Archive | March 29th, 2012

Hana Shalabi is dying to live


we are all hana1 300x240 Hana Shalabi is dying to live

The rhetoric that has come to characterize theIsrael/Palestine debate exploits the emotion of one crime to justify another. It is vital to remember that one life from either side is not worth less than the other.

There are several human rights abuses taking place in Palestine, acknowledged to be illegal according to international law-all underpinned by a blatant disregard of that law.

Nearly two weeks ago, the UN produced a reportstrongly condemning the state of Israel’s systematic discrimination of Palestinians. It was also announced yesterday that Israel’s right-wing government has now decided to turn its back on UN human rights council entirely.

Again, this is a statement of fact as much as it is a fact that the abuses themselves are taking place.

Yesterday, Israel’s military kangaroo court also announced that it had rejected an appeal from the lawyers of Hana al Shalabi, a Palestinian woman from the West Bank who has been on a hunger strike for more than 40 days.

Hana is being held without charge, and without the chance of seeing a trial. She had been held in administrative detention for two years previously, again without being charged in accordance with Israel’s policy of holding prisoners based on ’secret evidence’, which they see fit to not divulge.

She was released in October 2011, but then re-arrested in February of this year.

She’s one of tens of thousands of individuals who have fallen victim to this system.

She is protesting for herself, her human rights, and for the rights of more than three hundred other administrative detainees and Palestinian hunger strikers.

There are serious concerns now for the state of her health.  The Israeli court judge saw no grounds for her release despite warnings from doctors that she is at serious risk now from heart failure at any moment.

There were also concerns expressed by Hana’s lawyer that Israeli officials were considering force-feeding her – an act strongly condemned by Amnesty International as being a gross human rights violation.

So far there is been little coverage of Hana’s struggle in the mainstream press, despite many using Twitter to raise awareness of her plight.

The hashtags #HanaisDying2live and #HanaShalabi have been trending on Twitter and social media has been key in galvanising support up to this point.  But time is running out.  The word needs to spread fast if external pressure is to have any effect.

Hana’s sister was quoted on Monday saying that she didn’t think her sister could survive another seven days.

It is a disgrace that Israel is allowed to act in this way with impunity.  This is not about religion; it is about the common humanity that we share.
Many people are already talking about Hana Shalabi, whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Christian or Atheist. The difference is that Hana Shalabi might die because she is Palestinian.

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Brandeis students disrupt meeting with Zio-Nazi lawmakers


Shoah- Brandeis University students disrupted a panel discussion at a Boston-area synagogue featuring Zio-Nazi lawmaker.

The students, members of the Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine group, removed their shirts Monday night in Temple Emanuel in Newton, Mass., to uncover T-shirts that read apartheid in Hebrew. They also chanted Free, free Palestine and Israel is an apartheid state and the Knesset is an apartheid parliament!

The five zio-Nazi lawmakers — Ofir Akunis of the Likud Party; Lia Shemtov and Faina Kirschenbaum of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party; Ilan Gilon of the Meretz Party; and Ghaleb Majadele of the Labor Party — were in Boston as part of the Ruderman Fellowship, which educates Zio-Nazi politicians about Jewry in America.

The protesters singled out Zio-Nazi Akunis and Kirshenbaum for sponsoring fascist legislation in the KKKnesset  that limits international funding to nongovernmental ‘ NGO ‘ organizations, and Kirshenbaum for living in a West Bank settlement.

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Producer threatens L.A. Jewish film fest over rejection of sex-abuse documentary


By Ben Harris

Phil Jacobs, a journalist who was vilified for reporting allegations of sexual abuse in Baltimore's Orthodox community, is the subject of the film "Standing Silent." The director of the L.A. Jewish Film festival called it a "witch hunt." (Sanding Silent)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Producer Scott Rosenfelt, whose credits include “Home Alone” and ”Mystic Pizza,” is threatening a major Jewish film festival after its director raised concerns that Rosenfelt’s documentary about sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community amounts to a “witch hunt.”

Rosenfelt sent a scathing email last week to the director of the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival after learning that she had warned colleagues at other film festivals about “Standing Silent.”

The film, which features interviews with several victims of sexual abuse by Baltimore-area Orthodox rabbis, is slated to be screened at several Jewish film festivals across the United States. It was the subject of a lengthy feature article in The Washington Post.

In an email to Jewish film festival directors in September, L.A. festival chief Hilary Helstein wrote that while the film was well made, “Our committee felt with a community that reveres it’s [sic] rabbis this was not something they wanted to show.”

Rosenfelt called the email the “most unprofessional act” he has seen in his 35-year career.

“The idea that a festival director would go behind the back of a filmmaker and do this gives me great pause to ever recommend your festival to anyone,” Rosenfelt wrote to Helstein on March 22. “As you know, I’ve produced films such as ‘Home Alone,’ so I know a couple of people in the business. I plan on letting EVERYONE I know to stay away from you and your festival, because you are clearly not someone who supports filmmakers.”

Rosenfelt concluded by calling Helstein “a disgrace to Judaism, and not only that, a disgrace to all humanity.”

In an interview with JTA, Rosenfelt stood by his comments, saying that Helstein was complicit in the kind of silence surrounding sexual abuse that his film aims to combat. Asked if he really felt Helstein was a disgrace to humanity, Rosenfelt said “Absolutely.”

Helstein’s email was sent in the context of a discussion among festival officials about possible films to show. She wrote that her festival’s team rejected the film because of its subject matter.

“They felt the film was more of a ‘witch hunt,’ ” she wrote.

“We all show different things and each community has a different level of tolerance,” Helstein concluded. “I just wanted to put a warning sticker on this one so that you are aware.”

Helstein did not respond to requests seeking comment, but John Fishel, the L.A. festival chairman, told JTA that the determination not to screen “Standing Silent” was made by a small group of volunteers on the selection committee. Fishel said the committee did not feel the film was appropriate to screen and worried that it would provoke controversy that would overshadow the film itself.

The exchange highlights the sensitivities and charged emotions surrounding the issue of sexual abuse in the Jewish community.

“Standing Silent” describes the experiences of a number of survivors of sex abuse in Baltimore’s Orthodox community, as well as the efforts of a journalist to bring those cases to light. The journalist, Phil Jacobs, was the victim of sexual abuse as a child. As the editor of The Baltimore Jewish Times, Jacobs spent years documenting sex-abuse allegations and consequently endured opprobrium from segments of the local Orthodox community.

“We’ve got to get this out in the public and discuss it and keep our children safe,” Jacobs, who is now the editor of the Washington Jewish Week, told JTA. “Because it sounds like a big old cliche, but somebody touches you for five seconds, it can impact you forever.”

Jewish film festivals have struggled in recent years with how to manage controversial material. In San Francisco in 2009, a documentary about the American pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed while trying to prevent an Israeli bulldozer from destroying Palestinian homes, sparked a furious and divisive debate when it was shown at the local Jewish film festival.

According to a source involved with the L.A. festival for several years, Helstein is well intentioned but also hamstrung by a small, conservative donor base that limits the range of material that can be presented.

“[Helstein] was overly sensitive to a particular portion of her donor base and audience and did not consider the value the film would provide to the community at large,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The festival has always had an aversion to controversy and has never been able to provide the kind of leadership in programming the community needs. The tail wags the dog.”

Fishel denied the contention.

“I would reject that as an unfair characterization of both Hilary and the festival,” he said. “I think that they do a great job. I think that it’s getting better and better every year.”

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After Toulouse attack, French Jews are reconsidering Sarkozy


By Daniel Hoffman

France President Nicolas Sarkozy, shown here speaking at the European People's Party conference in Marseille on Dec. 8, 2011, has announced several measures to clamp down on right-wing and Islamic extremists following the March 19 attack on  on the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse.  (European People\'s Party via CC)
France President Nicolas Sarkozy, shown here speaking at the European People’s Party conference in Marseille on Dec. 8, 2011, has announced several measures to clamp down on right-wing and Islamic extremists following the March 19 attack on on the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse. (European People\’s Party via CC)

PARIS (JTA) — With the first round of France’s presidential election less than four weeks away, the attacks that left four Jews and three French soldiers dead are reshaping the race — but for now it’s not clear exactly how.

In the days leading up to the attacks, President Nicolas Sarkozy had managed to close most of the gap behind the leader in the polls, Socialist candidate Francoise Hollande, with a rightward turn that included calls by Sarkozy in favor of tougher immigration restrictions and against the labeling of halal meat.

Since the March 19 attack on the Jewish Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, Sarkozy has announced several measures to clamp down on right-wing and Islamic extremists. He ordered French security forces to seek out Muslim extremists, barred an influential Egyptian Sunni cleric from attending a conference in France next month and urged TV networks not to air footage of the Toulouse attack and the one on soldiers in nearby Montauban that had been delivered to the Al Jazeera bureau here.

While politicians across the political spectrum condemned the attacks, Sarkozy won praise from the Jewish community for suspending his campaign and flying to Toulouse immediately after the school shooting, calling it “obviously anti-Semitic” and saying that the “whole republic” was mobilized to face the tragedy.

But it’s not clear how long the focus will remain on security before shifting back to the main issue facing France: the economy.

“The political debate will probably refocus on the fundamental economic topics,” said Jean-Yves Camus, a political scientist who specializes in right-wing extremism. “Still, it is very important to French Jews to make the population understand that the Toulouse attack does not only concern their community but the whole country.”

French Jews, he said, “will most certainly vote for politicians with solid experience who are able to put in practice legal and credible measures to answer an Islamic threat.”

The latest national polls show Sarkozy and his center-right Union for a Popular Movement, or UMP, trailing Hollande by a percentage point or two in the first round scheduled for April 22, but by a wider gap in a theoretical runoff scheduled for May 6.

Since the Toulouse attack, the National Front, France’s largest far-right party, has tried to take advantage of the changed climate. On Sunday, party leader Marine Le Pen promised to “bring radical Islam to its knees.” In her speech Le Pen, who has been polling at approximately 15 percent, also linked mass immigration with fundamentalism and denounced the risk of a “green fascism.”

Few observers believe that many Jews will opt for the National Front, even though Le Pen has sought to woo Jewish voters and distance herself and her party from the anti-Semitism of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front.

“In 2002, only 6 percent of French Jews voted for the National Front, while the election occurred only a few months after 9/11,” Camus said. “A substantial movement from the Jewish community toward Marine Le Pen is very unlikely.”

The Jewish community, whose 600,000 members represent less than 1 percent of the total French population, remains more supportive of Sarkozy’s party than the general public. But prior to the Toulouse shootings, a survey of the Jewish electorate showed that Sarkozy had lost support among Jews even though he remained more popular than any other single candidate.

According to a March 9 poll from the French polling institute IFOP, Sarkozy’s favorable ratings among Jews had fallen to 43 percent as of January from 62 percent in May 2007, when Sarkozy was elected president. The main reason, said Jerome Fourquet, who directed the survey for IFOP, was France’s economy.

“The trend is similar to the French general electorate’s disaffection with Sarkozy,” Fourquet said. “People are dissatisfied with the economic situation and their purchasing power.”

For many Jews, the economy is not the only source of discontent with the president. In early March, Sarkozy’s prime minister, Francois Fillon, made controversial statements about halal and kosher slaughter rituals, declaring that the “ancestral traditions” in Islam and Judaism were “outdated.”

The comment provoked a strong reaction from Jewish leaders.

“As religion and state are strictly separated in France, politicians should avoid giving their opinion on these topics,” said Richard Prasquier, president of the CRIF, the main French umbrella organization for Jewish institutions.

More widely, French moderates also have expressed concern about Sarkozy’s tilt to the right. A week before the Toulouse shootings, Sarkozy told an audience that France has “too many foreigners” and proposed cutting legal immigration in half.

Thirty years ago, most Jews leaned toward the Socialist Party. Francois Mitterrand, a Socialist who served as president of France from 1981 to 1995, was considered a friend of Israel — an image he developed after his 1982 address to the Knesset, where he emphasized the Jewish state’s right to security.

But the Jewish vote drifted toward the UMP during the second intifada, when many leftist organizations took a pro-Palestinian stance and violence against French Jews soared.

“Violence in the Middle East had a huge impact on this community,” Fourquet said. “During the wave of anti-Semitic attacks in France in the early 2000s, many Jews felt abandoned by the Socialists. This is when the center of gravity started shifting to the right for French Jews.”

Sarkozy was interior minister at the time — serving two stints from 2002 to 2007 — and his tough rhetoric and the aggressive measures he championed were credited with helping tamp down the anti-Semitic violence.

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Bahrain: Crushing Pro-Democracy Protests. American and British Police Chiefs Step Up State Repression Top Western appointments allegedly aimed at improving human rights…

by Finian Cunningham

Finian Cunningham

Two former police chiefs from the US and Britain have brought discernible Western “expertise” to the Bahraini force only weeks following their appointments – a surge in repression and state terrorism.

Former Miami police chief John Timoney and his British counterpart, John Yates, formerly commander at London’s Scotland Yard, were assigned last month by Bahrain’s royal rulers to “oversee reform” of the Persian Gulf kingdom’s security forces. Officially, the appointment of the American and Briton was to bring Western professional policing to the Bahraini force and specifically to upgrade the human rights record of Bahrain’s ministry of interior and National Security Agency.

The assignments were announced by King Hamad Al Khalifa following a report by an international commission of inquiry into widespread human rights violations in the US-backed oil kingdom since pro-democracy protests erupted there last February.

As reported earlier by Global Research, the inquiry report and the subsequent appointment of the US and British police chiefs appeared to be a public relations exercise to burnish the tarnished image of this key Persian Gulf ally of Washington and London [1].

However, only weeks into their jobs, the Western commanders appear to have been given a remit that goes well beyond public relations, namely, to sharpen the repression against the pro-democracy movement.

Human rights activists and several political sources say that state forces have dramatically stepped up violence towards protesters and targeting of the Shia community generally. The diminutive island state of less than 600,000 nationals is comprised mainly of Shia muslims (70 per cent) who are ruled over by a Sunni elite installed by Britain when the kingdom gained nominal independence in 1971. American and British government support for the unelected Al Khalifa monarchy is viewed by the majority of Bahrainis as being at odds with their claims for democratic rights.

Over the past year, Bahraini state forces have killed some 50 people; thousands have been maimed, wounded and detained, many of the latter tortured. Proportionate to its population, such state violence is comparable to what Washington and London have loudly denounced the Libyan and Syrian regimes for – indeed mounting a military invasion of the former and threatening to do so in the latter – under the guise of “protecting human rights”. By contrast, there is hardly a word of denunciation from Washington or London towards the Bahraini regime, which hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

“The violence is worse than ever,” said one Bahraini pro-democracy activist. “The state security forces are operating with new tactics and this change coincides with the arrival of the American and British police chiefs. But this is no coincidence. We believe that the Bahraini police are using more repression and terror under the orders of these police chiefs.”

Since the appointment of the American and British commanders, at least five more civilians have been killed at the hands of police, including a 15-year-old boy Sayed Hashim who was shot in the face with a teargas canister on New Year’s Eve, and a 27-year-old woman who was bludgeoned with an iron bar.

Not only has state violence on the streets been escalated, but so too has harassment and house raids in Shia villages and neighbourhoods. People detained at police checkpoints are reporting systematic abuses. The police ranks are predominantly made up of Sunni muslim expatriates from Yemen, Jordan, Syria and Pakistan. Bahraini police are also backed up by Saudi and Emirati forces – again Sunni – ever since those neighbouring Gulf monarchs sent in troops last March to suppress the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain. People detained at checkpoints are being humiliated with profanities against their Shia faith, as well as being robbed of money, mobile phones and other possessions by police officers.

There has also been a leap in the number of house raids by police in Shia villages, especially in the early hours. The house raids have targeted towns and villages, such as Sitra and Nuwaidrat, which are deemed to be strongly supportive of the pro-democracy movement.

“We feel that the American and British cops have been brought into crush the pro-democracy movement with systematic tactics of repression and state terror,” said one activist. “The first anniversary of our uprising is coming up in February. The regime has so far failed to crush the uprising but with the anniversary approaching we think that the American and British police chiefs are pushing to do that.”

The past careers of Timoney and Yates indicate that they were a rather bizarre choice by the Bahraini regime – if the latter was genuinely aiming to reform the human rights record and ethical standards of its forces. Timoney was previously accused of deploying brutality against American street protests while commander of the Miami police; while Yates was forced to resign in ignominy over corruption involving phone tapping scams carried out by London’s Metropolitan Police in league with Murdoch’s gutter tabloid press.

It is also pretty certain that these appointments would not have been made without the sanction and, most probably, the suggestion of the US and British governments. That Washington and London would be overseeing a deliberate intensification of state terror in Bahrain should not be any surprise. The Bahraini regime has for decades earned an international reputation for police brutality and torture. The US State Department is well aware of this, according to its own reports, yet Washington continues to reward the Bahraini regime with the presence of its Fifth Fleet and, more recently, with a proposed arms deal worth $53 million, including weapons of repression, such as armoured cars and teargas.

Britain is also a major seller of weapons of repression to Bahrain. Historically, it also has played a crucial role in shaping the repressive apparatus of the Bahraini ministry of interior. The head of the notorious National Security Agency between 1968-1998 was British Colonel Ian Henderson who continues to act as an advisor to King Hamad. Several former British police officers work in Bahrain’s ministry of interior, including the newly appointed John Yates.

However, the signs are that the efforts to crush the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain are rebounding badly for Washington and London.

For a start the increased repression is serving to embolden the pro-democracy even more, with more and bigger street protests taking place. On 14 February, a demonstration is planned to make a major stand in the capital, Manama, to mark the first anniversary of the uprising.

Also, more worryingly for Washington and London, there is a growing contempt among protesters towards the American and British governments. Up until recently, protests have mainly focused on the Al Khalifa monarchy and the closely aligned House of Saud. But now Bahraini pro-democracy activists appear to be quickly learning that the higher sources of their grievances are in Washington and London. A new sight at protests across Bahrain recently is the burning of American flags.

If Bahrain’s uprising succeeds in replacing the unelected and venal Sunni elite with a democratic government that is mainly Shia, the US and British governments will no longer be welcome owing to their increasingly apparent nefarious misdeeds. The recent appointment of police chiefs Timoney and Yates with their malicious expertise is but one of many misdeeds that will be recalled by the people of Bahrain.

Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa correspondent  


[1] Bahrain: Car Bomb in Capital Following Appointment of American and British Police Chiefs to Lead ‘Reforms’

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Saudi Arabia helps crush the democratic uprising in Bahrain Long-time U.S. reliance on Saudi oil and servility at risk

by Asad Ismi

As I reported in the April Monitor, the Sunni fundamentalist Saudi dictatorship felt it was threatened by a spreading revolution in Bahrain, prompting it to send troops into that country on March 15. Two thousand troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) entered Bahrain on that day to put down an uprising by the country’s Shia majority against Sunni royalist dictator King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa. The GCC is comprised of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), and 1,200 of the troops sent into Bahrain were Saudi.

The Shia majority in Bahrain has long complained about being subjected to discrimination by the Sunni ruling élite. Large-scale public protests against the king broke out in February, inspired by the success of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. The Shia opposition wanted the king to give up his powers to an elected legislature.

Bahrain borders the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, which is the kingdom’s oil centre. This province also has a Shia majority, and the Saudi royal family fears that the Shia rebellion in Bahrain will spread and that any concessions the Bahraini monarch makes to his Shias will also be demanded by theirs. However, because the GCC countries are Sunni, the invasion creates the possibility of a spreading sectarian conflict if the biggest Shia power in the Middle East, which is Iran, decides to help the Bahraini opposition which is so far unarmed. Iran condemned the invasion, and the Bahraini Shias have called it “a declaration of war.”

The Saudi invasion of Bahrain was followed by the imposition of martial law and a brutal crackdown on protesters by a combined GCC-Bahraini force, which killed scores of civilians, injured hundreds, and jailed 1,600 people.

“Instead of rights, every family got a political prisoner,” said Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. “After almost three months of military rule, the crisis has deepened because every family suffered when the army was sent in to solve a political problem.”

Hundreds of protesters and professionals such as doctors, nurses, lawyers, and even soccer players have been arrested and tried in a special security court. Official use of torture has become widespread. According to Rajab, up to 98% of the people detained by state security forces were abused. “No one was immune,” said Rajab. “Very rarely will you find someone who was arrested but not abused.”

Particularly reprehensible have been the security forces’ attacks on doctors and nurses for treating protesters injured by the army and security forces. A recent report issued by Human Rights Watch details “attacks on health care providers; denial of medical access to protesters injured by security forces; the siege of hospitals and health centers; and the detention, ill-treatment, torture, and prosecution of medics and patients with protest-related injuries.”

“The attacks on medics and wounded protesters,” says Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, “have been part of an official policy of retribution against Bahrainis who supported pro-democracy protests. Medical personnel who criticized the severe repression were singled out and jailed.”

Twenty-three doctors and 24 nurses who treated protesters were charged with treason. The BBC reported that these medical personnel were tortured into making false confessions, according to their families. On March 16, after the Saudi invasion, security forces occupied Salmaniya, Bahrain’s main public hospital. One ward of the hospital located on the sixth floor was turned into “a makeshift detention facility where security forces subjected patients to incommunicado detention, regular beatings, torture, and other forms of mistreatment,” witnesses informed Human Rights Watch.

The Bahraini government has ended the state of emergency to project an image of normalcy, but, according to Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch, “the situation remains appalling. The repression is there… this is a major crisis. Obviously, large numbers of people were killed during the protests… Not only since [the lifting of emergency rule] have there been protests, violently suppressed… but also the repression by which the government has quelled the protest movement in the last weeks continues. So large numbers of people are under incommunicado detention, at risk of torture. There are reports of torture continuing.”

Behind the Saudi invasion of Bahrain and the repression there, is the United States government, the main international backer of both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. While Washington has led the attack on Libya, claiming it is necessary to stop Gaddafi from killing his people, and is denouncing and sanctioning President Assad of Syria for doing the same, no such censure is being exercised against Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. These two countries – long-time minions of the U.S. — are instead being aided and encouraged to crush their citizens’ democratic protests with impunity.

Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and has also provided facilities and forces for the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. military sales to Bahrain jumped massively in 2010, to $200 million from $88 million in 2009. The 2010 sales included exports of rifles, shotguns, and assault weapons. Since the start of protests in February 2011, Bahraini security forces have been firing live ammunition at demonstrators.

The loss by the U.S. of its two crucial client states of Egypt and Tunisia due to the Middle East Revolution, and popular uprisings against another two clients, Yemen and Bahrain, have made the role of Saudi Arabia all the more crucial for Washington. Apart from Israel, Saudi Arabia is now the leading U.S. vassal in the Middle East, a position formerly occupied by Egypt. Not only is Saudi Arabia the world’s leading oil exporter and the main source of cheap oil for the U.S., but it is now also the principal Arab political and military bulwark for Washington’s interests in the Middle East. However, the kingdom is not well-positioned to fulfill its new role because it, too, like several other U.S. puppet states, is threatened with rebellion — not just outside but also within its borders–which appears likely to put an end to the era of cheap oil.

As I reported in the April Monitor, Saudi Arabia provides the world economy with about eight million barrels of oil a day, but the country cannot maintain this rate of oil export, partly due to rising domestic demand and partly because it needs to provide domestic employment to avoid social upheaval. Forty percent of Saudi youths are unemployed, and those who do have jobs are paid only $830 a month, on average, while Saudi royal princes (who number about 7,000) receive up to $250,000 a month in official stipends.

Much public resentment has been generated by such stark disparity and relative deprivation in a very rich country. As Professor Michael Klare puts it: “Assuming the royal family survives the current round of upheavals, it will undoubtedly have to divert more of its daily oil output to satisfy rising domestic consumption levels and fuel local petrochemical industries that could provide a fast-growing, restive population with better-paying jobs.”

In April 2010, Khalid al-Falih, head of the state oil company Saudi Aramco, stated that by 2028 domestic oil consumption could reach 8.3 million barrels a day, with only a few million barrels available for export. There is no other country in the world that can take Saudi Arabia’s place in terms of oil exports.

The Saudi military is also weak and so of very limited use to the United States. Saudi forces can invade a small state like Bahrain, but are no match for other Middle Eastern armies such as those of Egypt, Syria, and Iran. The Saudi military consists of mercenary soldiers from Pakistan and Jordan, and the regime is dependent on U.S. protection for its survival.

The Saudi royal family rules the country with an iron fist, suppressing all democratic aspirations and even banning women from driving cars. The family belongs to the extreme fundamentalist Wahhabi sect of Islam, which, according to British-Pakistani writer Tariq Ali, combines “religious fanaticism, military ruthlessness, and political villainy.” Wahhabism is hostile to other Muslims (especially Shias), considering them heretics, and wants a return to its vision of an eighth-century Islam which never actually existed.

The Saudi monarchy was set up by the British Empire after World War I so that the U.K. could control the vast oil resources in that country. The imperial plan was to put the maximum amount of oil (which rightfully belongs to the Arab people) in the hands of a few easily controlled puppet families. Britain imposed this regime in the U.A.E. and Iraq, as well as Saudi Arabia. After the Second World War, the U.S. empire took over from the British.

Among many Muslims, the House of Saud is notorious for its hypocritical, degenerate, and shameful behaviour, especially its grovelling servility to U.S. imperialism and its preaching of a puritanical brand of Islam while indulging itself in rampant debauchery, including heavy alcohol consumption, prostitution, and unbridled materialism. Tariq Ali calls Saudi Arabia “the kingdom of corruption.”

As a proxy of Washington, the Saudi regime has spread its extreme Wahhabi doctrine all over the Muslim world by financing mosques and religious schools. The doctrine fuels hateful sectarianism and killings of other Muslims, which serves the U.S. objective of weakening Muslims through divide-and-rule tactics. Fanning such fanaticism also helps the U.S. manufacture Muslim enemies to justify its endless wars and huge military budgets.

The greatest service the Saudi regime has provided to Washington has been its pledge to trade oil in U.S. dollars. During the 1970s, oil became the most important traded resource, and U.S. President Richard Nixon linked the dollar to oil, making a deal with Saudi Arabia (the biggest OPEC oil producer) in 1974 that stipulated that oil could only be bought and sold in U.S. dollars. In return, the U.S. agreed to militarily protect the Saudi royal family. As long as oil was traded in dollars, so would other goods, and the dollar would remain the world’s reserve currency. This arrangement gave the U.S. the economic power to continue its dominant imperial role despite its crucial weakness in manufacturing.

With Saudi oil exports now destined for massive reductions, however, this bulwark against a U.S. economic decline is crumbling. Washington’s huge trade and budget deficits have already weakened the dollar, and the ongoing Middle East Revolution appears likely to be the final nail in its coffin.

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BAHRAIN: US-Backed Regime Replays State of Emergency to Crush Pro-Democracy Movement

by Finian Cunningham

Bahrain’s first anniversary of its pro-democracy protests has been met with massive police and army violence, with many civilians injured from regime forces firing birdshot and teargas into homes and at cars.

Reports are coming in of Saudi-backed troops and mercenaries attacking mainly Shia villages in the Persian Gulf kingdom with armoured vehicles.

“It’s like the State of Emergency all over again,” said one resident, referring to the Saudi-led invasion by Gulf Cooperation Council troops last March to suppress the pro-democracy uprising against the Sunni regime that began on 14 February, 2011.

There are reports of troops wearing ski masks firing teargas and live rounds randomly in Shia villages, such as Sanabis, Daih and Sitra, which are seen as strongly supportive of the pro-democracy movement calling for the Western-backed unelected Sunni monarchy to stand down.

Over the past week, the Bahraini regime has stepped up the presence of state forces in the capital, Manama, and in surrounding villages, with heavy deployment of helicopters and armoured vehicles. This was in anticipation of pro-democracy demonstrations attempting to converge on the former focal point of the Bahraini protest movement – the Pearl Monument, near the financial district of the capital.

Last Spring, the monument saw hundreds of thousands making a protest camp before it was demolished by Saudi-backed troops. The site – renamed Martyrs’ Square by protesters in memory of those killed in the repression – was intended to be reclaimed by demonstrators this week to mark the anniversary of the uprising.

However, troops and police saturated the area over the past few days and were reported to have opened fire on cars and pedestrians as they made their way to the site.

There appears to be a concerted effort by the regime to escalate the violence in order to justify calling another State of Emergency.

The day before the anniversary, the US-backed Al Khalifa rulers warned “those who would take Bahrain back into a dark tunnel” would not be tolerated. The foreboding language was reminiscent of that used last year to describe largely peaceful protests before a three-month State of Emergency was invoked on 15 March. Then, that was followed within hours by the lethal invasion of Saudi-led troops and massive detention of people swept up in raids on Shia villages and districts of the capital.

The State of Emergency was lifted last July and there followed entreaties to the oppositionists from King Hamad Al Khalifa and from the US government for “dialogue”. But the popular opposition remained steadfast in its calls for the unelected Sunni regime to stand down and make way for elected government that would represent the nearly 70 per cent Shia population.

More than 60 civilians were killed during state repression over the past year. Hundreds remain in prison, incarcerated by military courts. With the approach of the anniversary this week, the popular calls for democracy have grown more determined.

It seems that, faced with implacable demands for the regime to go, the rulers are now playing the “national security” card again to militarise the situation.

State-controlled media have made claims of widespread use of Molotov bombs by pro-democracy youths, with police claiming to have recovered “thousands of ready-to-use petrol bombs”. Pro-democracy sources do not deny that some youths have thrown such weapons at state forces in recent weeks, but they say that the extent of violence by protesters is minimal in comparison with the excessive, lethal force used by state forces.

Speaking ahead of the anniversary, former British police chief John Yates, who is now assigned to the Bahraini force, said that police had a well-rehearsed plan to meet the kind of “extraordinary provocation” that they had faced last year. What Yates was referring to as “extraordinary provocation” is hard to fathom. Last year, Bahraini forces killed seven unarmed civilians during the first week of non-violent demonstrations, between 14-21 February.

Yates denounced the right to peaceful protest by the Bahraini pro-democracy movement: “This isn’t organised protests, it’s just vandalism, rioting on the streets,” he told Britain’s Daily Telegraph. “Acts of wanton damage that are destroying the economy,” he added, implying that the right to peaceful protest for basic democratic franchise was somehow a national threat.

Earlier this week, supporters of the Bahraini regime apparently staged a protest outside the Iranian embassy in Manama chanting slogans against the Tehran government, inferring that it is stoking tensions in Bahrain. Similar claims of Iranian subversion were made last year by the Bahraini regime – without any evidence – and used to justify the State of Emergency.

Another sinister twist is the reappearance of masked mobs on the streets of Manama who are targeting the large expatriate population of mainly impoverished Asian construction workers. Prior to declaring the State of Emergency last March, there were widespread reports in state media of similar attacks, with lurid commentary and claims that it was the conduct of pro-democracy activists trying to destabilise the Bahraini economy. Global Research witnessed at the time that the assailants were in fact pro-regime mobs made up of off-duty state mercenaries who were deliberately attacking Indian, Pakistani and Bengali workers with the intention of whipping up a climate of chaos and fear. That had the double pro-state benefit then of justifying a State of Emergency and discrediting the pro-democracy movement.

One year on, it seems that the US-backed Bahraini regime is intent on using the same tactics to thwart legitimate demands for democracy on the island, where the Al Khalifa family has ruled as an unelected dynasty since nominal independence from Britain in 1971. The island has since become the Persian Gulf base for the US Navy Fifth Fleet.

The ironic comparison with the current situation in Syria cannot be overstated. In Syria, Washington, London, the Arab League and the Gulf Arab monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are loudly denouncing the Assad government and calling for regime change over violence that the former have substantially fomented; while in Bahrain, the same players are ruthlessly repressing a largely peaceful civilian pro-democracy movement and demanding dialogue with a despotic regime – that is acceptance of the regime – or face more repression under a renewed State of Emergency.

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Witnessing Human Rights Violations in Bahrain

by Brian Terrell

A cloud of tear gas disperses a peaceful march to the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, Bahrain, on February 13. Photo by Wafa A.S. Alnoimi.

On the long flight to the Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain on February 10, I had been studying the Lonely Planet guide to the region in order to be able to explain at the airport, if needed, that I had come as a tourist. As it happened, while most passengers on our plane sailed through passport control, my travel companion Linda Sartor and I were pulled from the line and subjected to a closer examination. My sketchy knowledge of the historic and cultural sights that I had come to see was good enough to satisfy official scrutiny. We were granted tourist visas and sent on our way.

That we had come as tourists was true. We had intentionally neglected to mention, though, that we had been invited to Bahrain along with a few other international activists to monitor the government’s response to demonstrations marking the one year anniversary of Bahrain’s “Arab Spring” pro-democracy uprising on February 14. This demand for basic rights was brutally suppressed by Bahrain’s police and military backed by the army of Saudi Arabia.

We certainly would have been barred entry to the country had our full intent been told—but, as Daniel Berrigan once mused, “How much truth do we owe them?” In fact, our invitation from Nabeel Rajav, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, came because the government had made it known that observers from established human rights organizations would not be granted visas until the next month and that access to the country by the international media was to be severely limited during that period. The regime’s resolve that there be no witnesses to the events surrounding the anniversary made our presence for those days all the more crucial.

The morning after our arrival, we met with local activists and the small group of U.S. citizens who had come before us. Before long we were in the streets of Manama, the capital city, accompanying a march to the Pearl Roundabout, the focal point of last year’s demonstration. This peaceful march of men, women and children was quickly set upon by police in full riot gear and dispersed with tear gas and percussion grenades. Our first encounter with the Bahraini police appeared to be vicious, but our local friends assured us that our presence was a restraining factor. Two of the Americans we had just met, Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath, were taken into custody at this march and later that evening deported, the government said, for activities not consistent with their status as tourists.

Our small group, called Witness Bahrain, grew over the next days, even as several friends who traveled to join us were turned away at the airport by a regime made even more hyper-vigilant after deporting Huwaida and Radhika. While being careful to remain at large at least until the events of the 14th, we toured Manama and the villages over the next couple of days, hearing testimony of government abuses and accompanying demonstrations and marches.

 An armored car patrols the streets of Manama. Photo by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

On February 13, Tighe Barry and Medea Benjamin of the peace group Code Pink joined us, and our Bahraini guide Wafa took some of us on a tour of the zoo and the National Museum. In the afternoon we witnessed a march of tens of thousands through the main thoroughfares of Manama. This march was tolerated by the authorities until a large group split off to walk to the Pearl Roundabout. The police response was immediate and appalling. Tear gas in Bahrain is not used as a means of crowd control so much as collective punishment—crowds dispersed by gas are not allowed to escape but are pursued, cornered and gassed again. Many are injured by direct hits from gas canisters and percussion grenades. We witnessed beatings and heard reports of injuries by birdshot and rubber bullets.

On the actual anniversary, the police had the country locked down. Patrols of armored cars sped through the streets of Manama and the roads out of the villages were blocked by tanks. Many hundreds still made it to the streets, many were injured, many arrested. Six more of us were taken by the authorities.

In my case, finally getting pinched by the Bahraini police was anticlimactic. Four of us Americans with a Bahraini friend were taking a back way along a quiet street to catch up with others to attempt reaching the roundabout when a passing police patrol stopped us and asked for identification. One more time, we explained that we were there as tourists. “If you are tourists,” we were asked, “why do you have gas masks?”

A few hours later we were in a police station where we met two more from our group who had been captured under more dramatic circumstances. One by one, we were summoned to talk with representatives from the Ministry of Information and were told that we would be put on a flight to London at 2 a.m. as our visas had been cancelled. Our claim to be tourists was regarded as a deception by the authorities. My protestations to the contrary were to no avail.

Bahrain is a tiny island kingdom that is home to about a million people—half of whom are not citizens—that is visited by 8 million tourists a year. Many of these, we were told, are Saudis drawn there by the night life and legal alcohol. Others visit the museums and beaches. In the brochures produced by the government, tourists are encouraged to meet the friendly people of Bahrain. This is what we did and it was for this that we were deported.

We were privileged to tour this beautiful and afflicted country and to live the reality of its people, if only for a little while. Not content with having our photos taken with camels, we spoke with emergency room doctors who, after treating victims of last year’s crackdown, were themselves tortured and charged with sedition. We met with mothers mourning their children who were killed or imprisoned, and workers barred from practicing their professions for being in favor of freedom.

We were in Bahrain as tourists, not of the malls and golf courses and museums but of the streets and villages where real people live and struggle. Anyone who visits Bahrain and never gets a whiff of tear gas is a poor tourist, indeed. To the police who arrested us, a tourist with a gas mask is a hopeless contradiction and proof of culpability. For the tourist who wants to learn the present reality of Bahrain, a gas mask is more indispensable than sunscreen.

The faithfulness and solidarity of the people of Bahrain will prevail over the perfidity and cruelty of its backward and crude monarchy, supported as it is only by the brute force of its sponsors, the governments of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. “Sumoud,” meaning be strong, hold fast, is the Arabic word by which the resisters in Bahrain greet and encourage one another.  Their peaceful strength is a challenge and an inspiration as we continue our common struggle on the far ends of the globe. Sumoud.

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Bahrain Medics Show Trial: This Is Not Syria, Therefore No Western Outcry


by Finian Cunningham

Bahrain’s disgraceful show trial of medical staff is set to continue, with news this week that 20 doctors and nurses are to be retried in a civilian court on trumped-up charges of subversion against the US-backed regime.

The medics were already sentenced by a military tribunal (a military tribunal!) to up to 15 years in prison after months of being held in illegal detention, denied legal counsel and subjected to torture.

Moving their case to a civilian court is presumably meant to signal a concession by the regime. But what it illustrates is that the Al Khalifa royal rulers of Bahrain are unreconstructed despots who are implacably set against accepting any kind of democratic reform.

The persecution of the majority Shia population – 70 per cent of the island – by an unelected Sunni elite is business as usual as epitomized by the vindictive targeting of medics whose only “crime” was that they treated hundreds of people injured in the state’s brutal crackdown against the pro-democracy movement.

Recently, Washington has been doing its PR best to present the monarchy in the Persian Gulf kingdom as being belatedly open to reform – this after a year of unrelenting repression against a largely peaceful pro-democracy uprising.

Bahraini grassroots activists are concerned that sections of the official opposition belonging to the Shia Al Wefaq political society are being groomed by the US State Department to accept a “compromise deal” with the royal rulers that would effectively see the monarchy remaining in power and the status quo merely being given a facelift.

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has been praised in the US corporate media for overseeing “brave” moves towards political power-sharing and dialogue with the mainly Shia-led opposition.

Washington’s envoy on human rights Michael Posner and former national security advisor Elliott Abrams have talked up “important steps” by the Bahraini regime towards reform.

However, no amount of Washington spinning can conceal the facts of life: that the US-backed Bahraini regime will continue violating human rights and international law in order to maintain its stranglehold hold on political and economic power at the expense of the Shia majority.

For 280 years, the Sunni rulers, who invaded the country from neighbouring Qatar, have sat on the chests of the indigenous Shia, and they are not going to give up their privileged seats of comfort. The Al Khalifa dynasty has enriched itself through graft and corruption while the majority of Bahrainis struggle with unemployment and poverty.

The oil wealth of the tiny island has lined the pockets of the Al Khalifas, but for the ordinary Shia it has brought poverty, pollution and sickness. To add insult to injury, when the mainly Shia-led uprising last February peacefully demanded elected government to replace the unelected venal family dynasty, it was met with batons, bullets and brutality, with thousands incarcerated or fired from their jobs, several tortured to death while in prison.

Historically, to maintain this excruciating state of inequality, the Bahraini rulers developed a system of governance and state security apparatus that is “bullet-proof to reform”. Under American and British tutelage, the Bahraini rulers became adept at presenting the kingdom as a relatively benign monarchy. They may have acquired the modern semantics and appearance of political progressivism, such as referring to the kingdom as a constitutional monarchy with a (rigged) parliament instead of an absolute monarchy as in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf sheikhdoms. But not far below the surface, Bahrain’s institutionalized despotism was always the dominant reality.

For example, the kingdom’s prime minister is 78-year-old Prince Khalifa Al Khalifa, the uncle of the incumbent king. He is the world’s longest sitting prime minister, having first occupied the post in 1971 when Bahrain gained nominal independence from Britain. Prime Minister Khalifa – also known locally as Mr Fifty-Fifty – has never faced an electorate and is notorious for siphoning off Bahrain’s oil wealth to become one of the richest men in the world.

For decades, despite glamorous images of mirrored skyscrapers and Formula One Grand Prix, Bahrain has been run with an ironclad National Security Agency. The agency was, and is, a veritable “torture apparatus” headed up by members of the royal family and assisted in its nefarious conduct by ex-colonial power Britain.

Between 1968-98, the main architect of the NSA and its sectarian methods of repression against the Shia population was British colonel Sir Ian Henderson. Henderson, who had previously gained British government commendation for his role in efficiently, that is brutally, suppressing the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya during the 1950s-60s, oversaw the detention and torture of thousands of Bahrainis held for years without trial in the dungeons of Bahrain.

Former detainees told Global Research that one of Henderson’s sadistic methods of interrogation was to force them to sit naked on upright glass bottles, the necks of which had been roughly broken off to leave protruding jagged points. The detainees told how Henderson personally oversaw the torture of inmates.

Today, the British influence on Bahrain’s NSA continues. One of Bahrain’s senior police chiefs is Briton John Yates, formerly of Scotland Yard; another senior police chief is American John Timoney, who formerly ran the force in Miami, Florida. Both men have reputations of corruption and brutality from their previous commands.

Bahrain’s institutionalized despotism under a family dynasty is backed up with a military and police force whose ranks are filled by foreign expatriate Sunnis recruited from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan and Jordan. The regime forces serve their Sunni masters with a vicious hatred towards the Shia population.

This fact is attested by the daily and nightly attacks on Shia villages by Saudi-backed regime forces, with massive amounts of tear gas fired into streets and homes. At least 25 people have died from suffocation with tear gas over the past year since Saudi-led forces invaded Bahrain to crush the uprising. The victims range from a five-day-old baby girl to elderly men and women who are too weak or infirmed to escape from their smoke-filled homes.

In the past week, mourners attending the funerals for two men who died from tear gas exposure were themselves attacked by riot police who proceeded to fire more tear gas.

So, on the one hand, we see the Bahraini rulers wearing a velvet glove offering “dialogue” and “reforms”, with Washington and London providing the positive-sounding script; while on the other hand, what is felt is an iron-fist smashing down the doors of homes, firing tear gas into houses, dragging suspects away in the middle of the night, detaining them without trial and torturing to death.

And this is all happening in a supposed new era of reformism and dialogue in Bahrain that Washington assures is underway.

The continued persecution of the Bahraini medics is another fact on the ground to demonstrate the despotic nature of Washington and London’s “important ally” in the Persian Gulf.

The medics were sentenced for up to 15 years by a military court last September on a range of outlandish charges, including “attempting to overthrow the government” and “spreading defamatory information” about the royal rulers.

That verdict caused international protests from human rights groups, who denounced it as a travesty of legal procedure, not least because the sole basis for the prosecution were the confessions of the defendants – confessions that were obtained under torture.

Then, as now, the response from Washington and other Western governments and media was muted.

The medics include world-renowned surgeons Ali Al Ekri and Ghassan Dhaif and his wife, Zahra, and brother and sister, Bassim and Nada. Also sentenced was Rula Al Suffar, the former head of Bahrain’s Nursing Society. These are individuals of impeccable medical professionalism and ethics, who refused to close the doors of Bahrain’s main public hospital, Al Salmaniya, when the regime began butchering protesters last February-March. Global Research can bear witness to the dedication of these medics and countless others who struggled in the wards and corridors of the hospital to patch people up with the most horrendous wounds as wave after wave of injured were ferried in.

Dr Al Ekri was assaulted while performing surgery and hauled into detention by Saudi-backed forces who had smashed their way into Salmaniya Hospital – a crime against humanity, just one of many following the Saudi-led invasion of Bahrain that was given the green light by Washington and London.

There was a faint sign that Washington’s recent talk of progress and reform in Bahrain may have somehow sent the hint to its favoured despots to quietly drop the embarrassing show trial against the medics. But with the continuance of the prosecution – albeit in a civilian court instead of a military tribunal – it seems that institutionalized barbarism cannot overcome its tyrannical instincts for power, even at the behest of its more PR-savvy patron in Washington.

One can only imagine the sanctimonious mouth-foaming reaction by Washington, London and the corporate media if such a travesty was perpetrated against medics in Syria.

But Bahrain is not Syria; it is an ally, therefore Western governments and media suddenly develop blindness and speech impediment in the face of blatant crimes against humanity.

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Bahrain Zionist regime: Doctors on Trial for Helping Protesters

Bahrain Backlash: Doctors on Trial for Helping Protesters
by grtv

Amid ongoing unrest in Bahrain, the regime’s cracking down on non-violent protesters, as well as people who’ve been helping them. A group of doctors are on trial, after treating wounded anti-government demonstrators last year. RT’s Paula Slier has the latest.

Correspondent with Global Research Finian Cunningham was in Bahrain and witnessed some of the doctors treating the wounded during the crackdown. He thinks the Bahraini regime is persecuting the medics to keep them from telling the truth.

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