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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
When President Barack Obama apologized on April 23 to the families of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, an American and an Italian, both hostages killed in a drone attack in Pakistan in January, he blamed their tragic deaths on the “fog of war.”
“This operation was fully consistent with the guidelines under which we conduct counterterrorism efforts in the region,” he said, and based on “hundreds of hours of surveillance, we believed that this (the building targeted and destroyed by drone launched missiles) was an al Qaeda compound; that no civilians were present.” Even with the best of intentions and most stringent of safeguards, the president said, “it is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes — sometimes deadly mistakes — can occur.”
The term “fog of war,” Nebel des Krieges in German, was introduced by the Prussian military analyst Carl von Clausewitz in 1832, to describe the uncertainty experienced by commanders and soldiers on the battlefield. It is often used to explain or excuse “friendly fire” and other unintended deaths in the heat and confusion of combat. The term raises vivid images of chaos and ambiguity. Fog of war describes incredible noise and trauma, volleys of bullets and artillery shells, bone jarring explosions, screams of the wounded, orders shouted out and countermanded, vision limited and distorted by clouds of gas, smoke and debris.
War itself is a crime and war is hell, and in its fog soldiers can suffer from emotional, sensory and physical overload. In the fog of war, fatigued past the point of endurance and fearful both for their own lives and for those of their comrades, soldiers must often make split second decisions of life and death. In such deplorable conditions, it is unavoidable that “mistakes — sometimes deadly mistakes — can occur.”
But Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto were not killed in the fog of war. They were not killed in war at all, not in any way war has been understood until now. They were killed in a country where the United States is not at war. No one was fighting at the compound where they died. The soldiers who fired the missiles that killed these two men were thousands of miles away in the United States and in no danger, even if anyone were firing back. These soldiers watched the compound go up in smoke under their missiles, but they did not hear the explosion nor the cries of the wounded, nor were they subjected to the concussion of its blast. That night, as the night before this attack, it can be assumed that they slept at home in their own beds.
The president attests that those missiles were fired only after “hundreds of hours of surveillance” were carefully studied by defense and intelligence analysts. The decision that lead to the deaths of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto was not reached in the crucible of combat but in the comfort and safety of offices and conference rooms. Their line of sight was not clouded by smoke and debris but was enhanced by the most advanced “Gorgon Stare” surveillance technology of the Reaper drones.
Protest at Beale Air Force Base.
The same day as the president’s announcement the White House Press Secretary also issued a release with this news: “We have concluded that Ahmed Farouq, an American who was an al-Qa’ida leader, was killed in the same operation that resulted in the deaths of Dr. Weinstein and Mr. Lo Porto. We have also concluded that Adam Gadahn, an American who became a prominent member of al-Qa’ida, was killed in January, likely in a separate U.S. Government counterterrorism operation. While both Farouq and Gadahn were al-Qa’ida members, neither was specifically targeted, and we did not have information indicating their presence at the sites of these operations.” If the president’s drone assassination program sometimes accidently kills hostages, it also sometimes accidently kills Americans alleged to be members of al-Qa’ida and apparently the White House expects us to take some consolation in this fact.
“Hundreds of hours of surveillance” notwithstanding, and despite being “fully consistent with the guidelines under which we conduct counterterrorism efforts,” the order to attack the compound was given in the absence of any indication that Ahmed Farouq was there or that Warren Weinstein was not. Three months after the fact, the United States government admits that they blew up a building that they had been watching for days without the slightest idea who was in it.
The “cruel and bitter truth” is actually that Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto were not killed in a “counterterrorism effort” at all, but in an act of terrorism by the United States government. They died in a gangland style hit that went awry. Killed in a high-tech drive-by shooting, they are victims of negligent homicide at best, if not of outright murder.
Another “cruel and bitter truth” is that people who are executed by drones far from a battlefield for crimes they have not been tried for or convicted of, such as Ahmed Farouq and Adam Gadahn were, are not enemies lawfully killed in combat. They are victims of lynching by remote control.
“Predators and Reapers are useless in a contested environment,” admitted General Mike Hostage, chief of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command in a speech in September, 2013. Drones have proven useful, he said, at “hunting down” al Qa’ida but are no good in actual combat. Since al Qa’ida and other terrorist organizations have only flourished and multiplied since Obama’s drone campaigns took off in 2009, one might take issue with the general’s claim for their usefulness on any front, but it is a fact that the use of lethal force by a military unit outside of a contested environment, outside of a battlefield, is a war crime. It might follow that even the possession of a weapon that is useful only in an uncontested environment is a crime, as well.
The deaths of two western hostages, one an American citizen, are indeed tragic, but no more so than the deaths of thousands of Yemeni, Pakistani, Afghan, Somali and Libyan children, women and men murdered by these same drones. Both the president and his press secretary assure us that the events in Pakistan last January were “fully consistent with the guidelines under which we conduct counterterrorism efforts,” business as usual in other words. It seems that in the president’s view, death is only tragic when it is inconveniently discovered that western non-Muslim people are killed.
“As President and as Commander-in-Chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations, including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni,” said President Obama on April 23. From the time President Ronald Reagan took full responsibility for the Iran-Contra arms deal to the present, it is clear that a presidential admission of responsibility means that no one will be held accountable and that nothing will change. The responsibility that President Obama accepts for only two of his victims is too paltry for consideration and, along with his partial apology, is an insult to their memories. In these days of governmental evasions and official cowardice, it is crucial that there are some who do take full responsibility for all of those killed and act to stop these acts of reckless and provocative violence.
Five days after the president’s announcement of Weinstein’s and Lo Porto’s murders, on April 28, I was privileged to be in California with a dedicated community of activists outside of Beale Air Force Base, home of the Global Hawk surveillance drone. Sixteen of us were arrested blocking the entrance to the base, reciting the names of children who have also been killed in drone attacks but without a presidential apology or even, for that matter, any admission that they died at all. On May 17, I was with another group of anti-drone activists at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and in early March, in the Nevada desert with more than one hundred resisting drone murders from Creech Air Force Base. Responsible citizens are protesting at drone bases in Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, New York at RAF Waddington in the United Kingdom, at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, at the White House and other scenes of these crimes against humanity.
In Yemen and in Pakistan, too, people are speaking out against the murders taking place in their own countries and at great risk to themselves. Lawyers from Reprieve and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights have filed suit in a German court, charging that the German government has violated its own constitution by allowing the U.S. to use a satellite relay station at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for drone murders in Yemen.
Perhaps one day President Obama will be held responsible for these murders. In the meantime, the responsibility that he and his administration shirks belongs to all of us. He cannot hide behind a fog of war and neither can we.
Brian Terrell is a co-coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence and event coordinator for the Nevada Desert Experience. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
Russian national security advisor Nikolai Patrushev has alleged that Western countries have used capital outflows from BRICS countries as a pressure tactic.
India and Brazil, among the BRICS countries, are most vulnerable to capital outflows as they rely heavily on external funding.
Western countries have pulled out more than $3.5 trillion over the last 10 years and $1.5 trillion from BRICS countries over the last three years as a mechanism to pressure the group, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said Tuesday.
“International financial institutions are being used by the West more and more often as an instrument of pressure. Over the last 10 years, the total capital outflow from the BRICS economies has reached $3.5 trillion, and more than half of that total left over the last three years,” Patrushev said during a BRICS security meeting in Moscow.
Patrushev added “the creation of BRICS development bank is an important step in ensuring economic security of the BRICS countries.”
India’s Central Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan, had also said earlier that India needs to build a “bullet-proof national balance sheet” to deal with the fallout on the economy from outflow of capital.
Oakland, CA — This week, the mayor of Oakland has decided to use an old and unknown law to impose an anti-protest curfew to keep demonstrators off the streets at night.
This curfew does not apply to everyone in the city, only those who are involved in organized protests. Mayor Libby Schaaf put the order into effect in the midst of this week’s #SayHerName protest where women and children peacefully protested victims of police brutality.
During the demonstration, protesters were prevented from marching to the police station and were threatened with arrest if they stepped off of the sidewalk. Police informed protesters through a giant sound system that their march was not permitted, and that they could be arrested under Vehicle Code Section 2800, which makes it illegal to disobey anything a police officer says.
Cat Brooks, one of the organizers of the protest says that their right to freely and peacefully assemble was infringed upon.
“The fact is we were threatened with arrest for marching. This was a Black women’s and children’s rally saying to the police, please stop killing us, and our woman mayor organized the harshest response we’ve seen yet,” Brooks told the East Bay Express.
In an interview with the East Bay Express this week, Mayor Schaaf admitted that she ordered a prohibition on nighttime protests as a result of the demonstrations, and explained that she used a law that was already on the books.
“There have been no changes to any city policy or enactment of any new ordinances in any way to prohibit peaceful protests. We are making better use of our existing policies to prevent vandalism and violence. Our intent is to ensure that freedom of expression is not compromised by illegal activity and that demonstrators, bystanders, and property are kept safe,” Schaaf told the Express.
While the mayor admitted to the protest curfew, she denied that the protest itself was declared illegal.
“That demonstration was never declared unlawful and never ordered to disperse. My understanding is that protesters were told that once it became dark they needed to get off the roadways. Our intent is that by using better crowd management, not control, but management, that we can get demonstrators into safe spaces after sunset, once it’s dark, and this will better protect everyone’s safety, freedom of speech, and assembly,” Schaaf said.
However, local legal experts say that the new order is both illegal and unconstitutional.
“My general impression is the police took an unduly aggressive approach that not only violated their own crowd control policy, but also the First Amendment,” civil rights attorney Rachel Lederman told the Express.
“This was an unreasonable interference with the demonstration given that there had been no serious crimes committed. A local government can impose a reasonable time, manner, and place restriction on speech, but the Oakland crowd control policy specifically states that OPD will facilitate marches in the street regardless of whether a permit has be obtained as long as it’s feasible to do so. The reasonableness is determined by what’s actually happening there. You can’t ban street marches at night because on some past occasions some people broke windows. That’s completely unconstitutional,” Lederman said.
As we reported yesterday, The national demonstrations came on the heels of a report released Wednesday by the African American Policy Forum titled Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women. The forum is dedicated to telling the stories of a number of black women who were victims of police brutality.
CalebMaupin.info | May 24, 2015
From the Port of Djibouti in North Africa, it is with great sadness and burning outrage that I announce that the voyage of the Iran Shahed Rescue Ship has concluded. We will not reach our destination at the Port of Hodiedah in Yemen to deliver humanitarian aid.
The unsuccessful conclusion of our mission is the result of only one thing: US-backed Saudi Terrorism.
Yesterday, as it appeared our arrival was imminent, the Saudi forces bombed the port of Hodiedah. They didn’t just bomb the port once, or even twice. The Saudi forces bombed the port of Hodiedah a total of eight times in a single day!
The total number of innocent dock workers, sailors, longshoremen, and bystanders killed by these eight airstrikes is still being calculated.
Furthermore, the Yemeni revolutionaries arrested 15 people yesterday, who were part of a conspiracy to attack our vessel. The plan was to attack the Iran Shahed when we arrived, and kill everyone onboard, including me.
With its so many criminal threats and actions, the Saudi regime was sending a message to the crew of doctors, medical technicians, anesthesiologists, and other Red Crescent Society volunteers onboard the ship. The message was “If you try to help the hungry children of Yemen we will kill you.”
These actions, designed to terrorize and intimidate those seeking to deliver humanitarian aid, are a clear violation of international law. I can say, without any hesitation, that I have witnessed a crime against humanity.
In the context of the extreme Saudi threats, after lengthy negotiations which have been taking place around the clock in Tehran, it has been determined that the Red Crescent Society cannot complete this mission. The 2,500 tons of medical supplies, food, and water are being unloaded, and handed over to the World Food Program, which has agreed to distribute them on our behalf by June 5th.
Djibouti & US Imperialism
Here in Djibouti, I can clearly see what the people of Yemen and Iran have been fighting against for so long. Unlike in Tehran, here in Djibouti I see masses of desperate staving people. Impoverished Africans, who are desperate for a day of work, are lined up outside the port. They are joined by Yemeni refugees who fled the fighting, and crossed the water. The Yemeni refugees are living in tent cities.
There is a huge US military base here in Djibouti, and this small country of only 3 million people is well under the control of western neo-liberalism. This country was basically carved onto the maps of the world by imperialists. As the European plunderers divided up the African continent for themselves, they created this tiny country so that naval bases could be conveniently placed in a strategic location.
The imperialists falsely drew the borders of the African continent in the same way they divided the Arab peoples and the peoples of Latin America. The maps were drawn to serve the colonizers, and determine who got the right to rob and subjugate the people of each specific region.
The living conditions that I see here in Djibouti are horrific in comparison to Iran. Iran has broken the chains of imperialism, and is independently developing. In Iran, I saw very few people begging for work, and the few I did see are refugees from Afghanistan.
Since the US invasion of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic has opened its doors to 3 million refugees, and most of them are steadily employed. Iran’s oil resources are in the hands of a government that comes out of a massive people’s revolution. The oil revenue has been utilized to create a vast apparatus of social programs.
One of the Red Crescent Society volunteers told me: “The Iranian government has a department to make sure that everyone in our country who wants to work, can work.” Iranian mothers are given a guaranteed stipend for each of their children. Education in Iranian Universities is absolutely free, and the Ministry of Health provides free medical care to everyone in the country.
Compared to the millions of enslaved guest workers in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, or the impoverished people throughout the African continent, even the poorest Iranians are very, very wealthy. By breaking from neo-liberalism, Iran has been able to guarantee all of its people a great deal of economic security.
The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution has loudly denounced the system of capitalism, and said that religious principles and compassion for those in need, should always be given priority over profits and finance.
“Standing With The Oppressed”
If the resistance forces are successful in their fight against the Saudi onslaught, Yemen will soon join Iran in becoming an independent country. The logo of the Ansarullah organization shows a hand holding a rifle to represent armed resistance. Perpendicular to the rifle on the Ansarullah logo is a shaft of wheat, said to represent “economic development.”
Its no secret that Yemen has vast, untapped oil resources. If the resistance forces are victorious, they can seize these resources, and start using them to build up Yemeni society. Yemen can then begin to do what the people of Venezuela have done, and transform their country with public control of natural resources.
The religious group that leads Ansarullah, the Zaidis, have a slogan. They say: “A True Imam is a Fighting Imam.”
They contrast their religious beliefs with those of the Whabbais who lead Saudi Arabia. The Saudi religious leaders say that Muslims must avoid rebellion and protest because it leads to instability and chaos. They stress obedience to the government and to authority figures.
The Zaidis, who lead Ansurrullah and are at the center of Yemen’s unfolding revolution, emphasize that a religious leader is not truly doing the work of God, unless he picks up a sword or a gun and “fights for the oppressed.”
As I prepare to return to Tehran I have become even more convinced of the need to overthrow the system of western monopoly capitalism. I am reinvigorated in my belief that there must be a global alliance of all forces who oppose imperialism. Whether they are Marxist-Leninists, Bolivarians, Anarchists, Shias, Sunnis, Christians, or Russian nationalists, all forces that oppose the continued domination of the planet by Wall Street bankers must firmly stand together.
The people of Yemen, like the forces of resistance in so many other parts of the world, have refused to surrender. As they face a horrendous onslaught with US made Saudi bombs, I hope that news of our peaceful, humanitarian mission has reached them. I hope they are aware that in their struggle against the Saudi King, the Wall Street bankers, and all the great forces of evil, they are not alone. There are millions of people across the planet who are on their side.
Imperialism is doomed, and all humanity shall soon be free!
Leading actors, directors and other figures from the theatre world have condemned efforts by pro-Israel groups to silence a Palestinian production set to tour Britain.
‘The Siege’, by the Jenin-based Freedom Theatre, was attacked in the Mail on Sunday last week, after organisations such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews expressed concern about whether the Arts Council-funded project “promoted terrorism.”
Now, in response to what they describe as the “demonization” of Palestinian theatre, a letter signed by Wolf Hall star Mark Rylance, Young Vic artistic director David Lan and playwright Caryl Churchill among others, expresses support for the Freedom Theatre.
Neither the Daily Mail nor the Board of Deputies has seen Freedom Theatre’s play The Siege, yet both somehow feel qualified to suggest that it is “promoting terrorism”. Not for the first time, Palestinian voices are in danger of being drowned out by a vociferous pro-Israel lobby that smears all Palestinians as terrorists and antisemites. This lobby wants us to believe that theatre-goers in the UK cannot be trusted to hear these voices and make their own judgements.
The letter, an initiative of Artists for Palestine UK, comes as the Freedom Theatre prepares to embark on a 10-city tour of Britain over May-June, including dates in Manchester, London, Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, and Glasgow.
Writer and performer Mark Thomas, a signatory to the letter, noted that “free speech for Palestinian artists is increasingly threatened, more often than not by supporters of Israel’s apartheid occupation. Palestinian voices not only have a right to be heard, we have duty to listen to them.”
The piece in the Mail by Sunday claimed that the play, based on dramatic events in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity in 2002, would be “an unashamedly one-sided drama” based on the testimonies of “men with blood on their hands.”
None of those smearing the play have seen the production, as they have admitted.
A group of humanitarian aid workers, medical technicians, and peace activists from the US, France, and Germany along with journalists and physicians from Iran is setting sail for war-torn Yemen on Iranian “Rescue” ship.
“We are part of a humanitarian mission being carried out by the Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran. We are attempting to bring medical supplies, flour, and water to the people of Yemen,” read a joint statement released by members of Code Pink Women for Peace, International Action Center, United National AntiWar Committee, and US Veterans for Peace on Sunday.
A large number of physicians and a few journalists from Iran are with us on the ship and we intend to deliver “2,500 tons of medical supplies, foodstuff and tents” to the Hudaydah port on the Red Sea, the capital of the western Yemeni province of Al Hudaydah.
The ship, named Iran Shahed, is preparing to set sail for Yemen from the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas, in Hormozgan province.
In an exclusive Press TV report, the ship’s captain said that after leaving Bandar Abbas, they would travel through the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, and into the Gulf of Aden, where they might dock, or travel on to the Hudaydah port.
“Everything on the ship has been carefully checked to make sure that nothing that could be considered a weapon is on board,” the statement says.
Earlier in the month, Iranian planes tried to deliver medical aid and were cleared for landing by the Yemeni airports, but were repelled by Saudi fighter jets.
“Blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid is an extreme violation of international law. As our craft propels itself through the Persian Gulf, we are loudly urging no one to interfere with this peaceful humanitarian mission,” the statement read.
Saudi Arabia has unleashed a “horrific bombing campaign” in response to a vast uprising demanding democracy and self-determination in Yemen.
“As citizen of the western world, nothing disturbs us more than the fact that the cruise missiles and other weapons being used to terrorize and kill innocent Yemenis, are provided by the United States government,” the statement noted.
Even though our governments utilize “Human Rights” propaganda, they actually “isolate and demonize” certain countries.
“For more than half a century they have been coddling the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the most blatant human rights violators on the planet,” it added.
The Saudi regime, apart from beheading, torturing, and exploiting its own citizens, “represses people throughout the region.”
“The people of Yemen have long been held down by a corrupt un-democratic regime backed and supported by Saudi Arabia and the United States.”
The people of Yemen have “risen up in revolution” in response to years of humiliation, repression and impoverishment.
“The Ansarullah organization, commonly called the “Houthis” in US media, is at the center of a broad coalition of forces that is writing a new constitution. Popular Committees have sprung up all across the country.”
Along with ISIL Takfiri militants and al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia is “waging a campaign of violent terrorism” against Yemen.
The US government backs the Saudi regime and its allies in their “abhorrent and immoral” war against Yemen.
“We call for all parties involved to lay down their weapons and enter the process of peaceful negotiations, and continue with the democratic national dialogue that’s taken place over the last three years,” it concluded.
The statement closed with three wishes for the people of Yemen, “Let the Hungry Children of Yemen Live!”, “This Illegal, Immoral Blockade Must End!” and “Don’t Block the Rescue Boat!”
On April 28, Saudi Arabia forced an Iranian cargo plane carrying medical aid and foodstuff for people in Yemen to return. The Iranian aircraft, which had earlier received permits from Omani and Yemeni aviation officials to cross into Yemen’s airspace, could not land at the Sana’a International Airport, as Saudi warplanes were violently striking the runway of the airport.
The development came less than a week after Saudi warplanes intercepted another Iranian airplane, carrying humanitarian aid to Yemen, and prevented it from entering the Yemeni airspace on April 22.
According to the latest UN figures, the Saudi military campaign has so far claimed the lives of over 1,400 people and injured close to 6,000 people, roughly half of whom have been civilians.
HEBRON – Settlers harassed the head of the Palestinian National Union for Football and the South African head of an anti-racism group during a tour in Hebron’s Old City this week.
Palestinian football chief, Jibril al-Rajoub, was heading a FIFA delegation tour in the city on Tuesday when the incident took place. The group included Tokyo Sexwale, an anti-apartheid activist imprisoned for 13 years on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, and co-chair of Global Watch: Say No To Racism-Discrimination In Sport.
The delegation was briefed on the difficult living conditions in the Old City by the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee and were shown videos documenting army and settler violence against Palestinians in the city.
Israeli forces then prevented the delegation from entering several areas of the Old City, with settlers verbally insulting the group as they tried to continue the tour.
Sexwale said that life for Palestinians in the city is intolerable, saying he was proud of the Palestinians for their determination to remain on their land.
The South African official had to enter Ramallah via the King Hussein Bridge to avoid entry from Tel Aviv.
The Palestinian Football Association (PFA) has called for a vote at the FIFA annual congress on May 29 calling for Israel’s expulsion for blocking Palestinian football through its sanctions on the Palestinian territories.
In its draft resolution for the FIFA congress, the PFA protests Israel’s treatment of Arabs and acts such as setting up clubs in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israeli forces raided the PFA headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah in November.
Palestinian football chiefs have also condemned Israeli travel restrictions on Palestinian players and on importing equipment into the occupied territories
In recent months activists on the ground have witnessed an escalation of violence directed at Palestinians. There is an urgent need for international volunteers to support grassroots, non-violent Palestinian popular resistance to the Israeli Occupation.
The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the long-entrenched, systematic oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian population, using the principles and methods of non-violent, direct-action. ISM works where internationals can be most effective; we walk in solidarity with Palestinians in demonstrations, we respond to the violence, threats, house demolitions and land confiscation by the Israeli military and settlers.
The threat of demolition orders means that we have presence in places such as Jerusalem, Hebron and the Jordan Valley. We respond to violations of human rights by supporting Palestinian political prisoners. This includes bearing witness in Israeli military courts, campaigning and supporting families with loved ones imprisoned. In Hebron we walk with children who face violence and intimidation on their way to school. In the South Hebron Hills we assist farmers and shepherds who are harassed by settlers and occupation forces whilst trying to work on their own land. In the Jordan Valley we work with locals to build where the Israeli military destroys, in order that communities can resist by staying put. In Gaza we accompany farmers and fishermen into the buffer zones where they risk massive violence from the Israeli military. ISM constantly documents and reports on the daily violations of human rights committed by the state of Israel. ISM works to stop Israels’ crimes from going unreported.
You can be a part of this. ISM is Palestinian led, but has no leaders, and we have supported Palestinians in their struggle against the Occupation since 2001. To us, solidarity means that we are a tool for Palestinians to use in their popular resistance. We recognise that as internationals working under Israeli apartheid our position is privileged. We have rights that are denied to Palestinians. When we are arrested we are taken to a police station and have the right to a lawyer. When Palestinians are arrested they are taken to military bases where they face indefinite detention without a lawyer or fair trial. ISM uses the privileges of internationals to support Palestinian popular resistance. We believe that our presence as internationals supporting Palestinian led actions can afford some protection from some of the worst excesses of Israel’s violence.
For more information about our work and for up to date information about the situation in Occupied Palestine, visit palsolidarity.org
If you are planning to volunteer with ISM please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For the first time in living memory, Egypt is not celebrating Labor Day.
The only official commemoration took place on Monday, April 27 behind closed doors at Cairo’s Police Academy in the presence of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, governmental officials and state-appointed leaders from the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF).
This commemoration, which was not televised, is reported to have involved 10 workers who received honorary medals. It is the first time ever that the president of Egypt has not delivered a Labor Day address.
During Monday’s commemoration, Gebali al-Maraghi, chief of the state-controlled ETUF, presented Sisi with a declaration from his federation vowing that its members would reject strikes and refrain from protests, sit-ins or other industrial actions.
ETUF leaders called instead for dialogue and collective bargaining between workers, the state and employers, according to the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram.
The Cabinet also announced that there would not be a working day off, as this year the official holiday coincides with the weekend.
This comes during the same week in which a judicial decree was issued by the Supreme Administrative Court dictating that public sector employees who partake in strikes will be forced into early retirement. The judges who issued this decree, which cannot be appealed, claimed that a military decree issued in 2011 and Sharia law both prohibit labor strikes.
A statement was issued by a host of Egyptian human rights organizations on Labor Day in which they denounced the aforementioned judicial decree as violating Article 15 of the 2014 Constitution, as well as international rights conventions to which Egypt is party.
“We are witnessing the worst Labor Day in Egyptian history this year,” commented Ali Fattouh, an independent union organizer and bus driver employed at Cairo’s Public Transport Authority.
Fattouh argued that the government is pushing back on workers’ rights and the organizational freedoms of unions, while Egypt’s largest independent labor federation — the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (ETIFU) — “is falling in line with the government’s dictates, denouncing workers’ right to strike while championing the policies of the ruling regime.”
Like Fattouh, many other independent unionists, labor rights organizations and leftist groupings are not celebrating Labor Day this year, as they believe there is nothing to celebrate in 2015.
Since their emergence in the 2011 uprising until 2013, independent labor federations had celebrated Labor Day in Tahrir Square. However, they were only capable of organizing small rallies involving just a few hundred workers, revealing the inability of these independent federations to mobilize their ranks.
Following the military led regime change on July 3, 2013, Tahrir Square was made off-limits for workers’ rallies, and in 2014 independent unionists celebrated Labor Day indoors.
Workers at the state-owned petroleum services company Petrotrade issued a statement on Thursday declaring, “We are not celebrating Labor Day this year, as there is no cause for celebration.”
“This is the fifth Labor Day since the January 25 revolution, and yet none of the revolution’s demands have been achieved, nor has social justice been realized,” the statement added.
Despite government pledges since 2011, neither a new labor law nor a new trade union law has been issued to replace the repressive and outdated laws regulating workers rights, the Petrotrade workers continued.
The statement argued that Egypt is suffering from a counter-revolution, indicated by the fact that a host of striking workers and independent unionists have been subjected to punitive measures nationwide, including disciplinary hearings, relocations, lay-offs, prosecution and trials.
Dozens of workers across the country are presently being prosecuted for instigating strikes and labor unrest, as well as incurring losses for industries with their work stoppages.
Fattouh explained that he and 31 of his co-workers at the Public Transport Authority are standing two separate trials on May 15 and June 13 before the State Council Court on charges of instigating strikes in the years 2012 and 2013.
“We are being sent to court, and possibly to jail, simply for exercising our right to organize a peaceful strike at our workplaces,” said Fattouh.
“When you have a court of law outlawing the right to strike, which is clearly safeguarded by international conventions and domestic legislation, what is there left to celebrate on Labor Day?” he argued.
But Maraghi is quoted in Al-Ahram as declaring that “Egypt is currently blessed with a climate of freedom and democracy,” and “that the ETUF is the only legitimate representative for all of Egypt’s workers, regardless of their political tendencies.”
Maraghi concluded by singing Sisi’s praises, while claiming: “there is no room for politicization of the union movement.”
Yet even Ibrahim Eissa, a TV anchor on the show 25/30, which broadcasts on the privately owned ONtv channel, criticized Sisi’s labor commemoration this year.
Eissa argued that Labor Day should be celebrated on May 1, as is the national and international tradition. “Labor Day should be commemorated in a factory, company or workplace,” he added, asking Sisi, “Oh president, if you celebrate Labor Day at the Police Academy, then where are you going to celebrate Egypt’s National Police Day?”
RAMALLAH – The Palestinians in 1948 Occupied Palestine have been on general strike since the morning hours on Tuesday protesting the Israeli government policy of the demolition of Palestinians’ houses.
This followed a decision made by the higher follow up committee for Arabs in 1948 Occupied Palestine. The strike includes educational institutions and commercial shops.
The Israeli radio announced that the Palestinians are going to take to the streets in Tel Aviv at 5 p.m. in the first national demonstration of its kind. Such marches were previously arranged in cities and towns inhabited by Arabs only.
The Israeli authorities adopt displacement campaigns aiming at expelling the Palestinians in 1948 Occupied Palestine through demolishing their houses under false pretenses.