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Forum Post: Changing Israel From Without

Posted 6 months ago on March 30, 2014, 2:50 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5878)
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Changing Israel From Without

Sunday, 30 March 2014 12:29
By Dennis J Bernstein, Consortium News | News Analysis

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/22774-changing-israel-from-without

Ilan Pappe, an Israeli citizen born in Haifa to German-Jewish parents who had fled the Nazis, became a teacher, author and strong critic of Zionism which he saw evolve from a desire for a safe haven for Jews into a system of racial intolerance toward the human rights of Palestinians.

His criticism of Zionism and his eventual support for a boycott strategy to compel a change in Israel’s policy toward Palestinians led to his departure from the University of Haifa in 2007 and his move to Exeter University in Great Britain, where he has continued his writing and his criticism of Israeli behavior.

Pappe’s books include The Bureaucracy of Evil: The History of the Israeli Occupation; The Boycott Will Work: An Israeli Perspective; The Case for Sanctions Against Israel; The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel; Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War Against the Palestinians; Out of the Frame: The Struggle for Academic Freedom in Israel; and The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947–1951. His next book, Peoples Apart: Israel, South Africa and the Apartheid Question, is due out next month.

Pappe was interviewed by Dennis J Bernstein for the Flashpoints show on March 19.

DB: Why don’t you give us your best shot of what life is like for Palestinians now, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. I mean, are they better off than 20 years ago?

IP: No, no, they are probably not. I think the different experiences Palestinians are going through, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, it depends where you are geographically. But, in general, each and every one of them is subjected to a policy of oppression and occupation, and is under the danger of being either ethnically cleansed or killed or imprisoned.

I think the worst place, nowadays, is probably the Gaza Strip, where the ghettoization of the Strip continues, especially with the new policies of the Egyptian government, that in a way copies the Israeli policies now. And so the siege is even tighter than it was before, and most human rights organizations are fearful of huge human catastrophe that can happen in any day in Gaza.

In the West Bank, I think, that your listeners may remember or not remember, the West Bank is divided according to the Oslo Agreement to three areas; to areas A, B and C. Area C, which is almost half of the West Bank, is under direct Israeli control. And the Israelis are looking for ways of getting rid of the people who live there. So, I think, in the West Bank, this is the area where people are under an imminent danger of being ethnically cleansed.

But I don’t think it’s much better elsewhere, in terms of economic conditions, social conditions, and the fact that for more than 45 years these people are at the mercy of the Israeli military and its absolute control of their life.

DB: And the huge wall, the house demolitions in Jerusalem, and the expanded settlement building make it for … if I get this right, from the Palestinian side, impossible to even begin to think about any kind of negotiations.

IP: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that the Israelis back in ’67 already had this formula that for some reason Jewish citizens or inhabitants need space beyond the place of habitation. They need a garden, they need a park, they need some sort of an expansion. Palestinians, according to the Israelis, need only the place where they live. I mean, physically live, so towns are not allowed to expand, villages are not allowed to expand. And, their idea … the Israeli basic idea of a state of Palestine is in a similar way. So it will have, at best 50 – 40 percent of the West Bank, and the rest would be enclaves such as the one in Gaza. This is no way any human society could exist for very long, definitely not to be defined as a state or as an autonomous political creation.

DB: Let’s talk about this use of the word apartheid, as it refers to Israel and South Africa. And in the new book, that’s not out yet, in Peoples Apart: Israel, South Africa and the Apartheid Question, you do come head-on at the notion of apartheid as it relates to Israel and South Africa.

IP: Yeah. I think that the idea of comparing apartheid South Africa to Israel became more and more relevant since we discovered that, for many people especially in the West, a better understanding, what goes on in the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians is the South African model. So it started as an activist idea with Israeli Apartheid Week all over American and later on European campuses.

But I think what the book, I am editing, is doing, it tries to take it one step further. It involves the academic community. So we take a serious look at the two case studies. And I think what we find, and we’re not the only ones, but I think that’s one of the first books to do it in a thorough, systematic way, is that historically, you are talking about two settler colonialist societies that adopted very similar ideas and attitudes towards the native population.

And if you move to 1948, which is the year which apartheid officially was announced [in South Africa], it is the year when Israel ethnically cleansed the Palestinians, not surprisingly, the same year. You can see that also more recent history has a lot in common in the way that the native population is referred to.

And I think the most important part of this comparison is to seek the solutions that were relevant for bringing down apartheid, and to adapt them to the case of Israel and Palestine. That means getting out of the idea of the two-states model. That means understanding that Palestinians, also those who live in Israel, not just in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, are under an oppressive regime. Understanding that the Israeli legal infrastructure, its practices, its policies, its ideology, the basic ideology that underlines the whole idea of a Jewish state has a lot in common with the ideology that underlined the apartheid regime in South Africa.

So you have a whole, kind of issues in the past, in the present and in the future that make this comparison a very powerful idea. Not only for analyzing what’s going on, but also as a prognosis of how to get out of it. As a counter idea to the mainstream idea of peace that has been, sort of conducted in the last 25 years by this country where we are here, the American kind of led peace process, leading nowhere, it will end nowhere.

If you treat Israel and Palestine as a case of apartheid, you are not looking for a peace process, you are looking to change a regime, to end an oppressive regime. And I think that is what is too powerful about this comparison, it offers a different agenda, instead of the failed agenda of peace as it has been led by the Americans in the last 25 years.

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[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

DB: Okay. Can you break down the structural comparison? Go through that for us. How you see this?

IP: Yeah, there are about five or six different groups of Palestinians today ruled by Israel, between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. So we have to view Israel and Palestine as one geopolitical entity. Israel controls every square inch of that entity. But it rules in different ways, the lives of different Palestinian groups.

In some case, some Palestinians fare much better than Africans did under apartheid. In other cases, they are in far worst situation that the Africans were ever under apartheid regime. But taken together, taken together from the legal point of view, from the constitutional point of view, Israel is an apartheid state. I’ll give a few short examples, so the people would understand what we are talking about.

Ninety-seven percent of the land inside of state of Israel belongs to the Jewish Agency. That means that Jews are not allowed to sell land to Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are 20 percent of the society. So there is a segregation, there is an apartheid, there is a separation in the access to land. Land ownership, according to the Israeli law, is biased in such a way that only Jews have access to land.

Let’s take another example. The idea of social welfare or benefits that the state is giving its citizens. Israel does not officially discriminate against the Palestinians, as Palestinians. It has a formula which says that anyone who didn’t serve in the army is not going to get the full benefits that the state is giving to its citizens. However, Jews who didn’t serve in the army, like the older Jews, do get all the benefits. So it remains only as a discriminatory policy towards the Palestinians in Israel.

This is the group that relatively fares better than the rest, but then you move on to the West Bank. You have roads and highways and motorways which are only for Jews.

DB: So these are Jewish-only roads and highways?

IP: Even South Africa didn’t even have that, that’s an Israeli invention.

DB: What happens if a Palestinian gets caught on a Jews-only road?

IP: I tell you what happens. They would be arrested, they would be imprisoned without a trial, they probably would offer two ways out of a long prison term. One is to become a collaborator of the secret service or to pay a very, very high sum of money, which most of them don’t have. And then they will spend without a trial, a year or two years in prison.

DB: All for being on a Jews-only road?

IP: Yeah. And there are checkpoints that make sure that most of them are being stopped from going on these roads, physically, by the checkpoints.

DB: Can you make a mistake, end up on these roads, and then end up in a lot of trouble?

IP: You can. You definitely can. You can end up in any Jewish space which is defined by the state as Jewish space without a permit. And if you don’t have that permit then you are in big, big trouble. Now, of course, the problem is that with 60 percent unemployment, Palestinians would risk going through being punished this way, because there are no jobs in the Palestinian areas. There are only jobs in the Jewish areas. So they would risk crossing the border, crossing the checkpoint, crossing the wall, in order to bring food to their families. But they are, in some cases, they even risk their own life because they can be shot, as well.

These are practices which were at the darkest age of apartheid in South Africa, the checkpoints in the townships, between the townships and the white areas. And there is a similar kind of separation.

Now the Israeli education system is segregated until up to the universities. What the listeners should understand, it’s not the petty apartheid of South Africa. What I mean by that, there are no different benches, and no different toilets, and no different…

DB: But you’re saying Arabs and Jews don’t go to school together.

IP: No. No. No, they don’t go to school. But they can meet in the university, in the university.

DB: Are the schools equivalent? Are the Arab schools as good?

IP: No, they are not as good. And the whole program is designed by Jews for the Arabs, in Israel. As I said before, it’s not the petty apartheid, although I think Israel is moving towards the petty apartheid because they don’t have enough control in the old means.

It’s more invisible, it’s more sort of glass ceilings because Israel, at least until recently, wanted to portray itself as both Jewish and democratic, both an ethnic racist state but one which is also democratic. And I think that kind of marketing is not going well anymore.

I just published a book in February called The Idea of Israel in which I share how the whole marketing campaign of Israel, the truth trying to square the circle, to say Israel an apartheid state, but we’re also a democratic state, is collapsing…

I think, really, coming back to the main point. I remember when Desmond Tutu came to the West Bank and some other, sort of big shots of the ANC [African National Congress] came and I was accompanying them. They mentioned something which I had never thought of before. And I said, “Why do you keep telling me that this is worse?” Because I read so much on the life of Africans under the apartheid regime, and I was always moved. And it looked so callous and cruel. I said “Why are you so insistent that this is worse, in its totality?”

And Desmond Tutu said something very important. He said, “The whites in South Africa wanted to exploit the African. Which is very bad. They wanted to exploit, they wanted to make sure that everything is in their hands. But nonetheless, they still mixed. I mean there was an African nanny in every house of white families.” He said, “My feeling is …” and he’s absolutely right … “that Zionism doesn’t want to exploit the Palestinian, it wants to eliminate him.”

And it’s far worse. If you’re exploited, then one day you liberate yourself. But if someone wants to eliminate you, and will succeed, there is no redemption. There is no end. And this I think, someone … only people coming from South Africa could immediately see this, that this is worse. I mean they have seen exploitation, and I think they are right. The Palestinians happen to be in a space where most of the people who have power in Israel to make decisions, don’t want to see them. I’m not talking about genocide, but ethnic cleansing. But ethnic cleansing can also lead to genocide. And there’s always this danger.

So it’s worse than apartheid because they want to separate the Palestinians from the land of Palestine. They don’t want to separate the Palestinians from the Jews, as the South Africans did (with blacks and whites). They want to separate the people from their land, from their history, and from their culture and their identity. That is a far more destructive and cruel project to my mind.

DB: John Pilger did the film, what was it in 1975 [“Palestine is the Issue”] and 25 years later he’s still doing the film [“Palestine is Still the Issue”] and he’s still calling it the same thing because it is still a core issue to peace in this world.

IP: It absolutely is. I think we are all a bit distracted and rightly so by the horrific things that are going on in Syria, and by the unpleasant events, Iran, Israel and in the Arab world. But we should never forget that it all goes back to this issue. It is the last remnants of the colonialist period and it was kind of an open wound that never healed.

And there is a direct connection between the way the United States has kept alive a colonialist project, into the Twenty-first Century, and the horrible things that we are seeing elsewhere in the Middle East. The Middle East is not able to sort of remove the shackles, if you want, of the colonialist past and move into a different phase because there was this question of Palestine remained open, and unresolved. It epitomizes double talk of the West. It epitomizes the hypocrisy of the West, and so on. And it gave pretext to a lot of bad people to do bad things to their own brothers and sisters. Because they would say, “Yes, but look at the Americans and the Israelis.”

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

DB: I have so many questions I want to ask you about all those issues. And every time you say something I have five more questions. But I do want to get to Syria and the plight of Palestinians in Syria. But before we do that I, just to stay with the terminology that is now used by many of us, and debated by others. We use this word ethnic cleansing. We were just talking about that. Could you talk about that? When you say ethnic cleansing what are the, sort of the continuing Israeli policies that make that, and you were beginning to talk about it, but make that definition real, and not hyperbole.

IP: Yeah, yeah, for sure. You know, when I decided to write a book in 2007 called The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, I had to wander from one publisher to the other, because most of them said we’re not going to associate the term ethnic cleansing with what Israel is doing. I convinced the publisher who eventually published the book, by showing him, the guys who were running the publishing house, by showing them the definition of ethnic cleansing in the State Department website. And the State Department website is very clear. It says: “If there are two ethnic groups on one land, and one group contemplates getting rid of all or part of the other ethnic group by peaceful or violent means, this is ethnic cleansing.” And the State Department website goes on to say that “Ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity.” And that “the United States would never endorse anyone who is doing it.”

Now I took that definition and I broke it down, to historical chapters, and then I went to the present. And it was very clear to me that most mainstream Zionist ideology and the practices beginning with the major ethnic cleansing in 1948 when Israel systematically expelled 3/4 of a million Palestinians. But then, going on after ’67, I’ll give you three very short examples.

Between 1967 and until today, in the area that is called Greater Jerusalem, that is Jerusalem and everything that surrounds it, Israel had expelled by various means more than one quarter of a million Palestinians. They did it by not allowing people to come back after they left the country. By claiming that people who don’t pay their parking tickets, they cannot stay in the Greater Jerusalem area. Sometimes people are not ethnically cleansed to Jordan. They can be ethnically cleansed to Ramallah, which is a half a hour drive from the Greater Jerusalem area. But they want to Judaize this whole area. So that’s one place where ethnically cleansing continues as we speak.

Just two months ago, the Israelis were unhappy with the presence of Palestinian Bedouins in the south of Israel. And they initiated something which was called the Proper Plan. A plan to ethnically cleanse 70,000 Palestinians in the south of Israel. These Palestinians were very well organized and Israel is now thinking of how to do it in a different means because it was very clear, for the first time, this group would resist, by force.

DB: Now, you are talking about the Bedouins.

IP: The Bedouins, in the south. The Jordan Valley, which is an area which Israel wants to be clean of Palestinians has a population of 10,000 of Palestinians who are about to be evicted by force because it’s under the radar of the international community. In the old city of Akka, there are 20,000 Palestinians living in the old city which the Israelis don’t like. They want the old city to be cleaned both of its Arab history and the Arabs who live in it.

It’s a lovely, crusader city, north of Haifa. And so it’s piecemeal ethnic cleansing. I call it creeping ethnic cleansing or incremental ethnic cleansing. What the Israelis learned is that you cannot do the massive ethnic cleansing you did in 1948, again. The world is too alert, too focused, and the Palestinians are in much larger numbers. So they do it incrementally, they do it stage by stage.

But I really think that the future, as far as, unfortunately, most Israeli policymakers see it, is to have as much of what used to be Palestine as possible, with as few Palestinians in it, as possible. Now you can ethnically cleanse people by enclaving them, by putting them like in Gaza, in a ghetto. You don’t have to expel the people of Gaza. You can just starve them to death. Or you can physically take them out of the area that you want. I think the world becomes more and more aware of it, because of the alternative media, like your station but because of the work of activists and so on.

And it’s part of the new dictionary. We talk about apartheid, we talked about ethnic cleansing. I think we are experimenting with a new language when we talk about Israel and Palestine. Not peace process, not even occupation. It’s colonialism, it’s ethnic cleansing, it is apartheid. These are three new terms, if you want. Three new entries in a new dictionary that I think will dominate the conversation about Israel and Palestine, and would expose what the Israelis were trying to hide for many years. And we’ll call a spade a spade. You will not be able to hide behind liberal Zionist ideas of Israel as a Jewish democracy.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

DB: By the way, what’s your definition of Zionism?

IP: Zionism, for me, today definitely is a racist ideology that is targeting only Palestinians, in a sense that Zionism says that the idea of a Jewish state is the most supreme value compared to any other value, whether it’s a human rights value or a civil rights value. Zionism is an ideology of power, today, that would justify very much like apartheid, discriminating against the Palestinians in every aspect of life. Zionism, historically, was a bit more complex. It was a noble idea, to begin with, of people who were trying to find a secure place…

DB: …for Jews to live…

IP: …from Nineteenth Century Europe. And even then, yeah, I’m not crazy about nationalism but it’s okay, everybody else was trying to. I think Zionism became a colonialist project the moment it targeted Palestine as the land where it wants to fulfill its ambition, to find a secure home for the Jews, and to redefine Judaism as nationalism. The moment they decided to do it in Palestine it became a colonialist project. And what we needed to do then, and what we need to do now is to see what happens to the people at the receiving end of Zionism. Not what it does to Jews but what it does to others.

I think the late Edward Said, was quite right when he said “Basically, Zionism for Jews was not a bad thing. But it was the worst thing that could have happened to Palestinians.”

DB: Well, this could be a one word answer. Do you see any difference between the Republicans and the Democrats when it comes to Israel and Palestine? No!?

IP: No, no, really. No. I don’t see … I mean the only good news in America are the campuses that have really changed, civil society has really changed. American political elite is still stuck in a horrible kind of posture that only perpetuates the suffering of people rather than ending it.

DB: Alright, two things, I want to get to. One is, in the context of the South Africa parallel, there is now a boycott of Israeli corporations that do business [in the occupied Palestinian territories]. Do you see that as an effective movement? Is that an important movement in this move to resist this kind of, what you call, ethnic cleansing?

IP: Well, definitely. I think the whole campaign, the BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions. We don’t have sanctions as yet. I think the idea that we should have sanctions is very, very important. First of all it galvanized activists all around the western world after years of being sort of more low key in their support of Palestine. It really gave new orientation to the solidarity with the Palestinians, which is not an easy thing. We don’t have an ANC, as we used to have in the days of anti-apartheid. But things are fragmented, are not united, it is not very clear who leads them. And yet people wanted to show their sympathy and solidarity with the Palestinians. And I think the BDS, this campaign was very powerful.

Secondly, I think it is a very important definer, a kind of signifier of what Israel is. You do not adopt or you do not support the idea of boycott if you believe that a society can change from within. And I think what the importance of this message is a very clear, and to my mind, accurate analysis of the political mood in Israel. Israel is a society that will not change from within. And the only way it will change, if someone would send it a powerful message, kind of a wake-up call, “You have to change, otherwise you will pay a price.”

And, the final point I would say about the BDS, the Palestinian society that asked for the BDS replaced this as a strategy, replaced the arms struggle, the suicide bomb, with these ideas. I think it is far better to have this non-violent means of trying to force Israel to change its policies, than the horrible kind of things, that suicide bombs brought with them. Not only to the Israeli Jews, but also to the Palestinians themselves.

DB: And there’s an amazing model in that they’ve seen what happened in South Africa.

IP: Exactly. There is a proven success story there, which inspires people to go on with this.

DB: Alright. I want to have you respond to the situation in Syria. Incredible impact on Palestinians there, over the border, in Lebanon. These are stories we’re not hearing about.

IP: Right. No, definitely, the whole Yarmouk Camp, one of the largest Palestinian refugee camps has been wiped out, and nobody is talking about it.

DB: How many people is that?

IP: It’s about 20,000-30,000 people who just disappeared without trace, in many ways. I think that what happens in Syria took us long time to digest, and its connection to Palestine is very important, on two levels. One is, of course, the level of the suffering of the people there. And, instead of trying to take sides, who is to be blamed? … the Assad regime that nobody should celebrate as a human achievement, or the opposition that doesn’t seem to be much better?

In every respect, the people themselves, for every Syrian that is killed there is a Syrian who is a hero. A physician who remains in a city, and continues to treat his patients, and so on. So, there is out of the inhumanity, Syria shines also the humanity of the people. So I think on one level there is this, next door to Palestine, there is both the most horrific scene that you can see, but also the most inspiring one, in many ways. But the West doesn’t report the inspiring stories.

The second aspect is far more important in a way. Israelis believed until recently that they are not connected to the Arab world. They are located somewhere between Norway and Scotland. And they have nothing to do with what’s going on. And the fire, and the slaughtering and everything, it’s not their world.

And, of course, this is a mistake, they are in the middle of the Arab world. They are part of the Arab’s world’s problems. They could be a part of the Arab world’s solutions, but they don’t want to, they don’t want to. And the turmoil, the storm that is now sweeping the Arab world, will reach Israel as well. It won’t help them.

You know, I said to an Israeli newspaper, they interviewed me lately and they usually don’t. But he started arguing with the interviewer and me about, he kept saying, “You know, but the Arab world, whatever happens in the Arab world has nothing to do with us.” So, I decided what else could I tell him, I gave him two images, which I think, for me, sums up the relationship between Israel and what’s going on in the Arab world. One image, I said to him, you know, even if you occupy the best deck on the Titanic, you are still on the Titanic.

DB: You are going down.

IP: Exactly, so it won’t help you. And since I saw that didn’t work too well. I said think about the roof of the American embassy in South Vietnam in 1975. I said, “Do you remember the images of the helicopters and how people were fighting to get on them? This is one scenario that Israelis should take very seriously.” Of course, Israelis say, “We have 250 nuclear weapons, we have the strongest army. This will never happen.” And I said: “Be careful.”

DB: I’ve got two minutes left so I’m going to ask my dumb question, my dumb popular public affairs question: How could it be that a nuclear renegade like Israel where there’s, as you suggest, 250 nuclear weapon, could get away with threatening to go across a couple of countries, and bomb Iran because they might some day, sometime in the future, think about having nuclear power and maybe the beginnings [of a nuclear weapons program], how could the world accept that kind of nonsense?

IP: Well, it’s not a dumb question. I needed the whole book, as I mentioned, my recent book, my very recent book The Idea of Israel is exactly about that. Israel succeeded in marketing an impossible reality. Until recently, people would think it made sense that Israel can bomb an atomic [facility] in Iran, who knows whether they [Iranians] have or want to have atomic bombs or not, and be totally immune from its [Israel’s] own policies.

But this is not the only paradox. Israel can get away with so many practices and policies and strategies that no other country in the world can get away with. And I think that kind of immunity, that allowed the Israeli impunity, is now under question. And, for the sake of my Israeli friends, and my family, and all my friends who are out there, I keep telling them: “If it won’t come from you, it will come from the outside. And this game may be over sooner rather than later.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

Abunimah: Justice in Palestine Is Fundamental to Global Struggle Against Racial, Economic Domination

Sunday, 13 April 2014 00:00
By Rania Khalek, Truthout | Interview

http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/22848-abunimah-justice-in-palestine-is-fundamental-to-global-struggle-against-racial-economic-domination

"You can't predict the future based on what people are willing to accept right now," Ali Abunimah argues in this wide-ranging interview covering BDS, campus activism, Israel's existence as a Jewish state and his new book, The Battle for Justice in Palestine.

In his new book, The Battle for Justice in Palestine, Ali Abunimah, renowned author and co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, strikes a refreshingly positive and hopeful tone about a conflict that is anything but. The book is available directly from Truthout by clicking here.

For Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, in the walled-off ghettos of the West Bank and even inside present-day Israel, the reality could not be more grim. But the battle for justice is heating up in spaces far outside Israel-Palestine. For the first time ever, Palestinians and their allies are winning the argument, most notably on college campuses, where pro-Israel forces are waging war on Palestine solidarity activism and, by extension, free speech.

He contextualizes the Palestinian struggle as inseparable from the global struggle for racial equality, economic democracy and decolonization.

Abunimah does a masterful job laying out this winning argument in his book. But more importantly, he contextualizes the Palestinian struggle as inseparable from the global struggle for racial equality, economic democracy and decolonization, making connections that are vital to the fight against racial domination and subjugation in all its forms, particularly in the United States, where mass incarceration and border militarization are taking lessons from Israel.

During a brief reprieve from his book tour, Abunimah spoke with Truthout over the phone from Chicago about Palestine activism, BDS (boycott, divest and sanction), why Israel does not have a right to exist as a Jewish state and how Palestine solidarity activism is part of the broader global struggle against economic and racial domination.

(Spoiler alert: At the very end of the interview, Abunimah describes his recent visit to The New York Times, where he learned that, despite publicly ignoring independent media, mainstream elites are paying attention to what we have to say.)

Rania Khalek for Truthout: The first sentence of your book, "The Palestinians are winning," has probably taken many people by surprise, given the worsening reality on the ground for Palestinians. Can you explain what you mean?

"Israel's claim that it is a Jewish and democratic state is totally incompatible with universal human rights and democracy."

Ali Abunimah: What I meant is that Palestinians are winning the argument for Palestinian rights, and they're winning the argument that Israel's claim that it is a Jewish and democratic state is totally incompatible with universal human rights and democracy.

As I think the book shows, the only way Israel has to deal with this is to try to suppress the discussion, particularly through repression on campus, which we're seeing escalate in really dramatic ways all around us. But other than that, there's no way they can win. They can't win in an open discussion, and I think that that's something we've seen with the way so-called liberal Zionists have just run screaming from this debate.

I love the connections and intersections you make in your book between the subjugation and control of people of color in the United States and Palestinians and African refugees in Israel. Why do you think these connections are important to highlight?

They're important to highlight because they're real at a number of levels. One is mass incarceration. The new Jim Crow and Obama's mass deportation are products of still-very-present white supremacist and colonial mentality in the United States. These ideologies are what allow people of color to be treated essentially as a demographic threat in the United States. And that goes from Arizona, which I talk about in the book, where it's kind of ground zero. But it's also very much at the federal level and all over the country.

And these connections are real in very material ways.

In the book, I talk about this kind of conveyor belt of US police chiefs being taken on these junkets to Israel, where they're taken to places like Megiddo Prison, where Palestinian children are tortured and held in solitary confinement. And then they come out and say, "Wow, Israel is so great. We're going to take everything we learned about counterterrorism back to the United States." Our police chiefs in the US have no problem praising Israel as a paragon of human rights and good practice, and that really should set alarm bells ringing off everywhere.

So those are the connections I saw and writing this book was a process of learning about them and deepening my own understanding. But I think as a movement that something we need to do urgently is broaden and deepen our understanding of shared and joint struggle.

Israel has built an economy that benefits and grows from having a population to control. While the United States certainly doesn't need lessons in methods of racial domination, which you clearly state in your book, Israel's surveillance and weapons industry has found a big market in the United States, particularly on US-Mexico border. Why is this problematic?

It's problematic because millions of people are being victimized by this. Millions of people are having their lives destroyed by it, and there's a direct connection.

Israel uses Palestinians under occupation and under siege in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as captive guinea pigs to test these technologies of death and control on. And then they're sold to United States and other countries to perform similar tasks.

"Israel uses Palestinians under occupation and under siege in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as captive guinea pigs to test these technologies of death and control on. And then they're sold to United States."

For example, recently the Obama administration awarded a contract to Elbit Systems, one of the biggest Israeli arms companies - most notorious for weapons that have been used to commit war crimes against Palestinians. And the Obama administration gave this company a contract to set up surveillance systems on the US-Mexico border.

This is all in the context of the massive militarization of the border with Mexico and Obama's mass deportation, which has divided and caused suffering to hundreds of thousands of families in this country. And it's all being lauded as a great thing.

So if the pushback doesn't come from us, if it doesn't come from below, where is it going to come from? They're creating a really frightening dystopian future of surveillance and control, where Israel is held up as the model, where Palestinians caged in Gaza and Palestinians living in the ghettos of the West Bank are the future model that repressive states and surveillance states will use all over the world.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

When Israeli apartheid ultimately is dismantled, how can we prevent another system of oppression from replacing Israel's current system the way that mass incarceration and the drug war replaced Jim Crow in the US?

Another reason why I thought it was so important to make these connections was to really sound the alarm that the end of official Jim Crow and the end of official segregation in the United States did not mean the end of racism. It did not mean the end of white supremacy.

As Michelle Alexander [author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness] and others have shown, white supremacy simply morphed into more insidious forms, even colorblind forms. That's the new Jim Crow she talks about, which manifests as mass incarceration.

"Palestine is in many ways a testing ground for ultra-neoliberal policies."

And in post-apartheid South Africa, even though it was a tremendous victory to defeat the apartheid regime and one that we still rightly celebrate, the fact is that in South Africa 20 years after apartheid, there is still incredible economic inequality and this inequality still is alarmingly along racial lines.

We need to make sure that this isn't reproduced in Palestine. And what I wanted to show in the book is that this is not a hypothetical thing that could happen in the future but it's already happening.

That's what I talk about in the chapter called "Neoliberal Palestine," which is that you already have this very tiny, wealthy Palestinian elite that is very closely tied to the Israeli occupation and that already controls much of the Palestinian economy and if there were a Palestinian state, that wouldn't change. You would have a South Africa-type situation or worse.

So people need to put the struggle for justice in Palestine back into the context of the global struggle for economic democracy and economic sovereignty and against neoliberalism. Palestine is not separate from this struggle. It's very much part of it.

Palestine is in many ways a testing ground for ultra-neoliberal policies, like for example what's going on now, which is they're building these industrial zones where Israeli companies and foreign countries will be able to exploit Palestinian labor, where there are no protections for workers' rights, no protection for the environment, where the Palestinian Authority or Palestinian state if it ever came into being would not even be able to enter these zones to inspect them.

"We can tie the issue of Palestine back into issues of economic democracy that really affect everyone and are not just specific to [the] local Palestinian situation half way around the world."

That's the future that the World Bank and the IMF and all these governments that claim to be supportive of Palestinian independence are actually setting up right now.

Do you think the BDS movement should be incorporating economic justice into its framework to counter this?

Absolutely, and I think it's very well placed to do that. An article we published recently on the Electronic Intifada by Charlotte Silver really illustrates the power of this.

There have been quite a few campaigns against Veolia, which is this French multinational company that cities all over the world use. When they privatize their public services, like water and waste management and so on, they will contract them out to Veolia.

And Veolia has been targeted because of its profiteering from Israeli occupation. It's operated in Israeli settlements; it's run landfill sites in the occupied West Bank and so on.

When activists in United States have put together campaigns targeting Veolia, they have been successful because they have worked across issues.

They have worked with environmental groups concerned about Veolia's impact on the local environment. They've worked with bus drivers and unions, people whose jobs have been threatened or who've lost their jobs when Veolia took over transportation services. In Boston and St. Louis, they've actually succeeded in driving this occupation profiteer out because of those kinds of coalitions.

So what I'm saying is that, in very practical ways, BDS campaigns allow people to build a much deeper and broader economic analysis. It needs to go much further than that, but I think those are incredibly promising beginnings that show that we can tie the issue of Palestine back into issues of economic democracy that really affect everyone and are not just specific to [the] local Palestinian situation halfway around the world.

"Ultimately, reality cannot be covered up with marketing gimmicks and slick advertising campaigns and YouTube videos."

You have a chapter in your book titled "The War on Campus." Since your book was released a month ago, that war seems to have intensified dramatically. Is this war on Palestine campus activism getting worse?

Before I get to the book, what we've been seeing in the past few weeks is, for example, the banning of Students for Justice in Palestine at Northeastern University, which is really unprecedented in the United States - those things have happened in Canada, but in the US, I've never heard of a case like that. So we're talking about outright censorship now, and this is all being done because of campaigns and harassment by well-organized, well-funded, off-campus, pro-Israel groups.

In the case of Northeastern, as Max Blumenthal's reporting has shown, this is coming from a group called Americans for Peace and Tolerance, which is founded by this guy called Charles Jacobs.

Charles Jacobs, this very right-wing Islamophobic guy, also founded something called the David Project, which I talk about in the book. The David Project is specifically focusing on campuses, and I quote them in the book saying essentially that the future of the US-Israeli relationship and whether or not the US will continue to support Israel is a battle that is going to be won or lost on campus.

This is why they are putting these huge resources and efforts into trying to suppress Palestine solidarity on campus, including - and I discuss this in the book - an effort to redefine advocacy for Palestinian rights as a form of bigotry, so that if you're calling for an end to racial discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel or if you're calling for equal rights for Palestinians and Israeli Jews, then under their definition you are a bigot who should be subjected to university disciplinary hearings.

It also involves the misuse of US civil rights law, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, to harass and intimidate universities into cracking down on Palestine solidarity activism.

This is a huge campaign. It's national. It's organized. It's determined. And I think it's going to escalate. But I don't think it's going to work. That doesn't mean it's not going to cause really huge headaches for students and faculty in universities.

One of the architects of the use of civil rights law to harass universities, a guy called Kenneth Marcus, who I write about in the book, actually says, "It doesn't matter if we win or lose these cases. We're making it such a hassle for people to get involved in Palestine solidarity that we're scaring them off, and that's fine with us." So he really is saying pretty explicitly that the goal is to intimidate and silence people whether or not they're actually doing something wrong.

Off-campus pro-Israel groups seem to be turning increasingly to state institutions and legislatures to silence and suppress Palestine solidarity activism. Is this part of a broader trend?

This again is very much part of it, although there's been some reluctance on the part of the big pro-Israel groups to support the legislation, which has been introduced in several states - New York, Maryland, Illinois - and also the US Congress, that aim to penalize universities in really draconian ways if their faculties or departments support the Palestinian call for academic boycott of Israel.

"The Palestinian struggle, the struggle embodied in the BDS movement, is fundamentally an anti-racist struggle."

These are really undemocratic, repressive laws. I think that some of the reluctance to support them is not because these pro-Israel groups are huge defenders of free speech, but it just looks so bad for them to be turning to laws to repress free speech on campus in really explicit ways.

And by the way, these laws were particularly advocated by Michael Oren, who is a former American who became an officer in the Israeli army and Israeli ambassador to the United States. So these laws are being directly pushed by very influential Israeli figures, and sadly there are legislatures both at the state and federal level who are prepared to pick them up and run with them, to heck with the First Amendment and the Constitution.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

Israel is investing loads of money into propaganda efforts to counter BDS, which you talk about in your book. But it doesn't seem to be working? Why do you think that is?

To put some perspective on it, in the book I talk about how Israel launched a major campaign in 2010 at the behest of a think tank called the Reut Institute to, using their words, "sabotage and attack" the Palestine solidarity movement. This strategy was adopted by all the major pro-Israel organizations in the United States. And, as you say, they poured in millions or tens of millions of dollars.

But here we are four years later and boycott, divestment and sanctions are bigger than ever, people are talking about them more than ever, people are focusing on Israel as an apartheid state or a practitioner of apartheid more than ever. So yeah, it hasn't worked because, ultimately, reality cannot be covered up with marketing gimmicks and slick advertising campaigns and YouTube videos.

Just the grim reality of what Israel is doing to Palestinians in Gaza, in the West Bank where it continues to demolish homes and steal land, within present-day Israel, where it seems a week doesn't go by without the Knesset passing yet another law to discriminate against non-Jews, with the horrifying state-sponsored racism targeting African refugees and asylum seekers - you just can't hide that with slick public relations.

Also, publications like the Electronic Intifada, like Mondoweiss, like many others in independent media, get through to young people who are really where this sea change is happening.

"You can't predict the future based just on what people say they're willing to accept right now."

How many young people on college campuses get their news from the PBS NewsHour or the ABC nightly news or from CNN? Not that many that I meet. The mass media still has a big impact, but I think among young people, they're not turning to those. They're turning to media that is uncensored, where the gatekeepers cannot shut out the Palestinian narrative. That's why public relations like Israel's cannot ultimately change the direction that this is going.

More and more, I see the Israel-Palestine debate as two very different sides, one made up of white and privileged individuals who use belligerently racist rhetoric to advocate for Israel and the other a diverse and colorful coalition of impassioned, grass-roots activists dedicated to equality and decolonization around the world. Do you think that this dynamic is having an impact on the way people view the conflict?

I think it's shaping who is actually fighting for Palestinian rights and where the struggle for Palestinian rights fit into a broader struggle.

In the book, I talk about the joint work that is being done by Students for Justice in Palestine in places like Arizona and MEChA, the largest Chicano and Latino students organization in this country where they see a very strong affinity and identify with each other's struggles and see it as one struggle. I think that that's something really deep.

It's not just about putting a rainbow face on the struggle, which is what Israel is trying to do, and I talk about this in the book. They're trying to get token ethnic diversity into a campaign to defend a white supremacist settler colony.

That's what Israel is trying to do with tactics and techniques to co-opt Latino students. They even have tried to get black students in the United States to be spokespersons for Israel, which is particularly grotesque given the state-sponsored racism against people of African origin in Israel right now.

So that's the difference. It's not just about who is there, it's about the values people are defending. The Palestinian struggle, the struggle embodied in the BDS movement, is fundamentally an anti-racist struggle. It is a struggle for equality. It is rooted in universal rights. It's not just a struggle for a Palestinian ethnic group. It is a struggle that is rooted in values that are inclusive of everyone. That's the difference between Zionism and Palestinian solidarity work today. It's an unbridgeable difference.

In your book, you demolish the notion that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state. This is the first time I can remember that people are speaking about this openly, which I think speaks to how quickly the discourse is changing.

For me it was crucially important to examine this claim that is made so often. Obama supports Israel's right to be a Jewish state. Of course, Netanyahu makes this demand every time he pops up in the United States. It's a very prominent demand, but it's almost never examined from the perspective of those who would be its victims, which is, of course, Palestinians and other non-Jewish people in that territorial context. So I thought it was very important to take this claim on its own terms and really examine [it]. What does it mean in practice to say Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state? How can this right be violated? By whom? And what measures can Israel take to remedy any violation of its right to exist as a Jewish state?

"Whereas there's no public response to our criticisms, they are apparently heard deep within these elite institutions."

And what I argue in the book is that there is no legitimate remedy for having too many people of the wrong ethnic or religious group because any remedy would mean expelling them or subjecting them to different forms of apartheid, which is, of course, what's already happening. So there can't possibly be a right. Because if there is a right, then we're saying Israel has a right to be racist - and in the 21st century, that's simply unacceptable.

But I felt I needed to really lay the argument out as clearly as possible with really clear and well-documented examples, so that people could actually use this as a tool when they're confronted with this claim.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

I also think it enhances the argument against a two-state solution. In the last chapter of your book, you talk about self-determination and decolonization. There's always this panicky reaction from Zionists about what a "one-state" solution would mean for Israeli Jews.

Since I wrote my first book, One Country, which was an argument for a single decolonized democratic state, I got this response from people that, "Well, this sounds nice but of course it's utopian because Israeli Jews would absolutely never accept it, so there's just no point talking about it." And you hear that from people on the far right to people on the far left, like Norman Finkelstein.

So I thought it was really important to take that head-on and to make what I think is the very self-evident claim. But it apparently escapes many people, that those who have power and privilege are seldom in favor of giving it up. That's just not how it works.

If you had gone and polled whites in Georgia in the1950s and said, "Would you like to give black people the vote and abolish all forms of racial discrimination," what would the poll numbers have been?

In fact, the same was true in apartheid South Africa, which I show in the book. Even into the early 1990s, the number of whites in South Africa who were prepared to give up apartheid and replace it with a one-person, one-vote system was in the single digits. But in 1994, that's exactly what happened.

So you can't predict the future based just on what people say they're willing to accept right now. You have to understand how power dynamics shift and how BDS is an important part with other forms of Palestinian resistance in shifting that power dynamic so that things that seem improbable or impossible today actually become likely within a very short time.

And so I talk about the process of decolonization in South Africa and in Northern Ireland to show that, yes, these things are incredibly difficult and people resist them - but they can happen. And the idea that somehow Israelis are uniquely immune to this kind of change and development strikes me as a racist argument that says Israelis aren't capable of the kind of transformations that are going on in South Africa and Northern Ireland and other places, which haven't gone far enough, but which are underway. I don't accept that notion that somehow Israelis are fundamentally different.

What has the response to your book been? Has there been any engagement in the mainstream?

The reaction has been fantastic on college campuses, which is where I've been. Everywhere I've gone, there's been great enthusiasm to have this discussion, and I really hope this book will be a tool, particularly for activists and particularly for students, because so much of what's in it is inspired by what they're going through.

Compared with five, six years ago when my first book came out, I think we're so much further in terms of a sustained, national Palestine solidarity movement that seemed unimaginable even five years ago.

I would be interested in seeing the engagement of critics. There are a lot of so-called liberal Zionists who I would be curious to see if they're willing to take this on because I don't know if they can. This will be a test to see whether they actually have the arguments that can stand up to this. I don't know if they're going to take up that challenge, we'll have to see.

You were at The New York Times recently. Why?

I was invited to The New York Times for a project one of the reporters is doing on Palestinian Americans. Do you want to hear a story about the newsroom?

Yes!

So I went to do a video interview there and while I was there, I happened to run into Ethan Bronner [former New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief who executive editor Bill Keller refused to reassign following revelations that his son had joined the Israel Defense Forces].

I introduced myself to him and he said, "How do you know me?" I said, "I know your picture. I've seen you speaking on video." And he turned to the person he was speaking to and pointed at me, and he said, "This guy spends all his time criticizing me." And I responded to him, "I don't spend all my time criticizing you. I also criticize other people." And he said, "Well, I can't think of a time you've said anything nice about me." And I said, "Well, can you think of a time I've said anything incorrect about you?" Then I said, "It's very nice to meet you," and we shook hands and I went to do my interview.

I just thought that was interesting - that whereas there's no public response to our criticisms, they are apparently heard deep within these elite institutions.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

Truthout Interviews John Pilger on Aborigine Assimilation by Abduction in Australia

Sunday, 13 April 2014 00:00
By Ted Asregadoo , Truthout | Audio Segment

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/23050-truthout-interviews-featuring-john-pilger-on-aborigine-assimilation-by-abduction-in-australia

In the United States, it's estimated that almost 260,000 children are abducted every year. Most child abductions are by family members, with a smaller percentage committed by strangers. If you've ever seen an Amber Alert on TV, electronic billboards or even your mobile phone, you know the whole area goes into a kind of hyper-vigilant mode of being on the lookout for a car or a person matching the description of the perpetrator. News organizations broadcast stories about the search for the missing child in an effort to keep the abduction in the public consciousness – and to get ratings. Often times, the child is returned to the parent in a matter of hours or days, and the perpetrator is soon wearing an orange jumpsuit and awaiting trail.

According to a report filed by John Pilger on Truthout, Aborigine child abductions number roughly 14,000 in 2013 alone. It's not family members who are taking these children; it's the Australian government. Under a government program designed to rescue children from disease and poverty, infants and small children are sometimes forcibly taken from their parents and relatives and put up for adoption. As Pilger says in this "Truthout Interviews" podcast, the program has a kind of Catch-22 built into it. On the one hand, life expectancy among Aborigines is around 40 years of age. Diseases like trachoma (that causes blindness) are common; living conditions approach those of the poorest nations on the planet and the government claims to be trying to do something to address generational poverty among the Aboriginal population. On the other hand, to address the problem, the government sanctions child abduction, surveillance of the Aboriginal population, and secret government courts that fasttrack the removal of the children from their families. If this were an isolated case of a policy gone awry only - the Australian government spends half a billion dollars on child abduction, surveillance of the Aboriginal population, and secret government courts that fasttrack the removal of the children from their families and just half a million dollars on addressing Aboriginal poverty and health - it could perhaps be reformed in the Parliament. However, the child abduction policy is part of a long history of colonialism and neocolonialism in Australia. Assimilation policies from the 1940s to the late 1960s gave the government sweeping powers over the Aboriginal population that resulted in the removal of around 50,000 children from their communities in an effort to "breed the color out" of them. The current policy of child removal in Australia is a continuation of the assimilation programs of the past.

Pilger explains how one of the wealthiest democracies in the world that adheres to a human rights charter has so much trouble confronting and ending racist, neo-colonial practices. John Pilger's article on Truthout and recent film, Utopia, spotlight the Aborigine assimilationist policies that have been kept out of mainstream consciousness in both Australia and the world. To ignore the blatant violation of basic human rights in Australia contributes to the papering over of the long history of abuses the government has perpetrated upon the Aboriginal people - all in the name of "assimilation."

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

The Economic Destruction of Gaza

Thursday, 10 April 2014 00:00
By Ali Abunimah, Haymarket Books | Book Excerpt

http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/23004-the-economic-destruction-of-gaza

In an incisive analysis of the plight of Palestinians, journalist Ali Abunimah offers lucid insight into a people denied a national identity. Get this book from Truthout now by clicking here.

The following excerpt focuses on how the Gaza Strip, decimated by attacks and a collective punishment imposed boycott by Israel, is becoming increasingly an economic appendage of Israel. In the process, the independent business and farming structure of Gaza is collapsing:

The Battle for Justice in Palestine

Given what I knew about the effects of the siege and the economic situation in Gaza, I was struck when I visited at how supermarket shelves in the territory are stocked with Israeli goods, priced beyond the reach of many impoverished families. This is the result of a strategy more radical than anything seen in the West Bank to destroy Palestinians' economic self-sufficiency while directly benefitting Israel. Gaza is at the leading edge of what Harvard scholar Sara Roy calls Israel's "deliberate, considered and purposeful" effort to transform the Palestinian economy from "a captive economy restricted to fluctuating levels of growth (at best) but still possessed of the capacity to produce and innovate (within limitations), to an economy increasingly deprived of that capacity." During Operation Cast Lead, for instance, the Israeli forces invading Gaza destroyed the chicken farms of Sameh Sawafeary and his family in the Zaytoun area. Over several days in early January 2009, the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report records that Sawafeary and other witnesses hid in terror as they watched "Israeli armoured bulldozers systematically destroy land, crops, chickens and farm infrastructure." In all, thirty-one thousand of Sawafeary's chickens were killed. He estimated that a hundred thousand chickens had been killed at other farms. This widespread destruction was confirmed by UN satellite imagery. In discussing the army's assault on the farms in the Zaytoun area, the Goldstone Report states: "The systematic destruction along with the large numbers of killings of civilians suggest premeditation and a high level of planning."152 It finds that "the Sawafeary chicken farms, the 31,000 chickens and the plant and material necessary for the business were systematically and deliberately destroyed, and that this constituted a deliberate act of wanton destruction not justified by any military necessity."

The Israelis could offer no explanation that contradicted these factual findings. But where there was no "military necessity," there was certainly a commercial opportunity. Sawafeary told the UN investigators that he and his family had supplied approximately 35 percent of the eggs on the market in Gaza. Egg prices soared due to the large number of chickens Israel destroyed; Gaza's stores are now full of frozen chickens supplied by Israeli firms.

Israel has also repeatedly destroyed dairy processing plants (Israeli yogurt is a big seller in Gaza) and on January 4, 2009, bombed the El-Bader flour mill—the last one still operating—destroying it completely.154 Again, UN investigators found no "military necessity," but as the Goldstone Report states, the "consequences of the strike on the flour mill were significant...The population of Gaza is now more dependent on the Israeli authorities' granting permission for flour and bread to enter the Gaza Strip." The family that owned the El-Bader mill also ran a tomato-canning factory and a diaper factory, both of which had closed down before the attack because Israel would not allow empty cans and other needed raw materials into Gaza.

The fates of these and hundreds of other shuttered Gaza businesses illustrate that whatever economic destruction Israel could not achieve with the blockade, it finished off with air strikes. Indeed, such is the chilling meticulousness of Israeli planning that in January 2008, almost a year before the invasion of Gaza, the Israeli defense ministry prepared a document detailing the minimum number of calories that Gaza residents would be permitted to consume, according to demographic data such as sex and age. The defense ministry concluded that 106 truckloads of food per day would be just enough to meet a level of "nutrition that is sufficient for subsistence without the development of malnutrition." The military's analysis, published after a three-and-a-half-year court battle waged by the Israeli monitoring group Gisha, includes detailed tables of how much domestic food production existed in Gaza before the invasion. Israeli military planners were very familiar with how many chickens laid how many eggs and recommended setting a "minimum bar" for the quantity of agricultural inputs, including eggs for breeding allowed into Gaza. The military planners were also fully aware of the damaging effects of Israel's restrictions on imports of supplies and of the prohibition on exporting goods out of Gaza. The defense ministry calculated, for instance, that Gaza's production of fruits and vegetables would decline from a thousand tons per day to five hundred tons within a few months, meeting only 30 percent of the territory's needs. Gisha calculated that between 2007 and 2010, the amount of food Israel allowed into Gaza often fell far short of the minimum the defense ministry had set.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

While Israel eased restrictions on food imports in 2010, the main impact of the siege never disappeared: destruction of productive capacity, poverty, unemployment, isolation, and dependence. It should be recalled whenever Israel boasts, as it often does, about how many hundreds of truckloads of supplies it allows into Gaza on any given day that much of what comes in are Israeli consumer goods, profiting Israeli companies. Even the food supplies bought by UN agencies for the majority of Palestinians in Gaza who rely on humanitarian assistance are purchased predominantly from Israeli companies and paid for with international aid money—another direct benefit to Israel. Overall, the value of Israeli exports to the "Palestinian Authority"— the West Bank and Gaza Strip—grew from just over two billion dollars in 2006 to $3.6 billion in 2011. This puts the captive Palestinians among Israel's top ten export destinations, ahead of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, India, Japan, and China. This bonanza, in the words of Shir Hever, allows Israel's government and various Israeli companies to "reap the profits, while the international community pays the bill. The Palestinians' desperate need is turned into a lever to promote the prosperity of their occupiers."

Meanwhile, restrictions on raw materials and so-called "dual-use" items remain in place, leaving much of Gaza's productive capacity and workforce idle. A stark indicator of what Israel has done to Gaza's economy is the number of truckloads of exports it allows out from those farms or factories that can still produce even under siege. In 2000, before the Second Intifada, exports from Gaza peaked at more than fifteen thousand truckloads in a year, with hundreds of thousands of tons of fresh fruit and cut flowers being shipped to Israel, the West Bank, and markets across Europe. Exports declined as the economy plunged, hovering at just over 9,300 truckloads by 2005. In 2006 and 2007, the years of Hamas's election and the subsequent struggle with Abbas's Fatah faction, only five thousand trucks left Gaza each year. But that was still far more than what has been allowed since the tightened blockade began: from 2008 to 2012, Israel has permitted an average of just 162 truckloads of exports out of Gaza per year. That's about a dozen trucks per month.

The destruction Israel has wrought on Gaza's economy is not incidental to its "security" policies; it has been a deliberate goal. As Sara Roy points out, Israel has "explicitly referred to its intensified closure (or siege) policy in Gaza as a form of 'economic warfare.'" Israeli officials even argued that "damaging the enemy's economy is in and of itself a legitimate means in warfare and a relevant consideration even while deciding to allow the entry of relief consignments." "Israel's goal is no longer simply Gaza's isolation and disablement," Roy states, "but its abstraction and deletion. Israeli policy has shifted from addressing the economy in some manner (whether positively or negatively) to dispensing with the concept of an economy altogether." Israel now treats the economy in Gaza as "a dispensable luxury"; its impact has been the "near total collapse" of the private sector, the traditional engine of economic growth there.

Palestinians in Gaza have found creative ways around the formidable obstacles. One of the more spectacular sites I've visited was the tunnels dug deep under the border between Egypt and Gaza. My companions and I stood on the wooden planks of a large, circular platform, big enough to park two cars. The operator pressed the button and a warning horn sounded. A few seconds later the platform began to descend down the deep cement-lined shaft, guided by steel rails, cables and motors on two sides. In less than a minute we were at the bottom of the shaft, some thirty meters below, the bright sky a mere circle high above. The air was cool and clammy and got cooler still as we walked off the platform into the tunnel mouth, which was wide enough for one car and felt perfectly secure, reinforced by steel I-beams and lit with electric lamps. This was only one of hundreds of tunnels serving as lifelines, although the vast majority were much smaller.

The goods I saw entering Gaza included gravel, steel rebar, bags of cement, and bricks for construction. Some tunnels brought in gasoline, pumped through hoses and then discharged into large plastic water tanks to be transported all over Gaza. Electric winches suspended over deep shafts hauled up large canvas baskets of gravel. Then workers slid the baskets sideways along an overhead rail and dumped the gravel into pits below. Trucks rolled down ramps into the pits to load up and take the cargo away. It was all cleverly engineered for maximum efficiency. Other essentials brought in through the tunnels include food, generators to help cope with the blackouts that still leave Gaza dark for eight to twelve hours per day, and the Chinese-made moto-taxis that are replacing many of Gaza's ubiquitous donkey carts to transport goods and people. This underground economy has helped Gaza remain resilient, but at a desperately high price: since 2006, at least 232 Palestinian workers have died in the tunnels and hundreds more have been injured in what some call "graveyards for the living."165 Nine of the dead were children. At least twenty of the workers were killed as a result of Israeli airstrikes intended to collapse the tunnels, but the poverty and unemployment in Gaza ensure that the lure of paid work, even under such dangerous conditions, remains irresistible. I visited the mouth of a tunnel that had collapsed just a day earlier, killing nineteenyear- old Hamada Abu Shalouf from Rafah.

Although Hamas-controlled authorities have regulated the tunnels to some extent on the Gaza side, including requiring tunnel owners to pay compensation for deaths and injuries, the long-term consequences of the move from a formal to an underground economy are likely to include further decay of Gaza's economy while significant parts of it shift into the hands of unaccountable, clandestine organizations. The political motivations of the siege are underscored by the tacit support the blockade has always received from the Western-supported, Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah, who bet that misery would help bring down Hamas and return them to power in Gaza. In meetings with Israeli and American officials (the content of which was leaked as part of the Palestine Papers), PA officials repeatedly complained that not enough was being done to keep Gaza isolated. An exasperated PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat reported in October 2009 to US presidential envoy George Mitchell how he had chided the Israelis for not doing enough to enforce the siege and complained that US aid to Egypt to build an underground steel wall to thwart the tunnels was having no effect: "It's business as usual in the tunnels—the Hamas economy." But the tunnels still leave Gaza's economy vulnerable to political shocks: following the July 3, 2013, military coup in Egypt, the Egyptian army renewed with unprecedented ferocity its periodic campaign to destroy the tunnels to enforce the siege, including flooding them with sewage. Within weeks, the volume of building materials and affordable food entering Gaza through the tunnels had plummeted by 80 percent, leading to an immediate spike in prices and a sharp slowdown in construction, with an estimated loss of thirty thousand jobs.

All documentation can be found footnoted in the back of "The Battle for Justice in Palestine."

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

Saudi Arabia Flexes Its Fanaticism

Sunday, 30 March 2014 12:53
By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analysis | News Analysis

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/22776-saudi-arabia-fexes-its-fanaticism

Part I – An Aggressive Anachronism

Saudi Arabia is one of a handful of Middle East anachronisms: a family-based monarchy that believes it sits at the right hand of God. The Saud clan that rules in Saudi Arabia is both insular and fanatic. It is devoted to the Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam, perhaps the most strict and intolerant manifestation of the religion.

Except for the religious details, there is really not much difference between the respective outlooks of a Wahhabi true believer, a hard-core Christian fundamentalist, and the Jewish extremists in Israel. Like their Christian counterparts, the Saudis are proselytizers who spend huge sums every year supporting fanatical preachers pushing their message in far-flung parts of the world. And, like their Jewish counterparts, the Saudis have an army equipped with more advanced American weapons than they know what to do with. This, if you will, mechanizes their fanaticism.

Recently, there are suggestions that this is indeed the case. In 2011 the Saudi monarchy came to the rescue of another Middle East anachronism, the Sunni Al-Khalifa family monarchy in Bahrain. The Al-Khalifa were in trouble because for decades they had been systematically discriminating against the country's Shiite Muslim majority until, in the atmosphere of the short-lived Arab Spring, the Bahraini Shias decided to stand up and demand a bit of democracy for their homeland. When the Bahraini police, mostly imported from Pakistan, could not handle the evolving situation, the Al-Khalifa called in U.S.-armed Saudi troops to put an end to any hopes of a better, more democratic Bahrain. Even though the Saudi incursion violated the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, there was no protest from Washington.

In the meantime the Saudis have also been busy funneling money and weapons to the Sunni opposition in places like Iraq and Syria.You might not like the governments in Baghdad and Damascus, but the groups the Saudis are underwriting are often worse. Be they the suicide car-bombers of Iraq or the self-proclaimed Al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria, Saudi money, both private and government funds, along with the guns they buy, have been making their way into the hands of people who seemed to have the same callous disregard of non-combatant life and limb as do, well, the guys who operate U.S. drones in Yemen.

There have been repeated protests about this sort of Saudi behavior. The Russians have complained about it in relation to Syria, and the Iraqi government has directly accused the Saudis of sponsoring terrorism in their country. Has this given any pause to the zealots in Riyadh? No, it has not, because, like the Israelis, they know that they have God on their side and, ultimately, Washington D.C., as well.

Now the Saudis have turned their bullying ways toward their neighbor Qatar. In early March the Saudi foreign minister declared that Riyadh would "blockade Qatar by land and sea" unless that country ceases its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a mostly non-violent Muslim organization that the Saudis have illogically designated a "terrorist" group – probably because the Brotherhood proselytizes a rival interpretation of Islam and has been outlawed by the Egyptian military dictatorship, which is an ally of Saudi Arabia. They also want Qatar to close down Al Jazeera and evict several U.S.-based research organizations with offices in Doha because they have all been critical of Riyadh. Considering that most of Qatar's fresh food comes across its only land border with Saudi Arabia, the threat must be taken seriously.

Part II – Lack of a US Response

There is no indication that the United States will stand by relatively liberal Qatar any more than it supported the democracy advocates in Bahrain. As far as Washington is concerned, the oil that comes out of Saudi Arabia to America's trading partners (not much of it comes to the U.S.) is more important than the independent broadcasting of Al Jazeera, the American research centers and, without a doubt, the ideology of democracy. And it is the Saudi monarchy that keeps the oil flowing. Thus, despite some complaining, the U.S. acquiesces in the behavior of the Saudi fanatics, just as it does with the Israelis.

This means that Washington can sanction the Russians for protecting their security interests and the Russian-speaking population in the Crimea. They can sanction the Iranians for developing nuclear energy. And, they can acquiesce in the utter destitution of 1.76 million Gazans. But you will hear no talk of sanctions due to Saudi aggression or its sponsorship of terrorism.

Part III – Strange Bedfellows

At present the Saudis and Israelis are acting in unlikely unison on a range of issues such as support for Egypt's military dictatorship. This makes them strange bedfellows. What can they possibly have in common? Well, besides adhering to arrogant and aggressive notions of manifest destiny, they both fear democracy in the Middle East. And, believe it or not, we can make the duo into a trio by adding the United States. Why should all three governments fear democracy? It's really very simple. What often happens when there are free and fair elections in that region of the world? One gets leaders and governments that are (1) almost by definition wary of monarchies and other forms of dictatorship, (2) anti-American, because Washington is an historic supporter of Middle East dictators, (3) pro-Muslim, but not receptive to the strict Wahhabi or Salafi versions of Islam, and (4 ) more active in their support for the Palestinian people.

At this point these strange bedfellows are having their way. The Arab Spring and its aspirations of a more tolerant and democratic Middle East are, with the possible exception of Tunisia, rapidly fading memories. In its place we have the fanatics: the military style in Egypt, the religious style in Saudi Arabia, and an aggressive mixture of the two in Israel.

And what about the U.S.? Well, its style is to arm fanatics and dictators and then preach democracy. In Washington, the name of the game is hypocrisy.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

Season of Emancipation

Monday, 14 April 2014 12:51
By Samantha Sarra, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/23095-season-of-emancipation

During this week of Passover, one of the most sacred of Jewish observances, commemorating the deliverance of the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, it behooves us to remember that captivity in many forms for many people continues.

The season of Passover is upon us. One of the most sacred of Jewish observances, it commemorates the deliverance of the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. The exodus from Egypt may have taken 40 years, but chains of slavery are far-reaching, and the struggle for justice and liberation is long.

Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who was the acting bureau chief for Al Jazeera English, just marked his 100th day behind bars in Cairo, one of many journalists arrested and charged as terrorist collaborators simply for doing their jobs. Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Abdullah Al Shamy has been detained for more than 230 days without trial and is in poor health because of his hunger strike.

Egyptian prison cells remain full of detainees, among them female students from Al-Azhar university who were sentenced in absentia and report being physically beaten and sexually assaulted by police and guards.

As Jewish homes in Israel make preparations for their Pesach Seders to commemorate their release from slavery, Israel remains a site of captivity for many. A 2013 report from UNICEF on Children in Israeli Military detention found that every day an average of two Palestinian children are arrested, interrogated and detained by Israeli army, police and security agents. That is an estimated 7,000 Palestinian children imprisoned over the last 10 years.

Sameer Issawi was only 17 years old the first time he was arrested, and as it is for many Palestinians prisoners, resistance against the Israeli occupation is a struggle being fought through generations. His grandfather was a founding member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) who was arrested and sentenced to death. His mother was held in prison for six months without ever going to court because she was treating wounded revolutionaries in a hospital. Many of his brothers have served decades behind bars, and his brother Fadi was shot at age 16 by an Israeli soldier during a demonstration.

Sameer gained international attention after a 266-day hunger strike, and his sister Shireen, who is a lawyer, championed his case unrelentingly. It is the love of their homeland Palestine that gives them courage to endure the torturous targeting their family faces. Sameer, who faced death in his fight for freedom and justice, has been released from prison once again. But his brothers remain behind bars, and his sister Shireen is now imprisoned again along with a group of other Palestinian lawyers. Before her arrest at the end of March, Shireen wrote about her conviction in an article for International Women's Day. Words written in freedom, hopefully remembered and sustaining her as she now remains captive behind bars:

"We suffer an ugly military occupation of our land, our lives and our very existence in Palestine. But like my mother, I shall endure the pain and agony for the liberation of my motherland."

It is a courage also known by the Jewish people and built into their traditions. The components of the Seder meal speak eloquently of their own reverence for liberation. The egg whose shell becomes hard when cooked symbolizes the Jews' determination not to abandon their beliefs under the oppression by the Egyptians and the bitter herbs are a reminder of the bitterness of slavery.

The salt water represents the slave's tears, tears that have been shed for centuries and are still being poured out today. The legacy of oppression is indeed bitter and widespread. Many African countries continue to pay colonial tax to France for the benefits of slavery and colonization, and legacies of racism are still seen everywhere.

July 2 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For the United States, it's an important piece of legislation on the long march toward racial justice, but the shackles of slavery are still holding firm in the mass immigration detentions and deportations and the over-representation of people of color behind bars.

The world recently took a moment to remember the destructive power of racism as it marked 20 years since the Rwandan genocide. As a tragedy is recalled, two unlikely heroes emerge, Alice Mukarurinda, who lost her daughter and her hand during the conflict, and Emmanuel Ndayisaba, who used a machete on Alice, her daughter and many others. Emmanuel had never killed before the genocide started, and for his role in more than a dozen deaths, he was in prison from 1997 to 2003, when he was pardoned for admitting his guilt. Today, remarkably, Emmanuel and Alice are friends who both work for an organization that builds houses for genocide survivors. Theirs is a story of true forgiveness, healing and liberation.

Such stunning reconciliation is starkly contrasted against the unforgiving sentences and policies of North American incarceration. Albert Woodfox is the last of "The Angola Three" behind bars at Louisiana State Penitentiary. He has been in solitary confinement for more than four decades, something the United Nations Special Rapporteur has denounced as torture.

The two other members of the Angola Three had their convictions overturned, but only after Herman Wallace had already spent 41 years in solitary confinement even while battling cancer - and he died just a day after his release.

Countless deaths needlessly take place behind bars, silenced under our modern-day slavery. Lucia Vega Jimenez was a Mexican woman who died in the custody of the Canadian Border Services Agency. She hung herself while in immigration detention and died eight days later in December of 2013. She is just one of several suicides, abuse victims and cases of discrimination that result from immigration policy.

In 2012, 26-year-old Canadian Julie Bilotta was forced to give birth on the floor of an Ottawa jail cell, while her cries for help were ignored. Her son Gionni was born premature and with respiratory issues. His traumatic birth while his mother was in a segregation cell did not offer him the healthiest start in life, and he died 13 months later.

Yes, slavery is bitter. Poignant then is the Passover feast, which invites us to remember the long history of persecution suffered. Jesus chose the Passover meal as his last supper and the tradition of the Seder meal is often recreated in solidarity with oppressed people.

Jesus, whose Easter death and resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith, would perhaps morn the ways in which Christianity continues to be used as a tool of oppression and confinement. Uganda's antihomosexuality act of 2014 can be largely traced back to the evangelistic efforts of conservative Christian missionaries from the United-States. The law, which was originally meant to sentence gays to death, as it stands now, can sentence homosexuals to life imprisonment.

The act was signed into law by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni February 24. On March 11, the Ugandan Civil Society filed a petition against the act at Uganda's Constitutional Court. The petition challenges the passing of the bill and seeks injunctive relief pending the outcome of the court case. In the meantime, many fear for their lives and liberty.

David Gilbert and his son. (Photo courtesy of Samantha Sarra) David Gilbert and his son. (Photo courtesy of Samantha Sarra) Passover is also known as the Festival of Freedom. David Gilbert was a Jewish boy born in Boston who eventually went underground to help build "The Weathermen," a radical movement created to resist war and racism. Before going underground, David cashed in his Israeli bonds and used half for the Weather and half for the Black Panther bail fund.

The group was committed to radical action in protest against the tyranny of America's unchecked murderous imperialism, both domestically with members of the Black Panthers and also abroad during the Vietnam war. For his role in a botched armoured car robbery, David was sentenced to 75 years behind bars. To this day, he is still behind bars at Auburn Prison in NY, where he remains a committed activist - having created health and advocacy programs for his peers on the inside - and a prolific collaborator, working with his peers on the outside for prisoners' rights.

In his book, Love and Struggle, which he penned from prison, David wrote of the Zionist turn against Palestinians:

"For myself and many other Jews in the movement, the bedrock lesson from the Holocaust was to passionately oppose all forms of racism; we could never join in the oppression of another people."

David has a son who was only a baby when he went to jail. He has been in prison for thirty-two of the thirty-three Passover seasons that his son has been alive. Unless he is pardoned or his conviction is overturned, he will likely die behind bars without ever celebrating a Passover feast with his son in freedom.

Let us take pause then during this season of Pesach to reflect on who remains captive in the bonds of slavery and incarceration and our collective responsibility toward fostering freedom for all. In the words of the Bible's 1st Corinthians 5:8: "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

Americans Are Still Blind to Israel's Domination of Palestinians

Sunday, 13 April 2014 10:58
By Ira Chernus, History News Network | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/23067-americans-are-still-blind-to-israels-domination-of-palestinians

When Stephen Colbert looks at people he doesn't see skin color. He treats everyone equally because everyone is equally white to him. In the same way, Joseph Kahn, foreign editor of the New York Times, sees no difference between Israelis and Palestinians. When it comes to covering the U.S. - supervised talks between the two neighbors, the Times treats both sides with scrupulously fair equality, Kahn insists.

Of course Colbert's "color blindness" is a joke, meant to remind us that it's absurd to treat the historically powerful and powerless as if they were equal. But when the Times' editor insists on his even-handedness he is apparently dead serious.

When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, at least, the Times is still the flagship of the U.S. mass media, charting the course that most others follow. Even if the Israelis were all white and the Palestinians all black, our mass media would remain strictly color blind. How else could they achieve their constant goal of neutrality, the key to objective reporting?

I trust you get the Colbertian joke. Israel has been dominating the Palestinians ever since it conquered their territories in 1967. It would be crude to say that it's just like the way white Americans have dominated black Americans over the centuries. There are vast differences. But there is also a very rough analogy here.

At least it's an exaggeration that points to a crucial truth: In this case, as in so many others, neutrality cannot be the key to objectivity because it ignores an immense inequity of power. When the powerful meet the powerless, journalists must always keep that inequity front and center if they want their reporting to be anything close to objective.

Yet the U.S. mass media do just the opposite. Their reporting on the Israel-Palestine interaction is an endless litany of "he said, she said; he said, she said," constantly reinforcing the mistaken impression that the two sides are equals in something like a fair fight.

Consider the latest impasse in the talks. The Israelis had promised to release a number of Palestinians they had imprisoned for the "crime" of fighting for their own nation's independence. No doubt some had used, or planned to use, violent means -- imitating the American revolutionaries of 1776 whom our national mythology holds up as heroes. Others, like many Americans during the Revolutionary War, had done no violence but were imprisoned in arbitrary roundups.

In return, the Palestinians had promised not to join any international organizations or sign on to international treaties.

Israel reneged on its promise to release the prisoners and rubbed salt in the wound by announcing 700 new apartments for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority responded by signing 15 international conventions and treaties, including the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the Hague Convention respecting the Laws and Customs of War, and treaties dealing with women's and children's rights.

Yet the official U.S. government response treated both the Israeli and Palestinian actions as equally "unhelpful" acts. The U.S. media was similarly even-handed at best -- depicting both steps as equally damaging to the peace process -- or, like the Times, put more blame on the Palestinian move.

So Palestinian commitment to international laws of peace and justice was framed as something evil, just as bad as or worse than Israel expanding its illegal housing and imprisoning rebels who were fighting (or wrongly accused of fighting) for their nation's right to be free.

That's what happens when you are politically color-blind.

In a sense, American political leaders, media, and most of the public really are blind to the difference between Israeli and Palestinian actions. They are so sympathetic to Israel, and so antipathetic to Palestine, that they don't see Israel's dominance over Palestinian life as a form of brute oppression. So they don't see Palestinian reactions as an understandable -- and, in recent years, quite restrained and nonviolent -- response to oppression. Treating the two sides as if they were equal combatants in an endless fight reinforces this blindness.

Now the U.S. government is trying, with greater persistence than ever, to resolve the quarrel. So the appearance of neutrality is more important than ever.

If the media constantly reminded us of the immense power inequity between the two sides, the practical implication of U.S. policy would be clear: By constantly demanding Palestinian concessions in roughly equal measure to Israeli concessions, the U.S. government is continuing its historical pro-Israel bias, a bias going back to the very inception of the nation of Israel.

When Harry Truman extended de facto recognition to Israel on the very day it declared its independence (though he waited several months for de jure recognition), he overrode the objection of his own State Department that he would alienate Arab states.

The anti-Arab bias grew stronger in the Eisenhower White House, where it was an article of faith that most Arab governments were tilting toward the communists. When Eisenhower demanded that the Israelis pull back from the Suez Canal in 1956, he wasn't moved by any concern about justice for the Arabs; he was incensed that Israel -- and its allies in the conquest of Suez, Britain and France -- would act without his approval and risk pushing the Arabs further into the communists' arms.

America's pro-Israel tilt became more blatant during the 1967 and 1973 wars and has remained a hallmark of U.S. policy and politics ever since. The only change is that Republicans are now more likely than Democrats to support the Israeli government, no matter how hawkish it may be.

Barack Obama is following the tradition of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, all Democratic presidents who have posed as neutral mediators between Israel and its Arab rivals (though George W. Bush tried to make that a bipartisan tradition). The key to this pose is a Colbertian pretense of blindness to difference.

By demanding roughly equal concessions from both sides, the U.S. is insisting on an outcome that will maintain the imbalance in power, even if it becomes an imbalance between two independent states.

Yet there's more than just a pro-Israel bias driving America's image of equality between the negotiating rivals. It's also a matter of America's self-image about its role in the world.

It has always been an article of faith in American public mythology that our foreign policy aims at justice and peace, while other nations are moved by lust for wealth and power. That's just one of the many ways America is exceptional, the mythology says.

The idea goes back at least as far as Thomas Paine, who wrote in Common Sense that "in England a King hath little more to do than to make war" which "is to empoverish the nation." So colonial subjects of the British king would always be embroiled in and impoverished by war. But if they became an independent republic, ruled by the will of the people, they could shape an independent foreign policy that would keep them in peace and prosperity. They would remain above every foreign fray, keeping their hands free of bloodshed and thus pure.

In the early years of the 20th century the myth was extended to cast America as the prime force for world peace and moral purity. Theodore Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace prize in 1906 for his "happy role in bringing to an end the bloody war recently waged between two of the world's great powers, Japan and Russia," the Nobel Committee declared, adding that "the United States of America was among the first to infuse the ideal of peace into practical politics."

But there was plenty of self-interest involved. "We have become a great nation ... and we must behave as beseems a people with such responsibilities," TR boasted. Mediating the Russo-Japanese war was a way to act out American greatness and muscle on the world stage, well-dressed as moral virtue.

It was also a way to stop the expansion of the obviously stronger Japanese military. Roosevelt "decided that [the war] must be stopped before Japan could gain too great an edge and he offered his good offices" as a mediator, George Herring wrote in his authoritative history of U.S. foreign policy, From Colony to Superpower.

Woodrow Wilson made this image of American neutrality and superiority a bipartisan affair in his response to World War I. By guiding the warring Europeans toward a just and lasting peace, he proclaimed before the U.S. entered the war, he would make sure America played "the great part in the world which was providentially cut out for her. ... We have got to serve the world."

But he also intended to lead and shape the world. Though he posed at the Versailles peace conference as a morally superior neutral, he insisted that a just peace "must be constructed along American lines," especially to ward off the threat of Soviet Bolshevism, which he "abhorred," to use Herring's words.

So the Obama administration, with immense help from the U.S. mass media, is continuing a distinguished bipartisan tradition. By treating Israel and the Palestinians as equals, it can portray America standing virtuously above the bloody Old World fray, while at the same time insuring that the outcome suits U.S. interests and the political interests of the administration.

So far that approach doesn't seem to be moving the Middle East closer to peace.

The only realistic path to peace is to speak honestly -- to name Israel as the stronger party, the occupier, and thus the side obliged (legally, morally, and practically) to make more concessions.

There is now a hint that the administration may yet surprise us and move in that direction. But all depends on how the White House reads the domestic public winds. All depends on the opinions expressed by the American people.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

Double Standards? Panel Cites US Human Rights Treaty Breaches

Monday, 31 March 2014 13:58
By L Michael Hager, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/22803-double-standards-panel-cites-us-human-rights-treaty-breaches

Last week, the UN Human Rights Committee issued a draft evaluation of US performance in upholding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. While some progress was acknowledged, serious lapses - including NSA spying and failures of accountability - were detailed.

When America calls others to account for human rights offenses, it must be ready to acknowledge and correct its own lapses.

Last week, a bipartisan group of 52 members of Congress urged President Obama to address human rights concerns in his meeting with Saudi King Abdullah. During the same week, the UN Human Rights Committee assessed US compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) - and found the US wanting in many respects.

The ICCPR defines fundamental civil and political rights, including the rights to life, due process, fair trial and privacy. It also enshrines various freedoms, including the freedom from torture, and provides for equal protection. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966, the ICCPR came into force in March 1976. The US became a state member in 1992.

Chaired by Sir Nigel Rodley, a British law professor, the Human Rights Committee of 18 independent human rights experts monitors the ICCPR. The United States was among several countries that the committee reviewed in March. Following two weeks of engagement with US representatives, the committee released an advance copy of its "concluding observations on the fourth report of the United States of America" on March 27.

On the positive side, the committee cited as US progress: full implementation of the Article 6.5 prohibition against death sentences for persons under 18; recognition of the extraterritorial application of habeas corpus to Guantanamo prisoners; an executive order to ensure lawful interrogations; support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the establishment of periodic reviews for Guantanamo detainees.

However, the negatives outnumber the positives. The committee cited more than 20 "principal matters of concern," including racial disparities in the criminal justice system, racial profiling, gun violence, prolonged detention of immigrants, solitary confinement, life without parole sentencing of juveniles, and the lack of voting rights for convicted felons. Yet the most significant of the cited shortcomings were:

(1) Extraterritorial application. The committee declined to accept the US position that the covenant does not apply outside national borders.

(2) Targeted killings and drone strikes. The committee emphatically rejected the Americans' self-defense rationale and urged the US to review its legal justification for drone strikes. It also called for independent oversight and more transparency of the rules governing the drone program.

(3) Guantanamo. The committee condemned the US policy of indefinite detention and called for the prison's closure. Moreover, it said that the US should use its criminal justice system, not military commissions, to try Guantanamo prisoners, and that detainee transfers to home countries should be speeded up.

(4) Non-refoulement/Extraordinary rendition. The committee deplored the practice of transferring prisoners to countries where they are likely to endure harsh punishment.

(5) Accountability. Referring especially to past acts of torture and unlawful killing in US operations abroad, the committee criticized the Obama administration for its failure to bring criminal charges against government employees and contractors who participated in such acts. Significantly, it said the US should "ensure that all cases of unlawful killing, torture or other ill-treatment, unlawful detention, or enforced disappearance are effectively, independently and impartially investigated, that perpetrators, including, in particular, persons in command positions, are prosecuted and sanctioned and that victims are provided with effective remedies." The committee also called for release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report on the CIA's secret detention program.

(6) NSA spying. Citing Article 17 ("No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence….)," the committee reproached the Obama administration for NSA's bulk phone metadata program. It also criticized the inadequate legal oversight and secrecy.

(7) Treatment of undocumented immigrants. The committee deplored US enforcement of prolonged detention and mandatory deportations.

The committee's list of US human rights abuses attracted extensive media attention abroad, when released March 27. While the New York Times devoted a single paragraph to the report, its March 28 edition contained more lengthy stories on the extension of a human rights monitor for Iran, an investigation of war crimes in Sri Lanka and an inquiry on North Korean crimes against humanity.

Perhaps the US government (and the mainstream media) should devote more attention to human rights issues at home.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

US Role in Rwandan Genocide: A Look at Rwandan Politics Then and Now

Thursday, 10 April 2014 10:39
By Jessica Desvarieux, The Real News Network | Video Interview

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/23017-us-role-in-rwandan-genocide-a-look-at-rwandan-politics-then-and-now

More at The Real News

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwCAv3J6Lf0&feature=player_embedded

Twenty years after the Rwandan genocide, survivor and activist Claude Gatebuke and filmmaker Andre Vltchek discuss what was really behind America's decision not to intervene and its ongoing support for Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

TRANSCRIPT:

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, where more than 800,000 people were killed in just 100 days. It is remembered by many as the time when the U.S. did not immediately recognize the massacre as a genocide, leading then-president Clinton to not intervene in order to stop the mass killings.

Now joining us to discuss the present state of Rwanda and the role of foreign governments are our two guests. Andre Vltchek is an opposition intellectual, novelist, filmmaker, and investigative journalist. He's also the writer and director of the new documentary film Rwanda Gambit.

Also joining us is Claude Gatebuke. Claude is a Rwandan genocide and civil war survivor. He's also the executive director of the African Great Lakes Action Network, an organization dedicated to bringing peace, justice, and prosperity in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

Thank you both for joining us.

ANDRE VLTCHEK, WRITER & DIRECTOR, RWANDA GAMBIT: Thank you so much.

CLAUDE GATEBUKE, RWANDAN SURVIVOR, EXEC. DIR. OF AFRICAN GREAT LAKES ACTION NETWORK: Thank you. Thank you for having us.

DESVARIEUX: So, Claude, I'm going to start off with you, Claude. You were just 14 years old living in Rwanda during the genocide. The closest most people came to understanding what was even happening in Rwanda was probably Hotel Rwanda. But you actually lived through this. Can you just describe for us your experience? And was there a specific moment that still stays with you?

GATEBUKE: There are a lot of moments that still stay with me. But first I would like to just share how Rwanda was a very peaceful country when I was growing up and never thought that there would be that much violence or chaos in the same country that I knew growing up, up until I was about ten years old: Rwanda was invaded. And the invaders were a group of Tutsis who had been exiled 30 years earlier. And they invaded Rwanda from the northern part of the country bordering the country of Uganda. And they had the support of Ugandan troops and matériel. And they came down, and for years, for four years they fought a war where whenever they came down, they would burn down villages, they would massacre people, call people to meetings and bomb them, and those who survived were killed with hand weapons.

And with that, I started to understand that this war was actually very dangerous at a young age. And this is prior to '94.

And so now fast forward to right before 1994. There were a lot of political movements that were born, and some aligned with the government, and others aligned with the rebels, and others in opposition or others in the middle. Every day there were riots in the streets. Whenever we went to school, we weren't sure that we would come back safely, because these youth groups were in the streets fighting a lot of times. And prior to April 6, 1994, there were a lot of politicians that were assassinated. And every time there was an assassination, there were massacres.

So fast forward now to April 6, 1994, which is one of the biggest major events of the genocide, when the president's plane was shot in Rwanda and he died along with everyone else on that plane, including the Burundian president, who had only been president for six months, or maybe less than six months, since the last president had been assassinated in Burundi.

And Rwanda, the city of Kigali, where I grew up, was full of people coming from the northern part of the country. A million people had fled the rebels. And 300,000 people ran into Rwanda from Burundi. And so this country is totally full of people, and people were very hungry. And on April 6, when the plane was shot, Rwanda exploded into total chaos and total terror. The same night, I started hearing shelling, explosions from one side of the city whistling over our heads and then going silent and dropping on the other end of the city. And it was like a big tropical storm of bombs and bullets. And then, in the morning, my neighbors, the extremist Hutu neighbors started butchering our Tutsi neighbors, and a lot of people were chopped to death and bodies thrown to the side of the road. We finally, as we were escaping the city, got--kept getting stopped at checkpoints, and at one of the checkpoints I was pulled out with my mother and we were made, we were ordered to dig our own graves so that they can bury us after we were killed.

What ended up happening is neighbors rushed in and pleaded for us to be saved, and we were finally able to leave this place. And once we left, months later, we fled into the Congo with just about everybody in Rwanda that was still surviving and that was able to cross the border and flee the bombing campaign that was approaching us.

And so that was, in short, my experience during the genocide. I witnessed one of my friends that I played soccer with getting killed with a machete, where he was chopped down to death. I saw a lot of people get killed with hand weapons. And I also saw a lot of people get shot. The place stunk. It smelled like human flesh mixed with gunpowder, and the air was all smoky with all the bombings that were taking place. And at night we could actually see the flashes of the bombs and the bullets.

So that was my experience during the genocide in a nutshell.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

DESVARIEUX: Claude, I mean, your story is so powerful, and we do often hear about these horrific events, but what we don't really hear about is the U.S.'s role in all of this.

And, Andre, I want to turn to you and ask what actually has been the role of the United States before and after the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

VLTCHEK: Well, Jessica, as Claude already suggested, the 1994 genocide did not come from the blue. Of course there were raids of Tutsi group RPF, which was based in Uganda. It was led by General Kagame, who is presently president of Rwanda. The group was--RPF was supplied by both Ugandan forces, but also by the United States. There was a very close link between them and the United States. It grew from very insignificant group to a force of thousands of well-armed men.

General Kagame at the time was--he was intelligence chief of Ugandan military, of Ugandan army. Can you imagine a foreigner actually being intelligence chief in the foreign country?

And then what was happening is that, as was told to me by a former ambassador of the United States to Rwanda, Mr. Flaten, the relationship was very close and very--and there was a direct--there was direct supply, direct training, direct support of the United States for RPF. After the genocide, after 1994, when many Hutus actually fled to neighboring Congo, Rwanda became a place which was used, together with Uganda, to fulfill geopolitical and economic ambitions of the United States and European Union in that area, meaning Congo, which is one of the richest places on earth in terms of natural resources--it has coltan, which we use for our mobile phones [incompr.] uranium, diamond, gold, and so on. Congo was actually plundered by RPF, by Rwandan forces, but also by Ugandan army, on behalf of the U.S. and European multinational companies, and some would say on behalf of the governments.

Now, just to show you how close the relationships were and are, some people, like Tony Blair, the prime minister of U.K., after retiring, he became, actually, a direct adviser to Paul Kagame. Bill Clinton was very close to the government. And also, as we probably all know, Kagame before and after was several times visiting United States. He received military training at the U.S. bases. And his son is also receiving military training--received military training in the U.S. So this is just a short overview.

DESVARIEUX: Claude, the Rwandan people elected Kagame. So I want to get your take on how is he perceived in Rwanda. Do people see him as sort of being this sort of puppet president of the United States and multinational corporations?

GATEBUKE: I think saying that he was actually elected by Rwandan people is an overstatement at best. He was elected by himself, because, for one, he runs the Election Commission. No one--it is totally unheard of, other than, you know, those who assign themselves an amount of votes. No one wins an election by 93 percent. That is the vote that he, quote-unquote, received from an election.

Rwandan people have rejected Kagame in multiple elections, except that he knows how to rig these elections, and in some cases there are soldiers standing at polling stations. Actually, in many cases, soldiers are standing at polling places where they've already voted for a person before the person even goes out to the poll. So I wouldn't say that he was elected by Rwandan people.

He came to power through the barrel of the gun in 1994, when he won the war against the former government. Do people see him as a puppet of the United States and Western governments, the U.K. and other governments? Yes, they do. And a prime example, actually, going back to what Andre was saying, is in spite of--in addition to plundering the Congo, he's committed massive atrocities in the Congo. A UN report in 2010, the UN Mapping Report, say that if taken to court, Rwandan troops--and this is--I want to make it clear it's not representative of all Rwandans. This is the clique that's leading the Rwandan government are responsible for this. But if taken to court, that they could be found guilty of genocide.

And in spite of all of that, the United States continue to provide nearly $200 million in aid to Rwanda. A prime example why people see him as a puppet of the United States and the U.K.--who provide 40 percent of the aid received in Rwanda, by the way--when they withheld their aid recently because of Rwanda's involvement in the Congo in recruiting child soldiers with the help of the M23, which is basically a proxy Rwandan army or a proxy Rwandan rebel group. Because of the M23, the United States withheld aid, military aid, the U.K. withheld aid, and some of the other donors also withheld aid from Rwanda. And it almost instantly ended that rebellion. There were additional actions that were taken to end that rebellion. But there's proof that without this, the help, the support, political backing, diplomatic backing, and financial backing of the United States and United Kingdom, Kagame is powerless.

And in Rwanda he's known as a dictator. It's--basically, living in Rwanda is like being in a big prison, where people are afraid to speak out. Those who have spoken out, like the--Victoire Ingabere is, the lady who returned to Rwanda to run for president, Bernard Ntaganda, and others are today in jail, and many unknown people. Many civilians, including press, including just regular civilians who have dared to express an opinion that disagrees with Kagame and the RPF's policies, are today in jail, exiled, or have been killed. So he's known, definitely, as a puppet, but also as a dictator and a tyrant that is causing total chaos in the region, especially in the Congo.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Let's turn back to the genocide of 1994. And, Andre, I want to get your take on this. What should humanity learn from this genocide?

VLTCHEK: Well, first of all, humanity should learn that the fate of the nation should be left in their own hands. There was too much mingling in the affairs of the Great Lakes region before 1994 and after--during 1994 and after 1994.

What happened after--other very important lesson is that truth always has to be learned, because we are always talking about the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda, and of course it was horrible and people died, and 800,000 people died. But as I was told by Congolese presidential candidate at the time, /bɛnkəˈlɑːlɑː/, he said, well, we are talking about 800,000 people, and I'm very sorry for them, but look what happened in Congo. Between six and, by now, between six and ten million people died. Ten million. That's the worst genocide, actually, that happened after the Second World War. It was probably worse than partition between Pakistan and India. And nobody's talking about it. It's a total taboo subject.

So we also have to--one thing we can learn is that if one thing is left unchecked, if the history is not being addressed, like the history of 1994, a horrible bloodletting or genocide, then the conflict can spread all over the region, as it can destroy many more lives. So in this case, in the case of Congo, it was perhaps ten times more people who vanished than those who died during the [incompr.] genocide itself.

Also what we have to learn is that geopolitical interests of the West should by no means be allowed to destroy entire nations. I mean, we have what happened in Rwanda in 1994 again is somehow very similar or it is resembling the events in Indonesia in 1965 or in Chile in 1973.

So there are many lessons that we can learn. But definitely some very powerful ones about neocolonialism, and also about the truth, about the truth not being told.

DESVARIEUX: Claude, I'm going to ask you the same question just really quickly. What do you think we should learn, as human beings, from this genocide?

GATEBUKE: I think we should make never again a reality. And what I mean by that is when it comes to atrocities and genocide and just the killing raping and destroying human life, it should be taken seriously and all perpetrators should be held accountable. There should be a justice process, a truth process, to address these things and set an example. Impunity is one of the worst enemies of humanity. And when criminals continue to hunt down people, then kill them because of their opinions or because they are inconveniently telling a truth about massive atrocities that are being told, that continues to perpetrate the cycle of violence.

So, for example, I think that anyone that was responsible for genocide in Rwanda should be held accountable. Equally, the RPF, who are today in power, should be held accountable for the crimes they committed, for the number of people they killed in Rwanda and Congo. And that will set an example and a precedent to anyone who thinks that they can get away with committing crimes.

Today, genocide survivors like Déo Mushyayidi are in prison in Rwanda for exactly saying what I'm saying here, for telling the truth about the atrocities that were committed in Rwanda. That shouldn't be the case. What should be the case is that all criminals should be brought to court and dealt with and not supported and celebrated across the world.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Claude Gatebuke and Andre Vltchek, thank you both for joining us.

VLTCHEK: Thank you.

GATEBUKE: Thank you.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

UN Human Rights Committee Finds US in Violation on 25 Counts

Friday, 04 April 2014 10:23
By Adam Hudson, Truthout | News Analysis

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/22887-un-human-rights-committee-finds-us-in-serious-violation

While President Obama told the country to "look forward, not backward" when it came to Bush's torture program, the United Nations has taken a different route. Recently, the UN Human Rights Committee issued a report excoriating the United States for its human rights violations. It focuses on violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the country is party. The report mentions 25 human rights issues where the United States is failing. This piece will focus on a few of those issues - Guantanamo, NSA surveillance, accountability for Bush-era human rights violations, drone strikes, racism in the prison system, racial profiling, police violence, and criminalization of the homeless.

Accountability for Bush-Era Crimes, Torture

The UN committee expressed concerned with "the limited number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions of members of the Armed Forces and other agents of the US government, including private contractors" for "unlawful killings" and "torture" during the Bush years. It welcomed the closing of the CIA black sites, but criticized the "meagre number of criminal charges brought against low-level operatives" for abuses carried out under the CIA's rendition, interrogation and detention program. The committee also found fault with the fact that many details of the CIA's torture program "remain secret, thereby creating barriers to accountability and redress for victims."

In response to the 9/11 terrorist attack, the Bush administration jettisoned the Constitution and international law and openly embraced the use of torture against suspected terrorists captured overseas. The CIA tortured people in secret prisons around the world known as "black sites." Torture was sanctioned from the top down. Then-President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, lawyers and many others in the executive branch played roles in crafting nifty ways to justify, approve and implement the use of torture.

Rather than be held accountable, the top-level government officials responsible for authorizing torture and other crimes have been given comfort in the public sphere. Condoleezza Rice returned to Stanford University as a political science professor. John Yoo, who authored the torture memos, is a law professor at UC Berkeley. Jose Rodriguez, a former CIA officer in the Bush administration, vigorously defends torture in his autobiography and interviews. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are able to rest comfortably in retirement and continue to defend their records.

Of the report's 25 issues, four looked at racial disparities within the United States' criminal justice system and law enforcement practices.

In the Guantanamo military commissions, evidence of torture is concealed. A "protective order" restricts what defense lawyers and the accused can say about how the defendants were treated in CIA black sites, including details of torture, because that information is classified. Defense lawyers have been fighting for declassification of those details, as they are mitigating evidence.

The potential release of portions of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA report could tip the scale in their favor. "There is every reason to believe the SSCI [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] Report contains information about the CIA's torture of Mr. al Baluchi," said defense attorney James Connell, who represents Ammar al-Baluchi, one of the five 9/11 defendants, in a press statement. "The SSCI knows the truth of what happened, and the military commission considering whether to execute Mr. al Baluchi should know too."

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

Racism in the Prison System, Racial Profiling, Police Brutality

Of the report's 25 issues, four looked at racial disparities within the United States' criminal justice system and law enforcement practices. It denounced the "racial disparities at different stages in the criminal justice system, sentencing disparities and the overrepresentation of individuals belonging to racial and ethnic minorities in prisons and jails." The committee condemned racial profiling by police and FBI/NYPD surveillance of Muslims - but it did welcome plans to reform New York City's "stop and frisk" program. It also denounced the continuing use of the death penalty and "racial disparities in its imposition that affects disproportionately African Americans." Finally, it expressed concern at "the still high number of fatal shootings by certain police forces" and "reports of excessive use of force by certain law enforcement officers . . . which have a disparate impact on African Americans, and the use of lethal force by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the US-Mexico border."

The United States contains the largest prison population in the world, holding over 2.4 million people in domestic jails and prisons, immigration detention centers, military prisons, civil commitment centers and juvenile correctional facilities. Its prison population is even larger than those of authoritarian governments like China and Russia, which, respectively, hold 1,640,000 and 681,600 prisoners, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies. More than 60 percent of the US prison population are people of color. African Americans, while 13 percent of the national population, constitute nearly 40 percent of the prison population. Moreover, one in every three black males can expect to go to prison in their lifetime, compared to one in every six Latino males, and one in every 17 white males. Thus, black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men. Even though whites and blacks use drugs at roughly the same rates, African Americans are more likely to be imprisoned for drug-related offenses than whites.

Every 28 hours, a black person is killed by a police officer, security guard, or self-appointed vigilante, according to a report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Recently in New York City, NYPD brutalized two teenage African-American girls at a Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn. A 16-year-old girl's face was slammed against the floor, while police threw the 15-year-old through the restaurant's window, shattering it as a result. The incident started when police ordered everyone to leave the restaurant, but one of the girls refused.

While police violence against people of color has long existed, the militarization of American police exacerbates this trend. This militarization began in 1981, when President Ronald Reagan signed the Military Cooperation with Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies Act, which provided civilian police agencies with military equipment, training, advice and access to military research and facilities. When 9/11 hit, police militarization kicked into overdrive with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, which has given police still greater access to military and other highly-sophisticated hardware like armored vehicles and riot gear. Now police look, act and think like the military, with dangerous consequences for the communities they serve.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

Drone Strikes, Assassinations

To execute its perpetual global war on terrorism, the Bush administration favored large-scale, conventional land invasions and occupations, as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama has moved away from such operations and embraced seemingly lighter tactics of irregular warfare to continue the perpetual war, while making it less visible to Americans. Extrajudicial killing and drone strikes are the most notable methods, but others include air strikes, cruise missile attacks, cyberwarfare, special operations, and proxy wars.

These tactics have meant more use of the military's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the paramilitary branch of the CIA. Both the CIA and JSOC carry out drone strikes and sometimes collaborate in joint operations. The CIA, not the military, is legally mandated to launch covert operations, which are classified and unacknowledged by the US government. However, JSOC performs essentially the same operations, particularly extrajudicial killings. Thus, transferring control of the drone program from the CIA to the military would make little difference.

The UN report criticized the United States' assassination program and drone strikes. It expressed concerned with the "lack of transparency regarding the criteria for drone strikes, including the legal justification for specific attacks, and the lack of accountability for the loss of life resulting from such attacks." The United States' position for justifying its extrajudicial killing operations is that it is engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban and "associated forces" - a term the Obama administration created to refer to co-belligerents with al-Qaeda - and that the war is in accordance with the nation's inherent right to self-defense against a terrorist enemy.

However, the committee took issue with the United States' position, particularly its "very broad approach to the definition and the geographical scope of an armed conflict, including the end of hostilities." A May 2010 report by Philip Alston, former UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, notes that, under international law, states cannot wage war against non-state actors, such as international terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, because of their nebulous character and loose affiliations.

The committee's report also took issue with "the unclear interpretation of what constitutes an 'imminent threat' and who is a combatant or civilian taking a direct part in hostilities, the unclear position on the nexus that should exist between any particular use of lethal force and any specific theatre of hostilities, as well as the precautionary measures taken to avoid civilian casualties in practice."

So far, US drone strikes and other covert operations have killed between 2,700 and nearly 5,000 people.

Under international law, self-defense against an "imminent" threat is "necessity of that self-defense is instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation." However, the Obama administration completely obliterated this meaning. In a 16-page white paper leaked to NBC News, the Obama administration believes that whether "an operational leader presents an 'imminent' threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interest will take place in the immediate future." Thus, a "high-level official could conclude, for example, that an individual poses an 'imminent threat' of violent attack against the United States where he is an operational leader of al-Qa'ida or an associated force and is personally and continually involved in planning terrorist attacks against the United States" without any proof of an actual plot against the United States. Thus, in Obama-lingo, the word "imminent" means the complete opposite of what it is in the English language.

There is no due process in the assassination program, either. President Obama and his advisors decide who will be killed by a drone strike in a secret internal executive branch process that occurs every Tuesday. Even American citizens are fair game for the assassination program. In fact, four US citizens have been killed by drone strikes, including a 16-year-old boy. A database called the "disposition matrix" adds names to kill or capture lists, ensuring the assassination program will continue no matter who is in office. Targeting for drone strikes is not based on human intelligence but, rather, signals intelligence, particularly metadata analysis and cellphone tracking. The NSA geolocates a SIM card or mobile phone of a suspected terrorist, which helps the CIA and JSOC to track an individual to kill or capture in a night raid or drone strike. Since this methodology targets a SIM card, rather than a real person, civilians are commonly killed by mistake.

As with the word "imminent," the Obama administration utilizes its own warped definitions of "civilian" and "combatant." As The New York Times reported in May 2012, the Obama administration "counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants . . . unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent."

Despite claims to the contrary, drone strikes kill a significant number of civilians and inflict serious human suffering. So far, US drone strikes and other covert operations have killed between 2,700 and nearly 5,000 people, including 500 to more than 1,100 civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism's figures. Many of those deaths occurred under Obama's watch, with drone strikes killing at least 2,400 people during his five years in office. Only 2 percent of those killed by drone strikes in Pakistan are high-level militants, while most are low-level fighters and civilians. In addition to causing physical harm, drone strikes terrorize and traumatize communities that constantly live under them.

Drone strikes have lulled in Pakistan due to peace talks between the Pakistani government and Pakistan Taliban, which collapsed on February 17. The last US drone strike in Pakistan happened on Christmas Day 2013. In Yemen, drone strikes have continued. Several US drone strikes in Yemen occurred during the first 12 days of March. Last November, six months after President Obama laid out new rules for US drone strikes, a TBIJ analysis showed that "covert drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan have killed more people than in the six months before the speech." It also was recently reported that the Obama administration is debating whether to kill a US citizen in Pakistan who is suspected of "actively plotting terrorist attacks," according to The New York Times.

It is very likely these operations will continue. The Pentagon's 2015 budget proposal, taking sequestration into account, spends $0.4 billion less than 2014 at $495.6 billion, shrinks the Army down to between 440,000 to 450,000 troops from the post-9/11 peak of 570,000, and protects money for cyberwarfare and special operations forces. Cyber operations are allocated $5.1 billion in the proposal, while US Special Operations Command gets $7.7 billion, which is 10 percent more than in 2014, and a force of 69,700 personnel. While President Obama promised to take the United States off a "permanent war footing," his administration's policies tell a different story. The Obama administration is reconfiguring, rather than halting, America's "permanent war footing."

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5878) 6 months ago

Guantanamo, Indefinite Detention

President Obama recommitted himself to closing the prison in Guantanamo last year, but has made little progress, which the UN report noted. The committee said it "regrets that no timeline for closure of the facility has been provided." It also expressed concern that "detainees held in Guantanamo Bay and in military facilities in Afghanistan are not dealt with within the ordinary criminal justice system after a protracted period of over a decade in some cases."

The report called on the United States to expedite the transfer of prisoners out of Guantanamo, close the prison, "end the system of administrative detention without charge or trial" and "ensure that any criminal cases against detainees held in Guantanamo and military facilities in Afghanistan are dealt with within the criminal justice system rather than military commissions and that those detainees are afforded fair trial guarantees."

Indefinite detention violates international human rights law, but has been embraced by Obama ever since he stepped into the White House.

Currently, 154 men remain held in the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Of those, 76 are cleared for release; around four dozen will remain in indefinite detention; 20 can be "realistically prosecuted," according to chief prosecutor Brig. Gen. Mark Martins' estimate; six are being tried in military commissions and two are serving sentences after being convicted in the commissions.

President Obama promised to close Guantanamo right when he stepped into office. However, he has yet to fulfill that promise. Congressional obstructionism, especially from the Republican Party, has stalled his plans as, for a long time, Congress blocked funding for transferring prisoners. Recently, though, Congress eased those restrictions, making it easier to transfer prisoners to other countries, but not to the United States.

While the Obama administration is working to close the prison at Guantanamo, it maintains the policy of indefinite detention without trial, designating close to four dozen Guantanamo prisoners for forever imprisonment. Obama's original plan to close Guantanamo was to open a prison in Illinois to hold Guantanamo detainees, many indefinitely. While soon killed, this plan would have effectively moved the system of indefinite detention from Guantanamo to US soil. Now the Obama administration is considering opening a prison in Yemen to hold the remaining Guantanamo prisoners, many of whom are Yemeni. Indefinite detention violates international human rights law, but has been embraced by Obama ever since he stepped into the White House. The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that Obama signed into law contains sections that allow for the indefinite detention of US citizens on American soil.

NSA Surveillance

Notably, the UN report denounced the NSA's mass surveillance "both within and outside the United States through the bulk phone metadata program (Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act) and, in particular, the surveillance under Section 702 of Amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) conducted through PRISM (collection of the contents of communications from US-based companies) and UPSTREAM (tapping of fiber-optic cables in the country that carry internet traffic) programs and their adverse impact on the right to privacy. "The report also criticized the secrecy of "judicial interpretations of FISA and rulings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)," which prevent the public from knowing the laws and legal interpretations that impact them. Promises of "oversight" obviously did not persuade the committee, either, as it said "the current system of oversight of the activities of the NSA fails to effectively protect the rights of those affected," and "those affected have no access to effective remedies in case of abuse."

Continuing NSA leaks, provided by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden last year, have revealed the depth of the United States' massive surveillance system. The bulk collection of phone metadata is probably the most well-known program. Recently, President Obama promised to end the bulk phone metadata collection program. But the NSA's surveillance system extends far beyond phone metadata.

In a program called PRISM, the NSA collects user data, such as search history and message content, sent through internet communication services like Google, Yahoo!, Facebook and Skype. Major tech companies have denied knowledge of the program, but the NSA claims those companies knew and provided full assistance. The NSA uses a back door in surveillance law to monitor the communications of American citizens without a warrant. As mentioned earlier, the NSA is also involved in the drone program through the collection of signals intelligence. Additionally, much of NSA surveillance is used for economic espionage. The NSA, with the help of Australian intelligence, spied on communications between the Indonesian government and an American law firm representing it during trade talks. Indonesia and the United States have long been in trade disputes, such as over Indonesia's shrimp exports and a US ban on the sale of Indonesian clove cigarettes. It is highly unlikely Obama's reforms will curb these abuses.

Criminalizing the Homeless

Compared to torture and war crimes, the plight of homeless people is rarely held up as a pressing human rights issue. But, in the UN report, it is. The committee expressed concern "about reports of criminalization of people living on the street for everyday activities such as eating, sleeping, sitting in particular areas etc." It also "notes that such criminalization raises concerns of discrimination and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment."

For evidence of such criminalization and of "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment," look no further than to the liberal, historically countercultural city of San Francisco. The city that smugly prides itself on progressivism has a sit-lie ordinance that forbids people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks between 7 AM and 11 PM. It particularly hurts and targets homeless people.

In the same city, homeless people are washed away. Street cleaners from the San Francisco Department of Public Works regularly spray their high-powered hoses at homeless people sleeping on the streets.

Recently, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, police shot and killed a homeless man. His crime? Illegal camping . . . in the Albuquerque foothills. Albuquerque police went to arrest 38-year-old James Boyd, who was sleeping in a campsite he set up. After arguing with police for three hours, Boyd was apparently about to leave and picked up his belongings. As he started walking down the hill, police shot a flash-bang device at Boyd. He dropped his bags, appeared to take out a knife, and then police fired multiple bean-bag rounds at Boyd. The man dropped to the ground, hitting his head on a rock, his blood spattered on it. Officers yelled at him, telling Boyd to drop his knife. When Boyd didn't answer, police fired more bean-bag rounds and sicced their dog on him. Boyd was later taken to a hospital and pronounced dead a day later. In addition to stun guns and bean bags, officers shot six live rounds at Boyd. The shooting prompted an FBI investigation, which is ongoing, and a protest in Albuquerque that was met with intense police violence as officers fired tear gas into the crowd.

Clean Your Own House

The UN report elevates the suffering inflicted by US domestic and foreign policies to the realm of international human rights. To be tortured, spied on, unjustly imprisoned, put in solitary confinement, indefinitely detained, extrajudicially killed by the state, racially profiled, deprived of a home and criminalized for being homeless is to have one's basic human rights violated and dignity as a human demolished. That's why there are international laws to protect those rights - laws with which the United States and every nation-state are bound to comply. Even as the United States commonly condemns other countries for their human rights abuses, it has yet to clean its own house.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by JGriff99mph (507) 6 months ago

The ugly and brutal truth.