At the UN General assembly last fall there was an essential vote on the future of mankind. Resolution number A/RES/70/33 calling for the international society to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations had been submitted by Austria, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Ireland, Kenya, Lichtenstein, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela. For that, these countries deserve our deep respect and gratitude. The resolution reminds us that all the peoples of the world have a vital interest in the success of nuclear disarmament negotiations, that all states have the right to participate in disarmament negotiations, and, at the same time, declares support for the UN Secretary – General’s five-point proposal on nuclear disarmament.
The resolution reiterates the universal objective that remains the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons, and emphasizes the importance of addressing issues related to nuclear weapons in a comprehensive, inclusive, interactive and constructive manner, for the advancement of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. The resolution calls on the UN to establish an Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) of willing and responsible states to bring the negotiations on nuclear disarmament forward in this spirit.
When voted upon at the UNGA a month ago, on December 7, 2015, there was a huge majority of states (75 %) that supported the resolution, namely 138 of the 184 member states that were present. Most of them are from the global south, with majorities in Latin-America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific. After having shown such courage and wisdom, they all deserve to be named among the states of hope, states that want to sustain mankind on earth.
Only 12 states voted against the resolution. Guess who they are: China, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, and the United States. What is wrong with them? Well, they are either nuclear-armed states or among the new NATO member states. They are the states of concern in today’s world. It is hypocritical that states that claim to be the protectors of freedom, democracy, and humanity constitute a small minority that refuse to enter into multilateral, inclusive, interactive and constructive negotiations to free the world from nuclear weapons. Among the three other nuclear-armed states, India and Pakistan had the civility to abstain, while the DPRK was the only one to vote “yes.”
Despite the reactionary, dangerous, and irresponsible position of the 12 states of concern and the tepid attitude of the abstainers, the OEWG was established by an overwhelming majority of the UNGA. The OEWG will convene in Geneva for 15 working days during the first half of 2016. The OEWG has no mandate to negotiate treaties to free the world of the inhuman nuclear weapons, but has clearly been asked to discuss and show how it can be achieved. Surely, the nations of hope that voted in favor of the OEWG will take part in the work. We can hope that at least some of the states of concern and some of the abstainers come to their senses and take part in this essential work for the future of mankind.
Participation in the OEWG is open for everyone and blockable by none. No matter what the states of concern do or don’t do, there is good reason to trust that the vast majority of nations of hope together with civil society from all over in the fall will present an outcome to the UNGA that will turn our common dream of a world free of nuclear weapons into a reality—perhaps sooner that we dare to believe.
South Africa issued, on Tuesday, an arrest warrant against four Israeli officials over their role in deadly attacks on pro-Palestinian international activists.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Against the Israeli occupation in Africa said, in a statement: “South Africa’s Directorate of the Priority Crimes Investigation Unit has issued warrants of arrest against four Israeli commanders from the Israeli Navy and Israeli Defense Forces.”
According to Days of Palestine, the statement announced arrest warrants issued against former Israeli chief of staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, former Navy commander Major General Eliezer Marom, former head of Military Intelligence Major General Amos Yadlin and former head of Air Force intelligence Brigadier General Avishay Levy.
“This decision,” African BDS said, “follows a four-year-long case involving a South African journalist, Gadija Davids, who was on board the Mavi Marmara when it was attacked by Israeli commandoes while in international waters in 2010.
“Davids laid her first complaint with the South African Police Services and South Africa’s National Prosecutions Authority in January 2011.
“In November 2012, South Africa’s Priority Crimes Litigation Unit, found that the case met the necessary jurisdictional requirements and that reasonable grounds exist to investigate the alleged crimes that were committed during the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara.”
Arrest in Spain
Just days ago, a Spanish judge reopened a case that, theoretically, could lead to the arrest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon, MK Benny Begin and several former top Israeli officials over their role in the same incident.
Three Spanish citizens aboard Mavi Marmara had originally filed a lawsuit against the Israeli occupation in 2010, but the court decided it no longer had the authority to prosecute foreign nationals for alleged crimes committed outside of Spain.
In recent days, Judge Jose de la Mata found a legal loophole that allowed him to relaunch the case against Netanyahu and the other Israelis if they entered Spanish territory.
A ruling ANC policy meeting has given its nod for South African plans to withdraw its membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This ‘landmark’ decision is bound to spur greater debate on the ICC and its ‘inherent biases’.
Let’s rewind a bit here.
At its national conference in 2012, South Africa’s governing party the African National Congress (ANC) resolved to engage with the International Criminal Court to seek amongst other matters the perceptions that the court treated African nations unfairly on matters of global justice.
The court was seen as only focused on Africa and no other continent. In the court’s 13-year history it has only brought charges against Africans.
In its resolution then, the ANC said; “As much as the ANC does not condone impunity, authoritarian and violent regimes, it is concerned about the perception of selective prosecution of Africans and urges the ICC to also pursue cases of impunity elsewhere, while engaging in serious dialogue with the AU and African countries in order to review their relationship.”
The ANC referenced cases of Ivory Coast and Sudan where the AU was engaged in peace building and ending of hostilities, during which the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) through the ICC engaged in interventions that could have scuppered the AU initiatives to put an end to hostilities.
In its 2012 resolution, the ANC called on the UN Security Council, which has referred some African cases to the ICC, to recognise the work done by the African Union, its Regional Economic Commissions and individual African countries to promote a peaceful end to and settlement of conflicts on the continent, the peace agreements signed and commitments made in regard to post-conflict justice.
It is worthwhile to remember here that none of the South African government’s proposals to make the court more representative and responsive to the continents multilateral African Union (AU) were ever adopted.
On Monday during its National General Council (NGC), ANC’s midterm policy review Congress noted the processes underway, under the auspices of the African Union, (including South Africa) to review Africa’s participation in the International Criminal Court.
The NGC has now moved further away from the 2012 resolution with its instructions to the South African government to start the process of withdrawing from the ICC.
South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute that set up the court.
The South African government of Jacob Zuma had been severely criticized for letting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir evade an ICC arrest warrant in the country in June this year.
Zuma had hosted AU Heads of States and Governments in Johannesburg with al-Bashir in attendance.
During this time, the South African government was already arguing a matter in a court on the question of immunity for heads of states while leading their countries to multilateral meetings of the AU.
A South African court had ordered the government to ‘detain’ al-Bashir in the country whilst it deliberated on whether South Africa was obliged to arrest him.
In an earlier op-ed here, I argued that the government acted properly in not arresting the Sudanese leader.
The decision of South Africa’s ANC this past weekend should be seen as a part of Africa’s renewal and her demands to be heard and treated as an equal in global politics.
As Africa finds its voice and refuses to be colonized in commerce, justice and global politics, the next frontier will be her push for meaningful UNSC reforms to include her one billion population.
South Africa is seen as a front-runner for a permanent seat on the UNSC. The issue of UNSC reforms is inextricably linked to the ICC fallout as the UNSC controls much of ICC’s activities even though the majority of permanent members are not ICC state parties.
A month ago Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed the Sudanese president in China as an “old friend”. Beijing, like Washington, is not a member of the ICC, although both are permanent UNSC members.
Instead, the ICC has been seen by many as a proxy tool of the US to further its narrow global hegemonic political interests and to even effect its policy on regime changes through the ICC itself. This has made this court unequal and inequitable in every sense.
The African Court for Human Rights is, conversely, widely regarded by the majority of African states as the better model to deal with cases of human rights abuse.
The ANC has demanded that all African cases currently before the ICC be transferred to this court.
This could see a likely release for former president of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo still held at The Hague. Most countries, especially in Africa, viewed France’s actions in his arrest unfair and unlawful.
South Africa has not only consistently shown the ability to negotiate and kick-the-can but has also been able to come up with global alternatives as seen in the formation of the BRICS bank as a counterweight to the unreformed International Monetary Fund.
South Africa’s BRICS partners India, China and Russia are not state parties to the ICC.
At the center of the South African move at ICC, is the demand for a representative global order and the ruling ANC is showing impatience with the dragging negotiations to achieve equitable balance amongst United Nations member states.
We should expect an enmasse ICC withdrawal of African states after this ANC decision. The age of African solutions for African problems has started. The notion of “nothing about us without us” is no longer reversible.
“It was not a battle because they were not aggressive,
nor were they defensive because they had no weapons
of any kind and were simply shot down like so many
worthless objects, each of the licensed life-takers
trying to outdo the others in the butchery.”
– Inscription on monument erected in Lattimer, Pa.
If officials wanted to shine a light on the horrors of the past, every day could be the anniversary of some type of atrocity committed by a government agency or corporation. But leaders get to pick and choose which events are more important than others. American officials, just like leaders in all countries, want the nation memorializing incidents that serve their political and economic interests.
Sept. 10 is one of those days when government officials committed a major atrocity. But 9/10 never became a national day of remembrance.
Sept. 10, 2015, marked the 118th anniversary of the Lattimer Massacre in the anthracite coal mine region of eastern Pennsylvania. Like the 9/11 attacks, the mass murder in Pennsylvania was used as a springboard for something bigger. But in the case of the Lattimer Massacre, the murder of striking coal miners served as inspiration to build a more equitable society, not as an excuse to kill and harm more people.
All told, Luzerne County, Pa., sheriff deputies killed 19 unarmed miners and wounded at least 38. No sheriff deputies were killed. “The primary result of the massacre was rapid growth in unionism in the anthracite coal region. During the next four months approximately 15,000 new names were added to the UMWA rolls,” the United Mine Workers of America explains on its website.
The UMWA views the Lattimer Massacre as a major event in U.S. history. Even the commonwealth of Pennsylvania saw the actions by the local police on Sept. 10, 1897, as extreme and excessive. State prosecutors brought murder and felonious shooting charges against Luzerne County Sheriff James Martin and 78 of his deputies in the wake of their attack on the workers.
In the late 19th century, pro-labor sentiment was strong in the U.S. and, at least in this case, state prosecutors wanted the sheriff and his deputies held accountable. But as it turned out, the prosecutors were ill-prepared for the trial and ultimately argued a lackluster case against the defendants, all of whom were found not guilty of the charges after a five-week trial in 1898.
Labor activism, especially in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania, had been growing steadily since the mid-1800s. The Molly Maguires, a shadowy Irish labor organization, waged a violent battle against coal operators. In the late 1870s, 20 Mollies were hanged after being found guilty of murder and other charges.
In the wake of the crackdown on the Molly Maguires, labor activism in the region waned. But union activity in the anthracite coal fields picked up again as the century neared an end. Only two decades removed from the violent battles between the coal operators and the Mollies, state officials could have easily overlooked the Lattimer killings.
To their credit, Pennsylvania state prosecutors in 1897 tried to hold the police accountable in Luzerne County. The massacre occurred in the village of Lattimer, north the city of Hazleton, Pa., when Martin’s posse of deputies fired at between 300 and 400 coal miners, mostly of Slovak, Polish Lithuanian and German ethnicity, who were marching from Harwood, Pa., to Lattimer.
The miners wanted a pay raise of 15 cents per employee, the ability to select their own doctor, the right to get paid for work even if the machines they work were out of order, and the freedom not to have to buy from the company store. Workers had already shut down several other mines in the region. Expanding the strike to Lattimer would be a huge victory for the miners because it would go a long way to shutting down the entire the area and forcing the companies to grant workers’ demands.
Fearing their private guards could not pacify the striking workers, the coal mine owners solicited the help of Sheriff Martin, who responded by rounding up dozens of local men to serve as deputies. They met the hundreds of striking miners marchers in Lattimer, one of whom was holding an American flag. After the sheriff tried to tear the flag and grabbed one of the marchers, the deputies opened fire. The flag bearer was the first man hit. The striking miners began to disperse, running to get away from the shooters. Some deputies moved to different locations so they could take better aim at fleeing marchers, shooting them in the back as they ran.
The massacre at Lattimer was the largest in U.S. labor history until the Ludlow massacre in Colorado 17 years later when Colorado National Guard and mine guards attacked a camp of striking workers, killing two dozen people, including miners and their wives and children.
Michael Novak, a long-time scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, in 1978 published one of first major books on the massacre. “The story of the guns of Lattimer has been strangely neglected in history books, even in histories of violence in America, even in labor histories,” Novak wrote in The Guns of Lattimer, “The reasons may be that Lattimer’s victims did not speak English and, more than others, have lacked a public voice.”
Novak’s book was sympathetic to the miners. “The whole body of four hundred marching men, unarmed, incompetent in English, carefully carrying two American flags, and painfully aware that in the Austro-Hungarian Empire they could conduct no such open and peaceful protest as they did here,” Novak wrote. “That their march should have ended in brutal bloodshed — the worst labor massacre in the history of Pennsylvania and in the nation until that time — deepened in them and in other Slavic communities around the nation a familiar sense of tragedy and injustice.”
Several other books and scholarly articles have covered the massacre. The latest book, The Lattimer Massacre Trial, published by Dorrance Publishing Co., provides a unique look at the event. The book was compiled by Pasco L. Schiavo, a prominent lawyer in the city of Hazleton and the person who now owns the land on which the massacre occurred.
Born and raised in Hazleton and a descendent of Italian immigrant coal miners, Schivao compiled day-to-day newspaper reports from the 1898 Lattimer trial of the sheriff and 72 deputies, a chronological collection that includes pre-trial jury selection, witnesses’ testimony and the final verdict. Schivao’s book contains clippings from The Press, what he calls a “reputable Philadelphia, Pennsylvania newspaper which is no longer in existence.”
The newspaper articles covered the trial in detail and included verbatim some of the statements made by the witnesses testifying at the trial, “something which is particularly important in light of the court transcripts or records of testimony having been lost years ago,” Schivao writes in the book’s introduction.
In his closing argument, the prosecuting attorney emphasized that “the strikers were peaceable and unarmed.” Only a handful of the slain strikers were shot from the front; the rest of them were shot in the back. Referring to the deputies, the district attorney stated “if these boys had protected the lives of these poor creatures of God with the same solicitude they displayed in protecting the property of the employers there would be no case here today.”
Even though none of the deputies was killed, witnesses for the defense claimed the strikers were armed with pistols and clubs. In a post-mortem published in The Times of Philadelphia, the newspaper’s writers argued that the assembly of strikers “was utterly lawless, and when the members refused to disperse upon notice from the Sheriff, given in the presence of his armed deputies, they not only openly defied the law, but they precipitated the destruction of life by violently resisting the Sheriff when in the performance of his lawful duty.”
Schiavo told a Hazleton newspaper that he chose to compile the book because the newspaper articles “report as close to the truth as possibly on a daily basis.” On the other hand, “the books and other publications I have read tend to give a slant one or another as to what really happened at Lattimer,” he was quoted as saying in the Aug. 2 article.
Even today, debate continues on whether the deputies were justified in killing the workers. Dan Sivilich, president of the Battlefield Restoration and Archaeological Volunteers Organization, told a local newspaper that the “the sheriff was not stupid.”
“As soon as those miners entered the gate, and they entered mine property, someone opened fire on them. At that point, they were trespassing, and deadly force is allowed when someone is trespassing on your property,” Sivilich said.
Lethal police force is still being used on a regular basis against U.S. residents who are viewed as expendable. Few of the perpetrators are facing prosecution. The same is true in other countries. A similar massacre occurred in South Africa in August 2012 when police opened fire on striking miners at the Lonmin platinum mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, killing 34 miners and wounding an additional 78. The police violence, known as the Marikana Massacre, was the single most lethal use of force by South African police against civilians since the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 when the nation’s official policy of apartheid was in full force.
Instead of bringing criminal charges against the police, South African authorities charged the surviving miners with murder. The authorities used the doctrine of common purpose against the survivors, assigning responsibility upon them for the murders because they participated in the strike. The murder charges, however, were later dropped and all 270 miners were released.
At least Pennsylvania authorities did not stoop so low to bring murder charges against the surviving miners in Lattimer. In remembrance of the slain miners, a small memorial now stands at a highway intersection in Lattimer. The memorial includes a monument with an inscription and the names of the killed miners. A shovel and a pick-axe lean against the front of the monument, and a small rail wagon with a pile of anthracite coal sits behind it.
“The migrant workers that struck during the summer of 1897 imagined a better world for themselves, one that offered them the baseline of equal living and working conditions to the longer-established nativized miners,” the Lattimer Massacre Project website says.
Mark Hand can be found on Twitter @MarkFHand.
A high court in South Africa issued an interim order Sunday preventing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from leaving the country.
Al-Bashir is currently in South Africa attending the 25th African Union Summit that is underway in Johannesburg.
The South African court will decide later on Sunday whether or not to hand the Sudanese leader over to the International Criminal Court, which issued an arrest warrant against al-Bashir in 2009.
He is accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region.
Pretoria High Court Judge Hans Fabricus issued the order on Sunday after the Southern Africa Litigation Centre submitted an application calling for the Sudanese leader’s arrest.
Amnesty International also appealed to South Africa to arrest al-Bashir.
“Al-Bashir is a fugitive from justice. If the government of President Zuma fails to arrest him, it would have done nothing, save to give succor to a leader who is accused of being complicit in the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in a conflict,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa, late Friday.
“As soon as he lands in South Africa, the authorities must arrest al-Bashir and ensure that he is transferred to the International Criminal Court,” Belay said in a press release to Anadolu Agency.
South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute that formally established the International Criminal Court, which means they can arrest anyone accused of committing genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or crimes of aggression.
However, experts believe it will be difficult for South Africa to effect al-Bashir’s arrest when he sets foot on their territory because he is a guest of the African Union and not the government of South Africa.
“It would be unfortunate if South Africa arrested any African head of state wanted by the International Criminal Court because they accepted to host all leaders,” international relations expert Tom Wheeler told Anadolu Agency in an earlier interview.
South African government officials have thus far refused to comment and instead requested that questions be directed to the continental body.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Thursday cancelled a trip to South Africa to attend the African Union Summit after a group of lawyers filed an official legal request for his arrest.
The Egyptian president was supposed to arrive Friday in Johannesburg to lead his country’s delegation in the African summit titled “Enabling African Women,” which will take place on June 14 and 15.
“We believe Al-Sisi committed war crimes and crimes against humanity for the horrendous killings that resulted from the (2013) coup in Egypt,” attorney Yousha Tayoub, a member of the South African Muslim Lawyers Association, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.
A well-informed African diplomatic source told Anadolu Agency that Al-Sisi would not participate. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that Egypt had officially informed the host country that Al-Sisi would not participate in the summit, and that PM Ibrahim Mehleb will lead the Egyptian delegation instead.
A former military commander, Al-Sisi is widely seen as the architect of the 2013 coup against President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president and a Muslim Brotherhood leader.
At the time, the South African government had vocally criticized Morsi’s ouster and the subsequent crackdown on political dissent waged by Egypt’s army-backed government.
In their bid to brand Canada a “warrior nation,” Stephen Harper’s Conservatives seek to glorify Canadian military history, regardless of its horrors.
On Saturday Canada’s Minister of Veteran Affairs released a statement to mark “113 years since the end of the South African war.” Erin O’Toole said, “Canada commemorates all those who served in South Africa, contributing to our proud military history.”
But the Boer War was a brutal conflict to strengthen British colonial authority in Africa, ultimately leading to racial apartheid. In the late 1800s the Boers, descendants of Dutch settlers, increasingly found themselves at odds with British interests in southern Africa. Large quantities of gold were found 30 miles south of the Boer capital, Pretoria, in 1886 and the Prime Minister of U.K.’s Cape Colony, Cecil Rhodes, and other British miners wanted to get their hands on more of the loot.
There was also a geostrategic calculation. The Boer gold and diamond fields in the Orange Free State and Transvaal were drawing the economic heart of southern Africa away from the main British colonies on the coast. If this continued London feared that the four southern African colonies might unite, but outside of the British orbit, which threatened its control of an important shipping lane.
Between 1898 and 1902 London launched a vicious war against the Boer. With Cecil Rhodes’ Imperial South African Association promoting anti-Boer sentiment in this country, some 7,400 Canadians fought to strengthen Britain’s position in southern Africa.
The war was devastating for the Boers. As part of a scorched-earth campaign the British-led forces burned their crops and homesteads and poisoned their wells. About 200,000 Boer were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Twenty-eight thousand (mostly children) died of disease, starvation and exposure in these camps.
In Another Kind of Justice: Canadian Military Law from Confederation to Somalia, Chris Madsen points out that, “Canadian troops became intimately involved in the nastier aspects of the South African war.” Whole columns of troops participated in search, expel and burn missions. Looting was common. One Canadian soldier wrote home, “as fast as we come up the country… we loot the farms.” Another wrote, “I tell you there is some fun in it. We ride up to a house and commandeer anything you set your eyes on. We are living pretty well now.” There are also numerous documented instances of Canadian troops raping and killing innocent civilians.
As with the Boer, the war was devastating for many Africans. Over 100,000 Blacks were held in concentration camps but the British failed to keep a tally of their deaths so it’s not known how many died of disease or starvation. Some estimate that as many as 20,000 Africans were worked to death in camps during the war.
Unlike the Boer, the plight of black South Africans didn’t improve much after the war. In Painting the Map Red: Canada and the South African War, 1899-1902, Carman Miller notes, “Although imperialists had made much of the Boer maltreatment of the Blacks, the British did little after the war to remedy their injustices.” In fact, the war reinforced white/British dominance over the region’s Indigenous population.
The peace agreement with the Boer included a guarantee that Africans would not be granted the right to vote before the two defeated republics gained independence. In The History of Britain in Africa, John Charles Hatch explains: “By the time that self-government was restored in 1906 and 1907, they [the Boer] were able to reestablish the racial foundations of their states on the traditional principle of ‘No equality in church or state.'” Blacks and mixed-race people were excluded from voting in the post-war elections and would not gain full civil rights for nine decades.
For Harper’s Conservatives the details of the Boer War are barely relevant. What matters is that Canadians traveled to a distant land to do battle beside a great empire. That’s the “warrior nation” they seek to create.
BETHLEHEM – The South African minister of higher education said late Thursday that he had been denied entry to Palestine by Israeli authorities in revenge for political stances against Israeli policies.
“This is not only an act against him, but also an act against him as a member of the Cabinet, so by extension it’s an anti-government protest by Israel,” spokesperson KhayeNkwanyana told South African news website News24.
Minister Blade Nzimande was due to travel to the West Bank for a six-day working visit to discuss collaborations between the University of Johannesburg and Palestinian universities, a follow up to an agreement signed when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited South Africa last year.
The Ministry said, however, that the Israeli consulate refused to grant him a visa as a result of his political views in what is being labeled an “attack” on the South African government itself in the local press.
Nkwanyana said that the visa rejection was creating a “serious diplomatic problem,” noting that it effectively barred all South African officials from visiting both Palestine as well as Israel.
All travel in and out of the West Bank is controlled by Israel, meaning that Israeli military authorities hold ultimate control over any individual trying to reach the Palestinian territories.
“We must just boycott Israel,” the minister said in a statement to the press, adding that Israel was trying to “minimize the number of people who can actually see what is happening on the ground.”
He also said that he would urge South African institutions of higher education to cut their ties to Israeli institutions.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki condemned the move in a statement released on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
“Israel’s policies would not succeed in isolating the Palestinians,” he said.
“It will only embolden them into more struggle for ending Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.”
South Africa is a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause and numerous government officials have repeatedly compared the Israeli occupation and the systematic discrimination practiced against Palestinians to the racial apartheid policies practiced by the South African government against its black citizens until 1994.
Israeli authorities have repeatedly denied entry to officials from other countries and even from international bodies such as the United Nations that it feel have taken antagonistic political stances.
In January, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes, and consequences, Rashida Manjoo said she had been denied entry by Israel.
She said she had tried for months to get permission to enter in order to undertake a fact-finding mission, but had been refused entry.
In November, Israeli authorities banned the Colombian foreign minister from visiting the West Bank after discovering that she did not plan to meet with Israeli officials as well.
Perhaps you thought that the security at the Atlanta or Newark, or Dallas airports is bad, obnoxious, the worst in the world… Think twice… Of course it all began there, in the United States, from the first glory days of that hypocritical and deranged “War On Terror”: the humiliation of people, especially Arabs, especially Muslims, especially all those who are not white, but eventually everybody, at least to some degree.
But it did not just stay there. The allies joined in almost immediately, and then the ‘client’ states jumped on the bandwagon, competing in tactics and strategies of how most to humiliate those confused and helpless passengers, by censoring internet sites, digging into emails, monitoring mobile phone communications, and relentlessly spying on both citizens and foreigners.
I have travelled all over the world, to some of the most imaginable and unimaginable places. All the while being monitored and harassed, threatened and periodically attacked, even physically, I have also spread many counter-punches: I have observed, recorded, and published, who does what to whom, who is the most diligent, methodical, and ruthless bully?
Unsurprisingly, the toughest surveillance comes from Western allies and ‘client’ states, all over the world – from places that Washington, London and Paris routinely call ‘thriving democracies’.
Countries that have collapsed socially strive to impress their Western neo-colonial masters, by imposing increasingly harsh security and surveillance measures against their own people. At the same time, they are full-heartedly and enthusiastically signing up to the bizarre, ‘War on Terror’. It gives the local rulers many privileges. If they play it right, their gross human rights violations, and even their killing of the opposition, is not scrutinized.
When I recently worked in South Africa, I was told that the country is now one of the freest on earth. It has nothing to hide and it is not particularly afraid of scrutiny.
“You can photograph here, whatever you want, and nobody will tell you anything”, many of my South African friends explained to me, in Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg, as well as by those living abroad.
It is true. In fact, after few days there, you can easily forget that there are any restrictions, like a ban on filming or photographing police stations or navy ships. Nobody would ever stop you from taping, for instance, battleships at the Simon’s Town base.
South Africa is a proud BRICS country, a left-wing beacon on the African continent and, together with neighboring Zimbabwe, a target of an aggressive negative Western propaganda campaign.
Just as in South Africa, not once was I stopped from filming or photographing in Zimbabwe. And not once was I intimidated, harassed or humiliated by their immigration or customs at the airports.
That is in stark contrast with the West’s allies on the continent – Rwanda, Uganda, Djibouti, Kenya, Ivory Coast or Senegal, to name just a few.
It is not just that ‘everything is forbidden’ there, but ‘violators’ can easily be arrested, harassed, even ‘disappeared’.
When making my film, “Rwanda Gambit”, about Paul Kagame’s monstrous regime, and about the genocide it had been committing (on behalf of the Western powers) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I tried to film with a small Leica, at the border between Rwanda and DR Congo, at the Gisenyi/Goma crossing. Within a few seconds later, an enormous Congolese soldier grabbed me and began pulling me towards the border post. I have been arrested in Goma once before, and I knew what it amounts to – what it is to rot in the underground intelligence bunker cut off from the outside world.
I was almost certain that, that time, I would not make it out alive. And so I screamed for help in the direction of the Rwandese soldiers who were watching the scene from the other side of the borderline. It is not that they were really eager to help, but the disappearance of a US citizen, an investigative journalist at that, would be an extra, and unnecessary ‘annoyance’. And so they went to work, grabbing my free hand and pulling me back towards Rwanda. The enormous Congolese man in the end lost, and I survived.
All of this over just a few shots! Nobody would ever even think about preventing me from filming on, say the border between Argentina and Chile, or Vietnam and China!
In Rwanda itself, absolutely everything is forbidden, and everybody snitches on everybody. It is forbidden to photograph the streets, the hospitals, and museums, even the genocide memorial! It is strictly banned to photograph or to film their villages, In order to film military installations or prisons, I had to attach a Drift camera to the undercarriage of my car.
In Rwanda and Uganda, everything is under the surveillance. Walls have ears and eyes, so to speak. It is not like surveillance in London, done with high-tech cameras (although these are also beginning to appear); people simply spy on each other, at an unimaginable rate, and the security apparatus appears to be present absolutely everywhere, omnipresent.
But for the West, that is all fine. Both Rwanda and Uganda are plundering DR Congo of Coltan and uranium. The 10 million lives lost there, appears to be just a token price, and the horrors that are occurring in these countries are just some tiny inconvenient episodes not even worth mentioning in the mainstream press.
Security is ‘needed’, in order to maintain ‘order’ – our order.
The humiliation of travellers at Kigali, Kampala or Nairobi airports is indescribable. It is not about security at all, but about a power game, and plain sadism. In Kigali, there are at least 8 ‘security checks’, in Nairobi 6 to 7, depending on the ‘mood’ at the airport.
Three years ago, on behalf of the West (mainly US, UK and Israel), Kenya attacked the oil-rich part of Somalia, where it is now committing atrocities. Its state apparatus also perpetrated several attacks against its own civilian targets, blaming all of them on the al-Qaida linked movement, al-Shabaab. It was done in order to justify the ‘security measures’.
Now there are metal detectors in front of every department store, hotel or office-building in Nairobi. When I, earlier this year, photographed the entrance to a prison, I was literally kidnapped, thrown into the jail and informed: “We will treat you as a terrorist, as an al-Shabaab member, unless you prove that you are not.”
The slightest argument with the Kenyan military forces, or with the corrupt and outrageously arrogant police, leads to detention. And there are cases of people being harassed, sexually molested, even tortured and killed in detention.
The security forces in East Africa cooperate, as the security forces cooperated in the dark years of the fascist military dictatorships in South America.
As I was walking with my friends through Kampala, a huge lone figure slowly walked towards us.
“That is one of the butchers and he comes from Kenya”, I was told. “He tortures and kills people that pose a danger to this regime… He does things no local person would dare to do. Our countries exchange the most sadistic interrogators; ours go to Kenya, Kenyans come here.”
I recalled that even Paul Kagame, now the President of Rwanda, used to serve as the Chief of the Military Intelligence in Uganda.
Yes, the Newark and Houston airport security is bad, and the surveillance in the West is outrageous, but it is being taken to insane extremes in the ‘colonies’.
In Djibouti, which is basically a military enclave of the French Legionnaires, the US air force and other European armed forces (Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea and Ethiopia are all just a stone-throw away), I once complained at the airport that my passport was being checked twice within a distance of 10 feet. As a result, a huge soldier grabbed me, tore my shirt, threw me against the wall, and then smashed my professional camera against a concrete wall. All this happened in front of the horrified passengers of Kenya Airways. That, I found somehow intolerable. It pissed me off so much that I got up, ready to confront the soldier, no matter what. But the horrified voice of a Kenya Airways’ manager stopped me: “Sir, please leave it at this… They can just kill you, and nothing will happen to them. They can do anything they want!”
In Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire), which is yet another French military dependency, and generally a loyal servant to Western interests in West Africa, ‘security’ is the main excuse for keeping undesirable elements, like myself, away from the country. Earlier this year I embarked on a journey there to investigate the chocolate empire activities of the Ukrainian President Poroshenko. Ivory Coast is the biggest producer of cocoa in the world, and ‘the Chocolate King’ is apparently involved in many unsavory practices there.
The authorities were tipped off in advance that I was coming, and the charade began from the moment I landed. I was ordered to produce my yellow fever certificate, which was inside my bag. As I began searching for it, I was roughly ushered into a small room full of sick people quarantine – and informed that I was to be vaccinated again. I found the certificate just a few seconds later, and went out to present it to the authorities. “Back!” they shouted at me. Wait inside for your turn, and tell the doctor that you have found it. The wait turned out to be 2 hours long. Later, I was told that a visa on arrival is no longer available. For days I had to go to the immigration office, from morning to the evening. For days I was fingerprinted and photographed. I clearly saw that wires were disconnected from their computer, every time my turn came round. “Your fingers are not good for fingerprinting! Go to the hospital and bring a certificate that they are not good!” Going there costs US$100 a time, and another wasted day in Abidjan. The hospital said that my fingers were just fine. I had to bribe them to write that they were not.
The US embassy was clearly aware of what was happening. They even sent an officer to ‘assist me’. I showed him that the wires had been pulled out from the computer. “We cannot interfere in other country’s internal affairs”, he explained.
Then, on the last day, when my visa was finally issued, a lady from the US embassy whispered into the phone: “Well, if you write what you do, you must be ready for the consequences”. ‘Honest person’, I thought.
I am almost ‘embarrassed’ to write this, but I have driven on many occasions, all over China (PRC), around at least 8,000 kilometers, but have never been prevented from photographing or filming anything. I have hours and hours of footage and thousands of photographs from many corners of the nation.
A stark, almost grotesque contrast is India, the ‘largest democracy on earth’, according to the Western assessment.
There, nothing is allowed. Forget about filming the battleships near Mumbai (even the Soviet Union does not care – they would put their battleships on the Neva river in Leningrad during celebrations, for everyone to admire and to photograph them, which I did, as a child, when visiting my grandmother). You cannot even photograph that idiot Clive, inside the Victoria Monument in Calcutta.
In India, surveillance is everywhere. It is the perfect police state.
You need a local SIM card in Beijing? Even in the middle of the night, you just go to any kiosk and buy one, no questions asked, no paperwork.
In India, to get a SIM card is one tremendous saga, monstrous bureaucracy, spiced by demands for all sorts of documents and information.
You want to use the internet at New Delhi airport? You have to provide your name, your telephone number, and your email address! I invent names, like Antonio Mierdez or Amorsita Lopez; sometimes it works, sometimes not. In China, you just stick the front page of a passport onto a scanner, and get password within ten seconds. In South Africa, there is not even need for that – the internet is open and free.
And then, those legendary, those epic security checks in India!
The Indian state appears to be thoroughly paranoid, scared of anyone trying to document the reality.
It has developed an allergy to writers, investigative journalists, film-makers and photographers, especially those that happen to be ‘independent’, therefore ‘unpredictable’ and potentially capable of challenging the clichés fabricated in Washington, London and New Delhi, that depict the country as the ‘largest democracy on earth’.
To fight against such threatening elements, the Indian regime, which consists of the moneyed elites, feudal lords, religious fanatics and the military brass, have become pathologically obsessed with security, with surveillance, with relentless checking on things, and people. I have never witnessed such security zeal, even in countries that are under a direct threat from the West: such as Cuba or China.
Even domestic flights in India, from smaller cities like Varanasi or Jaipur, require an entire chain of security steps. Your passport or ID is checked on at least 10 occasions. As you enter the airport, a few steps later, before you are allowed to check in, when you are checking in, as you are entering the departure area, when you are in the departure area (that one is grand – you are forced to step on a platform and everything is checked), when you are entering the departure gate and when you are leaving it for the plane door. Sometimes there are additional checks. It is all, mostly, very rude.
In Turkey, everything is censored. From my official website to ‘Sitemeter’, even the Hong Kong MTR and Beijing and Shenzhen subway maps (maybe just in case someone wants to compare those pathetic subway developments in Istanbul and Ankara, to those in China).
When I called the guest relations supervisor at the four star ‘Kalyon Hotel’ in Istanbul, where I was staying in November 2014, I was told that she “does not know what internet provider is used by the hotel”, but that censorship is actually part of a “security program”, which in turn is part of “the hotel policy”, or vice versa.
She actually kindly suggested that I bring my Mac ‘downstairs’, so the IT manager could “do something with it”. I very politely, declined, remembering an experience two years earlier, at the Sheraton in Istanbul, where the ‘IT manager’ actually installed some spy wear, which totally and immediately corrupted my computer, my email addresses, turning my operating system into something that has since been insisting on functioning almost exclusively in the Turkish language. When I complained over the phone, he, the IT manager, went upstairs, kicked my door, rolled up his sleeves and he let me know that this matter could be settled most effectively, outside the hotel, most likely in the street.
It may sound bizarre, but in the countries literally besieged by hostility from the Empire, like Cuba or even North Korea, security appears to be much more lax than in the nations where the elites are terrified of their own poor majority.
I don’t remember going through any security, in order to enter a theatre or a hotel in Havana. In Pyongyang, North Korea, there are no metal detectors at entrances to shopping centers, or subway stations.
It goes without saying that one is monitored more closely by the security cameras and armies of cops in London or New York, than in Hanoi or Beijing.
The most common mode of modern communication – the mobile phone – is regulated much less or monitored in Vietnam, China or Venezuela, than in India, Japan, or Europe. In fact, Japan recently even discontinued the sale of pre-paid SIM cards; every number has to be meticulously registered and issued only after signing an elaborate contract.
As I keep reporting, the world is full of stereotypes and clichés. Countries are not judged by rational analyses and comparisons, but by chimeras created by commercial mass media, especially those in the West.
Three countries in Latin America are still living the nightmare of the ‘Monroe Doctrine’: Honduras, Paraguay and Colombia. In Paraguay and Honduras, the West basically managed to overthrow progressive governments and installed fascist regimes, not unlike those that reigned all over the continent during Ronald Reagan and Otto Reich’s days. Colombia has been, for decades, a US ‘client’ state.
Surveillance in all three countries is monstrous, and so are gangs and death-squads.
But you would not guess it. If you read Western reports, including those produced by Reporters Without Borders, you would think that the true villains are actually countries like Venezuela and Cuba. But then, you look closely, and see who organizations like Reporters Without Borders are playing with… And surprise-surprise: you will discover names like Otto Reich among them!
When Thailand, another staunch ally of the West and a shamelessly servile state, began photographing people at the airports and borders, I asked an immigration officer in Bangkok, where all the data goes. She answered, without any hesitation: “To your country!” That is, to the United States.
Malaysia and its immigration used to be quite different – relaxed and easy. But then, earlier this year, Obama came aboard his diplomatic tank. I landed in Kuala Lumpur just an hour after his Air Force One had touched town. What did I encounter? A fingerprinting machine at KLIA! Obama left, but the machines are still there. To spy on people, to fingerprint and photograph them, is apparently one of the conditions of being a good friend of the West. That would never have happened in the era of Dr. M!
Even Japan now photographs and fingerprints people arriving from abroad! Japan where one can even easily and freely photograph combat air force bases (some of them, including those in Okinawa, have viewing terraces for tourists, all around them) is now also spying on people! That is, obviously, one of the rules laid down by the gang that is ruling the world.
Of course the Western allies of the United States are not much better.
Do you still remember how Europeans were bitching about having to take of their shoes at US airports? What has happened now? They do it, without protesting, at their own airports, in London, Paris, Munich, everywhere.
In fact, the most repulsive security I have ever encountered in the West was at CDG, in Paris. I was taking a night flight on Asiana Airlines, from Paris to Seoul. The flight was full of Korean tourists in their seventies and eighties. The tables were set up, sadistically, far away from the X-ray machines, so the poor old people had to carry their bags and belongings quite a long distance. Security personnel were yelling at them, insulting them. I protested, on behalf of the Koreans. A tough French dude came up to me and began insulting me. I asked for his name. He turned around and mooned me, in public. He took down his pants and showed me his hairy ass. “My name is Nicolas Sarkozy”, he said. In a way he was right…
Once I arrived very early in the morning, in Darwin, Australia, after working in East Timor. My electronic travel authorization was for ‘tourism’. The unfriendly immigration officer was clearly on her power trip: “What are you going to do in Australia?” I told her I would be meeting some of my academic friends in Sydney.” “That is work, academic exchange!” she barked at me. “You requested a tourist permit.” I explained that we would just have dinner together, perhaps get pissed”. That was the typical Aussie-type of tourism, I thought. The interrogation began and went on for 2 hours. As the sun was rising, I had had enough: “Then deport me!” Of course she did not. Humiliating people was simply a form of entertainment, or how to kill a couple of boring hours. Or how to show people where they really belong!
How free and proud one should feel entering that great world of Western democracies!
One has to lie, of course. Once I was held for 4 hours by the Canadian immigration services, entering from the US by car. Why? I told the truth, that I was coming to interview Roma (Gypsy) people fleeing from persecution in the Czech Republic (a staunch ally of the West).
Leaving Israel is beyond anything that I have ever experienced elsewhere in the world. Especially once Mossad realized that I had come to trash Israel for its treatment of Palestinian people, and for its foreign policy.
We commonly end up discussing my grandparents, my books, and my films. I have already commented: no woman in my life, not even my own mother, wanted to know so much about all the details of my existence, as Mossad agents at the airport! And none of them has ever listened so attentively!
I am totally exhausted from all that freedom given to me by the West and its allies.
My email addresses are corrupted and I don’t even know which publication or television network is actually receiving my stuff. There is absolutely no way to tell. I have no idea which immigration service will screw me next, and how.
I have already got buggered about by the security in Colombia, Canada, Indonesia, Kenya, Djibouti, Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Kenya, the US (entering from Mexico), Bahrain and Australia… I can hardly remember, there is much more…
It is all turning into a game of Russian roulette.
My African, Indian, Arab and Latin American friends and colleagues are, of course, going through much deeper shit.
The question that I keep asking myself is very simple: “What are they all so afraid of?” I don’t mean the US and Europe – those are control freaks and they simply don’t want to lose their control of the world… There, it is all transparent and clear.
But it is not as clear elsewhere: what about those regimes in India and Turkey, in Honduras and Kenya, in Indonesia (you have to show your passport or the national ID, even to board a long distance train!) and Bahrain?
What are they fighting for or against? Who is their enemy?
They are fighting against their own people, aren’t they?
Their ‘War on Terror’ is their war against the majority. The majority are the terror. The West is the guarantee of the status quo.
They – the elites and their masters in the West – watch in panic that in many parts of the world, the people are actually winning.
That is why the security in the West’s ‘client’ states is on the increase. The war against the people goes on. This war is one of the last and brutal spasms of feudalism and imperialism.
Check everything and spy on everybody, so nothing changes, nothing moves. But things are moving, and fast! And all those lies, and surveillance cameras, fingerprints and the ‘disappearing’ of people will not be able to prevent progress. They will never manage to smash the people’s dreams of living in societies free of fear!
The defense team of the South African police who dispersed a demonstration by killing 34 miners on August 16, 2012, said on Thursday that the surviving demonstrators should be charged with treason.
The Marikana Massacre happened after the Lonmin mine workers started a strike to demand better wages.
Prior to the massacre, two police were killed by the miners during clashes outside the Lonmin compound; however, the legal representatives of the miners union asserts that the police were killed by one or two workers and that not everybody was violent or even armed at the time.
Ishmael Semenya, who is representing the South African Police Service (SAPS), says that the miners were planning to attack the police, a state organ, so they should be charged with treason.
However, lawyer Dali Mpofu, who represents the miners, said that the tension was caused by the police, who failed to advise the demonstrators that they were planning to disperse the rally.
Police assert that the miners, some of whom were armed with spears and sticks, tried to kill them; however, the union legal advisers assert that the police reactions were a result of the anger of their two colleagues’ death.
Mpofu also said that the police acted on political considerations and rushed to end the strike, fearing Julius Malema, a controversial politician who is popular among the poorer sectors of the population, could interfere and worsen the situation.
Malema said he was with the workers and urged them to maintain their strike. He has served in different public positions with the African National Congress party administration, but he was expelled from the party on 2012 over a hate speech accusation.
Now he is commander-in-chief of his new party, the Economic Freedom Fighters.
Both sides’ arguments were submitted this week, marking the final phase of the investigation being carried out by the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, which was ordered by President Jacob Zuma.