and instead confiscated it; Dwaik noted, “I have been arrested many times before, but was never ordered to remove underwear or had my belt confiscated.” Among his belongings was also 42 NIS ($11.50 USD), which was registered at the time. Dwaik noted that he was denied cigarettes despite being registered as a smoker; when he questioned this, he was told that he was “being punished” because he refused to remove his underwear the night before.

Dwaik particularly highlighted the unlivable conditions in Etzion. The room where he was sent contained five or six bunk beds, but the beds were blank and had no mattresses; instead, Dwaik said, prisoners are forced to fold blankets beneath them to serve as makeshift mattresses. These blankets, Dwaik noted, are unclean and pose a danger to health; they are used by many prisoners and are rarely washed. The Palestinians detained in Etzion are served leftover food from the army’s meals, often significantly later when the food is sparse and cold. The cells themselves are in a very poor condition and insects are visible inside the room, as well as mice and other vermin. “Some people get stuck in the detention centers for long periods of time, even 2 months, and it is a form of daily torture,” Dwaik said.

Photo via Badee Dwaik

Dwaik noted that there are no books or recreation time for detainees held in Etzion, and that some other prisoners had reported the shower areas being closed for four or five days at a time. Despite the earlier interactions with medical staff, he still did not receive diabetes medication. Instead, he was told that he would be sent to Ofer prison in the afternoon.

He noted that Palestinian prisoners are often left without food because they are transported to the military court or from jail to jail during mealtimes; no replacement meals are provided. This is such a common problem that it is even included among the demands of Palestinian prisoners in the large hunger strike planned to begin on 17 April, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.

Ofer is a large Israeli prison and the only major Israeli occupation prison (rather than detention centers and interrogation centers) inside the West Bank. The prison has 10 sections of about 120 people each, for a total of approximately 1,200 prisoners, Dwaik reported. Most are political prisoners, but Palestinians arrested for “non-political” charges by the Israeli occupation – such as, for example, Palestinian workers seized for working inside Palestine ’48 without a permit – are also held in the prison. During his short time in Ofer, he was repeatedly transferred from one section to another. While in the prison, he saw a number of fellow Palestinian prisoners, including imprisoned BDS campaigner Salah Khawaja and youth organizer Hassan Karajah, both of whom greeted the international activists working for their freedom and that of their fellow prisoners.

The case of the four was brought before the military court in Ofer on Sunday, 2 April. While Dwaik and Dana were brought to the military court, he noted that their fellow #alKhalil4 detainees, al-Khateeb and Arar, weren’t even brought before the military court. During the hearing, the military prosecutor urged that the four be held for five additional days for further interrogation, stating that there is a “secret file against” Dwaik, the framework that is used to order Palestinians to imprisonment without charge or trial under administrative detention. Dwaik noted that this was also the first time that a “secret file” had been raised against him despite numerous arrests. While the military court judge refused to release the four – as demanded by their lawyer – he ordered them held only one more day and a new military court hearing the following day, Monday, 3 April.

He noted the degrading experience of waiting for a military court hearing to begin. “You are moving from room to room all the time and you are shackled hand and foot all the time. We had to wait on Monday from 8 am to 3 pm as we are handcuffed. They only take off the handcuffs when you’re in the military court, then they handcuff you again and shackle your feet. It is a system that is meant to humiliate,” Dwaik said.

Dwaik noted that on Monday, as he entered the military court in Ofer, he saw Palestinian student Kifah Quzmar, who was exiting the military court, having been ordered to six months in administrative detention. Quzmar told Dwaik of his sentence and expressed his greetings to the organizations and people around the world engaged in the campaign for his release.

In addition, Dwaik noted, some international observers in Palestine attempted to attend the military court hearing for the four, but were barred from entering. Journalist Amira Hass attended the hearing along with the representative of Defence for Children International in al-Khalil. In the military court hearing on Monday, the alleged “secret file” went unmentioned; instead, the military prosecutor now demanded 7,000 NIS ($1912 USD) from each of the four as bail. Dwaik stated that he does not have the money for such a high bail and that he would stay in jail instead; negotiations then ensued and a bail of 3,500 NIS ($956 USD) was set for each of the four. He noted that #DismantleTheGhetto campaigners and supporters donated to cover the bail, which was paid around 3:00 pm; however, the four were not released until 10:30 pm.

During their release, Dwaik noted, “they push you with their guns and don’t let you check that you even have your belongings.” He lost his belt, and the 42 NIS ($11.50) he had when entering prison was stolen. Throughout his time in Israeli jail, he never received any medicine for his diabetes.

Dwaik noted that “all of the Palestinian political organizations support the #DismantleTheGhetto campaign, and all of the NGOs that support human rights. This is why we were targeted, because this is a unified Palestinian campaign with many actions.”

“We need more work for the Palestinian cause and people to keep building support for Palestine. The #DismantleTheGhetto campaign in al-Khalil is part of these efforts,” Dwaik said. He stated that Palestinian prisoners need international support and that many will be launching a strike on 17 April, noting that Samidoun and other groups have an important role to play in building solidarity with the prisoners. “Palestinian prisoners are struggling for their dignity and freedom every day,” Dwaik said, “from the 13-year-old children like Shadi Farrah to the veterans who have spent 30 years behind bars.”

April 15, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese scientists reject lifting of ban on military research at universities

RT | March 26, 2017

The influential Science Council of Japan (SCJ) adopted a statement rejecting research at civilian institutions for military purposes. It comes in response to government investment in dual-use technologies.

The SCJ, which was created in 1949 as an independent body representing academia, warned Japanese universities and research institutions against participating in military-related research, the Japan Times reported. In a statement adopted by the council’s executive body on Friday, it said taking grants from the defense ministry would compromise scientific independence.

It comes after 10 months of deliberation by a 15-member committee, which was formed in May 2016 to consider whether the long-held opposition to military research should be overturned. The SCJ previously rejected military research in 1950, and again in 1967.

The policy statement carries no legal force, but the council’s opinion carries great weigh in Japanese scientific circles and the government.

The council was called to revise its policy, after Japan’s Defense Ministry boosted its funding of research into dual-use technologies, which can have both civilian and military applications. The funding almost doubled for 2017 to $96 million, compared to the previous year, according to The Asahi Shimbun.

The decision to reject military research came earlier in March. At the meeting on Friday, the council’s board debated on whether to adopt the statement directly or submit it to the SCJ General Assembly, which is to convene next month. The executives chose the former.

Japanese academia remains reluctant to deal with military technologies for historical reasons. Imperial Japan rounded up scientists to participate in the war effort during World War II.

Read more:

Japan’s cabinet approves record $43.6bn military budget amid tensions with China & N. Korea

March 26, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Jordanian protesters urge government to scrap gas deals with Israel

Press TV – March 25, 2017

Hundreds of Jordanians have staged a protest rally to voice their outrage at Amman’s gas agreements with the Israeli regime, calling on the government to scrap the ‘deals of shame.’

The protesters took to the streets of the capital, Amman, on Friday, carrying national flags and holding signs to decry Israel-Jordan gas deals, the latest of which was inked in September last year.

During the march, the Jordanian demonstrators chanted slogans such as “Our dignity is dropping from deals of shame,” with some holding posters that read, “USA stop commissioning on our blood.”

The Jordanian National Campaign also joined voices with the protesters, calling on the government to drop the 2016 deal as it represents an obstacle to the country’s independence and economic development.

Besides the dependency aspect, activists argue that the money, which will be paid to Israel by Amman under such accords, will be used to finance Tel Aviv’s military and its occupation of Palestinian lands.

In September 2016, a deal was struck between an Israeli gas consortium and the Jordan Electric Power Company, valued at $10 billion (€9.25 billion).

Under the deal, the US-based Noble Energy company and other investors in Israel’s largest gas field will supply Jordan’s national electric company with 8.5 million cubic meters of gas over 15 years.

The agreement was quickly met with widespread popular opposition in Jordan, promoting thousands of people to fill the streets and slam the government over “gas imports from the Zionist enemy.”

The new turnout on Friday came weeks after Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the regime in Tel Aviv has been quietly exporting natural gas to Jordan through an American intermediary firm.

According to the report, gas deliveries to two Jordanian companies, the state-owned Arab Potash and Jordan Bromine, started in January. The firms had signed a 500-million-dollar, 15-year deal three years ago to purchase gas from Israel’s Tamar partners. The US State Department had acted as a mediator to forge the deal.

Over the past months, Jordan has been rocked by separate rallies held in protest at high living expenses and unemployment.

The Jordanian government is one of the only two Arab regimes that have open, diplomatic relations with Israel — the other being Egypt.

Tel Aviv and Amman signed a peace agreement in 1994, but many Jordanians are firmly opposed to normalization of ties with the occupying regime of Israel.

March 25, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment